One visit to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park was all it took to turn this couple into passionate Kalahari fans. Wait till you see the wildlife they saw in one week. By Arnold Ras

Nature enthusiasts Susan and Hansie van Rensburg were easily persuaded to add the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park to their programme. “As we are very fond of the Kruger National Park, our friends Hennie and Andriette Crous, regular visitors to the Kgalagadi, encouraged us to visit the Kgalagadi at least once in our lifetime,” says Susan.

“We camped for two nights at Twee Rivieren and five nights at Nossob Rest Camp. Although the roads are mostly sandy and the campsites even more sandy, we had the most marvellous camping experience – no crowds, enough shady trees, and clean and neat ablutions. To sit around the campfire at night, hearing the jackal cry and the lion roar, admiring the clear sky, wanting to touch the stars, is the most awesome awareness of God’s perfect creation.”

Kgalagadi-Hansie-Susan van Rensburg-sunset-min

A perfect Kgalagadi sunset ticks all the boxes. Pictures by Susan and Hansie van Rensburg

Juvenile bateleurs are known for their brown plumage, but don’t confuse them with similar raptors – a young bateleur has dark eyes.

Juvenile bateleurs are known for their brown plumage, but don’t confuse them with similar raptors – a young bateleur has dark eyes.

Ask Susan and Hansie about their highlights and it’s clear that the Kalahari’s unique charm has them hooked. “In all honesty, every day was a highlight as each day we encountered new scenes: a cheetah’s silhouette appearing on a rock against the clear blue sky, a bateleur in flight, a herd of springbok seeking shade under a camel thorn tree, stately gemsbok and blue wildebeest on the alert for the black-maned king of the Kgalagadi…”

Your Kgalagadi cheetah pictures can play a vital role in the conservation of these cats. Report your sighting to the Kgalagadi Cheetah Identification Project and do your bit for citizen science.

Your Kgalagadi cheetah pictures can play a vital role in the conservation of these cats. Report your sighting to the Kgalagadi Cheetah Identification Project and do your bit for citizen science.

In the southern part of the Kalahari, 32% of gemsbok fall prey to lions, and 52% to spotted hyenas.

In the southern part of the Kalahari, 32% of gemsbok fall prey to lions, and 52% to spotted hyenas.

Kgalagadi-Hansie-Susan van Rensburg-springbok-min

Susan and Hansie initially thought this was a Cape cobra, but it’s in fact a light brown mole snake. The two species are easily confused.

Susan and Hansie initially thought this was a Cape cobra, but it’s in fact a light brown mole snake. The two species are easily confused.

It was as if the Kgalagadi wanted to tie our hearts to its red dunes.
– Susan and Hansie van Rensburg

Kwang Waterhole surprised with its own jewels: a pride of male lions planning an unsuccessful attack on a herd of blue wildebeest approaching the waterhole. “But to no avail. The wildebeest caught wind of the predators.”

Did you know that male blue wildebeest are darker than females?

Did you know that male blue wildebeest are darker than females?

More big cats

Upon reaching Union’s End where the borders of Namibia, Botswana and South Africa meet, the couple was greeted by a male lion and two lionesses relaxing in the shade of a tree next to the road. “An amazing sighting. What a beautiful, majestic species. This impressive creature with the huge black mane, great paws and even bigger spoor. One lioness stood up and strolled to the waterhole, the male lion casually following in her footsteps.”

Union’s End is situated in the northernmost part of the park.

Union’s End is situated in the northernmost part of the park.

Kgalagadi-Hansie-Susan van Rensburg-lioness-min

Fritz Eloff, author of Hunters of the Dunes, once followed two male Kalahari lions for 12 nights. Over this period the duo covered 148km² to hunt. Another male and female traversed 435km² over the course of 11 days.

Be warned, say the Van Rensburgs, no one leaves the Kgalagadi untouched. “We were broken-hearted, not because we were disappointed, but because we had to leave too soon.”

World Heritage Site status

The ‡Khomani Cultural Landscape is South Africa’s 9th World Heritage Site. The site, which includes the entire South African section of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, was officially launched by the minister of environmental affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, on 4 October. As part of the launch, SANParks released wildlife into Erin Game Ranch, a project of the ‡Khomani San community.

In honour of San leader Dawid Kruiper, SANParks intend to develop a rest camp within the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. The camp will be situated between the Auob River and the community’s Heritage Park, and will provide for 10 new tourist accommodation units. It is expected that the rest camp will open in July 2019, with 50% of profit going to the ‡Khomani San.

#wildadventuregoals

We want to know where you go and what you experience. Get in touch! Email your wildlife tales and pictures to [email protected] and your adventure could be published in one of Wild’s future newsletters.

Additional sources: The Raptor Guide of Southern Africa. Ulrich Oberprieler and Burger Cillié; Smithers’ Mammals of Southern Africa A Field Guide. Peter Apps.