• Meerkats are often spotted in the Kalahari

Diary of a 7 day Kalahari Journey in September

Day 1: Cape Town to Augrabies Falls National Park

Namaqualand flowers

We made an early start this morning in order to cover the 800 odd kilometers to Augrabies in good time. A short stop for refreshments at Kardoosie farm stall atop the Piekeniers Kloof Pass sent us on our way refreshed and eager to take in the sights of Namaqualand. We were delighted with a spectacular display of roadside flowers all the way to Kamieskroon where we stopped for lunch. In the afternoon we continued through the granite domed landscape dotted with bright displays of Namaqualand daisies and arrived at Augrabies about 4.30pm. After settling in, we immediately visited the Falls to make the most of the warm glow of the last remaining light.

Day 2: Augrabies Falls to Twee Rivieren Camp Kalahari

Aubrabies canyon

A clear blue sky greeted us this morning as we embarked on our first game drive. We soon spotted Whitebacked mousebirds sunning themselves in a small tree followed by giraffe browsing on Acacia thorntrees.  Our first stop was at Swartrante (Black Ridge) to marvel at the vast lunar landscape stretching before us. We then continued on to Arrarat for a spectacular view of the canyon, where we were very lucky to spot a family of Cape Clawless Otters making their way upriver. We moved over to the Oranjekom view point keeping a sharp lookout for Klipspringer- sadly this little antelope eluded us; however we were lucky to spot a Black Eagle and a Goliath Heron as well as Rock Hyrax, Yellow Mongoose, Vervet Monkey and Baboon.

After breakfast we set off for Upington through the undulating vineyards of the Northern Cape passing the towns of Kakamas and Keimoes with their water wheels and dried fruit packing sheds. We made a short stop for supplies and then travelled north towards the red dunes of the Kalahari. Soon the gravel plains of Gordonia gave way to the rolling dune landscape synonymous with the Southern Kalahari. We spotted Yellow Mongoose, Slender Mongoose, Yellow- billed hornbills on the side of the road. On arrival we checked in and set off up  the Nossob river bed with good views of Red Hartebeest, Gemsbok, Springbok, Black backed Jackal, Ground Squirrels, Tawny Eagles, Kori Bustard, Sociable Weavers, Whitebrowed Sparrow weavers and Cape Turtle Doves and Namaqua Sandgrouse at the waterholes.

Day 3: Twee Rivieren to Mata Mata Camp Kalahari 

Meerkat

Up early for our first full day in the Kalahari. Filled with anticipation of what the day would bring we set off north up the Auob River towards Mata Mata. It was not long before we spotted herds of game, Springbok, Blue Wildebeest, Hartebeest and Gemsbok. A short stop to stretch our legs at the Auchterlonie museum and picnic site where we took a great pic of an airborne Kori Bustard. We continued north, the road becoming sandier as we drove on past the water holes of Gemsbokplein, Montrose and Rooibrak with scattered remains of past kills. On the way we had good sightings of Crimson Breasted Shrike and Swallowtailed Bee-eater. A  welcome breakfast stop at the Kamqua picnic site was enjoyed by all. Continuing on in a northwest direction we were fortunate to come across a recent kill with two sleeping Spotted Hyena and about eight Black backed Jackal squabbling over the remains. With no lions in site we continued on to Mata Mata Camp where we arrived, enjoyed lunch and a restful break before going out for a later afternoon drive down until sunset.

Day 4: A day of lions in the Kalahari

Lion on road

Up early we set off just before sunrise and were soon delighted to come across our first lions, a male and female in the riverbed engaged in their mating ritual both roaring loudly. We watched and photographed enjoying the sounds of the Kalahari waking. We also spotted another pair of lions close by and listened as both pairs traded a chorus of roars. After a while we continued and came across another five lions crossing the riverbed. Not bad going- nine Lions before breakfast ! So, very pleased with ourselves we continued on to the Kamqua picnic site for breakfast. On the way we spotted an African Wildcat up a Camelthorn tree, who obliged us by waking and stretching. Further on a pair of Giant Eagle Owls peered down at us blinking their pink eyelids as the sun rose higher. After breakfast we crossed the dune road which was rather quiet (recovering from a recent burn) and saw many Northern Black Korhaan. Back at Twee Riveren we had lunch and an afternoon rest and then went back out for an evening drive. We got a tip from someone in camp, who told us that he had seen a Caracal chase a Gennet up a tree. We headed for the spot he had indicated and found the Gennet!

Day 5: A full day on safari in the Kalahari 

Kalahari lion on dune

The last full day in the park had us up at the crack of dawn with the hope of spotting Cheetah and possibly Leopard. We decided to head up the Auob riverbed and on our way came across a sleeping male Lion. He was clearly settled in for the day so we continued past on the higher dune road taking in the magnificent elevated views. In the vicinity of Gemsbokplein we came across five Spotted Hyena sleeping in the shade of a Camelthorn tree. After breakfast at the picnic site north of Melkvlei we headed back to Twee Riveren along the Nossob riverbed looking at herds of Wildebeest, Springbok and Gemsbok. Back in camp for lunch and a siesta and then out again to check on our male lion. Herds of game were abundant in the riverbed as we made our way have one last check on him. At last the “king awoke” and we got the photographs we were waiting for !

Day 6: Twee Rivieren to Calvinia

Brown hyena

As we were leaving the park we were up early to pack and get in one last game drive before heading back on our long drive south. Soon out the gate we spotted Steenbok and later a Brown Hyena, a very lucky last sighting and farewell from the Kalahari. We headed down to Upington with a lucky sighting of a Pigmy Falcon on the way down. Stopped at Brandvlei for lunch and arrived in a rather cold Calvinia in the late afternoon. Enjoyed a traditional Karoo dinner at Hantam Huis before turning in for the night.

Day 7: Calvinia to Cape Town

Woke up to a frosty zero degrees and enjoyed a Karoo breakfast before traveling to Niewoudtville. The flowers were plentiful but sadly it was too cold for them to open. On down Vanrhyn’s Pass to Vanrhynsdorp and  the Succulent Nursery. Lunch at Kardoosie saw us on a leisurely drive back to Cape Town arriving in the late afternoon after 7 jam packed exciting  and rewarding days.

Written by Journey leader Mike Raymakers.

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