TRIP REPORT: MABUASEHUBE (including Rooiputs) June/July 2014




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    Default TRIP REPORT: MABUASEHUBE (including Rooiputs) June/July 2014

    MABUASEHUBE (INCLUDING ROOIPUTS):TRIP REPORT June/July 2014

    This trip differed considerably from one that Anne and I would normally plan. However it turned out to be refreshingly different. Not least because the ages of the group varied from the mid-twenties to mid-sixties, but also as about half of the group were new acquaintances for us. This was the first true bush experience for at least 2 of the group and the others were fairly new converts. I think the bug had well and truly bitten by the end of the trip. This trip proved to be a resounding success and it was a good thing for me to move out of my rather fixed routines. Not having to make the booking and pondering the various choices, meant that we would be faced with more of the unknown than is usually the case. If you have organized the trip you have to carry the burden of the expectations of the rest of the group. We could now sit back and relax and see how things unfolded.

    I had helped some members of the group with the planning and logistics of a trip to Chobe and Savuti in 2012. When planning the present trip I was initially consulted and then later invited to join them, possibly to make up the numbers but also perhaps to add some experience to the group. The invite was accepted with alacrity although we would usually want to spend more than 7 nights away. We emphatically have no regrets that we accepted! In her usual efficient and experienced style Anne coordinated the logistics of the food and menus and who would purchase and carry what in their vehicle and freezers. As it was we are still wondering who is going to discover, once they reach home, the missing 18 eggs and the yoghurt lost somewhere in their vehicle. To hazard a guess I think it might later turn out to be some unsuspecting overseas tourists in a hired Nissan double cab, who might suddenly be covered in the aftermath of a rotten egg explosion.

    We were the only vehicle that had a GPS and Tracks4Africa and as such often acted as the tour guide when travelling within the park. We were also the only ones who had previously travelled in the Kalahari and Mabua in particular. I tried my very best not to be the head boy scout and tried to encourage the others to participate fully in day to day decisions. As the trip progressed the group dynamics turned out to be a very positive and interesting feature. We were stimulated to re-examine some of the elements of a bush trip that we had taken for granted for too long now and there is nothing like a change. It was at times like seeing with new eyes.

    The one thing I am really afraid of, (other than lions in camp), is the cold. Our only previous Mabuasehube visit had been way back in July 2001 when we nearly froze our butts off. Fortunately this time we were lucky enough to strike a relatively warm spell with a severe cold front making itself felt only on the road back home. I must say we spared a thought for those still to arrive in the park. This trip was also undertaken during school holidays, a time that we usually try to avoid. However the feared crowds turned out not to be a significant issue in the glorious isolation that is Mabua.

    MEMBERS AND VEHICLES

    *Graham F. and his son and daughter-in-law Dean and Rachel in his Toyota Hilux double cab fitted with a freezer and dual battery. Camping in a ground tent.
    *Ewan G. (Graham’s son-in-law), Ewan’s father James and his younger sisters Ashley and Kathryn. Ewan’s wife Donna was too far advanced in her pregnancy to join us. The G’s were in a hired, fully kitted Nissan double cab. Slept in 2 rooftop tents.
    *Ourselves in our Land Cruiser 76 SW, fully kitted with rooftop tent.

    PREPARATION

    The luxury of now being retired means that all the packing and trip preparation can be done at a leisurely pace, over a few days and in a more thorough manner. No more last minute packing in the dark on the night before leaving and a much more relaxed, but no less excited, start to the trip. With our newish rear passenger packing system, things are very organized and together with our rear compartment sliding drawers it means that everything has its own specific place and no items are inaccessible due to something being packed on top of them. It may appear to be slightly obsessive but we even have a list in our document flip-file of where each item is stored, lest we forget. We find that as our system evolves with repeated use, we are discarding more and more seldom used items and things are really ramping up nicely for our African expedition next year. I am constantly aware of the fact that load weight is the biggest enemy. The slow relaxed packing did mean that our 2 bulldogs were in for an even longer period of sulking than usual, as they pick up on our impending absence immediately the preparations start.
    Careful liaison between all 3 vehicles ensured that no unneeded duplicate kit was carried.

    ITINERARY

    Day 1. 27/06. East London to Upington via Queenstown, Molteno, Middelburg, De Aar, Britstown and Prieska.
    Day 2. 28/06. Upington to Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park- Rooiputs Camp no 1.
    Day 3. 29/06. Rooiputs no 1.
    Day 4. 30/06. Rooiputs to Mabuasehube, Mapayathutlwa Camp no 1 via Bosobologo Trail.
    Day 5, 6 and 7. 1/07 to 3/07. Monamodi Camp no 2.
    Day 8. 4/07. Khiding camp no 2.
    Day 9. 5/07. Mabua to Bloemfontein via Tshobong, McCarthys Rest Border Post, Hotazel, Kuruman and Kimberley.
    Day 10. 6/07. Bloemfontein to East London on the N6

    DIARY

    Fri 27/06 2014:

    We leave East London at 06H00 as scheduled, reaching Upington after 10 hours on the road. Not bad for our donkey! We stayed at Affinity Guest House B+B again. Chosen for its secure off road parking and setting on the Orange River. It was as cold as sin in Upington. We face the prospect of camping in this cold with some trepidation. As it turns out this was the last of the cold weather until we are on the road back home. Coming from the warm climes of East London we had not been looking forward to camping under the near freezing condition the Kalahari can deliver. It transpires that the week after our visit the Kalahari temperatures do drop to below zero. We are both cold averse and are so grateful not to be have to endure freezing conditions on this trip!

    28/6 and 29/6:

    We continue to be taken by surprise on each trip at the time it takes to cover the road from Upington to the Kgalagadi Trans-frontier Park. It is distressing to see how many bat-eared fox road kills there were, we counted almost 20. Despite the well-meaning roadside signs there are also regular dead owls as well. We are in holiday mode now and stop at Molopo Lodge for some coffee as it is still bitingly cold for us warm blooded east coasters. We buy some top quality camel-thorn wood bundles at about R15 per bundle, far harder wood than that sold at the shops in KTP. Tweerivieren is reached before 10H00 and after having our passports stamped and customs and immigration formalities completed efficiently, we set sail on a game drive along the dry Nossob River bed towards and slightly beyond our beloved Rooiputs campsite, as we are still early. We are in our element at being back in the Kalahari again and the general game viewing is good without any standouts.

    By midday we have set up camp at Rooiputs 1 and are very surprised to find that there is now water available both at the showers and at the wash basins, seemingly at all the campsites. This water, although not potable because of its saltiness, would prove to be most welcome. Later we were to find that many of the campsites at Mabuasehube had water as well, an unexpected bonus but one that cannot be relied upon. I was faintly embarrassed as we had emphasized to the other 2 vehicles joining us later, the need to be completely independent as far as water was concerned. It turned out that we all carried many kilograms of unused water. My creditability was being tested early in the trip.

    Less than half of the campsites were occupied for our first night, but as befits the start of the school holidays the camps are completely full the next night. Ewan G. and family arrived late that afternoon after commendably leaving Johannesburg at about 3am. They were as keen as mustard. Family tolerances were being tested by dad James going walkabout and becoming lost during a short sightseeing stop in Kuruman. During our preceding late afternoon game drive we had seen a cheetah on a fresh springbok kill, unfortunately at a fairly distant 200m from the road. We bundled our new arrivals off to have a look as it was only a few hundred meters from the adjacent Rooiputs waterhole. Once again my creditability rating was under pressure as the cheetah was hardly visible in the gathering dusk. The thanks from the new arrivals were probably more from politeness than anything else. Our anticipation for the night ahead was sharpened by the description from our neighbor of the effect of a male lion roaring next to his ground tent the preceding night. We of course, are not new to this sort of experience, but it had the effect of placing the new arrivals in sync with this wild environment.

    In the gathering dusk I noticed some of the neighboring campers flashing their torches but was not too excited as I assumed they had spotted a jackal. Great was the excitement when, in the gathering dusk, an animal was spotted moving along the road not 30m from where we were sitting. To my astonishment this was not the anticipated jackal but a magnificent fully grown cheetah. Although clearly seen by us all, conditions were already a little too dark and the cheetah a little too distant for a photograph. It is amazing how large a fully grown cheetah appears when viewed at close range from the comfort of a camp chair. It gives a totally different perspective to seeing a cheetah from the height and confines of a vehicle. My blasé attitude instantly evaporated at this unique encounter. I must say that I have never seen a report of a cheetah passing through a campsite before. To me this turned out to be the absolute highlight of the trip although there were some more treats to follow. I am still not sure if some of our companions are able to place this astonishing encounter in perspective.

    Soon the braai fire was blazing and the camp chairs were occupied around the fire and tables set up under the A frame. It had been a fairly cloudy day and fortunately the resulting relatively mild temperatures were to remain with us throughout our stay. Jackals were calling nearby with the odd owl hoot to add further atmosphere for those in the group experiencing their first night in an unfenced camp. After a supper of marinated chicken sosaties, braaied boerewors and a French salad it was early to bed. This night there was no sight or sound of the resident pride of lions.

    Our Joburg friends had arrived at the entrance gate too late to check through the Botswana customs and immigration as this closes at 16H00. They had to drive back to Tweerivieren the next day to get stamped in and Anne and I took a leisurely game drive to the west along the Nossob as far as Dikbaards Kolk picnic spot. We honed our game and bird spotting skills without seeing anything too spectacular, but it was great to be back in the Kalahari.

    JUVENILE JACKAL BUZZARD AS IDENTIFIED FOR ME BY BERTIE AND SIMONB





    THESE GEMSBOK HAD BEEN EATING THE SOIL ON THE CLIFF FOR MINERALS



    Ewan and family had an excellent sighting of 3 adult cheetah right next to their vehicle on the way to Tweerivieren. We all enjoyed a brunch of grilled hamburgers, relish and salads whilst the rolls were still fresh. I was now well into my routine of bird watching and photography in camp. To me, a special treat was when the most miniature of raptors, a pygmy falcon, perched at the top of one of the trees in camp for about 10 minutes, regally surveying its surroundings. Some springbok and wildebeest were grazing nearby and 2 ostriches passing through the camp seemed more interested in us than we were in them. The nearby lodge was completely empty and apparently their next guests were only due in 10 days. This makes me wonder if this relatively new lodge is going to prove financially viable. “See the tears in my eyes”.

    The following day, Graham F. and one of my favourite young couples, Dean and Rachel, arrived mid-afternoon from Joburg after leaving before 3am and making commendable time. This early and frankly insane start shows that this group were also as keen and excited as can be. It was out with the G’s and T’s and cold beverages as we celebrated the final coalescence of our group. We enjoyed another of the spectacular Kalahari sunsets. Anne and I enjoy having minimal light pollution in camp after dark and everyone was able to enjoy the spectacular stars as it was new moon.

    Many more of the camps were now occupied and unfortunately there was plenty of light spillover from some of the adjacent camps lit up like circus tents. Supper that night was a celebration with a beef fillet on the braai with a freshly prepared green peppercorn sauce and potato, onion and butternut baked in a cast iron pot and fresh salads. The temperature was warm enough for only a fleecy top and shorts and the excitement and anticipation was palpable. I was able to focus attention on the various night sounds and we heard the calls of a nearby spotted eagle owl, pearl-spotted owlet and scops owl. The jackals were splitting the night with their eerie howls in close proximity to the camp. A large herd of wildebeest passed by close to the camp in the adjacent small valley. Their nodding eyes as they moved along provided plenty of interest. What a life!
    Ewan’s wife was close to her final month of pregnancy and as I had per necessity purchased a new bundle for my satellite phone I was more than happy for him to call Donna every evening to reassure everyone that all was fine and that he was not about to miss out on the birth of his first child and heir. It took some explaining to help Ewan understand that he was welcome to utilize my airtime as it expires after a month whether used or not.

    EWAN ON THE SATELLITE PHONE TO HIS PREGNANT WIFE - "IS HE STILL KICKING?"




    The anticipated early night did not happen in all the excitement. I had emphasized to the group that we had to pack up camp in the dark the next morning, starting at about 6am, if we were to have any chance of completing the next leg of the trip.

    Rooiputs 1 camp
    The campsites are fairly close to one another and with the campsites filling up with the school holidays the general camp noise and the light pollution was a little intrusive. On our previous visit it had been far quieter. No 1 remains a favourite site with an excellent view and is placed closest to the Rooiputs waterhole in the dry Nossob riverbed. I also like sites 2, 3 and perhaps 4. The lodge visible behind the camp was dead quiet. I must say if forced to choose between equivalents I would definitely go for Polentswa camp further west. It is smaller with only 3 not 6 campsites. This western part of the park is also far quieter than the relatively busy area near to Tweerivieren.

    Rooiputs and its very active waterhole retains a very special place in our hearts. This is borne out by the cheetah wandering by the previous night. One can never be sure what Rooiputs will deliver next.

    As usual we enjoyed the birds in camp. I would urge all wilderness lovers to do your best to cultivate some sort of interest in the smaller wonders of nature ever-present in camp. The birds are always entertaining and provide me with a constant source of interest during the quiet times in camp. I further this interest by trying to take as many photos of them as possible and thus constantly honing my photographic skills. In Rooiputs there were many of the usual suspects. The commonest being sociable weavers. White-browed sparrow-weavers are constantly present in the Kalahari camps as are grey-headed and Cape sparrows. It is always difficult to photograph the shy and constantly moving scarlet-breasted shrikes. This national bird of Namibia with its brilliant colouration becomes quite confiding in the camps. It really sinks home that I am in the arid bush when I hear their liquid “buyong” call. Constant companions are the Marico flycatchers and rufous-vented tit babblers as well as red-eyed bulbuls. The inquisitive yellow-billed hornbills become habituated and opportunistically scavenge for scraps. Fork-tailed drongos continually swoop for insects. The normally wary Kalahari scrub-robin is constantly under your feet.

    WHITE-BROWED SPARROW WEAVER




    VERY TAME AND CONFIDING YELLOW-BILLED HORNBILL




    CRIMSON-BREASTED SHRIKE, ALWAYS ON THE MOVE AND DIFFICULT TO PHOTOGRAPH




    KALAHARI ROBIN ALSO VERY HABITUATED




    It would have been great to twin Polentswa with a stay at Rooiputs but it was full when Graham made the bookings about 6 months earlier.
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    Last edited by Stan Weakley; 2014/07/16 at 12:10 PM.
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    TransAfrica 2015/2016 blog www.slowdonkey.com

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    Great report and photos, as normal, thanks, Stan.
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    Quote Originally Posted by James MacKay View Post
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    Default MABUA continued.

    30/6:

    During the early hours of the morning the much anticipated fact that we were in lion territory was confirmed. A pride of lions began roaring and snarling towards the Rooiputs waterhole only some 400m away from Rooiputs 1 camp. At the scheduled 6am we were up and the rest of the group were roused from their uneasy slumbers. I must reveal that the packing up in the early morning darkness was accompanied by plenty of scanning the surroundings with torches. I was reasonably confident that all was safe as I could hear the sound effects of what sounded like the pride of lions busy on a kill a fairly safe distance away. We had no choice faced with the grueling drive ahead that day and I am pleased to say that we were rolling shortly after the gate opening time of 7H30.

    The prospect of travelling in one day from Rooiputs to Mpayathutlwa Camp in the Mabuasehube section of the trans-frontier park along the Bosobologo trail, did not exactly enthrall me. I had prepared the group for a very early start, minimal time for game watching on the way and a possible overnight at Matopi 1 or 2 if unoccupied. Perhaps even a last resort of bush camping if we were in danger of running out of daylight. I do not understand how the DWNP can in all conscience offer this sort of booking. Surely they are familiar with the time and distances between these 2 camps? Graham F after initially discussing the booked schedule with me, had been unable to obtain a booking for an intermediate stopover at Nossob or Matopi, despite trying repeatedly for cancellations. According to Tracks4Africa this route would take us about 11 hours driving time, not allowing for any appreciable stops or mishaps. Many will be aware of the severely corrugated road along the Nossob with its speed limit of 50km/hr and then the single track, very sandy road to Mabua along the Bosobolongo trail. This road runs perpendicular to the never ending sand dunes, particularly prominent in the first 20 to 30km. It is not that the road is really all that testing, but more the length of it. It is 136km to Nossob and then the slow 205km to Mpayathutlwa Camp along the trail. Our group of relative novices are to be commended for the way they stuck to this task, but this is not something that I would like to repeat in one day again.

    Our drive was almost immediately slowed when we had a most wonderful sighting of the lion pride as they moved down to Rooiputs waterhole in the golden early morning sunlight. We had to make the most of this sighting and spent almost half an hour with them. There were 3 young and a more senior collared lioness. The youngsters kept us entertained when they began some playful rough and tumble in the Kalahari dust. Just down the road, about 200m meters away was the pride male lying down with a solitary lioness probably in oestrous. Unfortunately we did not have the time to spare to witness any high jinks from the two of them.






















    The road to Nossob appeared to be less corrugated than we had experienced at times in the past and at Nossob we were able to top up with fuel and carry out final adjustments to our tyre pressures. I settled on 1,6 front and 1,8 rear tyre pressures. Ewan’s vehicle reported a good sighting of a honey badger during the drive, although I had carried out a visual search when I noticed the 2 perched pale chanting goshawks which often accompany a ratel, I missed this sighting. After brunch at the day visitor facility at Nossob we set off to tackle the Bosobogolo Trail to Mabua.

    Ewan had no experience with this sort of driving and I am sure that this exposure will stand him in good stead for all his planned future trips. Dean was allowed to take the wheel of Graham’s vehicle and also did very well indeed. I had spent a little time on a briefing of the conditions to be expected and on the sort of driving protocol that was likely to be needed. At the first long and fairly steep dune we followed protocol with the first vehicle easily cresting the sandy dune in 2nd gear and with sufficient speed and momentum. The second vehicle followed but the third failed to arrive and when we trudged back through the sand it was to find it stuck in the deep sand half way up the dune. A little spade work and more air out of the tyres and after reversing and obtaining more momentum and speed we were on our way.

    A few dunes later Ewan was stuck again and with a bit of a push and clearing the wheels we were on the move again. His 2 sisters were by now rolling their eyes a little and my remark that perhaps he was driving with his handbrake on seemed to go over his head. But lessons were being learned and there were no further delays. I am sure that with this experience behind us we will be even better equipped for the future. Because of the length of slow road ahead of us we had to take the rest of the trail at a faster speed than I would normally prefer but we made good time and T4A on my GPS was giving me an ETA of 17H45, well before dark. I am amazed that I have seen no reports of head on collisions along this two-way single lane road in view of the many blind rises. I suppose the to and fro traffic largely occurs at different times of the day. As the lead vehicle I took the precaution of travelling with my headlights and spots on bright for what that was worth. Just beyond Matopi 1 we bumped into a group of 3 vehicles and trailers headed by a fellow East Londoner and forum member, Peet van der Vyver, whom I had last bumped into in the Central Kalahari Reserve in April this year. Truly a small world and we had a long chat. They were moving from Mpayathutlwa Camp no 2 and related that lions had been roaring throughout the preceding night and had been in the camp at Mpaya 1, our destination. The road passes through magnificent Kalahari thornveld but there is little or no game to be seen. It later transpired that Ewan’s vehicle, driving third, had spotted a solitary lioness right next to the road just beyond Matopi 2 camp, missed by supposedly more experienced eyes! The further one proceeds towards Mabua, the less undulating the road, although the sandy track continues to wind and twist. We arrived at the magnificently sited Mpayathutlwa 1 campsite exactly as per GPS time prediction. My fellow travelers seemed very impressed, perhaps they did not appreciate that T4A gives this sort of time prediction. I did not disillusion them as I badly needed to regain some lost credibility! It goes without saying that one would never commit to this sort of drive in a single day had there been any other option. I would suggest a stopover at Matopi 1 or 2 instead, or even at Nossob.

    We set up camp in the fading daylight and were able to appreciate the excellent campsite with its strategically situated A-frame and its elevated view over the fairly large Mpayathutlwa Pan. The fact that both the basin and the shower had water was a bonus, however the pit latrine was confined within a small kleinhuisie, which resulted to some overpowering aromas in the confined space. The longdrops in the open wooden stockades are far more pleasant to use. I preferred to use a deep hole dug in the soft sand and our fold up toilet. It goes without saying that the toilet paper was burned and the hole covered up completely with the ash and soil before departure. That night we ate Anne’s precooked and defrosted Jambalaya with choriza sausage and a large packet of prawns, added with the reheating and final cooking. It is our custom to try and eat with some style when bush camping. By the end of the trip I think it is safe to say that our friends were somewhat in awe and hopefully we had convinced them that one can deliver culinary treats in the middle of nowhere! It was good to see how all combined so well in relieving Anne (and myself) of many of the camp and cooking chores. Some good bottles of red wine were uncorked and we all relaxed and enjoyed the bush and fellowship that comes with this type of holiday. The only light was that of the dancing flames and with full bellies and slaked thirsts we hit the sack early after our prodigious drive.



    Mpayathutlwa 1 camp
    The consensus of the group was that this offered the best view of all the camps we stayed in, with a commanding vista over Mpayathutlwa Pan with its scattered groups of animals. Good camel-thorn shade trees are present for the summer months. Good shower and barely acceptable pit latrine. There was a water supply for the basin and shower, too brak to drink. Apparently the water supply is not completely reliable. The waterhole is about 600 m away to the north and is closer to campsite 1 than 2. I think this closer proximity is why camp 1 has the reputation of being visited so often by lions. The 2 campsites are far enough apart for privacy and seem to be out of eye- and earshot of each other. Mpaya 2 seems to have a similar view. We heard lions roaring during our night there, fairly close, estimated to have come from the area of the waterhole. For a change the “space invaders” had arrived a day earlier when someone other than ourselves was in camp. As mentioned the occupants of this camp the night before had been given a right royal show. This pan had the most wildlife on it with a decent herd of about 20 wildebeest, a few herds of 10 or so springbok, scattered gemsbok, jackals and the odd red hartebeest. The waterhole was a good place to visit in the mornings and late afternoons. The animals come to drink and in the mornings large flocks of sand grouse (Burchell’s and Namaqua) and Cape turtle doves fly in to drink. In the heat of the day vultures also come to drink and we spotted white-backed and lappet-faced here. We also saw a large eagle here which I think was a sub-adult martial. Unfortunately I missed the photograph.
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    Last edited by Stan Weakley; 2014/07/16 at 12:21 PM.
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    TransAfrica 2015/2016 blog www.slowdonkey.com

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    Wow Stan

    Your trip reports and photography just get better and better ! I really wish to experience just some of what you have and be able to post a report half as good as your fine examples .

    Thank you

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    Excellent pics Stan!
    Paul

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    Smile Mabua trip report contd

    MPAYATHUTLWA PHOTOS: AT THE WATERHOLE




    DECENT HERD OF BLUE WILDEBEEST






    NOTICE THE DIFFERENCE IN THEIR HORNS



    PAIR OF JACKALS ROMPING






    EARLY MORNING SUN



    THIRSTY BURCHEL'S SANDGROUSE




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    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    TransAfrica 2015/2016 blog www.slowdonkey.com

  10. #9
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    Default More Mabua June/July 2014

    1/07 to 3/7:

    Unfortunately it was not by choice that we had only one night at Mpaya Camp and we had time to take a bit of a game drive before packing up camp, including the relatively nearby waterhole again. The latter part of the night had been punctuated by the roaring of lions down towards the waterhole. Unfortunately we were not able to locate them possibly because we set out a little too late. We were all in fully relaxed mode and it was noticeable within Mabua that early morning game drives did not appear to be a high priority amongst most of the campers. Our game drive encompassed the loops around Khiding and Mabuasehube Pans before we packed up camp and moved to Monamodi Camp no 2. Before leaving we had brunch, in the form of fresh fruit salad, yoghurt, toast and cereal.

    The only game of note was found in and around the pans, especially those with functioning waterholes. These were at Mpaya, Monamodi and Lesholoage Pans. The distances between the various pans are short enough for a reasonable circuit between 2 or so pans making for a convenient 2 to 3 hour game drive.

    The animals seen included regular small herds of springbok, occasional herds of 20 or so wildebeest and scattered pairs and small herds of very sleek looking gemsbok. We also spotted the odd steenbok and red hartebeest were intermittently present on some of the pans. Jackals were a regular sighting. Mabua Pan waterhole was dry and Khiding Pan does not have one. The roads connecting the pans can be fairly boring to drive, especially the dead-straight cutline ones. There was no game to be seen here other than the odd gemsbok. The terrain is attractive Kalahari thornveld with the odd other variety of tree, but there is little variation. We settled into a routine of morning and evening game drives and the only area of the Mabua section we did not cover was the loop around the smaller Malatso, Mogobewatlhangwe and Mokgalo Pans. We found Veronica Roodt’s map of the Transfrontier Park to be very handy but T4A was also very accurate.

    On our first morning at Monamodi we had an egg, bacon and tomato brunch with toast, to be repeated 2 mornings later including baked beans and sausage. Otherwise we stuck to fresh fruit, yoghurt, toast and cereal. Early mornings would be coffee and rusks. The mornings were quite fresh and with the late winter sunrise in this western location I certainly was not as early to rise as is my custom. In the early mornings and nights track suit bottoms and jackets were required. During the day shorts and short-sleeved shirts were comfortable.

    It was time to braai again on our first night in our new camp and now it was spatch-cocked chicken in a Moroccan marinade, courtesy of Woolies, together with potatoes, butternut and onions in tin foil. On our second night in camp I undertook my piece de resistance, a pot roasted, deboned leg of lamb. This was accompanied by rice, broccoli and cheese sauce (thank goodness for Woolies) as well as carrots. This was eaten in the somewhat stunned silence of those enjoying their food. Roast lamb is not a big deal, cooked on medium coals in a cast iron pot, requiring turning only once. It takes about 2-3 hours if cooked slowly. There is no point in eating too early as replete, everyone seems to stop having drinks and start looking towards their warm beds. On our last night at Monamodi we had spaghetti Bolognaise with Parmesan cheese nogal. The mince had been precooked at home courtesy of Mrs Graham F. and frozen.

    LAMB POTROAST ON THE COALS




    EATING THE LAMB ROAST



    NO CAMP LIGHTS



    Monamodi 2 camp
    We spent the longest time at this camp (3 nights) and were quite happy here. It however has no view. Camp 1 is about 300m away. The waterhole was functional and is only about 400m away and camp 1 is closer to it. We were never aware of our neighbours in no 1 except for when they very politely came to shower as 1 had no water. Once again speaking to the previous occupants, lions had been in this camp 2 nights previously. These neighbors in fact had just moved from 2 to no 1 and reported that a spotted hyena had been in their camp one night and had stolen their spade, never to be found. There were plenty of the typical chalky white hyena droppings in one area on the periphery of our camp. I was on the lookout for, but never found any tracks in our camp. We maintained our strict camp discipline of packing everything into our vehicles at night and were rewarded with relatively undisturbed slumbers. There was a fair amount of game in and around this smaller Monamodi pan and a herd of kudu frequented the eastern fringe of the pan opposite the campsites. There were also the odd springbok, gemsbok and jackal. The waterhole also attracted sand grouse and doves as well as raptors and vultures. This is where we spotted a white-headed vulture and a juvenile bateleur.

    THE YOUNGER MEMBERS, NICE WARM SUNNY DAYS



    MONAMODI CAMP



    DEAN IN RELAXED MODE




    THE BUSY LADIES SETTING UP BRUNCH



    THE DONKEY



    KUDU ON MONAMODI PAN




    WHITE-BACKED VULTURES AT MONAMODI WATERHOLE







    WHITE-BACKED VULTURE




    WHITE-HEADED VUTURE MONAMODI WATERHOLE



    BURCHELL'S SANDGROUSE




    NAMAQUA SANDGROUSE



    THIRSTY?



    JUVENILE BATELEUR




    SUNSET AT MONAMODI
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    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    TransAfrica 2015/2016 blog www.slowdonkey.com

  11. #10
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    Default

    Referring to your lion pics Stan they are very nice, I have always said lions especially in the Kalahari are just meant to be photographed at sun rise and sun set. On another point ( I think you made it a while ago) you had some seriously good eye candy in camp lol
    Land Rover Puma 110 '2009'
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    Default Final installment Mabua July 2014

    Friday 4/7:

    We heard no lions at Monamodi and moved to our last camping night at Khiding Pan no 2 Campsite. Unfortunately perhaps, although there are plenty of lions in Mabua, we were not destined to meet up with them. Anne and I have had more than our share of encounters with lions in the past and a trip such as this is about more than the big critters. However it is a pity that our travelling companions were not subjected to being “revved” in camp by lions. Those who have experienced this know that such an experience makes for indelible memories. To me another exceptional experience was a first for us and more than compensated for the absence of lions. At dusk that evening a fully grown brown hyena wandered around close to the A-frame as bold as brass. We had an excellent view and it was astounding to see how habituated this normally very timid animal had become. Apparently it has been a regular visitor to the Khiding Camps for some time. As with the cheetah, the light precluded any photos and likewise its size viewed from the seated position in a camp chair, was surprising. The rest of our group had never clapped eyes on a brownie before and with its flowing brown mane this imposing creature made quite an impression. We were also visited by a couple of jackals here. Just to mention that I took an ultraviolet torch with me but could find no scorpions in any of the camps. Perhaps it was the cold weather? The quiet of the night was frequently interrupted by the banshee screeching of a barn owl. On our last night we once again resorted to a precooked meal, a curry (butter chicken) with all the sambals and roti. In discussion Anne and I agreed that in reterospect we had braaied one night too little. We have previously found that too many braais can become monotonous.

    We saw a few of the shy bat-eared foxes on the far side of Khiding Pan. We had also spotted a group scuttling for cover as we were leaving Rooiputs Camp.

    Khiding 1 camp
    Unlike our previous 2 camps there were no facilities for water here and no waterhole on the pan. No 1 and 2 campsites are right next to each other and I am sure any neighbours would be audible and visible. Fortunately 2 was empty at the time of our visit. These 2 campsites have good shade trees and a pleasingly open aspect. They are also set a little higher than the pan with a good view. We particularly enjoyed the sunsets here directly across the pan. The pit latrines here are also enclosed in little kleinhuisies and are more unpleasant than those with the open-air wooden stockades.

    PIED BABBLER AT KHIDING CAMP




    MARICO FLYCATCHER FREQUENT CAMP COMPANION



    KHIDING CAMP AT SUNSET





    Lesholoage Pan
    We took a drive up there and were pleasantly surprised to find a functioning waterhole. I am not sure if the nearby campsite no 2 had water but suspect so. This appears to be a very attractive campsite with an elevated view over the pan and situated only a few hundred meters from the waterhole. Campsite 1 is some distance away across the pan and apparently has no water facilities.

    LESHOLOAGE WATERHOLE



    Mabuasehube Pan
    This is the largest of the pans with a dry waterhole at the time of our visit. I am not sure of the reason for this but note that lack of adequate maintenance by the park staff has frequently been blamed for this situation on this forum. Campsite 1 overlooks the waterhole and has a good view over the pan. Apparently it is a small campsite with no water. Campsites 2 and 3 are close to each other and share water and ablutions. I am sure they had no water at the time of our visit. Campsite 4 is a good distance further east, also on the edge of the pan and apparently has its own facilities. Mabua Pan had very little wildlife activity on it at the time of our visit, probably due to the dry waterhole.

    We did not have a look at either of the camps at Bosobogolo. It was reported to us that a group was trapped in the showers at the Mabua Gate by lions. This is far from the first time this has happened. It seems that the lions are attracted by the prospect of drinking the runoff water from the showers. On the way out of the park, along the cutline road, we saw visitors successfully collecting firewood and if entering Mabua from this gate, this seems to be the way to go. No wood may be collected in the park.

    On a sour note there were quite a few of the white “daisies” on view in the camps and even along the roads. These are of course due to the inconsiderate littering from used toilet paper. The rubbish bins were full to overflowing in many of the camps and I would advise in fact taking your rubbish out with you.

    Sat 5/7 and Sun6/7:

    This was the sad day that we packed up and began the long journey home. The other 2 vehicles were driving to Gauteng and were able to do it in one long drive, arriving in the early evening. At the Mabua Gate we parted ways on the cutline with us proceeding eastwards towards Tshabong and the others going first west on the cutline, then north to the tar and later to Lobatse and the border post on the Transkalahari Highway. Apparently the dirt roads were good for the rest of the group except for the first part of about 14km on the cutline. The road was sandy again on the newish diversion around private farmland. The route was obvious and there were no problems getting lost even without a GPS.
    We had a far longer drive on the cutline forming the northern boundary of the park. This was deeply rutted sand and although entirely passable when towing, I am sure would be a bit of a mission with a trailer. This sandy cutline section is 41km long and could only be travelled at 40km/hr at best. We passed 2 graders travelling down this road so perhaps others making the trip later will be pleasantly surprised. After this one drives on a very pleasantly firm dirt road and the travelling speed can comfortably be increased to 80km/hr or more. This better section of road to Tshabong is 71km long and the total trip from Mabua gate to Tshabong took us 1hr 50min for the 112km. There are 3 fuel stations in Tshabong and I would think that fuel supplies would be reliable here. We filled up here and had used 98l since Upington.

    From Tshabong it is only 25km on a good dirt road to the quiet McCarthy’s Rest Border Post where passage was quick and easy. We proceeded via Kuruman and Kimberley, reaching Bloemfontein by 17H00 where we overnighted. The weather had become freezing again from a new cold front. After an early start the next morning we were in East London by lunch time.

    STATS AND COSTS

    Cost of fuel in SA – 500ppm diesel R13.66/l
    Cost of fuel at Nossob – 500ppm diesel R14.63/l
    Cost of fuel at Tshabong – 500ppm diesel Pula 9.84/l (R 11.86)

    KILOMETERS COVERED – 3350km
    Fuel costs and litres used in total – R 7685.00 Liters 564.5
    Fuel consumption – 5.9 km/l
    - 16.85l/100km (if my calculations are correct)

    COSTS OF PARK
    P8 vehicle entry fee.
    P20 pppd park entry.
    P30 camping pppd.

    OVERALL IMPRESSIONS

    Anne and I were in a very relaxed mode and really did not spend a lot of time chasing around on game drives, especially not early in the morning and perhaps we might have lost out on predator sightings because of this. We were with a group and really did not want to impose any rigid routines. Also the mornings were rather cold and gate time is only 7H30 in the mornings. I noticed that most of the other visitors appeared to stay put in their camps for much of the day and going for game drives seems to be far less of an emphasis. Most visitors seemed to be content with the peace and quiet in the camps and sitting around in the sun admiring a view over the pans. The normal spectacular Kalahari sunsets were a source of great pleasure as were those crystal clear views of the sparkling night sky.

    FINAL SUNSET






    I must comment that it was exceptional to spot any game on the roads and cutlines joining the various pans. We found it most worthwhile to do slow relaxed circuits between the various waterholes on the pans. The game densities were as low as we recalled from our previous visit. Certainly much lower than in the South African side of KTP along the river beds. It appeared to be the equivalent of the game densities of the inter-dune areas of the South African part of the park. Certainly one would expect to see more game in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, even at this time of year. I mention this only to try and avoid others being disappointed in Mabua from this aspect. To me Mabua is more about experiencing the rugged Kalahari terrain with its stark beauty and splendid feeling of isolation and timelessness. Being school holidays the park was fairly full but there was no feeling of being crowded, however there was not the sense of total isolation experienced in CKGR. The campsites are very reminiscent of those in CKGR except many of them have the advantage of water (not potable).

    CONCLUSION

    Mabuesehube has never been on the top of my list as a wildlife destination but certainly qualifies as an authentic wilderness experience. It is great when your most pressing problem is the amount of soda water remaining, where your tracksuit trousers are, “where is the toilet paper”?, “ are the beers getting cold in the freezer”? or “has the meat been taken out of the freezer”? Some members of the group should recognize themselves from these quotes!

    The game numbers are not high but I am not qualified to comment on the game populations during the summer months. When we visit again it will be in summer. I prefer the SA side when green and would be interested to see if the same applies to Mabua and surrounds. The campsites are all good, some seem a little better because of their view, relative distance from neighbours, presence of reliable water, better ablutions or the general attractiveness of their location. The two Mpayathutlwa sites seemed particularly attractive to us, the Mabuasehube camps would have been almost as attractive if they and the waterhole had water. Monamodi 2 was fine because of the water, waterhole and ablution facilities. It lacked the view of some of the other camps. Khiding has a reasonable view but camps 1 and 2 are too close to one another and a negative is the lack of water and a waterhole. We liked the look of Lesholoage 2 camp, with its view over the pan, privacy and close proximity to the waterhole. I suspect it has water when the waterhole is functioning. Matopi 1 and 2 seem to be very reasonable stopovers to avoid having to do a very long one day trip. Saying this it seems entirely appropriate to cover Nossop to Mabua in 1 day.

    The campsites themselves are very reminiscent of those in the Central Kalahari and it would seem that lions are just as prevalent in Mabua. I was very envious of the group that reported 3 leopard sightings at more or less the same time we were there. It would seem that combining Mabua with Rooiputs and Polentswa would give one an above average chance of seeing the elusive brown hyena. The prevalence of predator visits to the camps reinforces my stance on packing away everything at night and avoiding foodstuffs and utensils lying about or stored in ground tents. The water that lies about in camp after showers etc could be one of the reasons for predators including the campsites on their rounds. You need to be on your toes if you want to be confident of avoiding a nasty shock or worse.

    My ideal itinerary would start with 2 or 3 nights in Rooiputs, campsites 1, 2 or 3. Then a night or so in Nossob or Matopi and then onto Mabua via the Bosobogolo Trail. At Mabua I would definitely include some nights at Mpayathutlwa 1 Campsite and then probably Lesholoage 2. If the Mabuasehube Pan Campsites have water these would also be a consideration but we did not have close enough a look to be able to choose between the four. Camps 2 and 3 seemed a little close to one another for comfort.

    I would then take the one way Wilderness Trail back to the Nossob road and spent a good few nights at Polentswa Camp. Other forum members with far more exposure than myself to this park may want to point out where they disagree based on their greater experience.

    If you are not on a search for large numbers and a wide variety of game and a pure wilderness experience is fulfilling enough for you, then you will not be disappointed by a visit to the Botswana side of the Kgaligadi Transfrontier Park. The entrance and camping fees are far more reasonable than all the other Botswana parks. This is because of the trans-frontier nature of the park and the fact that the Botswana prices need to be in step with those on the SA side.

    What a minestrone soup of people, personalities and ages we had in our group. A university accounting lecturer, a priest, a surgeon, a housewife and retired nurse, an investment banker, lawyer, teacher and cricket coach par excellence, an occupational therapist and finally an events organizer (I think).

    Finally thanks to Graham for the invite, Dean for braaing and building up a thirst and Rachel for all her help to Anne. To the G. family thank you for all your help. You all also helped me to see my beloved Kalahari through new refreshed eyes. To James, our little talk on the spirituality of a retreat to the desert or the wilderness, as in the years of yore, will stay with me as long as I am fit and able to do these trips.

    I think it is very very cold in Mabua right now.

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    Last edited by Stan Weakley; 2014/07/15 at 11:14 PM.
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    TransAfrica 2015/2016 blog www.slowdonkey.com

  13. #12
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    Thank you for your kind responses Malcolm, James, Henk and Paul.

    James you are correct, the animals and birds in the camp were easy on the eye. My wife says she is most flattered by the eye candy bit.

    Hey man James these are the offspring of a "preacher man". Seeerious!
    Last edited by Stan Weakley; 2014/07/15 at 11:13 PM.
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    TransAfrica 2015/2016 blog www.slowdonkey.com

  14. #13
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    Default Trip Report

    Thanks very much for this great report, very well written and great pics! Looking forward to doing this trip as well one day soon

  15. #14
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    Thanks Stan, this is a great way of getting my 'bush fix' from far away. Your photography is getting right up there. I do like the gimbal head on the door of donkey. Shooting with big white telephoto's mate ?
    Last edited by kirkfort; 2014/07/16 at 06:03 AM. Reason: spelling

  16. #15
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    Morning Stan,

    Wow! Those are amazing photos! Thank you for sharing! I was also wondering, which combination of lens/body you were using?

    In terms of your Land Cruiser, have you lifted the vehicle or is that standard suspension? Getting up to Botswana what was a comfortable cruising speed? And lastly is it the V8 or straight six diesel?

    Cheers

    David

  17. #16
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    Hello Stan,

    thanks for taking my soul again to beautiful KTP&Mabua.
    Must be a real pleasure to travel with you and your wife.

    Kind regards,
    anne

  18. #17
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    Dear Stan,

    Another voyeuristic look at the Kalahari through the ever-growing skill of the photographer and his beautiful lenses. Thank you for a lovely report Stan. It made my early morning so pleasurable just before marching out to do a day's work in the big smoke.

    Regards,
    Grant


    2011 Toyota Land Cruiser 76 S/W

  19. #18
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    As usual a wonderful comprehensive and useful (for those planning trips!) report Stan. And your photos are superb. I especially enjoyed the lion shots and also the birds. Wonderful. Thanks for sharing.
    “Marry an outdoors woman. Then if you throw her out into the yard on a cold night, she can still survive.” -
W. C. Fields

  20. #19
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    Thanks Tim, Kirk, David, Anne and Grant. It is a pleasure to share and Anne it is always a pleasure to travel with an Anne.

    Kirk the Apex bean bag and gimble head work very well for me. The bean bag with its mount for a head is heavy and stable enough to keep on the window sill when driving around. It is then quick to mount the camera/lens combo on the quick release mounting.

    I am using both a Canon 7D and 5D M3 body with a long lens on one and wider angle lens mounted on the other. I have yet to decide which body is best with which lens and often change them around. I must say the 5D M3 body has a very fast autofocus, but the 7D with its crop sensor gives great magnification with the longer lenses.

    I have been very self indulgent with my lenses. The long fixed focal lens is the fantastic Canon EF 600mm F/4 L IS USM. For shooting out of hand I use the Canon EF 100-400mm L IS USM lens. For wider angle and landscape shots I use the Canon EF 24-105mm F/4 L IS USM lens at present, mainly on the 5D.

    The Land Cruiser has a full Old Man Emu heavy duty suspension mod and also air helper springs at the back. It is a straight 6 diesel which I find powerful enough for my needs. I am not sure the V8 is basic enough for the kind of expedition into darkest Africa we are planning for next year.
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    TransAfrica 2015/2016 blog www.slowdonkey.com

  21. #20
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    Thanks for the report Stan, going there for a few days end September, can't wait!!
    IFS is like a swambo, soft, sexy and expensive!

    Apparently I need to make the airplane noises like mommy does when I try to spoon feed you the info..

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    Replies: 17
    Last Post: 2007/12/02, 10:56 PM

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