Kalahari – we’re coming!
Despite a very noisy night in Ghanzi, we were reasonably rested and set off early in the morning, arriving in the CKGR, Central Kalahari after about a two-hour drive through deep sand.
Contrary to the predictions in the guidebook, the condition of the road was a dream – if you can say that for a simple dirt road. The deep sand was well compressed by the occasional rain of the pastime, and it was easy to drive. We could drive the whole distance without 4Hi. By the way, we love the Land Cruiser for its driving characteristics. This car can already do very, very much in 4×2 mode.
We rarely had to use 4Hi during the entire trip so far. The drive to Xade Gate was one hour faster than expected. We “‘cruised’ relaxed through a 72 km long dreary low sand track which was lined by quite high bushes left and right. The car had a few more scratches in the paint when we arrived at our first destination, the Piper Pan.
Mud in Piper Pan
We surveyed the campsite, which was in the middle of nowhere, and then set out to explore the surrounding pans. There are a total of three pans of varying sizes in Piper Pan. It was quiet on our arrival day, and so we encountered nothing worth mentioning except for some Oryx antelopes and a group of ostriches. There was a smaller pan to explore before we wanted to return to camp. The access road was waterlogged and the track looked muddy. Guido drove in slowly and noticed it was getting slippery. Instead of heading back and skipping the pan, he backed up and thought he could make it through with momentum. Sonja objected but Guido did not listen and so the drama started…
With a run-up and in 4Hi we drove into the track and after about 5 – 6 meters there was no way off.
All attempts failed and Guido celebrated an anniversary: the first time he got stuck. We don’t need to mention that the action was superfluous. 90 minutes later, the car, Guido, the sand plates and the Air Jack were soiled and Sonja was slightly soiled, we were free again. Under our steam, in pretty good teamwork, we dug our way through the entire mud passage and could just return to the campsite at dusk.
Two cheetahs are around
It took more than a day to get us, the Air Jack and the sand boards clean enough to put everything back to stow them in the car. Soil sticks like nothing and really needs to dry out so that it can be removed well. The next morning we met a nice couple in the pan. They had the pleasure of following two cheetah brothers in a neighboring pan. They were spending a few hours with them while we struggled with the mud and got stuck. Since one of the two cheetahs was injured, and the pan we were now standing at houses a large herd of springbok, we harbored the confidence that they might still be around.
We don’t know if we were right: We didn’t see them – which doesn’t mean that they weren’t there. Once again, it shows that sightings on game drives always depend on being in the right place at the right time. You never know what you’re going to see – that can be frustrating, but it’s always exciting. We did not see any cheetahs, but we had the great luck to suddenly discover bat-eared foxes in the middle of the day. We saw them on three consecutive game drives over and over again.
In the rainy season, the Kalahari is not without its problems. During our drive to the north of the game reserve, there were many places where the passage was tight. If it had rained a little more on one of the days, we probably would have had to wait until it dried up a bit. The mud that quickly forms is slippery as soap suds. Through some tricky passages we still got through well. Suddenly, we saw some vultures circling off the road in some distance. They were clearly too low for thermal flights.
Especially since the numbers were changing and the group was flying a tight radius. We were pretty confident that it was a kill. Unfortunately, we could not drive there because off-road driving is not allowed in the park. We were satisfied with our assumption and hoped to discover the cats belonging to our imagination somewhere. About 500 m later we saw seven lions with big bellies lying under three trees. One stately black-maned lion, four lionesses and two teenagers. Well, we were very lucky – we took the opportunity and watched them for a while. Our campsite for the day was just 3 km away, and we decided to spend the hot part of the day under the awning and/or a tree in the shade and come back in the afternoon.
The Lions are still there…
We firmly assumed that the group would still be there. When we returned in the late afternoon, all seven were still in proximity. The two teens were scuffling and curiously examining our car – including a bite mark in the bumper. The big male went off and marked his territory – we accompanied him and when we came back, a thunderstorm was coming up. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to take a picture of the lightning, but we had a lot of fun with the lions and before dark we moved on and finally met two fighting Oryx bulls. What a day!
Fortunately, it rained only briefly and very little during the night, so the road condition was unchanged. The next morning we drove to Sunday Pan via the famous Deception Valley. We stayed in the region for two days. The game drives were tough – first, the roads required everyone’s attention and secondly, that was the price of traveling during the rainy season: Wildlife can find water everywhere and food is abundant. In addition, the bushes and trees are dense and the grass is very tall.
These are all factors that make sightings difficult. We were aware of this when we chose the travel time and accept these disadvantages. Even if it is annoying when it happens 😉 The biggest advantage of this time is the absolute silence. At this time of the year very few people travel, and it is empty and lonely everywhere. In addition, there are countless young animals to marvel at!
On the last day, during the morning drive, we met a Swiss family from Dachsen. That is about 15 minutes by car from our home(!). They are on a 2.5 year family tour in Africa. The reaction was awesome when Guido replied to her ‘good morning’ in Swiss dialect (their license plate gave them away). We had a good time and talked a lot. The three ended up in the Kalahari by chance and booked in for two nights.
After an intense chat and exchange of contact information, we saw them again a short time later during the game drive when we had a cheetah sighting. Now that’s what we call a debut! On the morning of departure, we saw two male lions lazily sunbathing in Deception Valley before leaving the park for the next eight nights. The next stages are Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pan, and then we return and hope that it will not rain further more and that we will then be able to drive the Deception Pan.