After the wonderful trip to India, I was lucky enough to get a week back in Africa. I love travelling to all the destinations that I visit, but I always come back to Africa. There is just something unique about it. This trip was to the Kgalagadi transfrontier park straddling the border of South Africa and Botswana. I have wanted to visit for a long time and was very excited to see the wildlife in this desert environment.  Surprisingly, it was much greener than I expected, largely as I was visiting at the end of the winter.  Most game viewing is done from the roads running along dried up river valleys which house a number of water holes. Water is of course the critical ingredient for life and as in Etosha, this is where much of the action occurs. Unfortunately for me , there was a big storm and so water was not as scarce as I would have liked. Nonetheless the wildlife and birds were fantastic.

My first morning included lion,leopard, cheetah and the highlight, caracal! This is a cat that I have never seen before and was amazed to see one hunting on the road in the middle of the day.

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Having caught and eaten the mouse, the caracal continued to walk along the road providing great views.

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The birds of prey were also fantastic with many young and relatively tame birds providing very good views. Pale chanting goshawks seem to be everywhere!

Pale Chanting Goshawk_ND59483

One of the most famous inhabitants present in large numbers is also my favourite antelope, the gemsbok. They are such a spectacular animal, and the rutting season was approaching so there was a bit of activity between the males.

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I stayed at two lodges on the Botswana side of the border, Rooiputs and Polentswana both of which were lovely.  Great staff and food, and my driver MrT was very good as well.

Perhaps the best known inhabitant of the Kalahari is the suricate or meerkat! I had never seen one in the wild so was delighted to find them, though they were not easy to find or photograph! These were not the groups that are so used to people that they climb on your shoulders!  They were great and behaved just as I expected with sentries looking out while the rest forage. Fantastic!

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Although the caracal was the highlight, it is always a thrill to see any of the big cats. This cheetah was one of a pair up on the vast grass covered dunes.

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And of course , the magificent black maned lions are very impressive.

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Leopards are always a thrill. I saw this male pushing a female very early one morning.Not great as it was quite dark.

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The biggest photographic challenge proved to be hunting birds, not cats. One morning,I spent some time at a waterhole watching several hundred cape turtle doves coming to drink. It was spectacular and they continued to come and go for nearly an hour. During this whole time, Lanner falcons patrolled the area flying through the doves and catching one periodically. The light was poor, making this lightening fast action impossible to capture.At least I got some nice shots of the falcons starting their attacks.

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Other than the gemsbok, the other main prey species were springbuck and wildebeest. The light at the beginning and end of the day can be spectacular, like this.

Wildebeast_8506473Although the Lanner’s were spectacular, my absolute favourite raptor was the tiny but lovely pygmy falcon.

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The final evening gave us another great sighting. Although the big cats are spectacular, the small cats are also amazing. We saw this African wild cat at dusk. It looked just like a normal ‘moggie’!!

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All in all, it was  a great week. I didn’t get all I wanted, but that’s photography. It was great shooting with Percy whose knowledge of the area was very helpful.

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