Central Kalahari Game Reserve

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May 22nd 2012
Published: May 24th 2012
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May 16-22

Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Penduka Safaris - Mobile Safari

Richard writes:
Early morning starts (up at 6 AM and away at 7 AM) were the normal for this safari. The temperature at dawn kept us in warm fleece jackets until 9 AM and by 11 AM we we putting on sun screen in 30 C heat. The blue sky has no clouds horizon to horizon, dawn to dusk. This is late fall in the Botswana.

The central Kalahari is very, very dry so the plains are brown and the grass is sparse. Rivers are on flood from rain in Angola but it is all underground by the time it reaches the Kalarhi. Wildlife congregates each at their own time around water holes from deep pumped wells powered by solar panels. We see some dry water holes where the pumps are not working and wonder what the animals do, although Willem assures us that many desert animals do not need water at all. Interesting!

Although we travelled many kilometres every day and saw a wide range of game, the water holes kept us fascinated. Springbok were everywhere in groups of a few to 50. Then Oryx, wildebeest, hartebeest, little stenbok, bat eared fox, Cory bustards, Jackal and giraffe. Of course with so little rain, there were many kilometres with no mammal sighting. This was replaced with birds both large and small, and many colours: eagles, owls, hornbills, grouse. One cheetah sighting as it fled into the scrub.

Although we are taking our Malaria pills every day there have been no mosquitoes or flies. Only bees around the water hand basins and in the tents. But these are easy to shoo out - not the African killer variety?

We are two to a tent, Kayla and Richard, 5 Italians from Trento in Northern Italy, the owner, and four additional staff who manage the camp and food, and two customized International trucks with a lot of horse power. The land surface alternates between very hard clay and deep sand dunes, covered with short grass and shrubs. These trucks manage the sand with ease since we are traveling at 5 - 10 km/hr and they are geared for soft terrain. We decide that driving a lesser vehicle through this stuff is not for us, and we note deep ruts in the clay made during a time when it rained The first few days we saw many "self drives" - safari tourists in rental vehicles with no guide in the popular and more accessible Deception Valley area. However as we drove into more remote areas of the game reserve we were alone on the 4WD tracks.

The pans are very flat, but many different colours, depending on the soil and minerals present. We were surprised that they are not all white, like the more familiar salt flats found in the Western US. The animals congregate on these pans to take in minerals, and graze on the grasses. Unfortunately, this year was extremely dry during the rainy season and many of the pans are barren. This will be a hard year for the grazers.

The silence is deafening and my ears are ringing. The only sound is occasionally a bird and gentle wind. Unfortunately for us the predators - Lions and Cheetah - are nowhere to be seen. However we are still visiting the toilets after dark with our head lamps scanning the bush. Perhaps tomorrow, our last day, will offer a predator to photograph.

Kayla writes:

Our traveling companions are very friendly and we are learning some basic Italian words to communicate. They, in turn, are practicing their English on us. Then there is Willem, our leader and owner of Penduka Safaris, whose first language is Africaans, and the staff, who speak Tswana. We are indeed a multi-cultural group.

Every night we gather after supper around the fire. One night, Neri, one of our traveling companions from Italy, pulls out a small red cloth, and proceeds to stuff it into his hand, then we blow on his hand, and voila - it disappears completely. How does he do it? Everyone gets involved in watching this trick over and over again, but each time Neri pulls the cloth out of a different place. We had many laughs that night.

We will be sorry to leave this group and would have loved to join them for the next 5 days as they are going through one of our favorite places - Moremi Game Reserve.


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