01 July, 2014

Kgalagadi lions

 - gardening for biodiversity 
in Cape Town, South Africa

The Ungardener has always dreamt of seeing the famous lions of the Kgalagadi. In June 2008 that was our mission. They are larger than lions elsewhere, as they may cover 12 kilometres at night hunting. The mane remains more impressive, as grassland is kinder to the clothes than bushveld. Because they are predators they are hard to see. But we clicked into a friendly pattern of sharing with approaching cars. So we were told – at the next waterhole there are two lions resting in the shade.

Kgalagadi lions resting in the midday heat

And here, the car pulling out, told us, there is a leopard sleeping among the trees. So we parked quietly, and had our lunch there, while she napped.

Leopard in the Kgalagadi

She put her head up, as we drove away later.

Kgalagadi leopard

I was also delighted to see an African Wild Cat, as they are usually nocturnal. Long leggedy beastie hunting thru the long grass. We watched bat eared foxes hunting for bugs, with their heads and those ears held low to the ground.

We set out fairly early each morning, and again late afternoon, to look for animals and birds. Midday when it is warmer and the animals are resting in the shade; we drink tea and read in comfort.

Morning sun on a Kgalagadi road

Kgalagadi sunset

Union’s End is in the far north west corner of South Africa, where our country meets Botswana and Namibia. It is marked on the map, as a place. So I was expecting a village, at least a road with a few houses. I was.

At Union's End

A signpost directs you to three adjoining countries.

From Union's End to three countries

That stretch was worth it, for we saw this beautiful bird. The birders are blasé about it, for it is commone (as my niece says) up north in the grassland, but I had never seen one before. Look at that amazing counterpoint of colours.

Lilac-breasted roller

One of our campsites was a luxury tent. Set overlooking the waterhole in the valley below. Spacious and comfortable. But, it was winter, and COLD. We had left the hot water bottle in the car, beyond a high heavy gate. And it stayed there, and we stayed cold. Warning notices about hyenas, who we could hear laughing just behind the fence. With those heavy jaws, the warning notices are serious. They will break bones to get at the marrow, and are the only animals able to completely digest bone. Frightening to lie in bed, unsleeping, and listening to them laughing at you …And sniggering – we TOLD you not to drink the water …

Kgalagadi  =  salt pans, also means that the water is brack, ‘slightly’ salty. It is not contaminated, and is safe to drink (depending on your constitution … They renamed two waterholes. Originally Little S*** Kleinskrij and Big S*** Grootskrij - as a warning to farmers travelling with their herds) I quite enjoyed salty tea, for a change. And I drink a lot of tea. But the poor Ungardener was desperately ill. We spent one day in camp recovering. And then I drove almost all the way home, from Union’s End, via Upington. This long, straight, road, home. One thousand and one hundred kilometres.

The road home thru the Hantam Karoo

The lions and leopards hunt gemsbok

Pictures by Jurg Studer  
of  Elephant's Eye on False Bay 

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  1. every-time I see you have a new post ( alerted on my blog list), I find myself so anxious to read what you have written, this is such an amazing life you lead, the photos are brilliant, the bird is beautiful such color!!. Sorry the ungardener was ill, glad you were not,

    1. it was an exciting interlude on the edge of the world!

  2. More and more reasons for me to try and visit the park

  3. Hi Diana! Thanks for letting us share another one of your amazing adventure. Those big 'cats' are really magnificent in the wild.

  4. How can anyone be blasé about such a beautiful bird. That must be a unique color combination.

    1. Birds are good at choosing colours!

  5. That bird is incredible! Such a beauty. How sad to be blase about something something so beautiful. I've gotten sick from bad water before so my sympathies to your husband. It would be amazing to see those cats in the wild. :o)

    1. My sense of wonder is something I cherish!

  6. Diana what a wondrous trip...love that bird and of course the cats. But your landscapes are really beautiful. There is a spot in the SW US where 4 states come together called the four corners...there is a similar marker there.

  7. How wonderful to see both lions and leopard. And the color of that bird is amazing! Drinking lots of tea is something else you and I have in common. If I ever get to South Africa, I'll come and visit and we can drink tea together. :-) -Jean

    1. that would be an unexpected pleasure. After a walk on the beach?