Kalahari Desert

Definitely a desert…. after the cacophony of sound from all the places previously visited on this trip, the desert is silent.  From birds, frogs and hippos calling 24/7 basically, the silence is deafening.  Luckily, I like deserts.  At night, there was always a kind of chirping/popping sound.  I asked the people at the camp what kind of insect it was.  The answer I got was that it was not an insect but a gecko!  It is called the barking gecko.  You never see them; they live in little burrows.  You only see their little holes in the ground.

I think the first animals we encountered was once again, giraffes!  I had no idea they were so well adapted to a desert environment.  Apparently, they do not need to drink often, getting most of what they need from the leaves of the trees they eat.

We saw these two females with their youngsters several times.

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This is fairly typical of the landscape.  Mostly scrub and a few trees with a scattering of springbok.

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These are gemsbok, called oryx further up the continent.  They do not have sweat glands and conserve all the water in their bodies.   There is no surface water in the area.  The camp has a waterhole that has been constructed and they fill every few days with a truck.  The ground water is very salty as is the water that is pumped into camp.  Taking a shower is a little like showering in Puget Sound…except that you can control the temperature!

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These little ground squirrels were as close as we would get to meerkats.  There used to be a colony there but sadly, it disappeared.  These little guys were hilarious and much more gregarious than my squirrels at home.

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These are bat eared foxes.  They are relatively small and have giant ears.  I’ve only seen them once previously and was surprised to see them everywhere here.  They listen for insects in the ground and dig them up.  Always busy…

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As vast as the desert is, the gemsbok were ubiquitous.

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These are kori bustards.  They are the heaviest flying bird in the world.  I’ve wanted to watch one take off.  When that actually occurred, I wasn’t ready to photograph it.

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These are steenbok, a small antelope.  They mate for life and they cover their scat like house cats.  It leaves them less vulnerable to predators.

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There’s my kori bustard…. after take off!

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This bird, the helmeted guinea, has got to be the silliest bird in the world.  They are a good warning system, however, because they will carry on at the slightest possible appearance of predators.  They rarely fly, except to roost, and when on a road, they just keep running in front of you.  It takes forever to get them to move off the road into the grasses.

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One afternoon we were taken on a walk by a bushman, the San people.  Few are 100%, most have intermarried over the years.  But they all know their culture and provide these walks for guests at the camp.  All the employees at this camp are San.

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Here he is showing us the snares they used to catch their meals.

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Here he used a stick to probe for a hare and then began to dig furiously.  With his arm far inside the den, he asked us of we wanted it and he would show us how to kill it and perhaps have it for dinner.  Naturally, we were speechless.  Turned out the entire episode was a demonstration of his natural acting ability!

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This was a hut they would build to live in temporarily.  These huts could withstand the rains for several days (yes, they do get rains).

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He was trying to teach Stephen how to make a fire purely with friction and shavings. 

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Well, that didn’t work… so now our guide stepped in to try.

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omg…… it worked!

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Our guide took this picture with every single camera.

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As we were walking back to camp, one of the other guides drove up with information that a leopard had been seen.  He jumped out, we all jumped in and left the two of them to walk back by themselves.

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This is Deception Valley.  For those of you familiar with Cry of the Kalahari, this is the area where they did most of their work.  As you can see, it is a very large pan, that is more or less black.

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If you look at the far horizon, you can see the mirage.  When the pan heats up, the heat waves reflect the trees along the edge, creating the illusion that the trees are reflected in water.  Hence, the name Deception Valley.

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Although bird life is supposed to be considerable, we didn’t see many.  This bright little yellow bird stood out against the monochrome color of the desert.

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During the rainy season, summer, the plains are blanketed with springbok.  They do a thing called ‘pronking’, particularly the youngsters.  I’m sure you’ve seen it in nature shows…. they stiffen their legs and basically spring up and down following each other around the plains.

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Not a great photo but I was surprised to see the antelope you can barely see in the distance.  I assume it is a steenbok…

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another leopard! 

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This cheetah was not as cooperative as the leopards and lions.

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southern pale chanting goshawk… with a name like that, its call must be ‘melodious’.  I’ve never heard it.

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Love those warthogs…

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Yellow billed hornbill hanging out by my tent.

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A part of the camp from out where the water hole is.   I was impressed with this camp.  All their power comes from solar panels.  Each structure has a panel out back.  And rather than serve water in plastic bottles, which so many camps have to do since local water isn’t always drinkable, they give you a water bottle and there is a water cooler in the main lodge.

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This guy was hanging around the waterhole, which was empty.  I felt a bit sorry for him and was glad to see the truck that delivers water out there the next morning.

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I included this one because of the wildebeest in the distance.  Most leave when the desert dries out but apparently, some of the bulls stick around to protect their territory until the herds return during the rainy season.  I guess they don’t always make it.

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Hard to see but there are five giraffe in this picture.

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Even the desert doesn’t look like a desert everywhere.

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This is the only half way decent shot of a honey badger that I was able to get.  Most of the time, they are furiously digging, creating a cloud of dust you can hardly see through.  Apparently, one of the things they dig for is scorpions!

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We still hadn’t seen the famous lions of the Kalahari.  Our last morning, we went out for one final drive.  Our guide was determined to find the lions.  These guys are incredible trackers.  He found tracks and followed in their general direction.  They crisscrossed the road several times.  Amazingly enough, he found the lions!  This pride had recently split into two.  The male was not with this group at this time.  The lions here are known for their black manes.

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This pride must have eaten during the night.  Take a look at that belly.  There weren’t any vultures around so they must not have chosen a place to rest anywhere close to their kill.

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This seemed to be ‘she, who must be obeyed’.  She slept a bit away from the others, more in the open than the others.  And they pretty much left her alone.

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And that’s it.  A nice way to end our stay in the Kalahari.  Although it is suggested that winter is the best time to visit most places in southern Africa because that is the dry season and animals tend to stay close to water sources, in the Kalahari, it is  the opposite.  With the rains, the animals return and the plains are roiling with life.

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One thought on “Kalahari Desert

  1. Oh no!!!!!
    I don’t want it to come to an end. I have so enjoyed hearing about your trip and thank you so very much for sharing so many photos with us. Once again some beautiful images. I have to say the leopard shots stand out to me, as you know they are my all time favourite animal and both leopards that you captured had the most beautiful faces. Great to see so many Gemsbok and Ground Squirrels and what a find, the Honey Badger. Terrific lion shots, love the full belly and then the Bat Earred fox, another terrific find.
    You have done a great job showing us what the Kalahari desert is like and all that live in it.
    Thank you for spending so much time sharing with us your journeys. Where to next?????

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