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Birds of Grootkolk

Birds of Grootkolk

Birds of Grootkolk - From the diary of a photographer in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Grootkolk is situated in the far north in the South African part of the KTP (Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park) - the Bush Camp Grootkolk. Four units with a kitchen building in the centre are in the middle of the Kalahari Desert with unobstructed views of a waterhole. Lions, hyenas and leopards maybe directly pass by the lodges. But besides the big four-legged mammals, there are also many small entertainers with two wings - birds.

Grootkolk Wilderness Camp - Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Birds are seldom on the wish list of the visitors of a National Park in South Africa but they are absolutely worth a look. On the one hand there are the nomads in the Kalahari, which eat mostly seeds. When food and water are available, they remain up to several months in a region before moving on. On the other side are the resident birds. These include chiefly raptors like eagle or goshawk. Stars or bulbuls are mixed eaters (seeds, insects and fruits) and they are resident species too. So is it worth to pay attention on the next game drive to the birds that are perfectly adapted to the dry environment with their beige-brown-gray-black plumage.

Who wants to watch birds directly from his cottage should visit the Wilderness Camp Grootkolk. The camp is situated in the part of the park which is managed by South Africa (SANparks). Located in the north there are only 20 km to Unions End. The accommodations are designed for two people and only the Braii area is fenced. Each cottage has a shower and a toilet. Although there is a central kitchen building, a kitchenette with sink is installed outside. The fridge with freezer is operated with gas and the electricity comes from a central solar panel.
And the view of nature is breathtaking. The eyes wander over the waterhole to the end of the valley up to the dunes. And for the little birds there are simple bird bath at the cottage.

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These bird baths are more likely ‘private by the guests' and make great bird watching up close. Recurring visitors are the weaver birds (sociable weaver) who have their nests in the trees about 50 meters away.

Throughout the day other visitors find the way such as this finch (scaly-feathered finch).

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And there is yet another finch (red-headed finch). Here he is still alone with his red head and observed the goings-on.

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And here he is in the middle in the refreshing water and surrounded by weaver birds. They are chirping on and drink on and seem to have forgotten the world around them.

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Thieving Lions in the Kalahari desert

Thieving Lions in the Kalahari desert

Even after 17 years of experiences in the wilderness, Kalahari habitants can still surprise me! On one of my last tour through the Kalahari we settled our camp side on the edge of a large Kalahari saltpan on the Botswana side of the “Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park”. There are hundreds of different antelopes on the pan to leaking the essential salt and minerals. After a while I discovered 2 Lions on the opposite side of the saltpan with my binocular. We observed the scenery until it went to dark. We then enjoyed our diner around the fire, and went to bed after a beautiful day in the Kalahari desert.

Lions in the Kalahari desert

In the morning just after 5am I woke up and I realized that my wife Helen, who was driving the second 4x4 vehicle, where already up. I called “Hey Helen where are you?” I’m sitting behind the vehicle and look the spectacular sunrise, was the answer! OK it's time for me as well to stand up I decide! I opened my tent, and had a closer look as always to the left and then to the right. Wow, what’s that? A big Lion’s head is observing the scenery of our campsite just about 20 meters away. The `Majesty’ was lying behind a tree, not aggressively; he was just curious to see what’s going on in his territory. "Hey Helen my love, did you see our neighbor behind the tree there?" Helen's head turned around the vehicles corner. "Witch neighbor, and where?" "Just there by the tree." "What do you mean? Oh a Lion!"

"Yes indeed a Lion, so please go into the vehicle, but don’t run, go slowly."

Our Safari guests could hear our conversation, and where starting to move and open the tent to have a close look to our surprising visitor. That was too much. All the noise and activities have let the Lion decide to move away, before all this “Paparazzi” get out of the tents to make pictures. He stood up, and he moved slowly and proudly away. OK, I said to the guests. The Lion is moving away, you can safely leaving your tents to have a closer look. We then were privileged to observe the beautiful beast for about 10 minutes before he walked into the dens bush.

OK it’s time preparing breakfast. I walked to the table to head up water for tea or coffee. But what’s that. Now I realized that my gas cooker made by solid steel where not on the table anymore, where I left it in the evening. Only the gas bottle with the chewed gas pipe where lying on the ground. The cooker - what a miracle - isn’t here anymore. Where is this cooker going? Flying away? No, I saw tracks and raze in the sand. The Lions moved them up to the nearby sand dune.

I climbed into the 4x4 vehicle to drive up the dune to get my cooker back, but unfortunately the “Thief’s” moved them further into the thorny bushes, and it was to dangerous following the tracks further deep into the bush, because the Lions are still somewhere, even if we didn’t see them. Therefore I turned back into the camp to inform our guests that I could only offer a bottle of cold beer for breakfast.  Our guests where very amused and laughed loudly after that little adventure.

Since then I store my gas cooker every evening in the vehicle before going to rest...

Kalahari desert

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