Lions in the camp

Words by Johan Nortier. Words by Johan Nortier. Pictures by Johan Nortier and others.

During August last year, we set off on an adventure to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Our party consisted of me and my wife Helen, Mark and Janet Stanford, and his brother George with wife Lynn, driving Land Cruisers and other inferior machines. Having visited the Nossop area on previous occasions, we decided to visit the Mabuasehube area this time, as we were specifically hoping for lion sightings. We would then return to Nossop along the Mabua trail (with overnight camping at Mosomane Pan), and from there move on to Swartpan in the north of the park via Kaa gate.

 

We met up in Upington with the family from the Western Cape, and slept over at the Affinity B&B on the banks of the Orange River. After the men’s obligatory tyre kicking and packing-method criticism, we enjoyed a good meal in town, followed by an early night in preparation for the long haul ahead.

We set off in the morning for the Kalahari Trials Nature Reserve close to Twee Rivieren, and spent the night at the selfcatering units of Professor Anne Rasa, who is world-renowned for her research work on mongooses (more specifically suricates – Suricata Suricatta), as well as conservation in general.

On the following day we crossed into Botswana at the Bokspits border post, enjoying contact with friendly officials on both sides, who reminded us that leopard skins and rhino horn weren’t souvenirs, and that we would be severely punished for having any such specimens in our possession upon our return(!) The road from Bokspits to Tshabong runs along the Molopo River and is newly tarred, so was a pleasure to drive as we could maintain a decent speed; there’s not much to see along this stretch, anyway. In Tshabong we filled up with fuel; it’s worth noting that they accept only Pula as payment, and no credit, debit, or garage cards.

The sandy 4x4 route from Tshabong to the Mabuasehube gate (the most easterly entrance to the park) is about one hundred kilometres long and has deep, badly-rutted tracks in places. Once there, we drove to Khiding Pan, some 30 kilometres distant, where we set up camp for four nights. This would provide a welcome respite from all the driving of the previous three days. After the vehicles had disgorged themselves of all our goods and impedimenta for the camp, we were ready for that first cold one of the day.

The area was very dry and dusty, and to make things worse, the borehole pumps in the area weren’t operating either, due to some unrepaired broken pipes. After learning that the water supply had been out of order for over a month, a visiting Northern Cape farmer and his wife took it upon themselves to repair these pipes – and almost landed in serious trouble, being sternly reprimanded by an official for “interfering with government property”!

On the first night, it was George and Lynn’s turn to prepare supper. While we were sitting around the fire, chatting, Janet got the feeling that there was “something out there”. We used a torch to investigate, and there they were: two brown hyenas skulking around camp, just outside the circle of firelight.

We were up early, with the sunrise, and driving to a nearby pan. It wasn’t long before a pride of lions was spotted, already seeking respite from the sun and imminent heat of the very dry and dusty Kalahari day which had just broken. On our return, we noticed the pride still in the same spot, nicely settled in. The sandy tracks were covered with all kinds of spoor, but lion pug marks dominated the scene. We spent the rest of the very hot day chilling in camp, leaving out some water in a small container to attract squirrel, mongooses, hornbills, bees and a variety of birds, too many to mention.

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