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26 November, 2009

Kgalagadi in Botswana - 5 Camping Tips for Mabuasehube

A visit to Mabuasehube Game Reserve really is worth -while if you are a nature lover who enjoys an amount of solitude and don't mind to be cut off from civilization. To re-cap the previously stated reasons for visiting Mabuasehube:

  1. No telephone reception (not even a land line is available) so unless you have a sattelite phone, you have no way to communicate with the outside world. This translates to total peace and quiet for the duration of your stay. No news, whether good or bad, no worrying about the world economy (and probably your own) - why? Because you won't know about it.
  2. The most beautiful landscapes and animals ready to pose for your camera - all of this from the front of your tent. Spotting an animal on a game drive usually means you have the sighting to yourself for an extended period of time.
  3. No busses with tourists occupying the next campsite (which is mostly about 500 meters away) and robbing you of sleep and getting on your nerves.

All right, enough of this. Unfortunatly I enjoy the rugged outdoors and the more remote the better.

Camping Tips When Pitching a Tent at Mabuasehube Game Reserve

1.Take enough drinking water.
  • The water at the campsites of Mabuasehube is brackish and not suitable for human consumption. Even with nearly a whole bottle of Oros added, the salty taste is unpalatable. 
  • Budget for at least three liters of water per person per day and extra water for at least one more day.
    2. Have a good map or GPS with reliable charts. 
    • I cannot stress this point enough. The kalahari desert is a vast place and once you leave the park through the entrance gate at Mabuasehube, you find yourself on roads with very little markings. 
    • Here a GPS is a necessity. Getting lost on roads where a vehicle passes maybe once a day or once a week is no joke and can have serious consequences. 
       3. Use a suitable vehicle.

      • If you think your sedan (hired or otherwise) will be able to negotiate the roads at Mabuasehube - think again - A SEDAN WILL NOT DRIVE FURTHER THAN A FEW METERS INSIDE THE PARK. 
      • The roads are sandy, rutted and at times the center of the two spoor track is high enough to hide the preverbial kalahari lion. 
      • You need a vehicle with enough ground clearance to negotiate the deep sand tracks. Although it is possible to visit Mabuasehube in one vehicle with no other vehicle to assist, this should preferably not be attempted by people with no or little off-road driving skills. 
      • I've seen people driving in the South African side of the Kgalagadi in a Volkswagen Golf and managing quite well, but please do not attempt this at Mabuasehube. I have family members who firmly believe their Mazda will drive anywhere - it won't!
        4. Try to prepare food before dark.

        • This may sound silly, but watching the surrounding bush while you attempt to barbecue (braai) your dinner, often leads to burnt food and heightened tension.  
        • When you camp in a large group this is not so important as when you are alone or only two people. If dinner is served while still dusk, you can relax around the fire and just enjoy the nightlife at your campsite. 
        • We had jackal trying to steal our meat from the braai just because it was too dark to see him outside the small circle of light around the fire. (Don't know yet what I would have done if he turned out to be a lion!)
        5. Be Vigilant When Using the Ablutions at Mabuasehube

        • Take a good look at the picture above. The toilet is of the non - machanical kind (a hole in the cemented ground with a plastic seat and cover.) On the toilet here at Mabuasehube Campsite no 2, deep scratches confirm that lions enjoy roaming the small enclosure. 
        • The shower and toilet have no roof and no door. There is a reason you can partially see underneath the wooden slats - CHECK FOR OCCUPANTS before you enter - and not just the human kind. 
        • Notice the bush is close the structures? What if you came out of the shower only to meet the king of the jungle right outside the opening? Solution: Always have someone else watching the surroundings before you exit the cubicle. Sounds silly? Wait until you meet the local residents face to face with just a towel around your butt and you will agree.
        Keeping these 5 tips in mind, you will have a blast camping at Mabuasehube Game Reserve in the Botswana side of the Kgalagadi.

        09 November, 2009

        Where to Find Owls in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

        With the December holidays approaching, many people will flock to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Bird watchers will be delighted to know that there are several spots in the park where different species of owls reside on a regular basis.

        Twee Riviere and Vicinity

        Exit the gate at Twee Riviere in the direction of Nossob. The Nossob River bed is on your right and dunes on your left. Small trees line the road on the left. Practically within a kilometer from the gate and well before you reach the Confluence lookout point, a small tree on the left plays host to at least two Spotted Eagle Owls.

        Further along the road, just before the Melkvlei picnic area there is a fallen tree on the right hand side of the road. Despite the road works during December 2008, the Spotted Eagle Owls were not disturbed and rested during the heat of the day both on the thick branch of the fallen tree and in the foliage of the tree above.

        Owls in the Nossob Area

         At the gate of the Nossob camp where your exit towards Twee Riviere, an unassuming smallish tree on your right hand side usually yields a threesome of Southern White-faced Scops-Owl. These owls rest in the precious little shade of the tree during the day and at night you can hear their calls echo through the camp.

        Mata Mata and Vicinity

        Inside the Mata Mata camp, right in front of the small tuck shop, a huge tree provides shade to humans and animals alike.  At least two Southern White -faced Scops-Owls will stare at you from the branches of the tree. Keep checking for them as they sometimes settle down on the lower branches of the tree and affords tourists wonderful photo opportunities.

        After the turn-off to the Kalahari tented camp, the road turns to the left from Mata Mata side. On the left hand side of the road, tree partially overhangs the road. A pair of Spotted Eagle Owls resides inside the tree during the day and they are easy to spot. You will have a shady spot to stand in as well, which is a bargain during the hot summer months in the Kgalagadi.

        These are only a few of the locations inside the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park where owls are seen at regular intervals. You will mostly hear the African Scops- Owl, but find it difficult to see one as they are small birds and very well camouflaged.

        Also, look for Barn Owls inside Sociable Weaver nests as they utilize these huge nests to raise their own young.