Safari Self-Drive #7: Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Yes, yes, I’m quite behind in posting. I know.

It happens.

We are currently in Phase 2 of our three-phase Africa experience.

  • Phase 1: House/Pet sitting
  • Phase 2: Drive and camp through Botswana and Namibia, mostly Namibia
  • Phase 3: House/Pet sitting

We’ve been reporting almost-weekly day trips from our base in Maun during Phase 1, and we have three more such trips on the books, just not yet on the blog. Because Phase 2 is an endless series of day trips, I think we’ll do something different to share those; I’m not sure what, exactly. For now, though, let’s wrap up the last three Safari Self-Drives from Phase 1.

This next day trip was the longest of the lot: Our goal was Deception Valley in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR). It was a four-hour drive just to get there.

Prior to coming to Africa, we read Cry of the Kalahari, by Mark and Delia Owens. Mike’s had the book forEVer, and we finally got around to reading it. It’s the story of the couple’s years living in a remote camp as they researched brown hyenas and then lions and other animals.

Mark and Delia graduated from college and wanted to do wildlife research in remote Africa. They didn’t wait for permission or direction from powers that be; rather, they found a hole in current research and set out to fill it. They put everything they had into it, from finances to blood, sweat, and tears. Eventually, they got the grants and support they needed, and they did valuable work.

After that, the story doesn’t go so well, but you’ll have to find out about that on your own. I’m sticking with the happy, romantic Bush story here. That was our motivation to visit this destination: We wanted to see where Mark and Delia’s stories took place. That’s all. What more does anyone need?

To get to CKGR, we headed out toward Nxai Pan, but at the veterinary fence where the government attempts to stop hoof-and-mouth disease, we took a sand track south. The track follows the fence for miles and miles and endless miles. It was very slow going for us gentle drivers, but, for once, I was the one who took the brunt of the sun. Ah, isn’t it interesting how “brunt” anagrams into “burnt”? It’s the hottest I’ve been here in sunny, tropical Africa.

The sand track along the veterinary fence.

The sand track along the veterinary fence.

The long drive along the fence would no doubt be considered dull by many people. We, however, enjoyed it. For starters, we’re used to long drives: Alaska’s a big state, and it’s a two-hour drive “into town” from our house. And then there’s the experience of the long, hot drive to hammer home the size and temperature of Africa. Mark and Delia talk about the drive from Maun to Deception Valley. Our experience wasn’t the same as theirs, but we have some sense of the distance, the terrain, and the temperature.

We didn’t see a lot of wildlife, but we saw some birds.

Kori Bustard

Kori Bustard

Pale Chanting Goshawk

Pale Chanting Goshawk

And we saw a group of kudu that didn’t bolt at first sight of us. In fact, they seemed to hold their poses for us.

Kudu, Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Kudu, Central Kalahari Game Reserve

I got to zoom in on their faces and make note of their giant, furry ears, their spectacles, the triangles under their noses, and their little white goatees.

Kudu Face , Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Kudu, up close

The Kalahari is a desert. It was dry, dry, dry compared to Maun. The tracks were part sand and part that clay-like substance that gets goopy when wet. Mike has been watching videos of people driving in ridiculous puddles in CKGR—or, more accurately, watching people extract themselves from ridiculous puddles after becoming stuck.

Deception Valley, Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Deception Valley, Central Kalahari Game Reserve (Click to see larger pic.)

No, thank you. We won’t be doing that. Since this is the rainy season, we’re not expecting to go back to CKGR this time around.

After checking in and talking with the rangers (who seemed to think we were nuts for doing this as a day trip—go figure), we planned to drive a loop around Leopard and Sunday pans. It turned out to be longer than we expected, but we’d made arrangements for that with folks at home and had no need to hurry.

Our first mammal sighting in Deception Valley was a small canine. At first, we thought it might be a bat-eared fox because it was small, but upon closer inspection, we saw it was a jackal. As we watched it, a second jackal just up and appeared out of the ground. Then another. Hey! This was a jackal den! Four jackal kits (or whatever they’re called) popped out of ground and trotted away. The adults were nowhere to be seen.

Young black-backed jackals at their den, Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Young black-backed jackals at their den.

We also saw a good many springbok and gemsbok, all tucked under shrubs and trees, hanging out in the shade.

Did I mention it was hot? I mean, really hot.

Springbok, Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Pushmepullyou Springbok, Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Gemsbok, Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Gemsbok (remember, pronounce that G like an H).

Even though the trip was taking longer than we expected, we ventured out on a couple of side tracks leading to stands of trees. One such side track gave us a nice view out over Leopard Pan. As we rounded the circle at the end of the track, something dead leaf-colored caught my eye just before we pulled up by a large shrub. Maybe it was a branch with brown leaves on the ground, maybe it was something else.

Mike was more interested in scoping out the pan, so we took a few moments to glass over the wide plain. Bustards. Bustards everywhere.

We continued on. As we moved past the shrub, I looked for the brown color that had caught my eye.

Lionesses, Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Lionesses, Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Yee-ha! Two lionesses lay stretched out in the cool green grass under big shade trees. For a couple of minutes they acknowledged our presence by picking up their heads and looking around. And that was it.

Lionesses, Central Kalahari Game Reserve

People? What people?

First one plunked back down, then soon after the second followed. When we re-started the car to leave, neither bothered to look up.

Lionesses, Central Kalahari Game Reserve

What a day.

Categories: Africa, Africa, Travel

6 replies »

  1. Another spectacular day and absolutely beautiful pictures! Thanks for keeping us informed and entertained.

  2. Thanks for reading and commenting, Lena! Things keep getting better and better. It hardly seems possible, but so it is.

  3. Amazing!!! Thank you, thank you! Owen enjoyed looking at these animals. All part of my plan to take my family back to Africa, hopefully for an extended trip like you’re doing. In a few to several years from now, when the kids can remember and appreciate it…..

  4. I’m LOVING this! So great of you to share! Thanks! Hope you and Mike are staying as cool as possible…and SAFE!

  5. Thanks, Ann, Tess, and Lynne! Tess, more than once now, Mike and I have taken showers fully clothed. The evaporation from wet clothes is the best cooling technique we’ve found.