Polentswa campsite is only an hour’s drive north of Nossob. There are only 3 campsites – each taking a maximum of 3 couples. It is located in the Botswana side of the Park and each site has a separate shower, long drop but no water nor power. Take rubbish bags.
Campsite fire and braai.
One of the major benefits of Polentswa is that there are only 3 campsites and it is a good hour’s drive from Nossob. Hence little traffic till later in the morning.
On our previous visit we had playful lions passing through our camp. This time they were nearby too. And another large male staked his claim on the main road to Nossob.
On one occasion we took a drive to Unions End at the far north of the Park on the South African side. Much to our surprise at the Unions End waterhole we observed a Barn Swallow flying around us.
On the journey north we also came across a large herd of Red Hartebeest. Beasts we had not seen elsewhere in the Park.
Just north of Polentswa – about 12 kms – is a picnic site – Lijersdraai. It has a waterhole nearby..
The Burchell’s Sandgrouse were the predominant Sandgrouse that we observed at waterholes. They could be heard and seen swirling around above then take a dive for the waterhole only for one to decide to head back into the sky and they all followed. Once at the waterhole they did not stay long and any nervousness sent them all back into the air. Their antics were fun to watch – especially when the raptors were about.
Once landed it is a case of absorbing as much water under their breasts and wings to take back for their young. A sip or two for themselves and then they were off. Ever watchful for marauding Lanners and Goshawks.
We saw a good selection of raptors while staying in Polentswa – Eagles, Goshawks, Snake-Eagles and Falcons and a lone White-backed Vulture.
Then there other species of birds and animals that we saw during our time driving around the area.
Much of our time was spent at the Polenswa Porontsoab waterhole – some 2 kms from camp. There always seemed to be some sort of activity present every time we visited. Jackals catching Sandgrouses, Lanners trying to catch Sandgrouse, Jackals befriending raptors, raptors befriending other raptors, raptors bombing other raptors and the usual influx of thirsty animals.
Here are some photos of Black-backed Jackals and their interaction with each other. And they are very successful at catching Sandgrouse especially compared to the antics of the Lanner falcons. Having caught a bird one Jackal would come very close to the car and scoff down its meal.
The Lanner Falcons – sometimes six in a tree – would watch the jackals and wait to make their move. however, it seemed that by the time they reached the waterhole they had been spotted and their prey had already taken flight. For some strange reason the Sandgrouses were not so intimidated by the close presence of the Jackals – much to their demise.
And there was obvious friendship at times between animals and birds; and raptors and raptors.
And animosity between raptors for no apparent reason. As this Lanner Falcon attacks a Pale Chanting Goshawk.
Others that appeared for a drink.
After six nights at Polentswa it was time to leave and head for our last three nights in Twee Rivieren. Meanwhile we had recorded 51 bird species during our time in Polentswa. Full list shown in Part 4 Twee Rivieren.
We all left Mata Mata early and headed for Nossob. Sally and I went on ahead to see if we could find a spot in the campsite where we could all congregate. As it happened, we found two adjacent semi-shaded sites right at the end on the top level.
And at night we felt as though we were the only people there. However the temperature dropped – significantly to about 2 degree C. Then rose to 32 degree C during the day. Thankfully the electric blanket kept us warm at night.
Nossob is a well situated camp. It is the place to overnight before heading across the dunes to Mabuasehube almost 200 kms to the east. Although you can only travel north or south from Nossob, there are waterholes to visit in each direction. Heading south the road goes to Twee Riveren bypassing Rooiputs and there are two cross roads to Mata Mata along the way.
The camp has a shop and petrol & diesel pumps. There is a wifi spot just outside the office which is available for a fee. It has a swimmong pool and the ablutions are clean and have good hot water. There is also a hide at the camp overlooking a waterhole which is open all day and night..
The two closest waterholes are Rooikop to the south and Cubitje Quap to the north.
Over the five days we were at Nossob we spent time wandering around the waterholes north and south as well as time birding in the camp.
Some of the animal species seen included Bat-eared Foxes, a Leopard with family, Hyenas, Giraffe, Steenbok, Springbok and Yellow-tailed Mongooses.
We came across a (very long) Cape Cobra raiding a sociable Weaver’s nest – with no luck it seemed.
Here are some of the birds photographed as we travelled around.
Nossob Camp is well worth a walk around – not only around the open area by the north gate but also in the glamping and camping areas. We even saw Black-backed Jackal in the camp on one of our walkarounds.
Nossob camp is the home to a variety of Owls and we were fortunate to see and photograph a few of them. We heard Barn Owl, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Scops Owl and White-faced Owls every night. And I was able to get photos of the latter 2 during the day.
Over the five days there we recorded 64 different bird species. Full list shown in Part 4 Twee Rivieren.
Then we were on our way to Polentswa for six nights. See the next installment – Part 3
Having spent a couple of nights at Augrabies, the 4 of us – my sister – Natasha – and her husband – Dick, Sally and I headed to the Kgalagadi for three weeks. On the way we stopped in Upington to stock up. And then again at Askham to top up with diesel and to buy firewood.
Our program was 3 nights in Rooiputs (Botswana), 3 nights in Mata Mata (RSA), 5 nights in Nossob (RSA), 6 nights in Polentswa (Botswana) and 3 nights in Twee Rivieren (RSA).
Showing both the South African and Botswanan side (Mabuasehube) of the park.
Looking at the map above to give you an idea of a sense of the scale of the park, the road from Nossob to Bosobogolo in Mabuasehube is 180 km. The road is thick sand and numerous dunes to maneuver. Allow 8 to 10 hours depending on the conditions at the time.
We visited the western side of the park.
Rooiputs 3rd to 6th May 2022
Once we were through check-in we drove to Rooiputs campsite. Typical scenery is flat following the east side (Botswana side) of the riverbed.
We met our friends Arthur and Rose at camp number 2 in Rooiputs as planned.
Camps on the Botswana side are not fenced. We have seen Lions, Brown Hyenas, Black-backed Jackals, Bat-eared Foxes wandering through our campsites over the years. Once in Polentswa a Cape Fox rested under Sally’s chair as she was sitting on it.
Our set ups can be colourful.
Driving around, we took advantage of many of the picnic sites and waterholes.
Many smaller raptors were displaying along many of the roads we travelled. Red-necked Falcons, Gabar Goshawks and African Pygmy Falcons in particular.
One Tawny Eagle did make an appearance on the ground.
There is a set of thorn trees immediately after a small waterhole (on the right) not far back towards the main gate from Rooiputs. Over the course of the three weeks that we were in the park we always saw 5 White-faced Owls well hidden in that set of trees. They were not only hard to find but they were almost impossible to photograph.
On another occasion we came across four Cheetahs strolling up to a ridge where they stopped and posed for us on the skyline. Mom and 3 youngsters. Always a special sighting.
We spent the early part of each day in the car exploring the various waterholes and picnic sites sometimes making a circuit up towards Nossob then crossing over towards Mata Mata at Kij Kij and back via Twee Rivieren. Along the way we saw plenty of Springbok and Oryxes along with othe animals and birds.
Midday was mostly spent in camp relaxing and then late afternoon we would take a short drive around. Evenings were spent around the campfire watching out for predators, listening to the silence and enjoying the starry skies.
In all we identified 64 different bird species in the area. Full list shown at the end of Part 4 – Twee Rivieren.
And then we were off to Mata Mata for 3 nights.
Mata Mata 6th to 9th May 2022
South Africa’s Mata Mata camp is on the western border of the Park. It is an enclosed camp and is located at the border post into Namibia.
The ablutions and wash up area were clean and recently upgraded.
The site also has a hide with nighttime lighting. And there is a large area around the cottages and camp to walk round. Photos below of the campsite, its hide, ablutions and views over the fence.
We each found a site near the fence. Although we looked for shade it was fortuitous that we did not find much as the weather was quite bitterly cold early mornings.
Between the Camp and Kamqua Picnic site (60 kms) there are three short loop roads. This drive follows the dry Auob riverbed. There are small waterholes along each of these loops which attract many small birds – in particular Red-billed Quelea as well as Sandgrouse. Of course, raptors are there to feast – especially Lanner Falcons and Gabar Goshawks. It is fascinating to watch the raptor antics as they try to catch a meal.
Often on that 60 kms of road we have seen prides of Lion as well as Leopards, Honey Badgers, Bat-eared Foxes, Owls, Secretarybirds and Pale Chanting Goshawks.
At one of the waterholes – Veertiende Boorgat – we spent a lot of time bird watching.
The Lanners often arrived too late to catch a meal- even when they were working together.
The Gabar Goshawks waited patiently for the Lanners to rest before they had a go. They were in the tree directly across from us.
During our travels in the area we came across a few snakes on the road, a lion having a drink and a male leopard languishing below an overhang on a rocky hillside.
And some of the other critters photoed as we drove around.
Our next destination – Nossob campsite. To follow in next post.
In all we identified 50 different bird species in the area. Full list shown at the end of Part 4 – Twee Rivieren.
Friends of ours (Arthur and Rose Douglas) suggested we join them and their two friends (Rodney and Myra) for eight nights in the Kgalagadi. They had space in Polentswa for six nights and two nights in Rooiputs (both unfenced campsites on the Botswana side of the Park).
We decided to go and then return through the Northern Cape and Karoo to find both the Red and Sclater’s Larks which neither of us had seen.
Our program: a stopover at the River of Joy campsite and then spend two nights at Mokala on the way to Twee Rivieren before joining our friends at Polentswa. Afterwards to drive to Brandvlei for three nights and finally three nights at Gariep Dam before returning home.
On the first part of our journey we avoided the Van Reenen’s Pass and took the more scenic route via Oliviershoek Pass. We arrived early at River of Joy near Bloemfontein and set up our off-road caravan in time for a short stroll around the camp before the rains set in. And they set in for the whole night. The ground was fortunately grassy but very soggy in the morning but the rain had stopped. The sole bird of note was the back view of a Gabar Goshawk near the river.
The next day we arrived at Mokala very early so that we could have time to explore the Park. Weather was variable – some sun, cool and mainly cloudy with threats of possible rain.
The sunlight through the clouds had amazing lighting effects on the scenery.
We did see two of the big five animals – a large herd of Buffaloes and a few White Rhinos. Again with strange sunlight casting this Buffalo with a red hue.
Mokala has a very wide range of antelope – abundant and visible. Here are some of the variety that we saw.
There were also a multitude of birds despite the windy, cool and wet weather.
Kgalagadi Polentswa and Rooiputs
Dry weather prevailed during our long journey to Twee Rivieren where we spent the night before heading up to Polentswa the following day
The distance from Twee Rivieren to Polentswa is close to 200 kms – so another long day of driving through the Park.
The main observation was the extreme dryness compared to the same time last year and as a result a paucity of animals and birds. No sign of cats the whole way. Very unusual.
Stopping at Nossob for fuel, provisions and to fill up the trailer with water, Sally went to the Bird Hide to check if there was anything of interest to see. All was desert and deserted.
We did photo a few interesting birds along the way;
Eventually we arrive at Polentswa and set up camp alongside our friends.
There is a waterhole nearby and it was one of the few with water – piped in. This is where we were treated to our daily show of Wildebeest and Springbok;
Some of the animals using the waterhole.
Cape Turtle Doves in their hundreds first thing in the morning and late afternoon;
Black-backed Jackal hopeful of snatching a bird or two;
And at 09h30 the Sandgrouse arrive (Namaqua mainly and Burchell’s) – circling for ages before settling with their beady eyes open for a Lanner attack.
Every day the Lanner Falcons were there – seemingly just hanging about but on occasion an abortive attempt was made to catch a Sandgrouse or Turtle-Dove.
The Lanners did not have everything their own way.
Lanners were plentiful as were the Bateleurs with Greater Kestrels in the air above and the occasional Gabar Goshawk lurking about. Even Tawny Eagles made an appearance.
This Gabar flew and sat in a tree beside a Tawny Eagle. The comparison in size difference was astounding. In the above picture the Gabar looks huge but beside the Lanner it appeared less than half its size.
And sometimes a Lanner was spot-lit in the sun.
The campsite was also a good source of birds as you might expect – especially as we put out water for them. It was also full of incidents. Late night animals, birds close up, snakes, fire and lions.
Every night we had a large fire which we sat around and had dinner together. It was a time when out of nowhere there would suddenly appear – less that 10 metres from us – a Black-backed Jackal, a Spotted Hyena or a Cape Fox. Many nights we heard the Lions calling – we assumed from a distance although they were getting closer.
At midday, we usually gathered together to enjoy the shade of the A Fame and shoot the breeze. Water was put out on the far side of the A Frame giving us a close-up view as the birds flocked in for desperately needed water. And from our vantage point we were able to get photos of them.
Even some non-feathered friends came for a drink.
Two quite similar birds were our constant companions at the A Frame, under our chairs and pecking at the ants. In the end we believe we have identified them correctly.
Others seen around the campsite:
Snakes. An almost 2 metre Cape Cobra slithered across the A Frame in front of us – not stopping for a drink – and headed for my car. Fortunately it took a turn up a tree beside the car. We have no idea when it left but I moved my car away smartly.
The other incident could have had serious consequences. Sally was preparing some food at our campervan kitchen. I then washed up in the same area. As I was putting the pots back in the cupboard I happened to look down at the stool I was standing on. Through the holes I saw something odd.
So I lifted up the stool to find a rather large – fortunately dopey- Puff Adder all curled up against the tyre. Sally and my feet were literally inches from it from time to time.
With help from some other campers we were able to get a spade under it and flick it outside the campsite. This took some effort because the snake kept trying to scamper its way back to what was obviously the coolest place to cool down.
Then there were the Lions. Three playful youngsters. They were heard calling early one morning and everyone in the three different campsites set out (by car) to find them. We were tail-end Charlie. Following the paw prints on the road past our camp, the others soon came across the three youngsters.
When we caught up the entourage of cars were coming back towards us following the youngsters along the road back towards the camps. A couple of them were quite boisterous, stretching themselves on trees and chasing each other.
Eventually they entered one of the camps and found a rubber mat to play with. This was our only sighting of Lions except for an old collared male on our way out of the Park. One even left a landmine on the road.
Sally and I had never been up to Union’s End in the number of times we had visited the Park so we decided to have a drive – some 70 kms north of Polentswa. It was marginally greener but really not by much.
On the way we were fortunate to see a female Pygmy Falcon atop a tree over the road. And unexpectedly a Lilac-breasted Roller. A large family of Ostriches were seen along with Capped Wheatears and a Lesser Grey Shrike.
Otherwise the drive was uneventful until we were arriving at the Lijersdraai picnic site. I ran over a stick missing either end. Except it was a Puff Adder unhurt.
The Kousant waterhole just south of Polentswa had a leaking water tank – perhaps intentionally so. The birds loved it as the tank had encroaching scrubby trees around it.
Black-chested Prinia, Cape Glossy Starling, a Chat-Flycatcher and a Marico Flycatcher all made an appearance. But there was one bird – a Warbler that had us mulling over for ages until we finally identified it.
There was one other incident at the Polentswa campsite which was finally resolved at Rooiputs. It had our other two male friends Arthur and Rodney speculating as to what could be causing this phenomenon over each campfire dinner. And it revolved around the fire itself. Strange colourful flames. Not every night though.
First it must have been the wood itself – or a chemical inside. Same wood next night – no colourful flames. Perhaps it was the paint on the cans burning. Other hypotheses were expressed but it remained a mystery until our last night at Rooiputs.
Finally our six nights at Polentswa were over and we were on our way south to Rooiputs. Along the way there was not much out of the ordinary except that the herd numbers were less than normal and were few and far between. We did however have a reasonable sighting of a Brown Hyena running across the Nossob River; White-backed Vultures and a Secretarybird.
Rooiputs only has six campsites – each distantly apart. Unfenced so risky to use the outside Loo and Shower after dusk.
Every night we heard the roar of the King of the Jungle. His spoor was found around the camp shower each morning.
And of course during our final fire the flames took on their extraordinary colours again. Arthur and Rodney continued their speculation until I put them out of their misery. I handed them a packet each of Mystical Fire which I had sneaked into the fires on several occasions on the pretext of adding rubbish to be burnt.
Eventually we saw the Lion on our way out – an old boy with a collar.
Campsite birds were not as friendly as those in Polentswa but we still managed a pic or two.
During our short time at Rooiputs our birding was limited not only by time but also the dryness of the Park. Despite that we did have one interesting sighting.
Our unusual incident were strange sightings in a Scaly-feathered Weaver’s nest.
And round the side of the nest, this – whatever it is?
And here are a few birds which had us pondering over their ID. We think our IDs are right but are not 100% positive. The first: a Chat Flycatcher (undersides not white enough for a Marico but the white wing bar is confusing).
The Second. Also Chat Flycatcher. Same concerns as above.
Click here to see our bird list for the Park. In all …………….birds were identified.
Brandvlei is a very small town in the middle of Northern Cape Province about 250 kms south of Uppington.
According to Birdfinder is is highly rated and both Red and Sclater’s Larks can be seen there – our goal as neither of us had seen either before.
Early afternoon we arrived at our campsite – Casablanca on the outskirts of town. Rui welcomed us and knew we were birders. It seems many people from around the world stay with him to bird the area. He gave us directions to find the Red Lark close to town.
Fortunately we misunderstood his directions and instead of going about a kilometre we travelled six kilometres down the road looking for the first gate which was open on our left. As it happens we hit paydirt as we entered. A Red Lark flew across our bows and perched closeby. We scrambled out and followed it deeper into the property getting glimpses of it. Eventually it called – very unique call – then flew and perched on a scrub that enabled me to take a photo.
The weather was overcast and windy for the next two days while searching for the Sclater’s Lark. This time we followed Birdfinder’s route along the R357.
We had hardly left town when Sally spotted one right next to us as we drove past. Unfortunately it did not hang around for me to get a good look at it.
We enjoyed the birding along the route – dry open land with an occasional clump of trees usually beside a water trough.
About 16 kms along the R357 we came to a trough about 100 metres off the road. We pulled onto the side and watched from the fence – with binoculars and scope.
We waited and waited watching the the trough and the variety of Canaries and Sparrows which came to drink.
Then two Sclater’s Larks came and drank together. Through the scope it was clear what they were. Photographically the shots were very poor but looking carefully one can make out the face markings.
The next day we went back to the same trough and saw another clearly through the scope. Sorry about the pictures.
Of course there were other species which we enjoyed – Spike-heeled and Karoo Long-billed Larks, Karoo Korhaan, Double-banded Courser, Pririt Batis, White-throated Canaries, Namaqua Sandgrouse, white-backed Mousebirds, Yellow Canaries and Cape Sparrows to name a few.
On the way back to camp five Bat-eared Foxes raced along beside us. Lovely to see.
Another special sighting were the Rufous-eared Warblers – scurrying like mice from one clump of bush to the next.
Severe thunderstorms were all round us on the last afternoon. Rui told us that the last rain that they had was last December – 4 mm only. He offered us a room for the night in the house as he believed that we could be in for a battering – rain, wind and hail. We considered this for 30 minutes until we saw thunder and lightning
Then we raced to get the campervan packed up. As we entered the house 30 minutes later the rain started – and it rained heavily all night. Power went off but we had the comfort of a very unusual home. Very old worldly. Old tims in the kitchen above the Aga, old-fashioned clothing hanging on the walls including corsets and dresses, piles of magazines from the 50s and 60s. Real character. Wonderful place to stay.
The next day we left early for Gariep Dam. The GPS wanted us to use the main gravel roads. After all the rains I think we wisely decided to take the long way round heading south for Calvinia and then across to Gariep Dam – probably 150 to 200 kms further but all on tar.
First it was south towards Calvinia in very overcast and threatening weather. Unusual double rainbows were seen.
The first two hours we experience a little rain now and then. The next five hours it rained constantly and sometimes severely.
The fields were sodden and full of standing water.
On arrival at the Forever Resort in Gariep we decided not to camp but to enjoy the luxury of a Chalet (views above) for the next three nights.
The area was picturesque and birding varied in the different habitats.
We visited the camp’s game park. Small, but it had a busy wetland pond – with many water birds as well as others enjoying the standing water.
There we had views of a sub-adult African Fish-Eagle, Cape Shovelers, Cape and Red-billed Teals, Goliath Heron, Layard’s Tit-Babbler, Mountain Wheatear, Yellow-billed Egret, Yellow-crowned Bishops, Common Waxbills, Common Moorhen, Little Grebe, Red-knobbed Coots to name a few.
During our time there we visited the Dam itself and drove along the rocky shoreline back to the resort. And we visited the Gariep Dam Game Park as well as walking around the resort.
Several views of the Dam.
On the way back to the resort we stopped at a look-out point and had good views of a Black-chested Prinia and a Short-toed Rock-Thrush.
In the Game Park we managed to see three Game – a Wildebeest, three Reedbuck and a Yellow Mongoose.
However the birdlife on the dam’s edge was prolific in several areas. Hundreds of Egyptian Geese dominated. Waders were present – Three-banded, Kittlitz’s and White-fronted Plovers as well as Capped Wheatears, Blacksmith Lapwings and the water birds we had seen at the wetland pond.
Other birds were also seen in the Game Park including:
In total 151 different bird species were identified. Click here to see our combined bird lists and where each was identified