Lure of the Kgalagadi Hot
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Kgalagadi "Land of Great Thirst"

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park has long been one of the premier wildlife photography destinations in the Country.

Its allure can be likened to a live wildlife spectacle, with drama and suspense around every bend.

The stage is the mostly dry Aoub and Nossob riverbeds. The scenes play out around regularly spaced waterholes with names like Kij Kij, Batulama, Leeudril, Kameelsleep, Tierkop, Cubitjie Quap and Langklaas.

In the Kgalagadi the wildlife is accustomed to drinking at the many waterholes, making these the sites of many predations and interesting wildlife interactions.

Lion | Kgalagagi | © Arne Purves1. A young lioness makes her way over the dunes, to join the pride, as the sun sets.

For the wildlife enthusiast and aspiring wildlife photographer, it does not get much more exciting than this. Around each bend the anticipation of what you may see, hear or experience, keeps you going from dawn to dusk.


Lion Hunting | Kgalagagi | © Arne Purves2. Lions stalk Gemsbok on the red dunes of the Kgalagadi.

There are many strategies to employ once you are in the park, but we decided that driving slowly between the waterholes is a good option to see as much as possible. Paying attention to the wildlife is important though. Birds are a good indicator of predator activity and location.


Martial Eagles | Kgalagagi | © Arne Purves
 Leopard in a Tree | Kgalagagi | © Arne Purves

Martial Eagle | Kgalagagi | © Arne Purves3-6. Martial Eagles are disturbed by a leopard in the tree with their nest on top. The pair of eagles were taking turns at circling their nest, protecting it from other smaller raptors and ravens.

When something looks out of place it usually is. Stop, listen, look and be patient. It pays to stop for a few minutes and simple watch and scan the surroundings.


Pygmy Falcon | Kgalagagi | © Arne Purves

 Pygmy Falcon | Kgalagagi | © Arne Purves7-8. A Pygmy Falcon was being swamped by Sociable Weavers under one of their large nests. Suddenly the small falcon made a half hearted attempt to catch one of the small weavers.

The antelope in the park provide many hours of good "viewing" and watching the social interactions of the differeent animals is fascinating.


Wildebees | Kgalagagi | © Arne Purves9. Mud-bathing is a daily indulgence for many of the antelope. This herd of Wildebeest were making the most of recent rains and patches of mud.


Wildebeest | Kgalagadi | © Arne Purves10. For the territorial males a sand-bath will have to suffice, no time for playing in the mud for this bull.


Red Hartebeest| Kgalagadi | © Arne Purves11. A Red Hartebeest scratches at a patch of mineral enriched soil, licking the salty nutrients from the ground.


Gemsbok | Kgalagadi | © Arne Purves12. Gemsbok are the icons of the Kgalagadi.

The Kgalagadi is renowed for its good bird viewing.


White-backed Vulture | Kgalagadi | © Arne Purves13. A White-backed vulture warms up on the top of an Acacia erioloba tree near Mata Mata camp.


Lilac-breasted Roller | Kgalagadi | © Arne Purves14. The colours of the Lilac-breasted Roller stand out in stark contrast to the dry branches of a long dead tree.


Red-headed Finches | Kgalagadi | © Arne Purves15. A pair of Red-headed finches, alert to danger, get ready to join a flurry of finches to drink at the nearby waterhole.


Verreaux's Eagle-Owl | Kgalagadi | © Arne Purves16. A Verreaus's Eagle-Owl, sits with its feathers fluffed up in the early morning cold.


Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill| Kgalagadi | © Arne Purves16. A Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill surveys the ground for a fruit pod or unsuspecting small animal.

For every visitor to the park, the experience will be different. Even if your sightings are fleeting glimpses, far off observations or heart stopping, in your face action, the Kgalagadi is a magical place.

 Cheetah| Kgalagadi | © Arne Purves17. A group of cheetah make their way up the Auob river valley at dusk.


 Ground Squirrel| Kgalagadi | © Arne Purves18. The main camps are great spots to photograph many of the Parks smaller mammals and birds. A ground squirrel in the Mata Mata camp grooms its long fury tail.



Black-backed Jackal | Kgalagadi | © Arne Purves19. The Black-backed Jackal, eternal enemies of lion and leopard alike, are constantly on the prowl in the Park, but even they need to rest. Sometimes hiding in plain site is the most effective strategy.

Most evenings in the Park end with a sunset drive back to the main camps. The bushman grass, fiery skies and dusty roads a fitting end to the days drama.


Grass| Kgalagadi | © Arne Purves20. Bushman grass sways in the last rays of sun on the drive back to Twee Rivieren camp over the dunes.


Sunset | Kgalagadi | © Arne Purves21. Sunset over the Kgalagadi Dunes. Magnificent.


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At this moment, only dreams, but it is on my bucket list. You only live once.
Commented by Richard Robinson May 20, 2014


At this moment, only dreams, but it is on my bucket list. You only live once.

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Beautiful photographs. You had some interesting sightings
Commented by Maud Purves August 19, 2013


Beautiful photographs. You had some interesting sightings

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Arne Purves
Author: Arne PurvesWebsite: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Arne's passion for the environment, wildlife and conservation was instilled from an early age, leading to a career in nature conservation, first as a game ranger in the Natal Parks Board, a conservation officer with CapeNature and today in the City of Cape Town's Environmental Compliance Department. Photography is his creative medium of choice.