Sorry for the length - there were just so many highlights and so much more I could have added.
It was hard to keep this fantastic experience this short.
We have just returned home from spending 11 days at Kgalagadi - had a great trip and wanted to share some of the highlights.
We arrived in Upington on the 1230pm flight, our rental car people were waiting for us at the airport, picked us up, went back to their office to complete things, and were on our way. We used Desert 4x4, and they were great to deal with - no problems. We had rented a Toyota Hilux. After picking up some groceries at Pick n Pay, we were on our way to the park. Not being sure where we would get to, we had not booked accommodation that night, but were able to make it to Twee Rivieren by 6 pm and secure a chalet in the park that night.
We ended up changing our itinerary once at the park. We originally had booked 3 single nights in Nossob, but after spending our first night there and talking to people, it seemed the Auob riverbed was the place to be so we ended up changing the other two nights to Kalahari tented Camp and it was a great decision. First piece of advice - even if the main camp offices tell you there is no space, talk to the camp attendants - they seem to have a way to make things happen. We met several people who were changing their reservations on the fly as well.
After Twee Rivieren, we spent the one night at Nossob, two nights at Bitterpan, two nights at KTC, 2 nights at Grootkolk, one night back to KTC, and concluded with two nights at Urikaruus.
We loved the Grootkolk, Urikaruus and KTC camps. Bitterpan may have rated higher, but unfortunately there was not much game in the area our two nights - having said that, in the two or three nights before we arrived, there was a cheetah and a leopard through camp, and we met people who stayed the night after we left who could not leave as intended because of a male lion hanging around the camp.
Highlights - after 11 Parks in Tanzania/South Africa, we finally got to see our first leopard! And it did not end with just one - we had three different leopard sightings. The first one was near the Gemsbokplein, where a lioness had stolen a kill from two leopards and the leopards ended up in a tree. The lioness was soon joined by 2 males. We waited this out for close to 6 hours to see if anything would happen. By two pm, the lions decided to move on, by three we had to move on, and the leopards were still in the tree. Our second leopard was spotted in a tree on the way to Grootkolk near Polentswa and we had a 45 minute visit with him before he decided move on. Our last night at Urikaruus also yielded us a leopard sighting when one came to the waterhole at dusk for about 10 minutes.
On another day, the same lioness that treed the leopards had been treed herself - at least chased up a broken tree limb that was horizontally about 4-5 feet off the ground by 4 spotted hyena. Story was the lioness had gotten too close to the hyena den where there was cubs, and was chased away. That ended after about 30 minutes when the hyena moved on and the lioness came down and walked away. After trailing the lioness for a few minutes we came across a lone cheetah on the other side of the road and decided to see what it was up to. The lioness actually crossed the road very near the cheetah - the cheetah certainly knew the lioness was there, but the lioness seemed obivilous to the fact. We stayed with the cheetah. After the cheetah left, we found people who had stayed with the lioness, and it had actually found 4 more cheetah on its walk and started chasing them. We were shown some pictures that were pretty incredible of the chase. Seemed the cheetah were just toying with the single lioness.
So we had some great sightings like this, but always seemed to be 15 minutes behind the action - we saw the leopards treed, but not the actually act, and the same with the lioness and hyenas.
One night at KTC we were awoken at 315am by a lion roaring - we swear it was just outside our tent - the noise was deafening and that intense. We could hear another one roaring in the distance. By now most people were out of their tents with lights trying to find them. We caught a glimpse of one of the males on the other side of the road behind the tents albeit just for a second - what a thrill that night was. We were woken up a few more times by the roaring, but not quite sounding so close.
We felt so fortunate with our sightings - we saw male lions on 8/11 days, female lions on 7/11, cheetah on 6/11. Never had we seen so many! Giraffe was present on 9 days, ostrich we saw every day, Red Hartebeest on 8 days, Jackel on 10 days. Believe it or not, we actually went one day when we did not see a single Gemsbok or Springbok - that was our drive to Bitterpan day. We saw Hyena on two days, but missed out on seeing a Brown Hyena, which would have been nice. Others seen included Bat Eared foxes twice, cape fox, Kudu, Moongoose, Meerkats, a Cape Cobra and several others.
I realize every trip is different, at different times of year, but the action was definitely on the Auob riverbed this trip. The immediate Nossob area did not yield much. Although the game was light at Grootkolk, the leopard sighting was awesome, and the whole remoteness of the area was not something I would have traded.
We met many nice people along the way - there was a Dutch couple who spent the day at the leopard/lion experience with us, and numerous South African couples who shared their wisdom of the park and their hints.
Couple other things - be prepared for bats. We had bats in our accommodation at Twee Rivieren, Bitterpan, one night actually at KTC and one night at Urikaruus. If I could persuade Sanparks to do anything - make the accommodation bat proof!
If your vehicle rental has the option - take the fridge/cooler/freezer option - it was perfect and actually worked better that the fridges in the camps. Still cannot figure out how/why the main camps lose their power for 7 hours each night, but the wilderness camps with the solar power along with gas fridges and two burner pots, can keep lights and everything going all night. Just seems it should be the other way round.
The wilderness camp attendants were great to deal with.
This was just an awesome trip - so many cat sightings. We met the South African couples mentioned, one of them had been to the park 20 times and not seem leopard. Another saw leopard for the first time on this 7th visit, and another 7 time visitor had yet to see them. We found this park seemed to have many repeat visitors - moreso than any other park we have been to. Seems the Kgalagadi just gets into your blood and makes you want to return. We know we will , someday!