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Trip Report Kgalagadi and Some Eclectic Places in South Africa -- A Trip Report by Safaridude

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“Once Africa is in your blood, …” a South African colleague reminded me several weeks ago. No complicated, self-reflective explanation needed then. When you’ve got to go to Africa for the eighth time in your life, you’ve got to go. So, I simply zipped up my duffel bag, which is semi-permanently packed for Africa anyway, and headed for the airport.

This was an eclectic safari. Aside from the renowned Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, our party of three visited The Willem Pretorius Game Reserve in the highveld, and Bontebok National Park and De Hoop Nature Reserve, representing the Cape fynbos environment.

Itinerary:

Willem Pretorious Game Reserve – 1 night at Aldam Estates

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (guided by Kalahari Safaris) – 1 night at Twee Rivieren, 2 nights at Nossob, 2 nights at Kalahari Tented Camp

Bontebok National Park and De Hoop Nature Reserve – 2 nights at Aan de Oever Guesthouse


Willem Pretorius Game Reserve

Richard D. Estes in his “The Safari Companion” writes about the highveld in South Africa -- “the black wildebeest, blesbok, springbok, and quagga once ranged there in the same manner and abundance as the white-bearded wildebeest, topi, Thomson’s gazelle and plains zebra still range the Serengeti ecosystem.” Unfortunately, hide hunters decimated the black wildebeest at one point a century ago to a population of about 300. Thanks to a concerted effort by a few concerned farmers, the black wildebeest occur in many isolated populations now and are no longer endangered. The quagga (a race of the plains zebra) wasn’t so lucky. They were shot out. Somewhere in the world, I presume, the fading hide of the last quagga hangs on a wall.

The Willem Pretorius Game Reserve near Bloemfontein lies very much in the middle of the highveld. The drive from Bloemfontein is like driving through Nebraska, with wheat-like grass extending to the horizon. It is easy to imagine what it must have been like before the decimation of the herds. But now, the pristine grasslands are occupied by cows and sheep and interrupted by tarred roads. The odd cell tower and ubiquitous power polls remind one that it is indeed the 21st century.

We stayed at Aldam Estates, which is immediately adjacent to Willem Pretorius. Aldam is very much a weekend retreat for South African families, offering angling and hiking as well as game viewing. The chalets are nice and clean, though not luxurious. As long as there is a braai facility and a shop to buy meat and beer, does anything else matter in South Africa?

The reserve is divided roughly in half by a man-made dam. On the first afternoon drive, we explored the northern section, which is rocky and hilly, with acacia shrubs as the dominant vegetation. Among the game spotted were southern giraffes, buffalos, impalas, greater kudus, eland, mountain reedbucks and white rhinos. The surprise of the day was a tame herd of sable antelopes. Sables are not indigenous to the highveld, but introducing non-indigenous species appears to be the South African way sometimes. Inside the Aldam Estates gate on the way back, we spotted blesboks, zebras and gemsboks.

The next morning we set off to the southern section of Willem Pretorious. On this treeless, classic highveld biome, we encountered the black wildebeest. Smaller than the regular wildebeest, the black wildebeest boasts a truly beast-like, grotesque head and bleached golden tail – exuding a raw, medieval characteristic. Black wildebeests roamed the reserve in several large herds and were complemented by smaller populations of blesboks, springboks and red hartebeests. In all, Willem Pretorius, though not a destination on its own, was a perfectly pleasant warm-up offering a representative glimpse of the highveld.

I could not help but think of the movie Jurassic Park as I was leaving Willem Pretorius. What if someone was bold enough to recreate the highveld of old by acquiring private farms adjoining the reserve (this has been done in other parts of South Africa)? What if the black wildebeest, blesbok and springbok were able to roam freely over a large area as they did two hundred years ago? Reintroduce lions, cheetahs and wild dogs and – bring back the quagga. The quagga is thought to have been nothing but a race of the plains zebra. What if?

Here is an interesting website: www.quaggaproject.org

Kgalagadi next... Kgalagadi rocks!

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