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Trip Report Photo trip report: South Africa, Cape to Kgalagadi

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I have posted photos of my latest adventure to South Africa--from Cape Town up the West Coast to Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, August 2011. My spouse and I are birders so this report is focused on that but we of course saw many mammals as well, along with incredible scenery. Since Kgalagadi gets little attention on this forum (or elsewhere, for that matter) I thought it might be of interest--it should be, as its an amazing park.

We timed this trip to coincide with the wildflower display for which the West Coast of SA is famed, and we were not disappointed, with incredible vistas of flowers especially in the Skilpad Preserve section of Namaqua National Park. We saw 209 bird species overall, many less than on our first South Africa trip but still a good number given the desert habitat of the north. We had 33 mammal species as well.

Our itinerary in a nutshell: Four nights in Cape Town, visiting: Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Boulder's Beach (where we lodged), Cape Point Reserve, Strandfontein Sewage Works (yes, this is a must-stop for birders), and a trip along the coast of False Bay to Rooi Els for Cape Rockjumper (a special rare endemic bird which we found, but alas, no photos.) Then up the West coast to West Coast National Park (staying one night in Langebaan), then a night in Lambert's Bay for the Cape Gannet colony (unfortunately one of our two foggy mornings, putting the kabosh on my hopes of great flight shots.) Then to Namaqualand: Skilpad reserve (more for flowers than birds), and Goegap Preserve (beautiful but our other foggy morning.) Then to Augrabies Falls National Park for two nights.

Finally, culminating with a week in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park on the border of Namibia and Botswana. This fantastic Kalahari landscape is great for raptors, and predators, and you are practically tripping over species like Kori Bustard, Lilac-breasted Roller, and Pale-chanting Goshawk. Although apparently August is not the best time for mammal activity as it was quite cold most mornings. Still, we had some great sightings of lion (including mother and three cubs on a Gemsbok kill) and leopard, cheetah too but only in the distance (no good photos sadly.) Lots of Bat-eared Fox, Wildebeest, and the main antelopes of Springbok and Gemsbok. Because of the habitat it does not support buffalo or elephant or rhino, so it is not a place to see the Big Five, but it makes up for that in other ways. Not too many folks make it up this far--certainly not many American tourists--and it is a really special place, highly recommended.

We had perfect weather the entire time, aside from two foggy mornings--not one drop of rain. I had been concerned because so many on this forum and elsewhere had said that August is the worst time for Cape Town, with potential rain for days, but we had crystal clear blue skies the entire trip, with comfortable temperatures (except in the Kalahari where temps were quite cold in the very early mornings!)

The trip was arranged and privately guided by Lawson's Birding & Wildlife Tours, ( highly recommended--the 2nd time we've used them for South Africa.

Photos here:

Enjoy! I'll be happy to answer any questions concerning this area, especially Kgalagadi.

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