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The Okavango Elephant Camp is 28km from the small village of Seronga. There is an airstrip in the village and easy access for self-drive guests. The camp is situated in the NG12 Concession


Wander

Into the Valley of Deception Central Kalahari Game Reserve is the largest, most remote game reserve of Southern Africa and the secondlargest wildlife reserve in the world, a harsh terrain of salt pans, fossilised river valleys, and vast open grasslands. Sarah Kingdom journeys the road less travelled to see this special place.

T

he Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) covers almost 10% of Botswana’s land mass. While the more ‘traditional’ safari animals such as lion and giraffe are found here in numbers, CKGR is also home to more unique and specialised animals, like the bat-eared fox, the wild dog and the very special brown hyena. American biologists Mark and Delia Owens spent seven years researching the brown hyenas of CKGR. Read about this in their book Cry of the Kalahari. When they arrived in 1974,

they wrote… ‘Below us lay the gentle slopes and open plain of Deception Valley, an ancient fossilised river channel meandering through forested sand dunes. Herds of springbok, gemsbok and hartebeest grazed peacefully on the old grasscovered riverbed, where water used to flow. The blue sky was stacked high with white puffs of cloud. Deception was incredibly serene and all we had hoped it would be.’ From the moment I read their book I wanted to see this magic place for

myself. Forty five years later, I finally got the chance, and it seemed like nothing had changed. We came to visit in January, after the arrival of the summer rains. The northern section of CKGR from Deception Valley to Piper Pans was covered in sweet grasses where thousands of gemsbok, springbok and wildebeest grazed. At our campsite in Deception Valley we found spacious tents with camp beds, mattresses, pillows and sheets and even an en suite loo and bucket

shower. This was serious glamping. Birding enthusiasts will not be disappointed, as birdlife here is rich and varied, from ostrich to Botswana’s national bird, the Kori bustard, and all shapes, sizes and colours in between. In this stark landscape, the bright-orange beaks of pale chanting goshawks, the black velvet markings of Northern black korhaans, the bright-purple cheeks of a violet-eared waxbill, and the vivid crimson-splashed faces of tiny greenwinged pytilia stand out. Wildebeest, giraffe, jackal, civet and wildcat all added themselves to our list of sightings on our first game drive. But the star of the show was the bat-eared foxes, diminutive insectivores that stole my heart. At sunrise the next morning, the world awoke around us and we headed into the park. Deeper into Deception Valley, we stumbled upon

Know before you go • Travel: From Maun it is 210km to the dusty village of Rakops, 45km from there to the park gate and a further 45km to Deception Valley. If you are self-driving, a 4x4 is essential. Occasional heavy rains make the roads challenging. • Stay: Sarah was collected from Island Safari Lodge in Maun and looked after by Island Mobile Safaris for her trip to Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Visit www.islandmobilesafaris.com.

Page 22 | Safari News 2020 | Issue 8


Wander

The facts • The reserve was originally established in 1961 as a place of sanctuary for the San tribesmen to live their traditional hunter-gatherer way of life, without interference from the outside world. The reserve was closed for about 30 years, only opening up again in the 1980s and 1990s when self-drive and organised tours were allowed, in tightly controlled numbers.

cheetah, found a pair of mating lions and watched giraffe amble across the plains as we drank our morning coffee. An incredible sighting was of something much smaller, a Cape cobra and an African ground squirrel battling it out in what appeared to be a life and death fight. Clearly trying to protect babies in her nearby burrow, the mother squirrel time and again bravely faced the fangs of the cobra, ducking and diving, left and right, darting in and out to take bites at the snake. For half an hour she kept this up, and for half an hour we sat with our hearts in our throats. Eventually the snake gave up the fight and left the scene, with the squirrel still giving chase. On our final evening in the reserve, I at last got to see the animal I had been waiting years to see. A brown hyena, just as I had read about in the Owens’ book. As we headed back to camp, just visible in the fading light, we spotted a hyena with its shaggy, dark-brown coat, short tail and pointy ears. We caught a glimpse as it melted into the darkness, but it was still a memorable encounter to celebrate on our last night in the reserve.

• Because it often receives more than 254mm of rainfall, the Central Kalahari is not a true desert. It has none of the naked shifting sand dunes found in the other great deserts of the world. • The brown hyena is the rarest of the hyenas, and listed as Near Threatened on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature List of Threatened Species, with a global population estimated at less than 10 000.

Main: Expect herds of springbok grazing in the Valley of Deception. Bottom left: Two lions spotted during a game drive offered the perfect photo opportunity. Middle above: Insectivorous bat-eared foxes are the star of the show at the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Left: Ever curious ground squirrels. Photos: Roderick Jongschaap, Lee Ouzman and Jackie Cilliers

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Safari News 2020 | Issue 8 | Page 23

2020/03/09 09:44


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Image courtesy Helene Ramackers

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For travellers looking to experience a bush and beach combination, connect on Airlink from Johannesburg and Cape Town to Skukuza Airport, gateway to the Kruger Park and the adjacent Sabi Sands Game Reserve. Thereafter fly direct from Nelspruit KMIA to Vilanculos, Mozambique, to experience the exotic Bazaruto and Bengerra islands, Vilanculos is also serviced daily out of Johannesburg. When planning an unforgettable safari and wanting to maximize time spent at your luxury high end private lodge, take advantage of Airlink’s Lodge Link service which will connect you to more than 25 exclusive and luxurious Big 5 private lodges located in the world-renowned private game reserves in the Kruger National Park, Sabi Sands Game Reserve and the Phinda Private Game Reserve in Kwa Zulu Natal. These lodges are accessed via the Ulusaba, Arathusa, Londozi, Ngala and Phinda airstrips which are a short game drive transfer to the doorstep of your lodge. Airlink is a privately owned airline business operating as a franchisee of South African Airways. As a Regional Feeder airline it connects travellers to the widest network comprising more than 55 routes with a wide choice of flights within Southern Africa and St Helena island. Seamless connections with SAA and their airline partners make it easy for travellers to connect onward to multiple destinations using a single ticket itinerary, giving travellers peace of mind. Spread your wings, fly Airlink - Freedom of the African sky. For more information, connect to flyairlink.com


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