If you’ve been following the Kalahari Series and have read the other two posts on the Wilderness Camps (Wilderness Camps I – Kielie Krankie and Groot Kolk and Wilderness Camps II – Gharagab and Bitterpan), you’re probably thinking to yourself: Not another wilderness camp! Well, for the sake of completeness, I’ve decided to write about these two camps as well. I also get a lot of Google searches with people looking for information about the various camps. Although my posts aren’t the definitive guide they do, I think, give people a sense of each camp. One great reason why you should read this post, is that I’ve included some unique wildlife stories.
Urikaruus is situated along the Twee Rivieren – Mata Mata road, in close proximity to some major game viewing waterholes. This means it’s an excellent location if you want to go off in a different direction on each game drive you do from there.
The wooden cabins are raised on stilts with walkways between the four cabins. As I’ve remarked previously, this isn’t going to stop a determined predator, but it’s a cute feature. The fact that you are raised above the ground also means that you get a good view over the waterhole and the Auob riverbed. The Auob is mostly dry, and this means the animals can migrate up and down the riverbed between waterholes. The result of this is that both of the wilderness camps on the Auob river: Urikaruus and Kalahari Tented Camp (KTC) have some of the best game viewing. You can sit and just watch the game drift past throughout the day. It’s a very relaxing way to spend the day!
Willie thinks that Urikaruus has the best kitchen of all the camps. It’s on the same level as the deck, which means that the cook can also see the waterhole and have company while they’re busy in the kitchen.
When we stayed there, Urikaruus was said to have a “resident leopard”. We never saw it, but we did have some wonderful sightings on our game drives from there. Close to the camp we came across the hyenas with their pups (see post), and also saw the family of wildcats one morning (see post).
My only “complaint” about these two camps is that they do get hot. They get the full effect of the afternoon sun. The construction of the camps – Urikaruus in wood; KTC mostly in canvas – doesn’t help to combat the heat. Here the solid walls of Kielie Krankie or Grootkolk (see post) would be a better design. Normally we go for early morning/late afternoon game drives, and stay in camp during the heat of the day. At Urikaruus especially it was very hot during the middle of the day (even in Spring), and instead of staying in the camp in the middle of the day, we took the opportunity to drive down to Twee Riverien (the main camp which has petrol and a small shop – with limited and very expensive stock – and is the only camp which gets good cellphone reception should you want to call home!). All you can think of in that heat is to have something icy to eat or drink. I had a wonderful surprise when one very hot day at KTC, when Willie whipped out some ice-cream that he had buried in the camping freezer without my knowledge! Especially for me, since he doesn’t eat ice-cream.
Kalahari Tented Camp (KTC) is as far as I know the oldest Wilderness Camp. It’s far bigger than the other wilderness camps with family units as well. This also makes it the only Wilderness Camp suited to kids. KTC is close to the Mata-Mata camp (which has fuel available). Although it was closed for years, the Mata-Mata gate through which you can leave South Africa and go into Namibia, is once again open. Although you need to “check out” through passport control back at Twee Riverien, before being allowed through the gate.
I have fond memories of KTC because it’s the first Wilderness Camp we ever stayed at, and we have had some very interesting animal sightings there. At sunset on one visit, we watched a standoff between a small family of Spotted Hyenas and four adult Gemsbok. The Gemsbok were standing fanned out towards the hyenas. Most of the hyenas hid in the long grass, while three crept forward and tried to lure the Gemsbok into breaking ranks and chasing them. It looked like they were trying to divide and conquer. Obviously as a Gemsbok charge towards the hyenas, the main pack of hyenas would run forward and attack it. This went on for quite a while – probably an hour – until the hyenas gave up. The photographs below were taken during the standoff. It was already getting dark, which is why the photographs are not very clear.
On another visit, Willie had gone on a game drive the one evening. I wasn’t feeling well, and decided to stay at the camp. I was lying on the bed, when I heard the sound of movement just on the other side of the canvas walls of the bedroom area. And then some serious sniffing and snorting and pawing, and then those hideous, bone chilling sounds that hyenas make. They obviously thought I was a good choice for their next meal! The canvas walls didn’t seem to me to be much protection against hungry hyenas, and just when I contemplated locking myself in the bathroom – the only area with solid walls – everything went quiet and it seemed they had left. The next morning we found that the hyenas had attacked the spare tire of the 4X4 and shredded the cover. Luckily they left the actual tires alone and didn’t damage the vehicle any further. We also discovered that the hyenas had decided to spend the day sleeping on the slope below our unit – probably a distance of about 15 meters. KTC is an unfenced camp so you can imagine that we didn’t spend a lot of time loitering about outside that day! This experience highlighted one of the design drawbacks of KTC namely that the little kitchen area is separate from the main unit i.e. if there are predators around, you can’t get at your food easily!
The area around KTC is also home to a herd of giraffe. So it’s the one place where you are guaranteed to spot them. One morning as we left KTC travelling southwards towards Twee Riveren we came upon a huge male lion padding slowly down the road. As he passed the small rise that the giraffe were grazing on, they arranged themselves in a circle, so that the biggest adult giraffes were on the perimeter facing outwards, and the smaller adults and little ones were protected in the center. When you see things like this you are reminded that everything in this harsh environment is about survival and death. The predators are a constant threat to the herbivores – and they never forget it, even if as in this case the lion wasn’t looking for a meal.
This will not only be the last in the Wilderness Camp series, but probably the last in the Kalahari Series. Although we are going back to the Kalahari later this year, I want to do something different with the material we collect on that trip. If you do have any questions regarding these posts you can email me using the contact form on my “About” page here.
This is part of a series of photographs from our 2008 and 2009 trips to the Kalahari. Click here to see a map of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
Credits: Photographs: Willie (WMB) and Lisa (LB), photo processing and text: Lisa @ Notes from Africa | Photoblog