Monday, June 1, 2015

Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park - Kalahari Dance

October in the Kalahari is hot. Not just mildly hot, it is scorching. As such tents and other accommodation without air conditioning are stifling by midday. The only option is to find a spot in some sort of shade, make sure the little bit of air movement can catch you and then sit still. My plan is to wet my kikoi (a wonderful piece of cloth bought in Zimbabwe some years ago), take a bottle of water that I have frozen in my equally wonderful Engel fridge, place the bottle on my lap, throw the wet kikoi over my head and wait for the heat of the midday sun to pass. 
Yellow Mongoose and Cape Cobra

The Mongoose stays just out of reach of the Cobra
Sometimes, through some divine intervention, I manage to nod off and the time passes quickly. Today I am rudely awakened not only by the strident screeching of some starlings but by some urgent words. “If you want some shots you better get up fast”. The kikoi gets thrown to one side and without thinking I grab my camera. And then I look. In the distance, under a lonely tree there is a confrontation in progress.
Time to back away

Trying another angle
A Cape Cobra with its flashy yellow scales shining brightly in the sun is standing erect, head flared and body coiled. Standing just outside of reach is a pair of Yellow Mongoose who are determinedly harassing the reptile.
Back again to see what he can do
I hotfoot it over to a nearby tent, throw myself on the cement plinth and watch through the lens. Anyone who has tried to take photographs in the Kalahari on a hot summers day at midday will know the challenges of what happens when the animals are in the shade and there is all that glare around. Poor camera, that has now to try to take readings from light to dark with the highest contrast of lighting possible. Besides fiddling with settings and focus etc I am fascinated.
The snake strikes out to make the mongoose back off
As the mongoose moves towards the snake it rears up and pulls in the hood slightly, then the mongoose back away again and the snake relaxes slightly flaring the hood again. The intimidation works and the mongoose lies down just out of reach. This is a dance, Kalahari style. Backwards and forwards, step to the side, step back and step forwards again. The footwork goes on for the better part of an hour before the snake starts moving menacingly forward. 
Time to try to make an escape
The mongoose does a quick little step again, this time backwards and the snake takes its chance and heads towards the dustbin that appears to offer a little bit of protection. The mongoose however has other ideas and darts forwards lunging towards the snake. The yellow scales are pulled back tightly as the snake makes a “run” for it. 
The hood fully flared to make himself as intimidating as possible
A nearby tent becomes the next haven of safety for the snake hotly pursued by the mongoose who is still a little wary. The snake rears up and spits venomously. The mongoose does a quick sidestep and the venom hits the ground kicking up a puff of dust.
The tent refuge that is not working too well
The Cobra desperately tries to bury itself under the tent but is not successful and it has to reorganise itself under the protection of the canvas. The mongoose still will not back away and there is another confrontation of reared heads and sidestepping. Finally the snake, seeing some rocks and bushes nearby, makes a desperate attempt to slither away. 
The mongoose moves in again
The mongoose still warily pursues the disappearing tail of the snake but it finds a convenient hole in the rocks and the excitement is over. No kill, but a lunchtime story to be retold. The Kalahari rocks!
Just before the escape the snake goes down and then quickly moves away

Best place to stay:

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park Wilderness Camps.
Book online at www.sanparks
For campers who don’t mind the rustic try the Botswana side of Kgalagadi -

  • Parks and Reserves Reservations Office
  • P O Box 20364, Boseja, Maun, Botswana
  • Telephone No: (267) 6861265, Fax No.: (267) 6861264
  • Physical location: Next to the Police Station in Maun.
  • OR Parks and Reserves Reservations Office
  • P O Box 131, Gaborone, Botswana
  • Telephone No: (267) 3180774, Fax No: (267) 3180775, Email:

You should take note that this is an extremely popular destination and that you have to book 10 months in advance to get space. The time to log onto the booking system is on the first of the month at the beginning of the day.

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