We entered the Kgalagadi NP at Twee Rivieren and spent the night on the Botswana side at Rooiputs. Then we camped at Nossop and tackled the two spoor deep sand track of 200 km to Mabuasehube, spending a night at the halfway Matopi 2 campsite. We started early from Nossob to avoid oncoming traffic, as the track has numerous dunes to cross and vehicles coming from the other side are not always visible – very dangerous as one has to approach some of the dunes with speed to gain momentum, and the same for vehicles coming from the other side. From Matopi onwards there are no more dunes.
We spent 4 days at Mpayathutlwa 2 and another 4 days at Lesho 2.
Both pans have permanent water holes, unlike some other Mabua pans. Mpaya pan was very busy. Large herds of gemsbok, wildebeest, springbuck and occasional groups of kudu and red hartebeest visited the waterhole, which in turn attracted the lions.
The very first night at Mpaya we had a lion roaring about 20 meters behind us, and everyone left their half-eaten food on the table and ran for the tents. The lion came sniffing around later that night and roared often during the night.
The second day there was a group of six lionesses crossing the pan, disappearing into the bushes on the opposite side.
The third night after we went to bed a lion started roaring right in front of us (not 5 meters away), made himself comfortable under the nearest bush and roared every half hour from 10 o’clock until before five the next morning. Sometime during the night he was joined by another. We heard the other one trodding down the road towards us, huffing all the way. We did not sleep well that night.
At Lesho pan we saw no predators for 4 days. The only animals apart from the ground squirrels, mongoose and birds were the most beautiful kudus, and a single wildebeest or springbuck crossing the pan to the waterhole. Still we really enjoyed the views and tranquility.
And then we met the Six Gangsters:
On the way out of the park towards the main gate we saw six young lions. We passed the first one which was lying under a tree ripping and pulling on something that looked like a camping chair. Then we passed a lioness looking at us with a scary attitude. We closed our windows and drove on. She came trotting behind Hein and Landi after they had passed her. At the two campsites near the main gate the garbage drum was topped with lots of big pieces of canvas or ground sheeting and unused bags of firewood and charcoal were lying around. But no campers or any sign of camping. In the shade under an A-frame were three more lions relaxing and another one walking around the ablutions, sniffing.
At the park office at the main gate the camp manager showed us the destruction of the previous night. The two solar panels were in pieces and the satelite dish was torn off the stand with all the wiring bitten off – the only means of communication for the office. Those six lions were wreaking havoc for the past six months, breaking anything they find interesting.
At the Tsabong border post the police officer asked us what was going on at Mabua when he learned that we came from there. He told us the following:
Earlier that morning a vehicle with an off-road caravan came from Mabua, leaving for Gauteng. They entered Mabua the previous day and had planned to stay a week. That first night they were terrorised by the six lions. One of the lions even tried to open the door of the caravan and pushed against it. One of their vehicle’s tyres were bitten and they had to change the tyre. Their camp was destroyed. They decided to go home after one night in Mabua and were still severely rattled.
These are sub-adult lions and hopefully the mature males in the park will sort them out soon.
We decided that we were lucky and grateful that these lions did not visit our campsite.