This was to be an ordeal of a sighting. We were one of the first groups to see these pups emerge from the den, and you could see and hear the excitement of the pack, which now comprised 3 generations – adults, last year’s pups and the youngsters. After finishing up their socialization with the new pups, all of the year-old pus and the adults (except for two minders), left the den to go hunting, and at that point we left for our sundowner stop.
The next morning we went back again and the pack was still not back from the hunt, only the two minders were to be seen. On the afternoon drive we popped in and still they weren’t back. By this stage the two minders were visibly distressed. The male minder dog would run off a short distance into the bush, ears perked, only to slink back to the termite mound when it was evident that he hadn’t heard the returning pack. We could see that they were just so eager for the return of their pack, which had been gone 24 hours now. They were probably starving! And we were then starting to get distressed! Wondering if something my have happened to them. We had high hopes to find them back at the den the next morning, but they hadn’t appeared, and we left the lodge with pits in our stomachs. Fortunately a follow up with the guides after we had left gave us the good news, that the pack had returned and all was well. Another great safari experience with Lawson’s Safaris!

Wild Dog pups emerge from the den.

Lawson’s Featured Camp: Polentswa Lodge.

The small lodge concept is done better in Africa than anywhere else, and we are fortunate to have visited a fair few on our tours and travels. This month’s featured lodge is Polentswa, situated deep in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, on the Botswana side of the Nossob River, in one of the remotest parts of Southern Africa.

The accommodation comprises safari tents, set in a row overlooking a vast ephemeral pan and small, artificial waterhole. The tents are situated on raised decks, getting you away from Scorpions and other nasties that roam the sand at night. The camp is unfenced, so predators may move around at night, and we know that first hand from footage recorded on one of our trail cams placed outside the tent on a recent visit.

The dining and communal areas are also set on raised decks, and in the evenings the views from the lounge are just spectacular. The food is basic but wholesome and tasty, and the chef is a miracle worker indeed, considering how far they have to go to get provisions!

There are game drives on offer, though we usually prefer to book on an accommodation-only basis and do the game drives ourselves. Night drives are not allowed even for the lodge guides (as per the rules of the Transfrontier Park), and one has to be off the main tourist road by the allocated closing time (though that means you still have 20 minutes or more of driving in the growing darkness as you make your way to the lodge itself). The only other accommodation anywhere near the lodge is a small, basic camp site, but other than that, this camp is extremely remote, and that’s all part of the appeal.

The best aspect is the location – not far from Polentswa Waterhole, a Lion magnet during the dry season, and you can be one of the first cars there in the morning. And so remote that you really feel like you are in the wilderness. The starscape at night will floor you…

The Lawson’s rating:

Accommodation: 3.5 (basic but clean and comfortable, the only negative is that the tents are placed quite close together, so you can hear pretty much most of what’s going on next door… On future bookings we’ll ask for our groups to be allocated alternate tents, if at all possible).

Communal areas: 4.5 – the views are to die for.

Food: 4 – basic but tasty and wholesome.

Location: 5.

Game Viewing: 5.

Overall: 4.5.

Suitable for: more adventurous travellers.

Recommended length of stay: 3 nights.

Special notes: not recommended in mid-winter, when it can get bitterly cold.

Visit Polentswa on a Lawson’s Custom Safari!

Lawson’s Featured Bird: African Harrier Hawk.

Today we are taking a look at one of the most remarkable and entertaining of African raptors, the African Harrier Hawk (Polyboroides typus). This species is widespread across sub-Saharan Africa, with the very similar Madagascan Harrier Hawk representing the genus in Madagascar. One of the unique features of the bird are the double-jointed knees, enabling the lower legs to bend in multiple planes, giving the bird the ability to access prey items such as geckos, lizards, birds, squirrels etc hiding in cracks, crevices and nests. Watching this bird hunting is quite an experience, and it’s clear at times that it has a degree of problem-solving ability as it works out how to extract something from a hole or crack. Another interesting feature is the ability of the normally yellow facial skin to change to bright scarlet according to mood – as can be seen in the mating pair which were obviously a bit excited! It’s a relatively common species, even occurring as a garden bird in our home town of Nelspruit, South Africa, and easily seen on most regional safaris. Photos by Leon Marais.

A few photos of the African Harrier Hawk in action:

‘Would you like a table with a view, sir?’

The view from this dining room is pretty hard to beat… In January we ran a ‘birds and botany’ tour for Naturetrek, one of our UK operators for which we do the ground work. On the request was a visit to Royal Natal in the KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg – the northern ‘ Berg to be specific. While this resort offers perhaps the finest views in the whole of the Drakensberg, there is no restaurant on site so catering can be a challenge. No problem for us however, as we brought in our good friends Doug and Riana from Out Door Dining (they specialise in providing food in out of the way places – www.outdoordining.co.za)) and we were able to enjoy great food as well as the jaw-dropping views of the Amphitheater, as the rock wall in the background is known. Now that’s doing it in style!

A table with a view
A table with a view

Green is the colour…

Some kind of Eden… The Kalahari is famous as a dry season destination, when birds and animals alike are attracted to the artificial waterholes in the ‘fossilised’ Auob and Nossob Rivers that flow north-west to south-east through the park. Thirsty animals and crowding can make for some explosive scenes, which is why the park is almost fully booked during the dry season between about May and early November. But what’s it like during the wet season? Well, to quote our guide Leon after his February 2017 visit, it’s like ‘some kind of Eden…’ This comment was made as they came over a rise near Mata Mata Rest Camp to look down on a herd of Springbok moving down the Auob Riverbed, which was as green as a golf course  fairway, with clouds of butterflies dancing over a puddle in the road where the herd was crossing. Coupled with the vast skies and simple sense of space, the reference to Eden was almost involuntary. So, while the dry season may be when most folks want to be there, the summer is a delight in its own right, something that every Africa enthusiast should experience. Contact us for a price on a custom-made safari to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.