Camping in the wilderness on the Botswana side of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is a remarkable experience that any Kalahari lover needs to have at least once. It can be calming one minute and zap you with a charge of excitement the next - for instance when a lion causes an adrenalin rush at Polentswa.
Our first trip there was a bit of a disaster when our 4x4 caravan leaked sand like crazy and the fridge connection didn’t work (see Who else wants the Kalahari to themselves?)
This time everything worked but we had high drama of another kind.
The chicken sosaties were on the braai when we thrilled to the sound of a lion roaring in the distance. This, we noted with a satisfied grin, was what we’d come to the wilderness for.
After a ten-minute silence, the next roar was much nearer. The grins faded and the first sign of anxiety crept in. Exactly how far away was this lion, anyway?
The next was even louder and nearer. Anxiety hiked up a notch because by now night had settled over the Kgalagadi and everything beyond the campfire was black. Although intellectually we know that a lion’s roar can be heard from a good few kilometres away if the wind is right, having it coming closer and closer in the darkness was a touch unnerving.
But it was different now, with no fences between us and a lion coming our way, and no way of spotting him in the pitch blackness (there isn’t even a smidge of light pollution there in the middle of nowhere).
I can’t say we lingered lovingly over our braai. It was more fire-coals-food-bedtime in short order. We were tucked up by 19:30.
Better safe than sorry, no?
A week or so later, when we were camping at Mata Mata, an annoying group of a dozen people were getting louder and louder the more they drank. We thought back to our nights at Polentswa and decided that the lion had made a much better neighbour.
More about the Kgalagadi
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