High jinks of a jackal at Rooiputs campsite Kgalagadi Botswana
Our experience at Rooiputs campsite Kgalagadi Botswana
The wind swept us in to Rooiputs on a cloud of Kalahari dust, the first campsite we stayed at in the Kgalagadi, Botswana. It is approximately 24 km outside Twee Rivieren, the main gate and easy to get to.
The first wildlife visitor we had at our campsite at Rooiputs was a black backed jackal. He appeared in broad daylight, not shy at all. Cute little creature that we admired and if this was just a taste of what we would see, we were thrilled. We set up camp so we could sit back and admire nature and its animals.
To fill you in, we were four couples camping together, each in varying degrees of comfort. There are six campsites, all without a fence. They are off the grid campsites with no electricity or power. We camped on site number two and shared a pit toilet and cold-water shower with campsite number one.
That evening while a storm was brewing, we lit a fire and listened to the sounds of the wild. We loved the barking geckos and were thrilled to hear them. After a delicious dinner we washed dishes with new latex gloves that one of our friends had brought, as you do, to protect your delicate hands from harsh detergents.
As we sat around the fire, in the dark, having our last drink before heading to bed, I will admit we were all on high alert in case we had a visit from a predator or two. You don’t want to be caught unawares by them. We heard a commotion behind us.
Thankfully it wasn’t a visit from a lion (not that we even thought it was one), but a sneaky jackal having a peek and a steal of what we left behind in the container in which we washed the dishes. The only thing that was left to nibble was a latex glove. With one finger missing, sampled by jackal, then spat out because it obviously wasn’t a tasty morsel, the glove was rendered useless.
During the night we had some rain and lightning. But there was another sound: a lion roaring in the distance. Feeling relatively safe in our little cocoon of canvas, because he was far away, it only raised our adrenalin slightly. We snuggled up and enjoyed a few more roars together with a few howls from jackals close to us. There is a saying that if the jackals are close by the lion won’t come.
Our routine for the day at Rooiputs campsite as well as Polentswa and Lesholoago was as follows:
At first light we would rise and have coffee and a rusk or two, then drive around the park to admire the animals. Sometimes we’d stay out for an hour… or four, depending on what we saw and did. It is worth spending some time at the waterholes but you have to be patient. There are a few picnic areas with toilets on the South African side where you can stretch your legs. We usually packed a few snacks, some water and a flask with hot water for tea or coffee.
After lunch it depended on your level of energy and enthusiasm whether you went for another drive or relaxed at camp. When it is hot the animals rest in the shade but sometimes you’re fortunate to see wonderful sightings.
Because there was no hot water, and we didn’t have a fancy contraption of our own to provide us with steaming showers, it was a good idea to shower mid-afternoon before it cooled down and before it got dark. It was quite refreshing, but at least we weren’t caked with Kalahari dust.
That leads to the issues with pit toilets. They are not the most pleasant or most decorative of commodes, but it is a necessary item for a necessary function. I survived. Others would cringe, but when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go…
At night we wore closed shoes and socks. Being far from civilisation we didn’t want to test our luck with scorpions or other creatures that could give a nasty bite.
Although we sat in the dark for a few hours while cooking and eating, we didn’t linger long. There was no ambient light and as humans we aren’t tuned in to the wild. Anything could have crept up on us unawares, like the jackal did. Still, we took a chance sitting outside but we made sure we stayed close to our tents and vehicles for a quick escape from danger.
Pro tip: Keep your vehicle unlocked so you don’t waste time looking for and fumbling with keys.
As for nature calls during the night, we didn’t wander into the dark.
Pro tip: If you do need to use the loo at night, it is best to go in pairs and with a torch light.
Every night we packed everything away so as not to attract animals.
Pro tip: Having a clean campsite is just common sense because no-one wants to live in squalor but it also helps to keep unwanted animals away, although it is not foolproof.
What we saw at or near Rooiputs
Enough of that, I’m sure you’d like to know what we saw.
It was great having birder friends with us, because they pointed out some birds to us such as tawny eagles, bateleurs, pale chanting goshawks, lanner falcons, white backed vultures and even a pygmy falcon. We’re rather useless when it comes to identifying them.
An interesting thing we learnt from our friends was that if you see a pale chanting goshawk, look to the ground and scan for honey badger as they have a symbiotic relationship.
Of course there were the usual antelope such as gemsbok (oryx), red hartebeest, springbok, wildebeest, jackal and steenbok. Although the park is arid, in places it was in a sad state because of the drought they had and yet in other places there was a fair amount of vegetation.
This was one occasion that I wished I had a better camera and that I was a brilliant photographer, but I guess I’ll stick to writing. Besides, I know professional photographers with gigantic lenses take excellent photos. I used a tiny Canon Power Shot with 20 x optical zoom (which I usually love) or my iPhone camera and neither did justice to photography in the Kgalagadi, especially in my hands.
Highlights of Rooiputs
One day we drove to Twee Rivieren to stock up on a few items, make some business calls because there is no signal elsewhere, and had a light lunch at the kiosk outside the restaurant. Most enjoyable and affordable.
Shortly before we arrived back at Rooiputs we saw a silhouette at the top of a sand dune. A graceful cheetah ambled down, crossed the road to rest in the shade of a tree, then disappeared over another dune. A beautiful and special sighting but alas our photos don’t do justice.
Every night at Rooiputs we heard lions roar but they made no appearance. As we were packing up the last morning we heard Roary (as we nicknamed him) close to us. He’d walked down to the water hole to drink before dawn and was strolling back when we saw him. He stopped and glanced at us looking rather bewildered.
We managed to take a few memory shots and if my photos were better you could see the porcupine quills sticking out of his mane.
Maybe it was because of the quills that he looked perplexed and if he could talk I’m sure he would say, ‘How am I going to get rid of these quills?’ He then quietly walked away from us.
It is worth visiting one of the remaining farmhouses, Auchterlonie which has been renovated and converted into a small museum. Ruins of other houses of the original borehole caretakers can still be seen nearby as well.
High jinks of a jackal at Rooiputs
After returning from Twee Rivieren to our campsite, we had a surprise waiting for us. One of the jackals stole our cooler bag. People at site one witnessed the entire incident or we wouldn’t have believed it. They tried their best to chase it away but it was persistent. Jackals scavenge and are cunning. The bag was a small one, enough for a few cans of cold drinks, a couple of ice bricks and a snack or two.
Apparently the jackal opened the zip of our tent, presumably with its teeth and dragged the cool bag out. It managed to open the bag (I may have left a slight opening) and found two 500ml bottles of Coca Cola, 1 bread roll and 4 cocktail tomatoes. He dragged the bag into the veld but ditched it and the contents because there was nothing of interest to him. The crows seemed to enjoy some of the pickings and ate the roll. We salvaged the cokes and the tomatoes.
We didn’t have any food in our tent except for that bag. The rest was packed away in our trailer or in our freezer inside our vehicle. I’d placed it in the tent in error and should have kept it in our car, but I didn’t think the contents would attract animals.
On previous occasions we have had biltong in the cool bag. Did it pick up that scent? Apparently their sense of smell is extremely good (although I do clean the bag after each use but it may not have sufficiently camouflaged the smell). This proves animals know they can get food where there are humans. I’m sure it was the same one that we saw on the first day. Cute, very cheeky but probably was fed scraps and bones in the past by other campers.
Pro tip 1: Don’t leave anything out at night or if you leave the camp during the day.
Pro tip 2: Don’t leave scraps out for the animals.
Update: More jackal high jinks
These are comments from people that follow a Facebook group called Kgalagadi Sightings. It seems the jackal (if it is the same one) has been up to mischief for a long time.
Moving on to Polentswa
We spent three nights at Rooiputs and when we left, two of our friends, Barbara and Mike were ahead of us by a few minutes or at most a couple of kilometres. Along the way they were fortunate to have a good sighting of a leopard with cubs. Another special moment – one that they will cherish. Unfortunately the rest of us missed them. That just shows where luck comes in.
We stopped at Dikbaardskolk for a picnic brunch. After a delicious meal we drove to Nossob to refuel and went on to Polentswa. More about that next time.
Our experience at Rooiputs was mild, not as adventurous as camping can be in an unfenced bush camp. Was it because of the precautions we took or was it our lucky day? We still had another two weeks ahead of us. Would it be the same?