Leaving Deception Valley
It’s not called Deception Valley for nothing.
Camping in the bush is by far the best way to see African wildlife. Being able to examine lion footprints from the night before right outside your tent is exciting enough, but being able to meet some of the smaller creatures; desert mice which nest under the tents (and nibble cables), African wildcats which come to catch the mice, curious hornbills and the African stink ant, one of the largest ants in the world, all contribute to the experience and understanding of how the ecosystem works. But camping is usually best in warmer climates.
Two days ago, another Antarctic front arrived, not that it wasn’t already very cold at night. Now the temperatures dropped to below zero on the valley floor - and when the vehicle moved, the windchill dropped the temperature to as low as -15. This was itself is a major problem for us. The clothing we needed to stay warm was very restricting and batteries of all kinds ceased to function properly. But it was the lions which were our biggest problem now. We noticed with the thermal camera that the tops of the dunes on the valley* edges were a couple of degrees warmer than the valley floor. On very still nights (most nights), a clear thermocline (A clear boundary between gas or liquid of two different temperatures) was visible. Cats don’t like the cold, and it looks as if our lions had disappeared into the dunes - where we can neither film nor follow them - until either the weather warms up, or a breeze breaks up the thermocline and warms the valley floor again. For three days we found no signs of lions that we could film, heard no roaring (one of our main means of finding them), and saw no tracks or kills. It was time to leave the Kalahari...
*Using the term 'valley’ loosely here. The ‘valleys’ around here are usually about a kilometre wide and completely flat on the floor where short grass grows. On either side are fossil sand dunes covered in scrub, which rise as much as 20 metres, but are generally about 10 metres high
these images are made using our image-intensified camera, the 'starlight camera' can film clear images at night using only the light of the stars.