Once the red sand of the Kalahari sticks to your soles, it will be hard to brush off. The ideal place to experience this is the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, approximately 250km from Upington in the Northern Cape province of South Africa.The park also continues into Botswana. Your heart will find peace among the red dunes and silhouettes wildlife. It is a place where the king of the jungle, or rather Kalahari, finds solace under the shade of a thorn tree and raptors soar in the sky in search of their next snack.
In this arid landscape, the water holes provide the backdrop for much of the activity. Although distances between everything is vast, you won’t have to travel far to witness some of the action. In rare cases where it rains, dry riverbeds transform into streams and puddles offer a welcome
This 3.6 million hectare park includes the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana and is one of the few conservation areas of its kind in the world. It is a dream for all photographers striving for spectacular images, a bird lover’s paradise and heaven for wildlife and nature enthusiasts.
The nearest International airport with car rental facilities is in Upington. Visit this park with a 4×4 as roads can be sandy and corrugated. Upington is 252km from the park and the place to shop for all major supplies.
The park is vast so plan your drives carefully. You will inform the gate guard where you are heading and when you expect to be back every time you leave a rest camp, just in case you do not return. Travel times between main rest camps easily exceed 4 hours.
It makes driving a lot easier! The recommended pressure will be given to you when you enter the park - adhere to it. It makes driving easier in sandy stretches, and it prevents road corrugation.
It is best to buy all major supplies in Upington, but Twee Rivieren, Mata Mata and Nossob sells basic supplies. Keep in mind that the park is in an isolated location.
There is some reception at Twee Rivieren as you arrive in the park, but due to the desolate location, most of the park falls outside cellphone reception. Mata Mata is on the border with Namibia so you may pick up Namibian networks. Both Mata Mata and Nossob do have WI-FI available at a cost.
No, you may only get out of your vehicle as designated sites. Be cautious even at picnic sites as predators such as lions often seek shade underneath picnic tables and in bathrooms.
The main camps have drinking water, but it is full of minerals and some people may not be used to the taste. Always ensure that you have adequate drinking water in your vehicle.
There are swimming pools in the main rest camps – Twee Rivieren, Mata Mata, Nossob and the Kalahari Tented Camp. Other camps are not fenced.
Immigration is situated at Twee Rivieren. If you want to cross into Namibia at the Mata Mata camp, you must spend at least two nights in the park first.
Numerous species are found in the park and the destination is ideal for game viewing as wildlife often congregates in the dry riverbeds. Vegetation is sparse, making viewing much easier. Wildlife to look out for range from antelope species such as gemsbok, springbok, red hartebeest and eland to predators such as lion, leopard, cheetah and more. Predatory birds and vultures are plentiful and this often allows for interesting interactions. Meerkats (suricates) are often seen standing guard
From Black-backed jackal hunting flocks of birds in search of an easy snack to leopard stalking its prey with the black-mane lions watching on, the lucky ones can see it all.
Colourful birds such as crimson-breasted shrikes and bee-eaters are plentiful, while species such as Korhaan, Secretarybirds, and a variety of raptor species are easily seen during drives.
Special species not often seen include pangolin, honey badger, and the bat-eared fox.
The park is extremely popular and getting accommodation can be a challenge as people book a year in advance. Check availability daily as there may be cancellations. This desert landscape becomes scorching in summer, and irregular rainfall causes thunderstorms. Just as erratic as the rain, temperatures can range between -11 degrees Celsius on cold winter nights, to 42 degrees Celsius in the shade in summer. In summer, the ground surface can reach 70 degrees Celsius. The dry season in the Kalahari is from September to October and then the hot, wet season from November to April. The area is a low-risk malaria area.
To get the sand under the soles of your feet, embark on a morning walk with a guide. The park also offers morning and sunset game drives. Several off-road trails with camps are available in the park, but booking is essential. Self-drive safaris are a great way to explore the beauty of the park in the comfort of your vehicle and at your own pace.
There are three large rest camps and unfenced wilderness camps, some equipped with the bare basics while others are more deluxe. Those that seek true luxury can overnight in Xaus safari lodge, luxury accommodation owned by the local Khomani San and Mier communities. Due to popularity however, all accommodation bookings must be made well in advance.