If you are planning an African safari in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park you should know a few things about the park before you arrive. It is one of the largest parks in Africa and it offers many opportunities for recreation, learning, game viewing and nature photography.
Here is an overview of the Kgalagadi:
1. Uniqueness – The park is unique in that it comprises an endless sea of red sand dunes where herds of gemsbok, springbok, eland and blue wildebeest follow the seasons, while imposing camel thorn trees provide shade for huge black-mane lions and vantage points for leopards and many raptors. Welcome to the Kgalagadi!
2. Location and History – The park is located in the Northern Cape province of South Africa and borders Namibia to the west and Botswana to the east. The Kalahari Gemsbok National Park was proclaimed in 1931 and merged with the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana in 2000 to form Africa’s first Transfrontier Park.
3. Size – 10 000 square kilometers in South Africa and 26 000 square kilometers in Botswana making a huge park of 36 000 square kilometers. The South African side of the park gets over 120 000 visitors each year.
4. Known for – Birds of Prey, wilderness camps, over fifty waterholes along the tourist roads and at the camps, fantastic shows of wildflowers, such as the devil’s claw in summer, and excellent photographic opportunities of animals and landscapes.
5. Roads – The roads leading to the park from Johannesburg and Cape Town are all tarmac but the roads in the park are dirt roads. You do not need a 4×4 unless you are going into Botswana or staying at Bitterpan or Gharagab wilderness camps. The park is situated 350 km from Upington in the Northern Cape and about 900 km from Johannesburg. You can either fly to Upington and then hire a car or drive as the roads are in good condition.
6. Weather – Kgalagadi means ‘land of thirst’ in the local San language, hence the summers are hot and can get to 50 degrees Celsius while winter days are mild but the nights can get cold with temperatures below zero degrees Celsius. Annual rainfall is about 200mm, which falls mainly between December and April. Two rivers run through the park but they flow on average once every ten years.
7. Accommodation – There are three main camps (of which only Twee Rivieren and Mata Mata have air conditioning), one up-market lodge (!Xaus Lodge) and six wilderness camps, all with fully equipped kitchens and en-suite bathrooms in the chalets and cabins. There are camping sites at the three main camps. ‘Twee Rivieren’ is Dutch for ‘Two Rivers’ and, as the name implies, the camp is situated at the confluence of the Nossob and Auob rivers.
8. Activities and Facilities– You can go on morning or sunset drives, morning walks, 4×4 trails, self-drive safaris and there are lectures and slide shows. There are just four game viewing roads – two long river roads that follow the dry Nossob and Auob riverbeds and two short dune roads that connect the two long roads. There are also picnic sites, shops at the three main camps and swimming pools at the three main camps plus Kalahari Tented Camp. Nossob and Mata Mata have a hide in camp where you can watch animals drinking by day or night. All the camps, with the exception of Twee Rivieren, have their own waterhole where animals can be viewed day and night. Only Twee Rivieren, being the biggest camp, has a restaurant.
9. Safety Tips – Please keep yourself well hydrated, especially in the summer months. At night walk around the camps with shoes on and use a flashlight as there are lots of scorpions and please stay in your vehicles when in the park!
10. Things to seek in the Kgalagadi:
1. Gemsbok – these striking desert antelope are the emblem of the park.
2. Suricate – these hyperactive little omnivores, also called Meerkats, have a wonderfully intricate family structure.
3. Black-maned Kalahari Lions – these are the kings of the Kalahari!
4. Sociable weavers – these little birds construct huge communal nests that get so heavy they can break the branch they are on!
5. Pygmy falcons – the park is famous for its birds of prey and the pygmy falcon is the smallest falcon in Africa, which is often seen near sociable weaver colonies preying on the birds.
6. Brown Hyena – this is a rare sighting – look out for them between dusk and dawn
7. The predator display at Nossob camp, the photographic display at Twee Rivieren and the Auchterlonie museum in the Auob riverbed
8. The summer storms and cloud formations make amazing landscape photographs
9. The wilderness camps are unbeatable for a true wilderness experience
10. The panoramic views from the towers in Gharagab and Bitterpan wilderness camps
The park’s remoteness and true wilderness feel has an enchantment that persuades visitors to return year after year!