Monday

Travel South Africa: 8 magnificent things to do in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Howzit? What are you up to?


Have you ever visited Vatican City? Imagine that the South African side of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is 23,977.5 times the size of it. It is hard to reach. There is a lot driving involved getting there, but there is a lot to discover in this semi-arid region within the Kalahari Desert. This place is a mixture of charming and wild. For most of the time you won’t see other visitors. There are no fast food outlets and no entertainment program, and (keep calm now), the mobile phone reception ends at the entrance gate in Twee Rivieren.

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is one of these places you surely want to go back to over and over again.

8 magnificent things to do in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

1. Stay at different camps within the National Park

The three traditional camps in the park (Twee Rivieren, Nossob and Mata-Mata) are fenced. That means that apart from for example jackals, squirrels, mongoose, birds, scorpions, giant millipedes or snakes, there is literally no one who is interested in eating you (neither dead nor alive). Wear closed shoes at night. Our first night in Twee Rivieren was a particular windy night and there were many dark coloured scorpions with long tails and small pincers.

If you stay at one of the Wilderness Camps it is a very different story. There is no fence. Exactly, for the time of your stay you are on the menu of hyenas, leopards or lions. They are the ones to decide whether to catch you or not. As we were staying at the Kalahari tented camp, the ranger on site convinced me that “lions would never attack humans here” … “until it happens, and then we know they will”.  

At night when the neighbour to the left started the vehicle I held my breath to see what is going to happen next. I thought my neighbours were going for a game drive (not allowed). The car drove along our tent and stopped directly in front of the tent to the right from us. The passenger hopped out of the car and entered his tent; the other neighbour drove the few metres back to his tent. This was so bizarre. It was the shortest lift I have ever seen. The ranger surely had told my neighbours the same about the lions. I imagined the driver talking to his wife before he left; something along the lines of “Laura, I drive Peter home and will be back soon; it shouldn’t take longer than eleven seconds.” We laughed till tears rolled down our cheeks like the water of Victoria Falls.

Scenery at Kalahari Tented Camp

During our stay the ranger came along on several occasions to check on us. The following day he told us about a couple who stayed in our tent and a hyena chased a springbok underneath the tent “you can imagine the commotion and noises under that tent.” He laughed wholeheartedly and cheerful when he said this. I wasn’t too sure whether he did this because of our reaction or because he remembered that incident so vividly ... “The couple tried to climb out of the window of the tent to get to their car “…

The tents are standing on stilts. Often lion came to relax, they had understandably a strong affection for the shade under the tents. It happened on several occasions until the rangers fitted wooden planks to the stilts to block the wildlife off.

We enjoyed our stay at the Kalahari Tented Camp tremendously and got away fully unscathed. The rangers are very passionate about their job and the environment, and they know how to tell a story.

2. Gaze at the vast open space

The scenic beauty is one you won’t forget so soon. There are red sand dunes (caused by iron oxide). There is grassland savanna. There are camel thorn trees. The sky is best to be described as eternally endless but its clouds change constantly. Thunderstorms in summer are breathtaking; they don’t last long but are a true spectacle, read: 15 minutes of heavy rain in the Kalahari.

3. Go for game drives

In the bush you really have to get up early if you plan to see wildlife (or so the saying goes). Totally unconventionally, on one morning I overslept (heavens). I woke up late, at 6am. As fast as lightening in an African thunderstorm, probably faster, I freshened up and soon after drove off. I still had to make the most of the rest of the early morning.

And guess what happened? While I was admiring the glistening of what seemed like a sea of flowers in the early morning light (I did that for a whole 20 minutes or so), I saw a lioness with two cubs. It was 7.56am. They came towards us. The lioness stopped every few metres and sniffed, quite passionately, into the air. She didn’t look at our vehicle, not once. We obviously were not of interest to her. The two youngsters however were not too sure of what to make of our Land Rover. The siblings stopped often and looked at us ever so cautiously. Every few moments, when the lioness made a growling sound, as if to say “come on guys, no dawdling now …” the pair ran after her. On clumsy paws that were still much too big for them.


Sometimes animals stand so close by that they simply won't fit into one frame. That was the case here with this Giraffe, the world’s tallest animal. One or two years ago I saw a documentary on BBC about a Giraffe battle in the Kalahari. Have you seen it? It is rather traumatic watching it.

 

There is a wide variety of animals you will see in the Kgalagadi, and it is certainly going to be an exciting experience.

4. Count the stars

Due to the remoteness of the Kgalagadi there is no light pollution. After sunset the stars come out, and you feel so very tiny, lost but well protected at the same time. African nights are full of stars and shooting stars. Gasp. Very special indeed. There are of course the nights when the moonlight shines too brightly, and that again is an unforgettable and wildly romantic adventure in itself. The atmosphere is just out of this world.


5. Read a book and enjoy the heat

In summer temperatures can rise above 40 degrees Celsius. It is unbeatable to find a big tree, to brew a cup of Rooibos (a hot drink is everything but an obvious choice but it works wonders), to get comfortable, and start reading. Muesli-Rusks are also a perfect treat for the setting (buy organic ones, too many brands use too many additives).


6. Cook alfresco dinner

We all know there is nothing better than eating alfresco. There is only one thing that is better: cooking alfresco. Make your own bread over a campfire (find the recipe for bread here) or cook Quinoa Risotto. Whatever it is you prepare to eat, it is pure freedom. Never was cooking so much fun, never tasted food so pleasant.

7. Listen to the sounds of the night

Lie down, don’t talk (keeping stum is hard I know, the day was so fascinating) and just listen to the sound of the Kalahari. Are these the calls of jackals or hyenas? …


8. Take photos of the little things

There is literally something to take a photo of at every corner. There are so many plants, birds and animals you would never find at home. You are so far away from civilisation (of course not in a dramatic way); pretty much everything you find here is unique to this part of the world. 

African Squirrels - Nearly Bedtime
Yellow Mongoose

Let’s say you focus for a few hours on African Squirrels, this surely is going to be better than every film you will ever get to watch. South African ground squirrels have fluffy tails and a stripe down their flanks. I can spend a lot of time watching them. They never disappoint and deliver most comical shows with munching on something they find on the ground, sitting upright and scratching their belly, watching you closely, having playful fights where the only thing you see is their brush-y tails flying around. They hang around in large groups and as I found don’t mind living close with the yellow mongoose.


Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park – Would I visit again?

So far I drove three times from Cape Town to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, and every single moment, every single experience was a memorable one. This is as I said earlier a truly special place. Yes of course, I have to agree, it is far from the popular sights … but it is so worth a visit.

A pinch of adventurousness and endurance is all it takes to see this piece of true African wilderness.

Infos Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

The seasons in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Autumn/winter in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park: May to August: Dry season. Mild days. Frost at night. Spring in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park: September to October. Warm and dry. Summer in in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park: November to April: Wet season. Hot days. Warm nights. Possibility of thunderstorms and rainfall.

Entry Gates to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

There are five entry points to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park: Twee Rivieren in South Africa. From Namibia: Mata Mata. From Botswana: Two Rivers, Mabuasehube and Kaa.

Getting to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Windhoek, Namibia to Mata Mata: 565 km.
Cape Town, South Africa to Twee Rivieren, South Africa: 1,080 km.
Johannesburg, South Africa to Twee Rivieren, South Africa: 920 km.
Gabarone, Botswana to Two Rivers, Botswana: 840 km.
Gabarone, Botswana to Mabuasehube, Botswana: 538 km.
Gabarone, Botswana to Kaa Gate, Botswana: 670 km.

Transport/vehicle

Suitable for sedans, parts of the park are only reachable by 4WDs.

Bookings

South Africa: reservations@sanparks.org. Botswana: dwnp@gov.bw

Would you like to visit the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park?


Can you imagine to go on a trip like this? Can't wait to hear your thoughts.

From Berlin with love

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Greetings stranger. I always try to be myself and to be a tourist as often as I can. I would love to get in contact with lots of hard travelling tourists who love to be out and about as much as I do. I am looking forward to all your comments. Thanks so much in advance.