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

Ground squirrel standing on its hind legs.

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 of driving involved getting there. And, 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 long to go back to over and over again.

Magnificent things to do in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

1. Stay at different camps within the Kgalagadi Transfrontier 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. On windy nights many dark coloured scorpions with long tails and small pincers come out.

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. One time, when 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 past 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 certainly had told the 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.

Rear view mirror of a car with sunset over a savanna landscape.
Scenery at Kalahari Tented Camp

During our stay, the ranger came along on several occasions to check on us. On one occasion he told us about a couple who stayed in our tent. A hyena chased a springbok underneath the tent. “You can imagine the commotion and noises under that tent.” He laughed wholeheartedly and cheerfully 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 lions came to relax. They have, 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.

You are going to enjoy your stay at the Kalahari Tented Camp and you most certainly will get away 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 of the Kalahari

The scenic beauty is one you won’t forget so soon. The red sand dunes have their colour due to iron oxide. There is a grassland savannah. There are camel thorn trees. The eternally endless sky changes constantly under big fluffy clouds. Thunderstorms in summer are breathtaking. Although they don’t last long they are a true spectacle, read: 15 minutes of heavy rain in the Kalahari

3. Go for game drives in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

In the bush, you really have to get up early if you plan to see wildlife (or so the saying goes). Waking up at 6 am is oversleeping. Totally unconventionally, once I overslept (heavens). I woke up late, at 6 am. As fast as lightning 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 7.56 am. 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. They trotted on, on clumsy paws that were still much too big for them.

A lion cub in thick bush peering inquisitively into the distance.

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.

Side of the belly and part of the neck of a giraffe.
A drinking Giraffe with stretched out front legs and a jackal at a waterhole.

Two male lions relaxing in the savannah.

Six Giraffes in the shade of a tree.

There is a wide variety of wildlife you will see in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. It is definitely going to be an exciting experience.

4. Count the stars over the Kalahari

Due to the remoteness of the Kgalagadi, there is almost zero 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 bright. That again is an unforgettable and wildly romantic adventure in itself. The atmosphere is just out of this world.

Land Rover under a night sky full of stars.

5. Read a book and enjoy the heat in the Kalahari

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

Land Rover in the shadow of a tree under a bright blue sky.

6. The Kalahari is the best place to 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 delightful.

7. Listen to the sounds of the night in the Kalahari

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? The sound of the roar of a lion in the silence of the night will stay with you forever.

Face of a jackal, standing on sandy ground.

8. Take photos of the little creatures and objects in the Kalahari

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

Four Ground Squirrels sitting in a sand hole in the warm evening light.

Two yellow mongooses hugging each other, standing on sandy ground.

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

A large group of 27 wild doves flying under a blue sky.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park – Would I visit again?

So far, I drove several times from Cape Town to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. 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. 

Adventurousness, endurance and a sense of humour are all it takes to see this piece of true South 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 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.


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


South Africa: Botswana:

Would you like to visit the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park?

Read How to Easily Prepare for a Self-Drive Safari in Southern Africa. If you like to be prepared, here is a list of 69 books to read before you visit South Africa. And, if you still need convincing, look at these 12 photos that make you desperately fall in love with South Africa. You have to book a trip to the Kgalagadi well in advance.

From Berlin with love