Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
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A place of kilometre upon kilometre of rolling red sand dunes, indigenous plants and trees, and herds of roaming antelope, this park is one of South Africa’s most photogenic and mysterious. The park covers almost a third of the Kalahari Desert and guests who visit here are in for a journey of a lifetime as they explore this dry and desolate place.
The park has a few places where guests can stock up on the basics, and both cash and cards can be used to pay within the park. It is recommended that visitors travel with a 4x4 vehicle.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is located in the Northern Cape but expands into Botswana as well. The western border of the park is shared with Namibia and getting there from any major city is quite a drive.
The Kalahari Desert is the main attraction of the park, in fact without the desert, there is no park. The desert covers more than 900 000 square kilometres and has a harsh, unforgiving climate. Home to all kinds of animals and people alike, the desert is a fantastic destination, with an incredibly diverse and interesting history.
The park is named after the first people who were able to travel to the northern Kalahari and who lived mostly in peace with the original inhabitants of the area, the Khoi people. These original people did not live in the area forever, however, their legacy was sealed when the park was named after them. Even the name of the Kalahari Desert is taken from a Kgalagadi word for saltpans or “the great thirst land”, which is Makgadikgadi. From this earliest history, through wars and much political upheaval, the park was officially proclaimed in 1931.
The need to conserve the precious eco-system found in the Kalahari Desert was noted, and two conservationists worked hard to have the park proclaimed. Along with the desert being included in what is now the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, various farms surrounding the park were also incorporated.
Across the border, a National Park which would become known as the Gemsbok National Park was proclaimed in 1938. The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, a combination of the parks on both the South Africa and the Botswana sides, was officially proclaimed in 2000.
Although Africa is home to a few deserts, the Kalahari with its golden and red sands is a unique place with biodiversity unlike any other. All in all, the park covers a distance of 3.6 million hectares which makes it one of the few conservation areas of this size in the world. The dry riverbeds, interesting vegetation and of course those dunes, offer guests the most fantastic photographic opportunities.
The Kalahari is understandably a dry place which sees an annual rainfall of only 200mm, usually between the months of January to April. Summer temperatures have been known to reach extreme highs of 40 degrees Celsius, while winter days can be unbelievably cold with temperatures dropping to below 0. It’s important to make sure that you pack properly for the time of year you plan to visit.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is seated about 250km from Upington, which is the closest big city, while it is 904km from Johannesburg and 1000km from Cape Town.
The park has no internal, man-made borders. The only park borders can be found in the west and the south of the park. This lack of borders aids conservation as animals are unhindered during migration season. The natural migration is generally followed by predators, and this is also something that is allowed to carry on naturally without borders to block the paths that animals have followed for centuries.
The ideal way to see the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is to book a few days, to give you enough time to explore. Given its location, a day visit simply will not be enough.
As the park is situated so far away from towns and cities, it goes without saying that the park offers its fair share of great accommodation, suitable for all kinds of travellers. You can stock up on most things in the park, and there is also one restaurant at the park’s main camp. The park has traditional rest camps, wilderness camps and the !Xaus Lodge.
This camp offers visitors a wide range of great accommodation options, which are designed to suit all kinds of budgets as well as tastes. This is the parks largest rest camp and it also serves as the parks administrative headquarters. It has been built on the banks of the Dry Nossob Riverbed and there are various activities and facilities available. The camp has a shop, fuel station, swimming pool, information centre, and reception area. The camp is the only one in the park with phone reception and 24hrs of electricity.
This rest camp also offers a range of accommodation options to suit the various budgets and tastes. Some of the accommodation includes camping sites, chalets, and family chalets. The camp can be found in the western boundary of the park, on the banks of the Auob River and it borders on Namibia. Guests can often spot giraffe close to the camp. There is a shop, fuelling station, swimming pool and reception area in the camp and there is also 16.5 hours of electricity a day.
Nossob Rest Camp has a number of cottages, camping sites and 2 guesthouses. It is built on the dry riverbed, and it has become famous for its predator sightings. The camp has a shop, fuelling station, swimming pool, information centre, and a reception area.
Guests choosing to stay in the Wilderness Camps need to know that each camp is limited to 8 people in order to preserve the exclusivity and tranquillity of each camp. No children under 12 can stay in the following camps: Grootkolk, Gharagab, Bitterpan, Urikaruus, Kieliekrankie.Wilderness Camps include:
Visitors must bring firewood, their own drinking water, and they should take note that no trailers are allowed within.
The camp has 4 chalets with 2 bedrooms each. Each chalet has a bathroom, ceiling fan, kitchen and veranda. The chalets also have cutlery, crockery, a fridge, linen, and a braai. Guests can share a communal kitchen. Gas is used for heating water while solar energy is used for lighting.
The camp has a luxury honeymoon desert tent, 4 family tents, and 10 two bed tents. The tents have their own bathroom, kitchen and ceiling fan. Gas heats up the camp's water while lighting is provided by solar energy. Guests can cool off in the swimming pool.
At this camp, guests can stay in one of three dune cabins while there is also a dune cabin especially for the mobility impaired. The cabins have 2 single beds, a bathroom, an equipped kitchen and braai facilities. Gas and solar power are used to heat water, keep the fridge going and provide lighting.
The camp has 4 riverside cabins which are placed up on stilts and each unit has 2 single beds, with a bathroom, an equipped kitchen and braaing facilities.
The final wilderness camp is only accessible to those with 4x4 vehicles and has 4 log cabins. Each unit has 2 single beds, a bathroom, braai facilities and a fully equipped kitchen.
The lodge is completely isolated and designed in such a way that guests can enjoy the unspoiled beauty of the park. It has been created to blend into the landscape and consists of a 24 bed thatched luxury safari lodge owned by the local communities. The lodge overlooks a salt pan and has a viewing deck from which guests can watch animals. The lodge also has a shop and a plunge pool.
Wilderness walks through the dunes are offered and there is also the option of enjoying en early evening drive or an after-dinner drive. Guests can also interact with the local Bushmen and learn more about their unique way of life.
Being a desert environment, the vegetation is quite minimal and dots the landscape here and there. Shrub veld is commonly seen as is thorny Kalahari dune bushveld.
Although the park is mostly desert, there are a few desert adapted animals living here. Lucky guests might spot black mane lions, gemsbok, mongoose, wild cat, warthog and all kinds of birds. The spares vegetation allows guests to see further into the distance than they would in other parks.
Book your stay in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and get ready for the trip of a lifetime
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