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Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park – Ten Things You Need to Know Before Visiting
If you are planning an African safari in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, there are a few things you should know about the park before you arrive. It is one of the largest parks in Africa and offers many opportunities for recreation, learning, wildlife viewing and nature photography.
Here’s an overview of Kgalagadi:
1. Uniqueness – The park is unique in that it consists of an endless sea of red sand dunes where herds of wildebeest, wildebeest, eland and blue wildebeest follow the seasons, while imposing camel thorn trees provide shade for huge black-maned lions and a vantage point for leopards and many raptors. Welcome to Kgalagadi!
2. Location and history – The park is located in the South African province of Northern Cape and borders Namibia to the west and Botswana to the east. The Kalahari Gemsbok National Park was declared in 1931 and merged with the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana in 2000 to form the first transboundary park in Africa.
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 has more than 120,000 visitors each year.
4. Known for – Birds of prey, camping in the wilderness, over fifty watercourses along the tourist roads and in the campsites, fantastic displays of wildflowers, like devil’s claw in summer, and excellent opportunities to photograph animals and landscapes.
5. Roads – The roads leading to the park from Johannesburg and Cape Town are all paved, but the roads in the park are macadam. You don’t need a 4×4 unless you’re going to Botswana or staying at the Bitterpan or Gharagab Wilderness Camps. The park is located 350 km from Upington in the Northern Cape and about 900 km from Johannesburg. You can fly to Upington and then hire a car or drive as the roads are in good condition.
6. Time – Kgalagadi means ‘land of thirst’ in the local San language, so summers are hot and can reach 50 degrees Celsius, while winter days are mild, but nights can get cold with temperatures below zero degrees Celsius. The annual amount of precipitation is about 200 mm, and it falls mainly between December and April. Two rivers flow 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 luxury lodge (!Xaus Lodge) and six wilderness camps, all with fully equipped kitchens and private bathrooms in cabins and cabins. There are camping sites in the three main camps. ‘Twee Rivieren’ means ‘two rivers’ in Dutch and, as the name implies, the camp is located at the confluence of the Nossob and Auob rivers.
8. Activities and contents– You can go on morning drives or sunset drives, morning walks, 4×4 trails, self-driving safaris, and there are also lectures and slide shows. There are only four game viewing roads – two long river roads that follow the dry beds of the Nossob and Auob rivers and two short dune roads that connect the two long roads. There are also picnic areas, shops at the three main camps and swimming pools at the three main camps plus the Kalahari Tented Camp. Nossob and Mata Mata have a hideout in the camp where you can watch the animals drinking day or night. All campsites, except Twee Rivieren, have their own watering hole where animals can be observed day and night. Only Twee Rivieren, as the largest camp, has a restaurant.
9. Safety tips – Please hydrate well, especially in the summer months. Walk around the campgrounds at night in shoes and use a flashlight as there are a lot of scorpions and stay in your vehicles while in the park!
10. Things to look for in Kgalagadi:
1. Gemsbok – these striking desert antelopes are the emblem of the park.
2. Meerkats – 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. Social weavers – these little birds build huge communal nests that become so heavy they can break the branch they are on!
5. Peregrine falcon – the park is famous for its birds of prey, the peregrine falcon is the smallest falcon in Africa, often seen near social weaver colonies hunting birds.
6. Brown hyena – this is a rare sighting – look out for them between dusk and dawn
7. Presentation of predators in Camp Nossob, photographic presentation in Twee Rivieren and Auchterlonie museum in the bed of the river Auob
8. Summer storms and cloud formations make amazing landscape photos
9. Wilderness camps are unbeatable for a true wilderness experience
10. Panoramic view from the towers in Gharagab and Bitterpan wilderness camps
The remoteness of the park and the feeling of true wilderness have a magic that entices visitors to return year after year!
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