The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Parkspread the border between South Africa and Botswana, is a semi-desert of red dunes and starry skies where African animals roam wild and visitors get a wilderness fix that Prozac is for the soul.
Once Kalahari sand gets in your shoes, legend has it that you keep pulling it back.
I’ve visited the park 30 times and even wrote a book about it. But I lost my heart on my first visit.
For those who are not there for the first time, here is some useful information to help you plan a Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park safari.
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
Arrival to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
Take the R360 for 250 km from Upington in the North Cape in South Africa via Askham to Twee Rivieren on the border between South Africa and Botswana (total distance from Johannesburg 960 km; from Cape Town 1100 km). If time is short and your pockets are low, fly to Upington from Johannesburg or Cape Town and rent a vehicle there.
Getting around in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
I recommend driving a vehicle with high ground clearance (at least 190 mm) or 4 × 4, especially if the roads are very undulating or muddy in the rainy season (December / January to April). I’ve seen sedans make it here in the dry season (May to November), but who knows what the cost of their suspension!
A 4 × 4 is essential for the guided and self-driving 4 × 4 routes on the South African side and all over the Botswana / east side of the park. Deflate for a smoother ride (and see tip 8 below).
Best time to visit Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
Any time is good depending on what you enjoy. September – November, the end of the dry season, brings animals to the watering holes and many migratory birds. January / February is full of action, good raptor sightings and some electric storms if you don’t mind temperatures of 45-50 ° C. If it has rained well, March may show a greener side of the park and be good for bird watching. Avoid June / July if you hate being cold. Night temperatures can drop to 0 or -10 ° C even though the days are sunny.
What to look for on a safari in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
You are almost certain to spot black-male Kalahari lions and maybe even a leopard, but leave your ‘Big Five’ performances at home as there is no elephant, rhino or buffalo here. Enjoy birds of prey, cheetahs, hyenas, honey badgers, bat ears, meerkats and small creatures like whistling rats and barking geckos.
Overnight in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
SAN Parks Tourist Camp (Twee Rivieren, Nossob, Mata Mata) offer chalets and camping for self-catering, while the six more expensive and exclusive wilderness camps (Gharagab and Bitterpan only for off-road vehicles) are not fenced in for a natural feeling.
The private Xaus Lodge On land returned to the Mier and Khomani San, this is a full board luxury option.
Kgalagadi Lodge Outside the park, 3 miles south of Twee Rivieren, there are self-catering chalets, camping with private facilities and a good little restaurant.
Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) offers unfenced bush camping with long-drop loos in Rooiputs and Polentswa, as well as a number of multi-day hiking trails across the dunes. You need to have a 4 × 4, bring all your water and be completely self-sufficient.
At the other end of the scale are the new private full-board lodges in Rooiputs and Polentswa.
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park Safari
Insider tips for visiting the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
1. Buy the official park info guide in Twee Rivieren for background information on the park’s animals, plants, and neighboring San communities.
2. Bring warm gear when visiting in winter. Use sunscreen and keep yourself hydrated in the summer.
3. The rain falls mainly between January and April, although we got caught in a hailstorm once in September. The dry season is from May to November / December.
4th The safety of the water is suspect. Bring drinking water from home or buy 5 liter jugs of mineral water outside the park where it is cheaper.
5. Fuel can only be bought from Twee Rivieren, Nossob and Mata Mata.
6th Only Twee Rivieren, Nossob and Mata Mata have shops selling bottled water, staples / toiletries and firewood.
7th Budget for at least one early morning guided walk (R313 per person, no children under 16) or a sunset / night ride (R181 per person, children half price) during your visit.
8th. If you’re going on a 4 × 4 trail, use a grass net to protect your radiator and lower the tires to 1.6 bar or less so you don’t get stuck in the thick sand. For safety reasons, drive at least two vehicles.
9. This is a cross-border park. However, if you want to leave the park somewhere other than where you enter, you will need to complete immigration formalities in Twee Rivieren / Two Rivers and stay in the park for at least two nights.
10. Kgalagadi is not a high risk malaria area, but use repellants and cover up at dusk in summer.