During our last night in the Kgalagadi, a strange longing got hold of me… I was still in the park but I already missed it deeply, knowing we will leave this wonderful place the next morning. This is what the Kgalagadi does to you…
As part of the preparations for our trip to the Kgalagadi, we spoke to fellow travelers and photographers who frequent this park on a regular basis. Listening to them, we realised that there is something special about this place. The way they spoke about it sounded more like a romance we are embarking on, than a destination we’re planning to explore!
After many weeks of going over our to-do lists while preparing our camping trailer (a Metalian Maxi) and the vehicle (a Land Cruiser GX 80 kitted out by Front Runner Vehicle Outfitters), we were ready to head north towards the Kalahari desert. With camping it makes sense to prepare well. We travel with a National Luna fridge/freezer to keep our food fresh and drinks cold. Preparations included preparing for lots of dust – a dustpan and brush for camping equipment and a camera cleaning kit. Most of our camping equipment fits safely in canvas bags. It also keeps things clean. Camp Cover offers canvas bag solutions for all popular makes of equipment, including gas bottles, pots and pans, tools, recovery gear, fridge covers, transit bags and loads more. It really makes a difference to have everything organised neatly.
We booked a few nights in all the main camps (Twee Rivieren, Nossob and Mata-Mata) to experience the different areas in the park. Each camp has a uniqueness to it in style, location and atmosphere. For those traveling in a high clearance vehicle (4×4 in some cases), without children and not towing anything, have a look at the Wilderness Camps. These camps are purpose-built to blend into the environment and offer cleverly designed units to make the most of the remoteness and desert landscapes.
Ok, back to our trip. We started off at Twee Rivieren. The reception area is probably the largest building in the whole park as it hosts reception areas, customs desks and police services for both Botswana and South Africa. The visitor centre has an impressive photo exhibition featuring some of the best landscape and nature photography taken in the Kgalagadi. The camp is situated where the Auob- and Nossob rivers meet. This has the benefit of a wider choice for game drives as you can head up towards Mata-Mata or towards Nossob. There are many waterholes in close proximity to the camp, so the game viewing is excellent! The campsite has 24 stands with many large trees that makes for comfortable camping.
The birdlife here is exceptional! Some of the best birding is done just relaxing in your camp chair.
Before leaving Twee Rivieren for one of the northern camps, reduce your tyre pressure to 1,6 bar. The staff at the fuel station will gladly help you with this. The softer tyres make the gravel roads a bit more comfortable, and it reduces the forming of the corrugation (that’s the sandy bumps caused by vehicle tyres on gravel roads. Be sure to make your last phone calls as there is no cellphone reception in the rest of the park (a relief for most)!
We headed north towards Nossob Rest Camp approximately a 3,5 hrs drive past Leeuwdril, Kij,Kij, Marie se Gat en Rooikop waterholes, to name a few. Plan this part of the trip to spend some time at the waterholes and to allow game viewing on route. Dikbaardskolk picnic site is a good spot to stop for coffee, and stretch the legs along the way. Nossob was our favourite camp, probably due to its remote location and the fact that we spotted the famous black-maned lions every day…and the 4 honey badgers…and the brown hyena!
The campsite at Nossob is comfortable with lots of trees for shade. It’s flat and the campsites are large. The camp has a small shop, information centre with spectacular photography of the area and a swimming pool for those hot summer days. Fuel is available at the pumps next to reception. Our game viewing was mainly around Cubitje Quap and Kwang, both waterholes situated north of Nossob. For those lazy days when you want to relax in camp, take a stroll down to the hide overlooking the waterhole near camp. It’s a good idea to visit the hide early mornings and evenings to spot some of the nocturnal animals. One of the highlights at Nossob is the short walking trail that starts at the shop and leads you along the fence that runs along the dry river bed. A late afternoon stroll can deliver wildlife on their way to the waterhole.
The birdlife is exceptional around the Nossob area. The waterholes offer loads of action as hundreds of sandgrouse and doves quench their thirst while dodging the black-backed jackal trying to make a meal of them. Be ready with your camera and be patient!
Our next destination was Mata-Mata, situated on the western border of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. This is cheetah country! On our first morning game drive we spotted two cheetahs on the hunt. They were perched on a nearby dune to get a good view of the surroundings from where they spotted their prey. We had a great view of the action as the hunt unfolded, and the cats carefully moved in on a herd of springbok grazing in a valley just on the other side of the dune. As the two cats moved closer, they blended into the surrounding bush. As the younger of the two cheetah exploded into action, the springbok had no idea they were being hunted. But the cat was overeager and spooked the antelope who quickly made an escape down the valley floor. The real action then followed as the mother cheetah (we presumed), gave the fully grown cub a proper hiding for spoiling the hunt!
Mata-Mata’s campsite has plenty of large, shady Acacia trees to put up camp. A small shop, filling station and swimming pool is also available.
Our journey south towards Twee Rivieren delivered a pride of lions with cubs, a pair of mating lions, a small journey of giraffe, two cheetahs, a honey badger, black-backed jackal and lots of antelope. We spotted a Striped Kingfisher in a tree next to road. It was a lifer (first sighting) for us, so we eagerly ticked it on the Sasol eBirds app.
So what is it that makes the Kgalagadi this special? The wildness of the park with its gravel roads and remote location of its camps? The friendliness of the people you meet in the campsites, visiting the park almost obsessively? The incredible animals and birds? It must be all of the above! I now understand why travelers become addicted to the Kgalagadi. This place will see us again soon!
The Kgalagadi is well suited for adventurous travelers as well as families that enjoy wilder destinations.