What you need to know about Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
Kalahari - Place of Thirst
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
Would you visit this wild and parched park in Southern Africa? Water holes often barely show any signs of water, except that which is pumped from underground. Settlers had a difficult time surviving there 100 years ago. Even various desert tribes such as the Khoi and Nama struggled to survive in this unforgiving land, although they did a pretty good job.
It’s slightly easier these days to travel through the Kgalagadi, but I’d still advise some planning.
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park formerly known as the Kalahari Gemsbok Park is situated in the Northern Cape. It covers a vast area and spans South Africa & Botswana and Namibia.
This blog will consist mainly of some facts and information you may require or wish to research, if you intend visiting this park. Because we stayed in the South African part of the park only, I will be covering that area.
Desert? Not quite.
This sandy semi-arid area is part of the Kalahari Basin. The Okavango River Delta in Botswana and more than half of Namibia is also part of the basin.
Grass, shrubs and deciduous trees have adapted to grow and survive in the Kalahari sand dunes. After rains, the red dunes are covered in grass that can soon shrivel up in the blazing sun if no further rains fall. Technically though, it is not a true desert.
The climate is harsh in this semi-arid region of the Kalahari, with limited rain. However, it has been known to flood there in recent years. Dramatic dust and thunder storms can be accompanied by strong winds.
In winter temperatures can drop down to -11°C at night. In summer the contrasting air temperature of 42°C and the blistering sun can raise the surface temperature to a scorching 70°C.
We decided that our journey to Kgalagadi from Johannesburg would be impossible to do in one day, as we needed to get to Mata Mata, approximately 120 kilometers in the park, for our first night. We took a detour to Augrabies Falls where we stayed for two nights. We were glad we did, because this gave us an opportunity to see parts of that national park as well as the falls, that were flowing at the time.
A breakdown of some of the distances one needs to travel.
From Johannesburg to Upington - approximately 770 kilometres which takes about 8 hours.
From Upington to Augrabies - approximately 110 kilometres which takes about 1 and a half hours. We had to drive back to Upington to go to Kgalagadi.
From Upington, going north to the gate of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park - approximately 250 kilometers which takes about 2 and a half hours.
Twee Rivieren Camp is at the gate leading into the park.
From Twee Rivieren to Mata Mata – approximately 120 kilometres which takes close to 3 hours without stopping.
Accommodation & places to stay
On the South African side there are various places to stay from Traditional Rest Camps to Wilderness Camps and Lodges.
Three main camps:
At each camp there is a combination of bungalows or chalets, campsites and semi-luxurious accommodation but each camp differs.
Certain periods of the year the park can be extremely full, so I would suggest you check availability well in advance for the period you'd like to be there.
There should be maps available for sale at the entrance at Twee Rivieren, but it may be a good idea to download maps, distances and times it takes to travel, before going.
Planning and preparation
It is necessary to do your research when visiting Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park. It can seem quite complex when you study the information. The condition of the roads can vary from one week to the next and will affect your traveling time. If there is anything interesting to see, such as a lion lazing under a tree next to the road, naturally you will want to stop. You could be enthralled for quite some time and miss the times that the gates close.
Even more important than distance, are the traveling times that are indicated on the SANPARKS website. You may think the distance is short, but there are no tarred roads in the park and some of the traveling will take longer than anticipated. Some of the camps are only accessible by 4 x 4, through thick sand and you may not be allowed to tow a trailer.
Although there are some ‘shops’ at the main campsites, they only sell a few basic supplies. It is mostly self-catering in the national park, and in certain camps you have to supply your own water and firewood. The only restaurant is at Twee Rivieren near the main gate. Needless to say, you'd only be able to make use of it if you are staying there. The luxurious !Xaus Lodge provides full board.
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Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with SANPARKS but their information is quite extensive.