How to prepare for off the grid camping in Kgalagadi
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park – Botswana
When you mention the Kalahari one envisages remote and deserted spaces; red sand dunes and wild animals. A section of it homes the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and a few years ago we camped on the South African side. This year we’ve been given the opportunity to go with friends and camp on the Botswana side. It boasts basic unfenced campsites which means off the grid camping. What does this entail?
The Kalahari or Kgalagadi is an enormous area that straddles South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. Within this region is the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park that shoulders the eastern to south-eastern border of Namibia.
The park is vast at 38 000 km² and overlaps South Africa and Botswana. It has traditional rest camps, safari tents, wilderness camps and a luxury safari lodge on the South African side. Most of those are easily accessible but can take time to get to.
On the Botswana side of the park there are only sand roads where 4-wheel drive is essential and takes even longer to traverse. One must take this into account when planning the logistics of camping there. I will be highlighting facts that I have picked up while planning for our trip to the Botswana side.
7 things to consider when wanting to camp off grid on the wild side of Kgalagadi, Botswana
It is necessary to calculate the fuel required. There is only fuel available on the South African side or a distance outside the park on the Botswana side. Keep in mind the terrain you will be traveling and your position. Although not all distances are long, the terrain may cause fuel to be guzzled. Allow for enough to get to the nearest petrol station. At times, pumps have been known to run dry, so it is a good idea to have a reserve supply.
Water is a rare commodity in the Kgalagadi. The main camps on the South African side have water but may not always be palatable drinking water – however you should be able to buy at the shops at those camps. It would be advisable to bring enough drinking water for the Botswana side as water is limited to certain camps or at the main entrance from Botswana. Don’t expect hot water either. So no standing for hours under the shower or soaking in a luxurious bath.
3. Electric power
There is no electric power at the unfenced camps in Botswana. How do you keep your meat frozen or your wine cold? That’s an entire topic that could be discussed on its own. Suffice to say we will be using solar panels, inverters and spare batteries to keep one fridge/freezer running and some electronic equipment such as cameras and torches (which is essential) charged from time to time. Cell phones? That’s another story. See point 6 – communication.
4. Nature calls
On to a delicate matter – when nature calls. You have a choice of a long drop otherwise known as pit toilet. That’s it. When nature calls in the middle of the night… I would advise you invest in a portable loo if you don’t want to use the pit toilet. Here are the choices:
The pit toilet. I have heard it’s disgusting. I’m not opposed to using a pit toilet and have done so in the past, but those were usually clean and well maintained. These apparently are not always the case. Besides, you won’t find me walking outside in the dark.
Bucket with a lid, pool noodle and a toilet seat. Pinterest has some great ideas for homemade portable loos.
Sitting on your haunches in the bush. I’m not sure if that is allowed, but I for one, wouldn’t want to be reacting to another call of nature while in a compromised position and have the possibility of a lion sampling a piece of my rump even though there is enough for him to bite a sizable chunk for his dinner.
Portable camping toilets. They are quite expensive but sometimes I think worth the price.
A camping fridge or freezer has limited space. Plan your meals carefully. Have a few emergency tinned foods or instant meals to rely on.
There is no cell reception in most of the park. The only places that I am aware of are Twee Rivieren and Mata Mata on the South African side. If you need to communicate, it would be advisable to have a satellite phone.
Minimise your refuse as apparently it is not collected on a regular basis and if possible place it in a strong bag, seal it and take it back with you.
There are many more factors to consider, I’m sure, so if you have any suggestions, let me know. Here are a few more tips.
Remember that fuel, water and other liquids are heavy. Everything you take with adds extra weight which can be a disadvantage when driving through soft sand over the dunes.
A couple of extras to take with: Tools, puncture repair kit, duct tape, medical aid kit.
Precook some meals to heat quickly for those nights when a lion is prowling around your campsite. Or rely on a few snack bars!
Does this sound like an ideal trip to you? And I let myself be talked into this! Do you think I’m crazy? I’m beginning to think so…
P.S. I have created a few lists over the years for the times we have camped. I’d be interested to know if anyone would be interested in receiving those lists. Please let me know.