Etienne, being a seasoned traveller and globe-trotter, arrived outside my house at 03:57am and we packed the last couple of bags and headed out at around 04:25am. We were excited and enjoyed the anticipation of the new unkown and traveled 1100km to the gates of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
Kgalagadi, meaning “Land of the thirst”, is southern Africa’s first transfrontier or peace park, created by joining the adjacent Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa and the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana.
A Transfrontier Park comprises of two areas, which border each other across international boundaries and whose primary focus is wildlife conservation. It is based on the principle of nature or ecosystems not recognising national borders, and therefore creates a network of protected areas with linked eco-systems.
We stopped at Upington for supplies, and then after a quick stop the famous Molopo Lodge, we reached the gate at Twee Rivieren at around 16:30. Twee Rivieren is the biggest camp, with a shop, fuel station, swimming pool, mobile phone reception, camp sites and chalets. We spent one night at Twee Rivieren, two nights at Nossob, one night at Mata Mata and the last night again at Twee Rivieren.
Nossob and Mata Mata are also quite organised but not as big as Twee Rivieren. Check out some of the wilderness camps as well, a must see!
Visitors wishing to enter and leave the park from different countries (ie. Botswana and South Africa) need to clear immigration at Twee Rivieren on the South African side and ‘Two River’ in Botswana. The park is quite remote from any direction, lying deep in the Kalahari. Temperatures vary greatly from -11°C on cold winter nights to 42°C in the shade on summer days when the ground surface temperature reaches a sizzling 70°C. During the winter months, when frost is common, the ground surface temperature can be 25°C lower that the temperature of the air. Winter in the Kalahari is a cool, dry season from September to October and then a hot, wet season from November to April.
The total area of the park is 38,000 square kilometres. Approximately three-quarters of the park lies in Botswana and one-quarter in South Africa. Major attractions are the black-maned Kalahari Lion, which tend to be a little bigger and somewhat more imposing than their Lowveld cousins, graceful gemsbok, plentiful springbok, characterful suricates, standing guard at their burrows and the fascinating nests of the social weaver bird. You also don’t need a passport to visit the park from SA’s side.
In fact, all you need is curiosity, a car with good ground clearance, a sense of adventure, enough gin and tonic, ice and wood (can be bought there), and patience.
Big thanks to Etienne for some these amazing photos, as well as the incredible time spent exploring the great Kgalagadi!
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From the big city hustle to the most remote reaches of Africa – we need the spirit of exploration now, more than ever.
Exploration lies at the heart of humanity, and every human deserves the right to be able to explore their surroundings and world, to see extraordinary places and gain new insights and perspectives about the remarkable people around us. Having an awareness and understanding of our natural surroundings has become a necessity, and can no longer be kept out of our vocational responsibility.
By celebrating stories that catalyse curiosity- one of the most important driving factors of self-exploration, the invitation to go beyond our comfort zone stands. The spirit of exploration has the power to move us towards new frontiers. As individuals, but also as a collective. Like The North Face said; ‘in these divided times, there is a call to use the spirit of exploration to bring us closer to one another. To connect to others who may not look like us, to seek out experiences that are different than ours, and to have the courage to understand others’ values.’
It is through the process of curiosity and courage, a symbiotic relationship with all life, and the remarkable ecology of our planet, that we grow and learn and gain empathy for others, as well as for our natural resources.