The Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park was created in the year 1999 after combining two National Parks that is the Gemsbok National park in Botswana and the Kalahari National park in South Africa. The Gemsbok National park was created in the year 1938 but since it shared a border with the Kalahari, meetings were set up to join the two parks so that the animals in the area were protected. The Park is commonly known for having some of the dry weather resistant animals that can live in the desert for more a longer time without water and some of the specials here include the black maned lions, gemsbok, cheetahs and leopards.
What you need to know before travelling to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National park
There are a few things that you need to know when it comes to exploring this National Park and if you want to enjoy your stay here, it is of great importance that you follow them and these include:
The Park opens at different hours depending on the months and therefore before planning your safari, make sure that you get to know the time that it opens and closes in the months that you want to visit.
Make sure that you get to ask and get the necessary vaccines before traveling to the park.
Just in case your car breaks down while in the park, do not make the mistake of moving out but stay inside your car until you get help because you might be attacked by lions.
You are not allowed to carry any pets into the park and as you take the nature walks through the Park, make sure you check your shoes properly because you might get bitten by a very poisonous scorpion.
You are not allowed to enter the National park with firearms as this is in a bid to avoid poaching within the park.
Some of the activities that you can carry out when you visit the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National park include the following.
Game viewing in the Transfrontier Park is always carried out during the winter season which runs between the months of June to August. These months are always dry with extremely scarce vegetation around which allows for easy spotting of the animals. Drive through the Park and get to see some of the wild animals that habitate within the park some of which include the blue wildebeest, the eland, the springbok, the African leopards, black maned lions, cheetahs, hyenas, endangered wild dogs, bat eared foxes, meerkat and many more other animal species.
Visit the local communities that live around the Transfrontier and there are two major communities that live around the Transfrontier and these include the Khomani community and the Mier community. The Khomani community is a group of people who speak different languages and practice different traditions but live in the same area whereas the Mier community are natural farmers who rear goats, sheep and other domestic animals within the Kalahari Desert. Getting to meet these two communities and interacting with them will give you a clear view of the different cultures that are practiced within Botswana.
Explore the Kgalagadi museum, entrance to the museum is free for all tourists irrelevant of their ages and it is always open from 7:00am and closes at 6:00pm an hour before the Park officially closes. There are several antiques that are kept within the museum that depict the lifestyle of the locals in Botswana, paintings of a few animals within the Park and it is a perfect place for one to learn about the history of the National Park and how it came about.
Go for a self-drive through the Park, all you need to fulfil this dream of a self-drive through Transfrontier is by having an extremely good 4×4 vehicle, a map of the Park and knowing when to go for the self-drive. There are routes that are marked for drives and once you follow them you will be rewarded with a great view of the wild life in the Park.
Go for a meerkats trekking, these small animals are extremely entertaining to watch and the only way you can get to see them is by driving to the twee visitors Centre where they are always playing in large numbers.
Shop from the locals, there are always Bushmen at the entrance of the National park and these sell hand-made jewelry that you can get as a souvenir for your loved ones back home or you can go to the shops that are found within the camps where you will be able to purchase yourself unique items like ostrich eggs and maps for the self-drives.
Go for guided day walks within the park, these are majorly carried out following a certain pattern so that you do not bump into any dangerous animals although you can still view them from a distance. They are normally carried out in the evening and mornings because then the heat is bearable unlike in the afternoons when the heat is too much and remember to take lots of bottled water as you head down for the guided walks to keep hydrated.
When to visit the Transfrontier National park
The park experiences two seasons that is the summer season and the winter season. The winter season is experienced in the months of June to August with dry air making it a dry season. Although this is the winter season unlike other countries, during this time the park experiences drought which leads to many of the animals moving towards the few water holes that have not yet dried up and this makes it easy for tourist to spot the animals.
The summer season is experienced within the months of October to April and during this time, you will find that there are several thunderstorms within the park commonly known as the Kalahari thunderstorms although the rainfall is always about 100mm. you can still drive around the park but it is advisable that you go during the winter times.
Getting to the Transfrontier Park
Getting to the park is not all that difficult especially if you are using road transportation and during the dry season. you can either hire a car which is a 4×4 or go with a tour company but if you want to get there on time, then you will have to use a plane although you will need to first get permission from the Parks before landing.
When driving through the Transfrontier national park, make sure that you have a 4×4 car because there are some parts of the park that are not easily accessible especially the routes that are follow River beds that is the Auob and the Nassob. Although the roads within the park are all gravel, they tend to be hard to access especially during the months of October to April which experience the Kalahari thunderstorms.
If you are planning on exploring the Transfrontier National Park make sure that you arrive before sunset as the Park officials do not allow driving through the Park at night and make sure that you carry the necessary items that are needed for camping while in the Park like necessary clothes and food items.
Accommodation within the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National park
There are several accommodation facilities that are located within the National Park and it all depends on what exactly you want because they have all rooms that fit into everyone’s budget and liking. The Botswana side of the park majorly has camps for accommodation facilities and these include:
The Rooiputs camp, this is an extremely simple camp with no facilities available and it is located along the Nossob River. It can easily be accessed since it is not very far away from the gate entrance but note that there are about six different campsite within the Rooiputs.
The Mpaathutlwa campsite, this is a bit better than the Rooiputs as it at least has a latrine and you can refresh from the water hole that is in close vicinity of the camp.
The Mabuasehube Pan, this is located in the eastern part of the Park and one of the best camps that you can rest from while in the Par. There are also several other individual camps that are set up by the different tourists who want to have a good feel of the wild in Botswana. If you are not contented with resting in any of the camps that are located within the park, you can also set up your own tents but after informing the management of the Park.
Before travelling to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National park, it is important if you first find out whether the time that you want to visit the Park is actually conducive or you will need to reschedule. This will help you not to blunder by travelling to the Park during the floods and this can be done either by calling the National park directly or inquiring from your tour operator.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is one of the largest wildlife conservation areas that have survived human habitation throughout the world. The conservation area stretches from South Africa’s Kalahari Gemsbok Park and to the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana for a total area of 38,000sq km.
Wildlife in Kgalagadi
A large part of the Kgalagadi is found in Botswana but the absentia of protective barriers for the parks makes it easy for the animals to cross from one side to another. The park is largely under the Kalahari Desert with also rising red sand dunes, sparse savanna vegetation, dry riverbeds from Nossob and Auob rivers and a few standing trees-even with such gloomy landscape there is abundant wildlife that lives here. The salt pans fill up with water during the rainy season and contain nutrient-rich soils, and salts thus attracting some thirsty herds to the water points.
The gemsbok is the pride of this park with several herds visiting the pans after the heavy rains. The vast park is home to the wildebeest, eland, hartebeest and springbok, and a healthy population of large predators – lions, leopards, cheetah and hyena. Bird watching is a delight with species such as vultures, eagles, buzzards, secretary beds, weavers, pygmy falcons and many other birds.
How to get there
Game viewing can be done all through the year but the best time to visit the park March to May when the rains recede to make several water pans around the park. the roads through the park are not well maintained as thus may need a sturdy 4X4 truck as you visit the different parts of the park.
The park is accessed through its five park gates in Botswana and South Africa. From South Africa, use the Twee Riviren gate to do all the fees, fire arm clearing and also get guides. While on Botswana holidays, the park is reached via the Two-rivers gate, Mabuasehube and Kaa gates or from the border posts. Arriving from Namibia, the park is reached from Mamuno border and then drive towards Mat-Mata gate.
Although there are no luxury safari lodges and camping facilities for Kgalagadi Transfrontier park, there are about 6 basic camps on the south African side including Bitterpan wilderness camp, Twee Rivieren rest camp, Grootkolk wilderness camp, Mata Mata rest camp, Kalahari tent camp and Nossob rest camp. From Botswana, camping is done at Polentswa, Rooiputs and two rivers camp in Mabuasehube. You are however cautioned to carry drinking water, firewood and food if you’ll be camping here.
In case you are looking forward to seeing the adventures from the other side of the park i.e. for South Africa, you are encouraged to spend one or two nights to be on the safe side!