Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park


2 - 11 April 2006


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Kgalagadi Ground Squirrels

  We have been wanting to go to Kgalagadi for some years now and at last the opportunity presented itself when friends asked us to accompany them. They would be camping on the Botswana side for the first few days and we were to join them at Nossub camp for the last 4 days

Day 1
Just before 6 am on April 2nd 2006 we left Alberton for the first leg of our journey to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, previously known as the Kalahari Gemsbok Park till they opened up the border with neighbouring Botswana and it became a transfrontier park.

Just over 800 km later we arrived at Upington which was to be our overnight stop. We stayed at the Eiland resort on the banks of the Orange river, was still in flood after recent heavy rains.

Day 2

At 5 am we were on our way to the park entrance gate at Twee Rivieren camp. After about 200 km the tar road ended and for the last 60 km we shook and rattled our way over a rather bad stretch of corrugated gravel road. We made good time to the Park entrance gate deciding to go fast rather than slow over the corrugations. We hoped that the roads in the park would be better as there was a 50 km/h speed limit and we would have no option but to go slow.

We could see that we were now heading for semi desert as sand dunes became more evident. Due to recent rains they were mostly covered with grass but the dune shapes were obvious.

Twee Rivieren Camp has quaint stone type buildings and after a brief stop for a cold drink and a fuel top-up we headed to Mata Mata camp where we were due to stay for the next two nights.

I should have paid notice to the sign at the garage suggesting a reduction in tyre pressure while traveling in the park.. We were soon to realize that all the roads in the park were rather badly corrugated and because of the speed restriction we experienced the full effect of the corrugations most of the way to Mata Mata..

On the way we spotted herds of gemsbok, springbok, wildebeest also many birds including a selection of raptors.

Upon our arrival at Mata Mata we checked in and were lucky to find a camping spot under a large, shady camel thorn tree where we set up camp and spent the rest of the afternoon just lazing about and chatting to our neighbours.

We are used to camping under shady trees on green lawns and soon realized that we now had to set up camp on sand as there was not a blade of grass in sight! As our tent is usually pitched on a larger groundsheet, the sand just made for a softer surface.

There are two very big plus points in camping in our National Parks. The night skies are as bright as can be as there are no city lights to lessen the effect and you can hear sounds of the bush as you lie in your tent. During our stay we heard hyena, jackal and lions roaring, really wonderful stuff!

Day 3

When the camp gates opened at 7 am were out and about hoping to get some good game sightings. We were hoping for lion, leopard or cheetah sightings but were disappointed. We did spot a couple of lions but they were quite a way from the road in longish grass and we just had a glimpse of them, not good enough for a photo. We spotted some more gemsbok, springbok, wildebeest and some giraffe but nothing more exciting. As it was now becoming quite hot we headed back to camp and spent the afternoon lazing in the tent which was nice and cool because of the shady tree we were camped under.

Day 4

For the next two nights we had booked at Twee Rivieren camp and as I filled up with fuel I decided to follow their advice and lower tyre pressures. On advice from the attendant I lowered pressure to 1.8 bar all around and what a difference that made!! The lower tyre pressures smoothed out the effect of the corrugations and we had a great trip down to Twee Rivieren camp. Nothing spectacular was sighted on the journey from Mata Mata to Twee Rivieren.

The camp was much fuller and our tree was much smaller this time but we still had shade. People arriving later were less fortunate and had to pitch tent in the hot sun! Once again it was a case of first come first served.

We booked to go on a sunset game drive but were disappointed with the sightings, mostly some wild cats and the odd spring hare.

Day 5

Once again we were on the road when the gates opened at 7 am and this time we hit the jackpot when we sighted two cheetah coming down from a dune on our left, crossing the road right in front of us and disappearing into the bush to our right. They really are magnificent animals and I got a few good photos.

Nothing exciting was spotted on the rest of the drive and we headed back to camp to get out of the heat and just relax.

Days 6 - 10

For the next 4 nights we were booked at Nossob camp, a good 160 km of corrugations to the North. The lower tyre pressures helped a great deal and we arrived at Nossob 4 hours later and were again very fortunate to find a camping spot under a large shady tree.

A feature of all the camps are the large number of ground squirrels who are very tame, in fact they will eat out of your hand end some will even let you pet them. I spent quite a bit of time taking photos of them, resulting in some good photos as you can get really up close to them.

Nossob also has itís own jackal population and we were warned not to leave foodstuff outside as the jackals would certainly help themselves!

The four days at Nossob followed the same pattern. As soon as the camp gates opened at 7 am we were out on our morning drive, hoping f or some good and interesting game sightings. We were hoping to spot leopard as well as the magnificent Kalahari lions with their black manes, but neither were sighted on this trip. We saw lots of lion tracks that were made during the night or early morning, but never the real thing.

On our last day at Nossob we were very fortunate to spot a female cheetah and four young. It seemed as if she was teaching them to hunt as she let them chase a springbok which was much too quick for them. Better luck next time, we thought.

Will we visit Kgalagadi again? YES! It is a unique park with unique vegetation and wildlife. It is not as commercialized as the Kruger park and you get that ďback to natureĒ experience. The roads are not THAT bad if you remember to deflate your tyres and I would not recommend the Kgalagadi during summer months. This is one instance where I would. prefer to camp rather than .stay in the camp chalets where you donít get that outdoors experience. I would also suggest that you leave the family sedan at home and use the doublecab or similar type vehicle. (itís not necessary to have a 4x4 unless you specifically want to try a 4x4 trail)