The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
If you’re looking for something different on your next safari, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is a good match for you. This vast conservation area is filled with unique sites, fun activities, and diverse fauna and flora.
About Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park borders Namibia as it sprawls across some of South Africa and Botswana’s most unique terrain.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is one of the world’s largest conservation areas, spanning some 38 000 km2 of red sand dunes and sparse vegetation.
The best time to visit this natural wonderland is from March to May at the end of the wet season, where you’ll find many animals congregated around the predominantly dry Nossob and Auob Riverbeds.
May is the best month for game viewing in the Kgalagadi.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park occupies a large sand-filled basin in the far north of South Africa’s Northern Cape Province. The closest town is Upington, some 250 km distant.
The Kgalagadi and Khoi people lived relatively undisturbed in this area until 1884, when Germany colonized South West Africa, attracting settlers and traders to the Kalahari.
South Africans first arrived in this part of the world in 1914, stationed there to provide a corridor to invade German South West Africa if needed. These settlers arrived with their cattle and set up boreholes all along the dry Auob River.
Later, the government divided the area up into farms and allocated these to farmers. These settlers struggled to carve a living out of this harsh terrain and soon turned to hunting as a way to survive.
Their activities had a severe negative impact on game populations in the area, which attracted the attention of government officials, who sent conservationists to the Kgalagadi to come up with a conservation plan.
By 1931, the Minister of Lands, Piet Grobler, proclaimed the area between the Auob and Nossob Rivers a national park and relocated all the residents. In 1935, the Union of South Africa bought a row of farms along the Auob River and added these to the existing conservation area.
In 1938, the British Government followed suit by proclaiming a game reserve across the Nossob, in Bechuanaland (Botswana) leaving the border with South Africa unfenced.
In 1971 the Botswana Gemsbok National Park incorporated the neighboring Mabuasehube Game Reserve and joined forces with the Gemsbok National Park on 12 May 2000 to form the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park has ten rest camps available to travelers. Here’s what’s on offer within its boundaries:
Main Rest Camps
There are three main rest camps offering a range of accommodation options and varied facilities as follows:
Twee Rivieren is the largest rest camp and administrative HQ of the park. It’s the hub of park activities located in a prime game viewing area on the banks of the dry Nossob River.
Twee Rivieren has a reception, fuel station, shop, restaurant, swimming pool, and information center as well as electricity and cell phone reception. It is the only camp with an ATM on site.
You can choose from the following at Twee Rivieren rest camp:
- Campsites with or without electricity accommodating six people
- Air-conditioned family cottages accommodating three or four people
- Air-conditioned two sleeper cottages
- Six sleeper chalets with air-conditioning
Apart from the campsites, the accommodation has a basic kitchen and an en-suite bathroom with a shower.
Mata Mata borders the Auob River on the park’s western boundary with Namibia, two hours’ drive from Twee Rivieren. It has a reception area, fuel depot, restaurant, shop, and swimming pool.
There is electricity provided by a generator, for 16.5 hours per day, and no cell phone reception.
These are the accommodation options at Mata Mata:
- Campsites with power points accommodating six people
- Two and six sleeper air-conditioned chalets with a hot plate and fridge
- Two and four sleeper air-conditioned riverside chalets with full kitchens
All the chalets have en-suite bathrooms while the campsites have a communal ablution block.
Nossob Rest Camp occupies the dry Nossob riverbed and is famous for outstanding predator sightings. It has generator electricity for 16.5 hours per day, and no cell phone reception.
There is a reception area, predator information center, shop, fuel depot, and swimming pool on site.
Nossob is 3,5 hrs drive from Twee Rivieren.
Accommodation options include:
- Non-electrified campsites accommodating six people
- Premier 6-sleeper campsites with a private kitchen and bathroom
- Two, three, and six-sleeper air-conditioned chalets with a fridge and hot plate
- Air-conditioned family cottages with a basic kitchen
- Two and four-sleeper riverfront chalets with full kitchens, air-conditioning, and DStv
These private camps, nestled in remote areas of the park with access to private waterholes, are accessible only to those with bookings.
The six wilderness camps are not fenced and have communal kitchens and ablutions. They feature tents, reed huts, or chalets.
This 24-bed thatched luxury safari lodge is owned by the local community and offers a supremely luxurious experience in the heart of the desert.
It boasts a swimming pool, plush lounge with a fireplace, a boma, and a large observation deck overlooking a salt pan. Twice daily guided game drives and fine dining are part of the attraction at this exclusive lodge.
Camping at Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park
Apart from Twee Rivieren, you can book campsites in Botswana at Polentswa, Rooiputs and the Mabuasehube area.
SANParks welcomes children at all its camps, but some of the more rustic options may not suit younger children.
There are no conference facilities in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park as yet.
You can book morning and sunset drives at the Kalahari Tented Wilderness camp, Twee Rivieren, Mata Mata, and Nossob camps.
There is a 4×4 Eco Trail available to book from Nossob Camp and you can also explore the following self-guided 4×4 drives:
- Bitterpan Trail
- Mabuasehube Wilderness Trail – 155km
- Wilderness Trail (starting at Polentswa)
- Nossob Riverbed to Mabuasehube
- Kannaguass to Kaa Gate and campsite
Only the main rest camps and !Xaus Lodge offer dining facilities. Guests must provide all their own cooking equipment and food when they visit the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. The shops at the main rest camps stock only the basic necessities.
Fauna and Flora
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park isn’t a Big Five destination, but it offers excellent opportunities to spot predators, like black-maned lion, leopard, cheetah, and brown and spotted hyena.
Due to the sparse vegetation of the park, it’s easy to see large mammals like springbok, blue wildebeest, and red hartebeest as well as meerkats and ground squirrels. Rare species include pangolins, honey badgers, and bat-eared foxes.
About 280 species of birds have been recorded in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park but only 92 of these are resident. The rest come and go as the seasons change.
Many raptors frequent the area, and you should enjoy sightings of tawny eagles, snake eagles, lappet-faced and white-backed vultures. Some of the smaller raptors include goshawks, falcons, and kestrels.
You might even get to see some of the less common species like bokmakieries, martial eagles, golden-breasted buntings, black-faced waxbills, and buffy pipits.
Packing List for visiting the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
Antimalarials aren’t necessary in Kgalagadi but there are some essentials you’ll need for your trip:
- Sun protection
- Body lotion
- Swimming costume and towels
- Sturdy, comfortable walking shoes
- A map and guidebook
- A torch
- Insect repellent
- Water bottles
Don’t forget a camera with memory cards and chargers for all your electronics.
You can book your trip to the Kgalagadi with a tour operator, but you’ll have just as much fun exploring on your own. You can’t go into this game reserve without a 4×4.
You don’t need a passport to explore the park, provided you arrive and depart from the same country.
Directions from Cape Town:
The Kgalagadi is a remote destination, located far from civilization. It’s 1 100 km from Cape Town and 960 km from Johannesburg.
Directions from Cape Town:
- Take the N1 from Cape Town and merge onto the N7 at Malmesbury
- Take the R27 towards Vredendal
- At Keimoes, take the N14
- At Upington, take the R360 to Askham
- Follow the signs to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
- Take the N1 or N14 to Vryburg
- Continue on the N14 to Kuruman and Askham
- Follow the signs to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
The easiest way to get to the Kgalagadi without a long drive is to fly into Upington and hire a car from there.
Please Note: The details shared herein were correct at the time of publishing. However, with time some of this information may change. We recommend confirming information with suppliers prior to making final travel arrangements. If you do happen to find an issue with any information we’ve shared here, please feel free to contact us so that we can make the relevant changes.