This is a series of posts documenting our trip to the Kgalagadi transfrontier park. I have to rely on my photos and 2 year old notes for this, but this is an ignored park which deserves more attention than it gets.These posts are dedicated to our guides, ( cum driver and cook) Thys Burger and his wife Maureen who were a big part of making this trip a one to remember.
It was my third trip to Africa (Kenya, Tanzania earlier) and my wife’s second trip to the continent after our honeymoon to Tanzania. This was the first time I had independently booked a trip abroad and although I never met the owner Pieter, I have only good things to say about him and his company ,Kalahari Safaris who made the entire booking process very easy and were also kind enough to book bus tickets for our journey after the safari from Upington to Cape Town when we couldn’t do the same from India. A big thumbs up for them!!
We arrived at Upington airport via Johannesburg from Mumbai and we were received by Thys and his wife Maureen. We loaded our luggage up in their land cruiser and we were off to Upington town to buy groceries for our 4 day trip. This I found to be a great idea as we could buy things which we wanted to eat instead of having a fixed menu. Unlike other national parks in Kenya and Tanzania which have resorts which have a huge variety of food, the Kgalagadi has Chalets by the South African National Parks which provide you with a full fledged kitchen to cook your own food. There are no restaurants in the region so don’t expect gourmet food.
We drove from Upington to Twee Rivieren across a smooth road which is straight as an arrow and we covered 260 km in 3 hrs flat. We reached and took a ” We were here photo” before we entered.
We registered at the desk and did the paperwork and proceeded to our allotted chalet. Twee Rivieren, named so because its at the junction of the two dry rivers of the Kgalagadi (The Aub and the Nossob) is the closest to the gate of the Park and the most luxurious & developed of all the rest camps with a restaurant and a swimming pool. (Not that we intended to use either!!)
We set down our luggage and registered for a night safari which is organised by the rest camp in their vehicles. August in the Kalahari, means temperatures hovering around zero at night making night safaris not a very pleasant thing to do but I am a hard core safari guy and miss no opportunity to go out into the park.
We saw owls, genet cats, bat eared foxes and wild cats which are nocturnal creatures and we wouldn’t have seen them if not for the night safari. Our other night safari at Nossob was one for the ages but that is topic for another post.
We came back to a hot dinner of barbecued meats and veggies with toasted bread, cheese and fruits prepared by our guides. We were so cold after the safari that the hot food was like heaven. We ate like pigs and curled up under the thick blankets and slept. It had been a long day!!
The next morning we had a hot shower, a basic breakfast and set out for our first day safari into the park. Lunch would be at one of the picnic spots dotting the park midway through the safari. These picnic spots are unfenced and you can actually be eaten by a lion though its highly unlikely!!
The first creatures we encountered were a group of Meerkats the mascots of the Park. They are amazingly photogenic and I gladly obliged. After I had my fill we moved on and saw a amazing range of small birds who were a challenge to photograph from the Land cruiser as you can’t stand in these unlike the pop top ones in Kenya / Tanzania.
For a desert there are an amazing array of birds. Small birds to raptors to ostriches and due to the sparse vegetation you get amazing photos.
We also got a photo of the sandgrouse which is a extremely timid bird and scurries away at the slightest provocation and we caught one on the camera before it scurried away into the grass.
As we went further we got a further surprise, another rare sighting of the African Cape Fox which is not seen routinely at close quarters. This one stayed for some time and gave me great photographs. After a while he decided we were not interesting enough and moved on.
After this we saw a huge herd of the Springbok, the mascot of the South Africa. These antelope are named so because of their characteristic springy gait. I was surprised to see this large a herd in such a dry region and Thys informed us that this was a small herd as there had been even lesser rain than usual last year in the region.
Soon it was time for lunch which was 2 minute noodles with salad and cheese sandwiches. After lunch we started towards our next rest camp which was the Kalahari tented camp. As you may have realised there no set safari times in the Kgalagadi. We can move around as much as time permits in the direction of the rest camp as gates close at a fixed time and there are hefty fines for breaking time rules.
We saw the iconic Gemsbok, a special desert adapted antelope and the huge kori bustard. But the sighting which thrilled me the most was of the Martial Eagle sitting on a high branch just in reach of the 300 mm. The magnificent raptor capped a eventful day.
I will rave about the Kalahari tented camp in my next post as it is the best national park camp/ hotel I have stayed in till date.