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Trip Report Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park-Dennis's Trip Report

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Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
September 12-23, 2008

Roundtrip Airfare from Hilo, Hawaii to Johannesburg- $2000.00 pp
Roundtrip Airfare from Johannesburg to Upington-$185.00 pp
4X4 Truck Rental for 12 days-$1600.00
11 Nights Lodging in Kgalagadi- $825.00
Park Fees- $0 (Still had my Wild Card from last year)
Gas- $340.00
Food- $300.00
Gin- $72.00
Total Miles Driven- 1,537
First EVER cheetah sighting- PRICELESS!

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is a large (14,668 square mile) park straddling the South Africa and Botswana borders in the Southern Kalahari Desert. Kgalagadi means “place of thirst” and the terrain is sandy with sparse vegetation. On the South Africa side there are 9 camps- 3 traditional camps and 6 wilderness (unfenced camps). The roads are sand or gravel, heavily corrugated, the skies are clear and the scenery is spectacular. The three traditional camps all have shops with mostly canned goods, ice, liquor and souvenirs and all have gas pumps-the only places to buy gas.

After last year’s self-drive trip through Kruger, I wanted something a little wilder and less crowded so I did some research through sanparks website and decided to go to Kgalagadi. Booked 4 nights in 2 traditional camps and 7 nights in 4 different wilderness camps.

Hilo to Twee Rivieren:
We left Hilo, flew to Honolulu then to San Francisco where we overnighted at the Clarion Airport Hotel. Pretty nice hotel, convenient to the airport and the lounge was opened until midnight, so had the first g & t’s of the trip. Left in the next morning for JFK. The United plane was all economy plus so it was a comfortable trip across the country. My duffel and back pack weighed less than 20 pounds, so carried both of them on the plane with no problem. Landed on time and took the train thing to the South African Airlines gate and off we went. The flights were long but even in economy, I had plenty of legroom and a wide choice of movies to keep me entertained.

Arrived in Johannesburg, went through customs and boarded the shuttle for the Southern Sun hotel near the airport. We stayed there last year and though the price had gone up ($190.00) it was comfortable and convenient. Had a great steak dinner and some double g & t’s ($40.00 for 2) and then off to sleep.

Got up early for our flight to Upington. The plane was a 29 seater, smooth hour and a half flight. Picked up the car (a 4X4 extend cab Nissan with a shell) and we drove into Upington to buy supplies for our 11 night stay. Found the grocery store with no problems and loaded up two shopping carts with food, coolers and hopefully everything we needed. Bought a stick of salami that was the best salami I’ve ever tasted and had salami and crackers at (almost) every sundower drive we took (with g & t’s of course)

Then off to the bottle shop for some gin when disaster struck…my Capital One card was declined! I had called them before I left to tell them not to cut it off but they did anyway. Luckily the shop took my ATM card so the gin was carefully loaded into the back of the truck with the rest of the groceries. Thought I had the round-about thing down when all of a sudden an ambulance (that I was heading straight into) sounded it’s siren and flashed it’s red lights. Oops, guess I didn’t have the round-about thing down, but soon found our way onto Highway 10 heading for Kgalagadi. It’s 265 km to the park on a very uninteresting, boring highway. To pass the time I started counting the bat-eared foxes that littered the road as flat bat-eared foxes. Lost count at 143! The last 30 km is gravel, but they are paving a new road into the park and it should be done someday soon. We did see the domestic Big 5 before we hit the park gate- Cow, Sheep, Donkey, Goat and Horse, so at least if things were slow at the park, we could check those off our list.

Twee Rivieren is the main entrance gate to the South African side of the park and the largest camp in the park. On the other side of the road you can see the Two Rivers, Botswana entrance. The camp is nice, with stone chalets. The chalets had 1 bedroom and 2 more beds just inside the door. There was a toilet, shower, sink, hot-plate, refrigerator, air conditioning and came equipped with all the kitchen utensils, plates etc, towels and soap and a braai off the patio. The camp has a restaurant, shop and the only phone in the whole park. The beds were comfortable but the pillows were thin and hard.

We got settled in, put all the meat into the freezer and went for our first game drive. We saw a lot of ostrich, springbok, wildebeest, jackal and Gemsbok-a beautiful animal! No cat sightings at all, but the scenery was beautiful and had a g & t, some salami and crackers at the waterhole and was happy to be back in Africa!

My opinion on Twee Rivieren: nice, quiet camp with a swimming pool and depending on your flight into Upington, the only camp that you can stay at on the first night in the park.
The shop is well-stocked except for fresh vegetables, the restaurant is good and for only 1 night, it served it’s purpose.

To Nossob: Nossob Camp is on the North-South route in Kgalagadi, a three and a half hour drive from Twee Rivieren. It’s also a traditional camp, a bit rundown. Reminded me of an old motor lodge from the Outback or the Palm Desert in California from the 60‘s. The room was o.k, fully equipped and comfortable. The drive up to Nossob we saw the same ostrich, springbok, wildebeest, jackal and Gemsbok-still no cats. There’s two rest stops along the way for stretching your legs or using the loo.

There’s a sign at the entrance to Nossob warning about jackals coming into camp, so watch your braai when cooking. There is also a hide here but in two days I only saw a few wildebeest come in to drink. We went on three game drives a day from this camp and still no cats! The first night we were Bar-B-Q’ing chicken when two jackals came up to the porch and laid down. It was so cool to be close to these wild things and I tried to teach them to sit, lay down, stand up etc. (all things my dog failed in obedience school) and they did catch on I think-they did lay down and sit on command. Of course we didn’t feed them anything, but I did drop some bar-b-q sauce on my foot which one jackal quickly licked off. When they realized they weren’t going to get anything from us, they moved on to the next chalet and plopped down waiting for a handout.

We stayed here for 2 nights and spent a lot of time on the road but still no cats! There are two main roads in Kgalagadi, north-south from Twee Rivieren to Unions End and east-west from Twee Rivieren to Mata Mata. There are a few 4X4 roads but not many options other than driving the same roads over and over. That is my main complaint about the park, at Kruger you have options and loops to detour on but Kgalagadi you’re limited to basically the same roads. If the animals aren’t near the road, you’re not going to see them.

My opinion on Nossob: Rundown but comfortable, the jackals were cool and that’s about it. After 5 trips to Africa, I know that sightings are not guaranteed, but the reviews made it sound like there are cats at every bend (maybe there are at times, but not while we were there) but still, I was in Africa and enjoyed every ostrich, springbok, wildebeest, jackal and Gemsbok that I saw. The best sunrises were from this camp.

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