Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park
When our friend, Cari, decided she was coming to South Africa to visit us, we agreed that a road trip was a necessity during her time here. After much research, Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park was the winner! About 12 hours north of Cape Town made it relatively accessible to us versus driving all the way to Etosha National Park in Namibia. Our road trip ended only being 4 days because Cari was on a strict time frame.
Night 1: Molopo Kalahari Lodge
Having packed the rented 4×4 the previous night, we woke up bright and early to get on the road because there was a 12 hour drive ahead of us. One the best things we have learned in our time in Africa is to plan for more time than you originally think. An awesome road trip music playlist made the long drive fly by! Highlights of the drive included teen angst songs, peeing on the side of the road and getting honked at by trucks that inevitably drove by, and my amazing (JK I’m terrible) manual stick driving skills.
We eventually arrived to our destination the Molopo Kalahari Lodge near Askham in the Northern Cape, where we had booked a regular campsite. Throughout the day, the temperature climbed to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit/ 40 degrees Celsius. We had all planned on cooking over a fire but decided to go to the lodge’s restaurant instead. After a good meal and plenty of refreshing beers, we attempted to go to bed though it was too hot to fall asleep.
Our only complaint about Molopo Kalahari Lodge is the swimming pool. I understand the need for a swimming pool for guests but unfortunately this turned into a mosquito breeding ground when we were there. I ended up with over 30 mosquito bites on my legs after one night.
Night 2: Mata Mata
Because it was a late night, we woke up later than originally anticipated the following morning. There was about 45 minutes to the border of Kgalagadi which we impatiently drove.
After registering, there was about a 4 hour drive to the Mata Mata camp site which is right on the border of Namibia. We saw such great animals along the way! I truly believe that it is quality over quantity when it comes to animals and we had some great encounters.
In Kgalagadi, there are artificial watering holes along the way, which are clearly marked on the map that you receive upon entrance to the park. Though I was initially hesitant about the watering holes being man-made, I was delighted to see so many animals surrounding them! This park is part of the Kalahari Desert so water is scarce.
Once we arrived at the Mata Mata camp, we were delighted that there was a small camp store, gas station, and a pool. The heat continued to climb during the day so we took full advantage of the pool.
This campsite is right next to/in the same dried riverbed that the animals live in. The campsites are on the same plane and level as the animals. The game hide has an amazing view of a watering hole that will not disappoint. During the night there was a lot of activity near the Mata Mata campsite that deserves it’s own post. We would love to stay at Mata Mata again!
Night 3: Twee Riverien
The night at Mata Mata was anything but restful, but we were ready for another day of game viewing! We headed over to the other side of the park, to the Botswana border. The roads through the middle of the park contained beautiful scenery but few animals. We went up to the Nossob campsite and back down to Twee Riverien (8 hours total).
To be honest, it was a lame day of game viewing. Even though we drove around twice as long as the pervious day, we saw FAR fewer animals. It was terribly hot again but the riverbed that the waterholes were in on the Nossob campsite side were not busy with animals like the other side. The road along the riverbed was set lower so the vegetation along the road was too high to see much of the riverbed and animals in it.
The second night in Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park we stayed at Twee Riverien, which is the main camp at the entrance of the park. This campsite also has a store and a gas station. The temperature was disrespectfully hot again so we forfeited making our meals over the fire and went to the restaurant on site. Don’t expect a gourmet meal from this place, despite the prices. Without a doubt, everything had previously been frozen. But the cold beers and food that we did not have to cook over a fire was good enough for us!
Thoughts on Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park
Overall, we did like Kgalagadi! Would we ever go during the summer months again? No. The heat was WAY too much and completely changed our view of deserts. In Namibia, deserts cooled way down at night, but the Kalahari stayed almost the same temperature as it is during the day. If we had decided to “glamp” and go for an air conditioned chalet, our experience would have been different. I think that the heat exasterbated every other part of the camping experience. We rented a 4×4 for the trip because that was recommended by SAN Parks, but it was not necessary. As long as you stay on the main roads during the summer, a sedan is just fine. Save the money on a rental car!
The one redeeming factor were the amazing animal encounters which is why we are so sour about the second day of game viewing being a quiet animal day. The research that I did prior to the trip made it seem like Cheetah and Leopard were essentially guaranteed, but unfortunately we saw none!
I would love to check out Kgalagadi in the winter months!
Enjoy some of our pictures!