Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park – General

2017 was going to be devoted to exploring Namibia, a place we thoroughly enjoyed when we were there in 1991 and two years ago when we visited the Caprivi strip. However, it all changed when our friends Lola and Frank invited us to join them on a safari to the Kgalagadi. This was not to be similar to our last year visit but it would include a visit to the Mabuasehube area, a rather wild and remote area on the Botswana side of the Park.

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The “usual” Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is on the left of the map. Please note the Mabuasehube area is on the right. (Map from Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, SOuth African National Parks).

Excited, we accepted the invitation without much consideration as it was a unique opportunity to visit a remote area of the Kalahari desert that requires two vehicles because of the remoteness of the area.

The proposal was to meet at Upington in South Africa and from then to travel to Twee Rivieren on the South African side and from there to a string of campsites in the Mabuasehube area in Botswana.

Such a trip required a bit more planning than usual. An internet search gave conflicting reports on the availability of water at the various camps so we decided that we needed to carry all the necessary water for the six nights. In addition we needed fuel and as usual “glamping” requires good chairs, tent and other items but of foremost importance is to carry the best ingredients for cooking!

Although we agreed to get the water in South Africa, we were already quite loaded when we left Zimbabwe! We spent a few days in the Kruger National Park we eventually met up as planned on 12 October at Upington when fresh food was procured and the water jerry cans filled. The idea was to travel to Twee Rivieren the following day, spend two nights there and then proceed to the Botswana area.

I must confess that at the time of the offer we were about to visit Mana Pools and Jecha Point (see https://bushsnobinafrica.wordpress.com/2017/10/27/nebbiolo-wine/ and https://bushsnobinafrica.wordpress.com/2017/10/31/wild-elephants/) with our son. I agreed to the idea without checking the map and thinking that traveling would be at our current “retirees” pace. It was only a few days before the event that I realized that it was all well until we reached Twee Rivieren! From then on a true marathon waited for us! We needed to traverse 150km or 4.5 hrs to Nossob and then another 170km through the unknown to get to our destination: Bosobogolo campsite!

Keeping my misgivings to myself we luckily met our friends as planned. Lola and Frank were not alone. A group of six friends from the Canary Islands had come to join us at the Kgalagadi. They were great fun, luckily. From there they would continue on to Namibia while we would embark on our journey. So it was a four-car convoy that left Upington and, after 265km, we got to Twee Rivieren where, luckily, we managed to swop our camping booking for a stay at one of the comfortable bungalows.

Apart from meeting some clever lions near the camp (I will tell you about them in the next short post) and an unfortunate incident as a result of drinking the water from Twee Rivieren that kept us near the loo for an extra day all went as planned! This mishap forced us to stay an extra day and, as Twee Rivieren was full, we camped in Fortunately we managed to get an extra night at the Botswana Twin Rivers campsite as the South African side was totally full! It seems that the Kgalagadi is in fashion at the moment!

Twin Rivers was quite comfortable and, apart from an interesting night visitor that we did not hear, our extra night was uneventful.

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The brown hyena inspecting our camp at Twin Rivers. Clearly by 22:17hs we must have been sleeping soundly as it did sniffed our tent!

So, with a day delay we were ready to go!

After the dusty road that took us more than the expected time, we reached Nossob just before lunchtime. We stretched our legs for a while and, after refueling, we set off towards Bosobogolo.

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After refueling at Nossob camp. Still in South Africa.

Although for us this was uncharted territory, Lola and Frank knew the way as they had visited the area a few years back. As expected, the road was a red sandy track that can only be traveled by a 4WD. This was not your Sunday outing to the sandy beach in Maputo! The road was not only sandy but also very corrugated. The situation brought to mind a signpost I had seen sometime ago [1].

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Taken from http://www.gpsa.co.za. If this is copyright material, please feel free to contact the writer for credit or removal.

It really felt like that and, after about 60km Frank stopped and -wisely- suggested that we deflate our tires. After that, our travel became more comfortable. After 107 km the Matopi campsites came as a relief for a stop and a cuppa. In it we were introduced to the residing yellow-billed hornbill crowd defined as “spooky” by Lola (but that I liked!). As soon as we arrived the birds started to appear and soon we did have a flock of them watching us and, I am sure, waiting for some morsels or water as the area is, needless to say, extremely dry.

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After that welcome stop the last 90 km were long and rough through a rather empty landscape where we only rarely saw gemsbok and springbok as well as the occasional hornbill and, for some reason, two spotted eagle owls. The road twisted and turned, the sand got deeper at places but, gathering speed was enough to negotiate it.

So, after another couple of hours and several sand dunes and pans later we got to Bosobogolo. Frank had booked camp No 1 which was more or less the same as camp No 2! Both had a few things in common: an A frame, a long drop and no water! The latter became obvious when, after arrival, I visited the bushes for a “short call”. A few birds immediately came to investigate the source of the water noise and the birds immediately surrounded me! We did offer them clean water from then on.

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Bosobogolo welcoming committee. Expecting food and water of course!

Luckily we had enough time to set up camp. On the issues of tents we differ with Lola and Frank. While they prefer a roof tent, we, used to our Kenya camping days, stick to the more conventional ground tent and camp set up. We still have failed to convince each other about changing but enjoy each other’s company!

Bosobogolo was rather uneventful and we were rather tired. Luckily food was soon ready thanks to Frank’s organizational skills and we were in bed early. He managed to produce an Indonesian dish known as bami goreng that raised the stakes for our cooking. The next morning, rested, we explored the area and continued to our next campsite: Monamodi pan.

At Monamodi we were visited by yellow mongoose (Cynictis penicillata), Cape ground squirrels (Xerus inauris) and lots of birds, including Southern Grey-headed Sparrows (Passer diffusus) although Cape Sparrows (Passer melanurus), Violet-eared Waxbills (Uraeginthus granatinus) and Sociable weavers (Philetairus socius) were also present. Half a dozen Southern Yellow-billed hornbills did also come. We spent the final two nights at Lesholoago pan and had a great time. I will describe some of our experiences at both Monamodi and Lesholoago in future posts.

As it is usually the case, time passed very fast and we needed to leave this wonderful area. We departed through the Mabuasehube gate towards McCarthy’s Rest border post. The road was still sandy and corrugated and eventually we got to the border. Now, that was my kind of a border crossing: only the four of us so it was probably the fastest ever! Once in South Africa we headed back to the Kgalagadi as we wished to visit the Kalahari Trails to spend three nights relaxing and watching the meerkats.

We said goodbye to our safari companions at the Concordia junction and then we drove on through a route known as the “Heart of the Kalahari” to a small town called Van Zyslrus, 129km further on. The town was small and clearly people had made an effort to decorate it. We found fuel and a shop that offered some food and drinks.

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Map from “Roaring Kalahari Route” (2009). McCarthy’s Rest is on top of the picture.

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The shop was what we imagine old shops were (we knew them as “dukas” inEast Africa). It not only sold the usual groceries but it had its own bakery where various breads were being kneaded and baked in full view of the customers! The latter were queuing waiting for their special breads ordered in advance as well as discussing with the very busy master baker on their new orders! The shop also run the town’s post office and, I am sure, it offered other services that we were not aware of.

Our shopping and unique experience at Van Zyslrus over, we went on through Askham to finally reach the Kalahari Trails where we met up again with its owner Anne who is an expert on mongooses, having done extensive research and publications on the dwarf mongoose in Kenya and on the yellow mongoose at the Kgalagadi. While doing this work she acquired land at about 30 km from Twee Rivieren where she runs Kalahari Trails. The meerkat sanctuary is located near her house and there you can get in real close contact with these lovely animals.

We had three restful days at KT where we recovered well and enjoyed Anne’s company and also the meerkats. Time flew and we were again on 5he road, this time to reunite with Lola and Frank in Johannesburg where we took our car for a thoroughly deserved major service after a rather grueling trip.

I leave you with a collection of pictures that show different aspects of the trip.

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