Updated: May 30, 2022
It has been a while since we have done an adventure blog. Both these wonderful places we have only had the ability (and guts) to visit in Winter and we have never camped... until this year...
Summer in an arid/desert park in HOT. It can reach the 50 degree mark easily and there is so little shade. The sand reflects the heat and for young kids it can be a trick. Driving in the sand of the Kalahari also requires a 4x4 to be safe. It is deep and when the summer rains fall it is dangerous if you are in a small or unequipped vehicle. You do not want to be stuck with some of the most famous predators about. Many stories emanate from the Kgalagadi, some that are quite hair raising and sometimes tragic. Spring/Autumn and Winter is better for beginners. It may get below freezing in Winter but it is still possible. Each season brings its own sightings and pleasures, for now we will only discus Winter as it is all we know, but the other moderate seasons will be wonderful too.
Augrabies national park is a gem. It is sooo much better than what you see online. One advantage which I did not fully appreciate until we experienced it, is that you can leave you vehicle anywhere in the park as there are no predators, often frequented by cyclists too!. This makes it wonderful for sightings and photographs. The rocks and landscape are mesmerizing. The waterfall and walks around camp are exceptional. It is well maintained and a great stop over to Kgalagadi. One night is not enough, stay at least 2. If the kids are staying at home, consider staying at the gorge cottage, one of the best views we have ever seen. The park has a variety of antelope, the oryx/gemsbok and giraffe are stunning for photographs, wonderful birdlife and landscapes. We stayed in chalet overlooking the boardwalk to the falls, comfortable and airconditioned. The trip we are going on now we are camping. It will be our second time and we will be well prepared. We hope to share our adventure with you, with content and videos of the surrounding region and stop overs.
It took us a while to research and plan our first Kgalagadi trip. I was nervous. Summer in the Kgalagadi may be legendary, but we have not been equipped for it until now, and Kruger still beckons. Winter is more accessible. It may be cold, but our visits so far have been to the chalets, never having camped there.
Kgalagadi itself is legendary. This transfrontier park crosses into Botswana and you are able to wild camp on that side too. This is not for beginners though, camping in an area with no support and supplies means that you need to be fully self sufficient. Also to realise the Botswana side does not have ANY fences, meaning if there is a pride of lion around, you are exposed - this is best done with people that know how to behave and and camp in such conditions. Staying in the SAN Parks main rest camps is still wilder than most parks, but at least there is a fence. SAN Parks does not allow wild camping with children under 12 years old, this means you can only book Twee Riveren, Nossob, Mata Mata and Kalahari Tented Camp. We have done this twice. Our very first trip was part of our Namibia 2018 trip, on route before we rolled our car. Our second visit included Augrabies and wonderful friends that joined us in the adventure in 2019. So 3 years on we go back. We are very excited. As this was a replacement trip to our Namibia trip, we did not have a booking until recently. I have literally had a link on my home screen to check availabilty for the last month, at least twice a day, as bookings vanish in minutes of appearing. We have amazingly managed to get 5 nights camping, with electricity, in Nossob and Twee Rivieren, planning a day trip to Mata Mata.
So what do you need to know about a beginners visit to Kgalagadi?
Book well in advance, especially for school holidays and wilderness camps, they disappear in minutes of the open day for SANParks (with a queue outside)
Your first trip is best in chalets, with aircon, most especially with kids
Plan and take everything you need, even water. The shops are mostly well equipped and do take credit cards, but are often sold out or off line.
Even Petrol and diesel can be more frequently than assumed unavailable at the rest camps, better to have a big tank or added jerry cans.
Consider the season you are going, make sure your vehicle is equipped for rescues, tow ropes, tyre pressure gauges and compressor pumps, tyre changes and always have a supply of water.
Ensure you notify the camp on you route for the day, people have got lost and they will go looking if you do not check in by sunset. Don't change your route on a whim and stay on the main roads (Auob and Nossob and dune roads). Other roads are only accessible if you are staying there and well demarcated.
The water is terrible, bottled water is best, even boiled and for coffee, it has a horrible taste, take your own.
Plan you day trips, include the wonderful picnic stops, they are stunning. Take what you need for the picnic, making sure you are equipped for all cooking if needed. A flask on soup and sandwiches is one of our winter favorites, throw in coffee and hot chocolate for the kids and all is well.
Sunrise and sunset are the best times in the park and in camp. Be present and enjoy! There is something quite indescribable about the Kalahari. It is peaceful beyond words. In winter it is not too early, 07h30 and 18h00. A braai around this time is just about perfection.
Don't forget the hide and walks around camp. Go scorpion hunting with the kids and watch the suricates and ground squirrels playing, the small creatures are very entertaining.
Snakes and scorpions are a major feature of summer, be cautious!
Don't EVER leave children unattended, especially at picnic sites and wild camping with no fences. Smaller children will be easy targets if unattended. Until they are of age or have sufficient experience, be cautious.
Winter has advantages, better weather, less bugs, rain and wind, summer has more adventure... if you ready...
We are incredibly excited for our July trip, with all three kids for the first time. We will traveling to Verneukpan, Augrabies and Kgalagadi, as well as surrounding sites. We hope to share our stories and adventure with you offering tips on where to go, what to do and what to expect. The Northern Cape, as is our country, is full of incredible experiences just waiting for you!