Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (2016)

First experiences with the roof tent in remote areas

Even with a 4x4 you can get stuck in the sand

Overview of the 1st part of the trip

In the first part of the South Africa-Botswana round trip we drive west from Johannesburg. First destination are the Augrabis Waterfalls. Afterwards we cross the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in 6 days. After a short detour to Gaborone to meet our old friends Modise and Vicky again, we continue north. After a stopover at the Khama Rhino Sanctuary, we head into the solitude of the Central Kalahari (CKGR) for a few days. After a stop in Maun, we head north through the Okavango Basin with stops at Moremi Game Reserve, Savuti and Linyanti. In Kasane, civilization has us back. On the way back to Johannesburg we will stop at Gerhard Lessau in Lobatse. We spend the last 3 days of this part of the trip in Johannesburg with golfing and relaxing, before we pick up Sabine's sister Christiane with her children Till and Kai at the airport for the 2nd part of the trip.
In order not to overload you with reading material, we have divided the tour into 4 sections, each with its own menu items (Kgaladi Transfrontier Park SA ... (this report), Khama Rhino Sanctuary, Central Kalahari Game Reserve and Botswana's North).
The map gives a rough overview.

Arrival and drive to Transfrontier National Park (9/4/2016)

On the day of departure, there was surprising excitement. A woman entered the security area of the Frankfurt airport uncontrolled. As a result, the terminal was cleared. We already feared the worst, but no problem, our terminal 1 B was not affected.
The night flight with SAA arrived on time. The car rental 4x4 Southafrica picked us up at the airport. The vehicle handover at their premises somewhere in Johannesburg was relaxed. Some accessories such as the sandrails and the compressor were studiously overlooked and not presented. In hindsight, we know why. They weren't really functional and were probably more for decoration!

Shortly after 10am we were on our way to Kuruman, 630 km drive and hardly any sleep on the flight, a tough start! Once we left the Johannesburg metropolitan area, everything was very relaxed: Little traffic, good roads, at 16:30 we were in Kuruman, stocked up on food and other things and then drove to our first overnight stop Red Sands. After we (Sabine, see photo below) had successfully set up our rooftop tent for the first time, we thought we should take it a little easier with camping and decided to have dinner in the attached restaurant. A good decision.

Day 2:
Our destination for today are the Augrabis Waterfalls, which we added to our program at short notice. Normally a drive of 280 km, but unfortunately we took a wrong turn about 70 km behind Kuruman and realized it quite late. 150 additional kilometers were the result. Nevertheless everything was fine!
In Augrabis National Park it is heavenly quiet despite the weekend traffic. The waterfalls are interesting, but not spectacular at this time of the year. No comparison to the Victoria Falls. We opted for a 3-day stay (2 nights). The 10 km Dassie Hiking Trail, a beautiful hike through bizarre rocky landscapes inhabited by Dassies, provides the necessary exercise (see photos).

In the park there are warnings about aggressive baboons and guenons. We see this rather calmly, until a baboon (see photo) slashes the neighboring tent with his claw. When I shoo him away, he jumps as fast as lightning into our open car and takes a packet of rice with him. (Photo).

Day 3:
On the way to Kgalagadi, we played a round of golf in Upington (green fee: 15€/2 people). No bunkers. "If you miss the fairway, you end up in the sand anyway," the manager enlightens us.
Before heading into the park, we spend the night at the highly recommended Motopi Lodge. Spacious pitches, a decent choice of food in the restaurant and free WIFI.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, with an area of 38,000 km2, was created by the merger of the former Kgalagadi National Parks of Botswana and South Africa.
The landscape of the park consists mainly of extensive dune fields overgrown with dune grasses. They are interrupted by the southeast running valleys of the mostly dried up rivers Auob and Nossob.
In terms of large animals, we encountered mainly oryx antelope, springbok, wildebeest, eland, giraffe and lion.
In September 2014, the Botswana government sold licenses for shale gas fracking under more than half the area of the national park.

The border river Nossob, which flows through the park, can be crossed by visitors in both directions without border formalities. Visitors are only allowed to leave the park in the direction of the country from which they entered. However, at Camp Twee Rivieren/Two Rivers, which is located on the Botswana-South Africa border, there is both a South African and a Botswana border post, so it is possible to leave the park through all gates, regardless of where one entered the park from.
Because it is a transboundary park, it is categorized as a Peace Park.

Twee Rivieren Rest Camp (9/5/2016)

Located at the southernmost point on the South African side on the banks of the Nossob Dry River just past the park entrance, this camp is the largest and most popular camp in the park. It has a well-stocked store, fuel station and water. It is the only camp that has round-the-clock electricity and cell phone reception. Within sight is its Botswana counterpart, Two Rivers.
All check-in formalities can be done at the administration building at the entrance, including entry formalities to Botswana.

The first gamedrive was not bad, but not outstanding either. Oryx, springbok and wildebeest were numerous. The lions are still keeping a low profile.
Finally we discovered two female-lions only after a hint from another visitor. They were resting right next to the road in the tall grass next to a tree. Except for a strip of fur there was not much to see. On the way back we saw the same picture, two sleeping Kalahari lion males. Many cars, but hardly any lions!
The landscape is magnificent. Completely different from anything we have seen so far. Especially the color contrasts between the usual yellow of the grass and the sand with the red dunes are impressive. On the way back Sabine almost runs over a Cap Cobra lying across the road. Disturbed by us, she straightened up again. On the photo it is to be seen unfortunately only on the run.
As 4x4 training for the long sand drive to Botswana we conquer another 4x4 trail, which is only allowed with registration.

Nossob Rest Camp (9/8/2016)

The campsite is a bit smaller and simpler than Tweerivieren. There is freshly baked bread on order.
There is a "hide" right by the camp, which makes for very convenient game viewing at the waterhole just outside the fence. The campground has 17 sites, all of which were occupied.

On the drive through the Nossob Valley to camp, we stopped at numerous waterholes to observe and, of course, photograph wildlife, including a pride of lions with cubs and a pride of male lions.


Matopi Camp (9/9/2016)

Since Klaus has a new favorite piece of clothing with the safari shirt, I decide to subject it to a short wash with the recommended curd soap (because of the salty water) after several days of "wearing in". The shirt and pants then shine again in a subtle safari beige.

The next morning, we continue with the favored garment right away. The route into the Botswana part of the KTP is to be conquered in style. According to the guidebook, the 4x4 trail (Boso trail) offers some tricky spots. From kilometer 16, some red sand dunes have to be crossed. At kilometer 18.7, exactly halfway up the highest dune, there are 4 oryx antelopes on the trail. We have to slow down and don't make it over the dune. We are stuck!
After more than an hour of sand shoveling (see photos) the shirt looks even worse than the day before.
After the dunes we continue relatively relaxed. We reach the "camping site" Matopi 2 after 103 kilometers in 5 hours. On the whole way we meet only one car.

The 2 campsites are, as described in the guidebook, just sites with a sign. No shade roof, no latrine, no water, no trash can. Garbage and car tracks indicate guests last night.

Bosobogolo Camp Site (9/10/2016)

The campsite is situated on a hill with magnificent views over the treeless "Pan", a salt and grass pan typical of the Kalahari.
The site is equipped with a shady roof and a latrine and thus already offers a certain comfort. The 2nd site, about 300 m away, is also occupied. Thus, the possibilities for overnight stays are exhausted.

Monamodi Camp Site (9/11/2016)

On the last day in the Mabuasehube area we spend the night again at a pan, this time even with running water and shower facilities. At the waterhole a bateleur (juggler) comes in front of our lens. It is not often seen, it feeds on reptiles and small mammals.

As we sit comfortably around the campfire, yellow eyes suddenly light up at us. A hyena! I quickly fetch the camera, Sabine retreats to the safe tent on the roof of the car. When a second animal appears from the side, I join the retreat. As the pictures show, the old rule with the fire doesn't seem to apply anymore. The first hyena even takes an eggshell out of the embers, while the second one tears open the lid of our water bottle to get to the water. Despite the excitement, we slept well, carefully closing the tent.

The eight-hour drive to Gaborone started with 35 km of deep sand, but went smoothly. From Tsabong, where we admired the service camels of the local police, the pothole-free tarred road was wonderful to drive. Only the free-roaming cattle, goats and donkeys forced us to take evasive action now and then.

Gaborone - Reunion with friends

Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, is located in the southeast on the mostly dry Notwane River and with now almost 300,000 inhabitants (as of 2016) with a total population of Botswana of only 2.5 million, is by far the largest city in the country. Gaborone is located about 1,000 meters above sea level. The city center is laid out in a semicircle, with the government district in the center and streets radiating eastward. The main axis is the mall, a spacious pedestrian zone. New districts with typical shopping centers are constantly being built. At times, the city was considered one of the fastest growing metropolises in the world.
At the end of September, Botswana celebrates 50 years of independence. Preparations are underway everywhere. National flags are flying on all lamp posts and all possible and impossible objects are painted in the national colors blue, white, black (see photos).
We had interesting conversations with our friends Modise and Vicky, got our laundry in shape, cleaned the car and repaired it a little bit and tomorrow we will head north. The 350 km to the Khama Rhino Sanctuary is easily done in 3-4 hours.
But first we will say goodbye to our friends tonight with a hearty braii (barbecue).

About the photos:

The cafe is named after a (to us) well-known and in Botswana very popular crime series about the detective Mma Ramotswa. A nice café and a book series worth reading.
In the mall, street food is offered in addition to the obligatory clothing for the anniversary.

At the barbecue son Linky and granddaughter Maja were also present.