Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Kgalagadi landscape

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, (Botswana ), (South Africa ), is located in the Kalahari regions of both Botswana and South Africa and came into being as the official merger of the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana and the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa.

The park offers a majestic and infinite desert landscape with migrating herds of wildebeest, gemsbok, springbok and eland, cunning predators like lion, cheetah and leopard and unending red dunes with unique flora and a diversity of epic proportions is what draws the visitor to this ancient land of the Kalahari Desert.



The Kgalagadi tribes-people with the local Khoe-inhabitants of the desert were the first humans to inhabit this desolate desert habitat. Although they were nomadic, the name stayed. The name Kalahari was derived from the Kgalagadi word Makgadikgadi, meaning great thirstland or saltpans.

The first Afrikaans/Dutch speaking settlers in the area came to trade with the people living in the Kalahari. The Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa was established in 1931 and the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana was established in 1938. These parks shared a common border.

Since 1948 there has been informal cooperation agreements between conservation agencies in Botswana and South Africa to ensure the wellbeing of animals in both parks and to control development in the area.

The two parks were officially combined in 1999 and on 12 May 2000 the new Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park was formally opened by South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki and Botswana's President Festus Mogae and was the first Transfrontier park in Africa.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park Communities

Some of the original inhbitants of this wilderness area still live around and within the Park.

The Mier (the Afrikaans word for ant) community of the Kalahari mainly originated more than 150 years ago settled across an large area that reached up to the Orange River and into the German West Africa (later South West Africa and presently Namibia) and Bechuanaland (presently Botswana). They mainly farmed with sheep, goats and cattle in the hardveld south of the Kalahari dunes.

The Khoe-speaking community of Southern Africa is not one tribe but a collective of different peoples with different languages and cultural practices. They are united by their experience of being hunters and gatherers in the Kalahari Desert.

Today there are about 100 000 Khoe speaking people in these parts. They live in small, scattered pockets in the urban and rural areas of Angola, Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. In March 1999, they had a portion of their territory restored by the government of South Africa. This land included a large area in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park forming the Ae!Hai Kalahari Heritage Park.


The total land area of the park is in the order of 38 000 square km, with 28 400 square km of the park located in Botswana and the rest in South Africa. The Kalahari is a semi-arid wilderness with bright red sand dunes and covers most of Botswana and reaches into Namibia, South Africa and other African countries as well. The landscape typically consists of saltpans, open plains to flat bushveld which becomes more dense towards the south. It is a huge area of unspoilt desert and bushveld with small vegetation-covered red dunes, grasslands, scrub bush and woodlands. The Kgalagadi's pans and rivers are bordered by high dunes. The pans fill up with water during the rainy season and contain nutrient-rich soils, and salts. The name Kgalagadi means the great thirst in Tswana.

Flora and fauna

Social Weaver Nest

The Kgalagadi is best known for unique desert-adapted mammals, birds, reptiles and rodents, especially the black maned Kalahari lions and gemsbok.

Other animals include the endangered wild dog, leopard, giraffe, blue wildebeest, brown hyena, eland, aardvark, bat-eared foxes, pangolin and meerkat.

Kgalagadi is a fascinating stop for birdwatchers and apart from migrating flamingos and pelicans, this is an excellent area for raptors, with over 50 recorded species. Bateleur, Pygmy falcons, Sociable weavers and Vultures (White-backed and Lappet-faced) are common.

Flora included the water-holding tsamma, a melon like creeper and the distinctive massive camel-thorn trees which can be found in any of the river beds.

See also African flora and fauna for more information on these or any other wildlife you may encounter during your visit.


In summer (October to April), the temperature in the Kgalagadi climbs up to 40 degrees Celsius and sometimes higher. The annual rainfall is rarely more than 100 mm, and some years it even stays below 50 mm. Typically this is the time of the iconic Kalahari thunderstorms.

In winter (June to August), the temperatures lie around 25 degrees Celsius. This results in the air ibeing dry and very clear days can be expected. The nights are extremely cold. Winter is also the best time for animal viewing. Because of the drought, the game is forced to come to the waterholes in the riverbeds.


There are large sections of the park totally isolated and not reachable without 4x4. The South African side of the park is wedged in between the two main (mostly dry) rivers the Nossob (meaning dark clay) and the Auob (meaning bitter water) which have their sources in the Anas Mountains near Windhoek, Namibia. Mata-Mata is 2,5 hrs drive from Twee Rivieren. Nossob is 3,5 hrs drive from Twee Rivieren. Both these routes follow the riverbeds.

Get in

You may enter the park from either country and even use the park as a transit between Botswana and South Africa, provided that your documentation (passport, visa etc) is in order. The Twee Rivieren (South African side) and Two Rivers (Botswana side) gates act as border posts.

Hired cars may be collected at Twee Rivieren provided that an advance booking is made with a car hiring company.

By car

From Botswana

Drive from Gaborone for about 550km until Tsabong. From there travel for about 310km on gravel road. This road is negotiable by 4 x 2 vehicles during the dry season and 4 x 4 vehicles during the wet season. The alternative route is to travel from Gaborone to Hukuntsi on tarred road for 565km followed by approximately 110km of sand road which is negotiable by 4 x 4 vehicles only.

From South Africa

The park is situated approximately 250 km from Upington in the far northern Cape and 904 km from Johannesburg. Visitors driving from Gauteng or Mpumalanga have a choice of two routes, either via Upington on a newly tarred road or via Kuruman, Hotazel and Vanzylrus (+/- 340 km gravel).

By plane

Easiest way to get to the Kgalagadi is to fly to Upington and then hire a car and drive yourself to the park. Car rental available on Upington Airport include Avis, Budget, Tempest, Hertz and Imperial. Three flights daily from both Cape Town and Johannesburg on SAA. Light aircraft may land on a tarred runway at Twee Rivieren. Prior permission must be obtained from the Park.


South African Citizens and Residents (with ID) will have to fork out R50 per person, per day. SADC Nationals (with passport) pay R102 per person and the standard conservation fee for foreign visitors is R204 per person. Children under 12 years pay half price and under 2 years enter for free. Alternatively a Wildcard can be bought, both for SADC Nationals and International visitors. Depending on the duration of the stay that can be cheaper.

Get around

]You can freely explore the whole park, regardless of what country your entered from. Provided that you exit at the same gate that you entered from, you do not even need to carry a passport. No roads in the park are paved, all have gravel surfaces. 4x4 vehicles are needed in the Botswana parts of the park. Please note that all roads in the park have gravel surfaces and can get badly corrugated at times. When driving from one rest camp to the other, travelers should depart with traveling times in mind to ensure arrival before sunset as no traveling is allowed in the park after dark. Also note that gate times in the park are strictly adhered to and you may be fined when arriving late in the camp.




No real shopping in this remote desert area but look out for little San/ Bushman children selling seed-jewelery near the Twee Rivieren Gate.

The three shops at the main camps Twee Rivieren, Mata Mata and Nossob offer some curios like ostrich eggs, some coffee table books and field guides, but they are mostly overpriced.

Use the shops to buy your daily food like bread, meat, milk, eggs and anyhting else you might need in the middle of nowhere.


The Kgalagadi offer no real unique food but do try the main camp shops for some ostrich steak or springbok biltong. A must try for your BBQ at night is the delicious Karoo lamb cutlets which is a South African classic. If you feel at a loss, just ask around at night in any of the camps. Every local South African sitting around their campfire with a beer will be more than willing to give you a taste of their pap and boerewors (Maize porridge and Sausage).


Make sure you drink loads of water and keep emergency water in your vehicle. This desert is extremely harsh. Tap Water is safe to drink, but is often very salty and not good for making coffee or tea. Bottles of still water can be bought at any shop.


Tweerivieren camp
Urikaruus camp


South Africa

Luxury Camps

Traditional Rest Camps

Wilderness Camps

To create a real wilderness experience none of these camps are fenced and a Tourism Assistant is on duty at all times.


Camping is the only way to spend a night on the Botswana side of the park. Bookings can be done by phoning the Botswana side of the Park on + 267 318 0774.

People with disabilities

One chalet at Twee Rivieren, one reed-cabin at Bitterpan, one sand-cabin at Grootkolk and two desert tents at Kalahari Tented Camp have ramps and accessible ablutions with roll-in showers. All these units have certain access flaws. The SA-government has instructed the park to upgrade all fasilities to include wheelchair access. There is also an accessible ablution block (roll-in shower) at Nossob Camp for campers, while accessible camping ablutions were added to Twee Rivieren in 2005. Mata-Mata has an accessible public toilet.

Access Attractions: The park’s appeal is certainly its wilderness. Not a lot facilities exist for all guests. The predator centre and hide at Nossob and the information centre at Twee Rivieren are all accessible.

Stay safe

It is important to check with Park Head Offices on the state of the Parks roads. Sometime in the rainy season (October to February) flash floods and mud can make travelling in a 2x4 vehicle almost impossible.

Go next

There are a lot of options of things to do in and around the Kalahari area.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, October 23, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.