The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is one of my all time favourite safari destinations.
Most of the park lies within Botswana and the southern part lies in South Africa.
The Safari Expert has done a great job giving you an overview in this video.
The video is 15 minutes long so read my summary if you are pushed for time. You can also read my self-drive article on the park – see link in the box below.
Video by: Villiers Steyn
Photographs by: Andrew Chislett
Go for long enough
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is vast.
38,000 square kilometers (15,000 sq miles) of arid semi desert with a few camps dotted on the South African side and some tented camps on the Botswana side.
The drives between camps take a very long time, largely due to the condition of the sand roads, which are usually incredibly rutted.
You can make the KTP a one-stop safari destination but it is recommended that you stay for at least 10 days.
The Safari Expert recommends a two week stay, with a few days at each of the following camps:
- Twee Rivieren
- Rooiputs or Nossob
- Mata Mata or Kalahari Tented Camp
Book well in advance
The Kgalagadi is incredibly popular with South Africans, and the popular camps are fully booked up to a year in advance.
Make sure that you book your trip well in advance, particularly if there are specific camps that you really want to stay in.
If you are coming over on safari from the US or elsewhere then this is one trip that you will need to start planning up to 18 months in advance.
You may get lucky with cancellations at some of the camps so persevere if you do not get your first choice initially.
Plan your trip carefully
It is recommended that you decide well in advance what type of accommodation and facilities you are looking for during your stay.
The larger rest camps have swimming pools, shops and other amenities whereas the wilderness camps have virtually none of these comforts.
This book by HPH Publishing – Kgalagadi Self Drive – is essential reading if you want to be prepared as possible for your trip.
If you don’t like the cold then avoid visiting during the winter months which are June, July and August.
The temperature can drop to -10 deg C / 14 Deg F.
The park is very windy in August and September. By October it is getting very hot and it is also the beginning of the rainy season, with the occasional dramatic thunder storm.
Bring your own food and supplies
There are only a few small shops in the KTP and your choice of food and drink is often very limited.
It is difficult for the park operators to keep these shops stocked with fresh goods so it is recommended that you bring your own food.
The last major town en route to the KTP from the South African side is Upington which is about 250 km from the Twee Rivieren gate.
Deflate your tires
The roads in the park are usually so rutted it is advisable to reduce the tire pressure in your tires.
This is to prevent the severe vibrations damaging your car and the tires absorb the shock better when they are softer than usual.
It is recommended that you deflate your tires to a pressure of 1.5 or even 1.2 bar as you enter the park.
Do not forget to reinflate them on the way out!
Vary your game viewing strategy
The Safari Expert recommends that you vary your game viewing strategy and this is good advice. Here are three suggestions:
Drive as slowly as possible looking carefully up into the trees, between the rocks and in the long grass.
Many of the animals are very well camouflaged and you will need to train your eyes to see them.
By driving slowly you may get to see some rare animals like the African wild cat or the bat eared fox.
Cover the ground
The next day, try and cover as much distance as possible. This will mean driving a bit faster but always stick to the park speed limits.
By driving faster you should be able to visit four or five of the waterholes in one morning.
You will also have a greater chance of seeing animals in the road the further you travel.
Stake out a waterhole
Leave as early as possible one morning and head straight out to one of the waterholes.
Today’s strategy is to spend the entire morning in one place and see what happens to come over to drink.
You can plan which one you wish to visit when you are doing the longer drive the day before.
Check out the high areas
Look up at the high areas on the dunes.
Lions, leopards and cheetahs love spending time on top of these dunes.
From this vantage point they get a great view of the dry river beds below below them and use this vantage point to spot prey species.
You are able to drive up to the top of these dunes in some places.
Spend time taking photographs in camp
There are many relatively tame birds, squirrels and meerkats in the camp and you can get some great eye level shots of these by lying on your stomach.
Remeber that is illegal to feed the animals. You do not need to lure them anyway as they will often come right up to you.
Explore the Botswana side
Visit Rooiputs and Polentswa on the Botswana side.
These two camp sites are great if you really want to experience the wild side of the Kgalagadi.
Another option are the lodges next to the campsites mentioned above. You are able to book guided game drives from these lodges.
Don't only go for Lions
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is famous for its lions. The males are some of the biggest and healthiest lions in Africa.
If you go to the park specifically to see these lions you may be disappointed. Their population is quite low and you may have to work very hard to find them.
I enjoy the Kgalagadi for the rare animals that live there. These are species that you won’t easily find elsewhere.
If you see any of the big cats then consider this to be a bonus.
If you plan your trip to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park carefully you are almost certain to have one of the most rewarding safaris available in Africa.
Remember also that the Kgalagadi is a malaria free destination so this is one less thing to worry about.
I enjoy the Kgalagadi in any season. Villiers prefers the months of March, April and May.
This is because the park is still green from the summer rains and the temperatures are not as extreme.