Self Drive in Kgalagadi

self drive kgalagadi transfrontier park
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Can I self-drive in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park?

Yes you can! Note the following:

  • The park is best enjoyed in a 4×4 vehicle although some publications suggest you can use an ordinary sedan.
  • Good ground clearance is a must as the roads are some of the worst that you will experience.
  • Make sure you accurately determine how long it will take you to drive from A to B. The distances do not seem far by kilometer travelled however you will be travelling at less than half the speed you would be at other parks.
  • Ensure you have plenty of water with you. Punctures and breakdowns are common and although help will rapidly reach you, you may be stuck for several hours with no shade in 42 deg temperatures.
  • Reduce your tyre pressure by at least a third to help soften the ride. The roads in Kgalagadi are brutal on vehicles and human bodies!
  • Off road driving is strictly prohibited.

What animals can I Photograph in Kgalagadi?

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP) is home to many species not readily found elsewhere in South Africa:Honey Badger (Ratel), Pangolin (Scaly Anteater) and Bat-eared Fox are some of the park specials to search for. 

Wild dog
Bat Eared Fox
Cape Fox


Birds of Prey

  • Tawny Eagle
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Pygmy Falcon
  • Martial Eagle
  • Pale Chanting Goshawk
  • Lizard Buzzard
self drive in kgalagadi

This is without doubt one of my favourite places to visit and photograph its many species of animals and birds. A very unforgiving place, it’s remoteness, harsh climate and rough roads mean that it is not flooded with tourists, irrespective of the season. It is however very popular with South Africans and the relative scarcity of places to stay means that booking early is a must.

Kgalagadi means ‘the land which dried up’, ‘the dry land’ or ‘the thirstland’. The whole area is in a massive sand basin that forms part of the area generally known as the Kalahari or Kalahari Desert. The area is known for its rolling red dunes, dry river beds, shocking roads and for its large population of predators, the most famous of which are the legendary black maned lions of the Kalahari.

Where is the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park?

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier park lies in the west of Southern Africa and is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the North East and Namibia to the west. About one third of this huge area lies in South Africa and the southern most entrance to the park is Twee Rivieren in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. About 30% of the park is within the borders of South Africa.

How do I get to Kgalagadi?

The South African entrance gate of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier park is about 11 hours drive from Johannesburg. Situated in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa, you can also fly into Upington from Johannesburg and then it takes approximately 2 hours driving north to get there.

There are five different entry gates to the park. One from South Africa, One from Namibia and three from Botswana.

  • South Africa entry gate, Twee Rivieren
  • Namibia entry gate, Mata Mata
  • Botswana entry gates, Two Rivers, Mabuasehube and Kaa.
self drive in kgalagadi

When is the best time to visit Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park?

Winter (June to September) when it is dry and relatively mild temperatures during the day. At night it can fall well below zero in winter. During the summer the temperatures can soar to 40 deg C.

It is easier to spot game during the dry season as they need to visit the various water holes scattered throughout the park. Although the area is defined as arid, the Kgalagadi has some spectacular thunderstorms in the summer.

Summer is the best time to visit if you are a birder and Kgalagadi is arguably the best park in South Africa to see and photograph raptors.

How do I rent a 4x4 vehicle for a trip to the Kgalagadi?

From the South African side you can rent a 4×4 vehicle at Upington airport but note that the rental includes a charge for them driving the vehicle up from Cape Town for delivery to you at the airport. 

Self drive enthusiasts would be advised to put a self drive tour of the Kgalagadi onto their self drive Namibia Safari  itinerary and the enter the park from the Namibian side. You can then drive on down to Cape Town and drop the vehicle off there. Alternatively, start your drive in Cape Town and drive through the Kgalagadi en route to Namibia.

What should be in my 4x4 rental vehicle?

When renting your vehicle there will be standard items included, most of which are geared around safety and vehicle recovery. You can go to town with extras however some are suited more to over landing in remote areas than driving in the Kgalagadi, where help is seldom too far away.

If you are driving on through the Kgalagadi into Botswana or Namibia on an extended self drive Safari then some of the extras noted here should be considered.

Standard Vehicle Equipment

Tyre Pressure Gauge
Tyre Pump
Tow Rope
Warning Triangles
Bottle Jack
Fire Extinguisher

Optional vehicle equipment

Satellite Phone
Long-Range Fuel Tanks
Wheel Brace
Garmin Satnav
Split Charge Battery System
Two Batteries
Engel Fridge
Water Tanks
Roller Draws

Vehicle Awning
Fitted Camping Light

self drive in kgalagadi

What accommodation is in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park?

Accomodation in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park can be divided into the South African section (which comprises one third of the park) and the Botswana Section.

South African Section

The South African Section has three ‘ traditional’  rest camps and six wilderness camps.

Traditional Camps

Twee Rivieren

Twee Rivieren is the southernmost camp in the park and also the biggest. It is not a particularly attractive place however it is always busy due to it being the sole point of access from South Africa. It has chalets as well as camping facilities, a small shop and a swimming pool.


Nossob is situated in the middle of the park and also has chalets as well as camping facilities. Fuel is available here and there is a small shop.

Mata- Mata

Mata – Mata doubles as the Namibian border post and has thatched chalets overlooking the river bed. This camp looks a little less run down than the other two mentioned and is a popular entry point for self drive Safari goers heading south from Namibia.

Wilderness Camps

Gharagab Wilderness Camp
Gharagab Wilderness Camp, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

These are all unfenced and each has an armed ranger that lives in camp. My recommendation is that you book your accomodation in one of these as you will get a much better feel for your suroundings. The units all have a kitchen and bathroom and power is provided via solar panels. Children under 12 are not allowed in any of the wilderness camps.


This is a very small camp 20km from Unions End and it is positioned at the edge of a water hole.

There are 4 x 2 bed chalets with bedroom, ceiling fan, bathroom and kitchen on veranda. Each chalet is equipped with cutlery, crockery, linen, fridge and braai. Communal kitchen and barbecue areas available. The chalets are made from sand bags and canvas. There is gas for hot water and cooking and solar for lighting.


Gharagab consits of four two bed units and is only accessible with a 4×4 vehicle. Situated at the end of a 30km dirt road this camp is in the very far north of the park.  

Kalahari Tented Camp

This camp has 15 canvas tent units of varying sizes and is close to Mata-Mata. It overlooks the Auob River and also has a water hole. Accomodation options:

1 luxury honeymoon desert tent
4 family desert tents (two beds and a stack bed)
10 two-bed desert tents 

The units have:

– Single beds
– Linen
– Bathroom with shower, hand basin and Toilet
– Fully equipped kitchen with gas stove, fridge, hot water, cutlery, crockery
– Patio with a braai
– Solar lighting
– Ceiling fan
– Gas for hot water and cooking.

Kielie Krankie

My top recommendation is Kielie Krankie. Situated on top of a massive red dune, you really get the feel that you are in the desert. It has four two bed units, each with a view of the water hole. There is no vegetation around the camp therefore no shade.

This camp gets booked up a year in advance so forward planning is essential.


Urikaruus has four two bed units and is situated on the bank of the Auob River between Twee Rivieren (72 kms) and Mata-Mata. 


Bitterpan is only accessible by 4×4 and overlooks a huge pan. It has four two bed units with a communal kitchen and braai area.

kalahari tented camp
Kalahari Tented Camp, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Botswana Section

Two thirds of the park lies in Botswana. There are camping sites in this section as well as 4×4 trails. It should be emphasised that these trails are for the experienced 4×4 drivers only as the state of the roads varies from bad to terrible.


Camping is available at:

  • Polentswa
  • Two Rivers
  • Rooiputs
  • Mabuasehube area

4 x 4 Trails

KAA GAME VIEWING TRAIL can be travelled in one day. The trail can be travelled in both directions. No trailers are allowed.

POLENSTWA WILDERNESS TRAIL needs to be booked in advance as it is an exclusive route with a maximum of five vehicles per day allowed to depart. No trailers are allowed. 

MABUASEHUBE WILDERNESS TRAIL also needs to be booked in advance and it can only be travelled in one direction from Mabuasehube to Nossob. No trailers are allowed.


If wide open spaces, extreme temperatures and rare animals are your thing, then you can’t go wrong in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

You get the wilderness off road experience without most of the associated hassles and the bird and game viewing is nothing short of spectacular.

There is accommodation for every budget and the Kgalagadi remains one of my favourite places on earth.

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