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Learning to love the Kgalagadi

 | Natalie White Book Accommodation 

Auob sunset

The official information guide to the Kgalagadi states that “the Kalahari will reveal itself to only those who seek with a true heart…” and I have to admit that in the beginning my heart was not entirely convinced.

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park has been on our bucket list for a while so we were looking forward to this first part of our road trip a great deal. I think that is what made the disappointment of Twee Rivieren rest camp all the greater. Located at the main South African entrance to the park, the campsite is unfortunately situated overlooking the reception building and the road. My idea of Kalahari wilderness it was not.

 Twee Riveren Kgalagadi sign

It quickly became obvious that with the long driving distances in the park between camps, often 80kms or more, the majority of visitors use Twee Rivieren as a gateway to the rest of the park, staying just one brief night before moving on. Whilst I may have been initially disappointed by the position of the camp, the facilities are first class – a theme that followed through all of the camps we stayed at.

Ground squirrel

 A cheeky ground squirrel that are a constant feature in the camps hoping for a titbit of food!

Our next two nights were spent at Kieliekrankie Wilderness Camp, and here the true meaning of ‘wilderness’ really came into its own. We had to give up our luxury Bushwakka Sundowner caravan in favour of one of four two-bed cabins (a fifth is coming soon) which are situated on one of the highest dunes in the park, with endless views and a waterhole to observe from your private deck. Here the silence of the Kalahari is deafening in a way that truly soothes the soul.

Kieliekrankie sunset

 Endless views across the dunes at Kieliekrankie

Our final destination was Mata-Mata rest camp on the Namibian border. Another of the main rest camps (the other being Nossob which is hugely popular and already full when we booked more than 10 months in advance) although this time the location felt much more remote.

Mata-Mata Campsite

 Our shady camp at Mata-Mata

Our sightings over five days in the park were nothing short of spectacular. Too many to possibly cover here without boring you too much, however, for us they are memories that we will cherish for a lifetime. If you’d like to view all of our sightings from the trip, then check out the Tracking the Wild Android or iPhone app.

The amazing thing about the Kgalagadi is that whilst it may not boast the Big 5, it really doesn’t need it. Regular sightings of black-backed jackal, tawny eagles, lanner falcon and secretarybirds and are enough to get the camera clicking. And to top that, we were fortunate enough to see cheetah, lion, brown and spotted hyaena and two honey badgers on the hunt! Once in a lifetime sightings that left us feeling extremely lucky indeed. The only one that got away was the elusive leopard, something for next time!

 Black-backed jackal

Black-backed jackal having a good scratch

lanner falcon

A rare close up of the threatened lanner falcon


Secretarybird - love them!

Blind lion

One of the lions that came roaring around our chalet at Kieliekrankie at 3am - you can see it is blind in one eye

Brown Hyaena

My first proper sighting of a borwn hyaena - awesome!

Honey badger

Hunting honey badger

And it is true what they say about the Kgalagadi getting under your skin. Whatever my first impressions may have been, five days later a piece of my heart definitely belonged to the Kalahari. We were hooked and already planning our return.

Auob Riverbed

View along the Auob riverbed, a portion of the river is said to flow once every 11 years. The Auob last flooded in 2000. 

 Brants Whistling Rat

Brants's whistling rat peering out of it's hole

Crimson Breasted Shrike

The stunning crimson-breasted shrike - John was super excited to get a picture of one, little did we know there would be many more sightings of them on the trip!

Black-Bellied Korhaan

Juvenille Northern black-bellied korhaan in the early morning light

Slender Mongoose

A slender mongoose whose body colour varies from yellow-brown to the rich chesnut-red colour above, this form is found in the Kalahari thornveld of the Northern Cape and Southern Botswana 

Spotted Eagle-Owl

A lucky spot of a spotted eagle-owl trying to hide in a tree


An intense wildebeest stare

Yellow Mongoose

Loved watching this yellow mongoose trying to find a comfy spot to lie next to our camp!

Cape Fox

Cape fox happily sunbathing


All photos taken using a Canon 7D Mark II with the following Tamron lenses:

  • - SP150-600m f5/6.3 Di VC USD
  • - SP15-30mm f2.8 Di VC USD
  • - SP70-200mm f2.8 Di VC USD

Thank you Tamron SA for lending them to us!