Exploring the Kalahari
It is 5am and we are feeling rather grateful for our self-restraint last night. We are all up and ready to begin our 3-hour journey to the edge of the amazing wilderness shared between South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park was one of first National Parks to allow the interests of nature to transcend political boundaries and has been on our wish list for this trip from the very start.
This 3.6 million hectare park was created when the fences were dropped between South Africa’s Kalahari Gemsbok National Park and Botswana’s National Park. We will be staying on the edge of this massive wilderness for the weekend to take advantage of the matching terrain on the Namibian side.
We have carefully selected the Kalahari Game Lodge as our base this weekend for its wide range of activities, delightful comforts and proximity to Kgalagadi for a day trip. Namibia and South Africa have a very hospitable policy towards entering the park from the Namibian side. Provided you return to Namibia afterwards and are a bona fide tourist – you are welcome even without a passport.
On our way
First things first however. After the usual pre-travel procrastination, we hit the road at 6am, trundling through the half-light towards our first stop for the day – a brief sojourn at the teeny landmark called Koes. Here we alight to stretch our legs and indulge in coffee and rusks from our stash of roadside eats – I don’t hear anyone complaining about my penchant for roadside stall shopping now.
Another hour and a half and we reach the veritable oasis of Kalahari Game Lodge, which is an air-conditioned delight after the heat of the journey. After a swift check-in and shower we are ready to begin our weekend in earnest.
Friday afternoon is spent ambling along the self-guided trail from the lodge to the Auob Riverbed and up to the top of one of the red sand dunes. Here we revel in the beauty of these arid surroundings before heading back for a swim and a meeting with Tookey the tame meerkat.
A change in plans
Our swim leads to a sundowner at the bar before changing for our dune braai, where we meet up with fellow travellers just in from Lüderitz and singing the praises of this seaside town. Our interest is piqued, and while we have missed the annual crayfish festival, our sources inform us that we may still catch some of the German Karneval festivities on the go at this time of year. The seed is planted, and before the end of our Kalahari weekend we have rearranged our travel plans drastically in order to join in the fun.
Friday evening is pure bliss with a real Kalahari braaivleis under the stars, before collapsing satisfied and exhausted into our luxurious lodge accommodation.
Beginners luck and black-maned beauties
We have booked a guided morning drive into the Kgalagadi Park for Saturday which reveals the gorgeous golden-red expanses of this wilderness. Beginners luck is on our side and we are fortunate to see springbok, eland and blue wildebeest among the desolate stretches and even a couple of glorious black-maned lions resting under an acacia tree. A lone pygmy falcon soaring up high forms the grand finale of this amazing journey.
There is just enough time for a visit to the gift shop to gawk at the colourful tablecloths, throws and blankets woven from the silk of an indigenous worm and to meet with their makers – talented folk from the local community.
All too soon the inky black Namibian night, lit with a million stars, is once again upon us and we look forward to our trip back to Keetmanshoop and onward to Lüderitz the following day.