NC Ep 6 – and finally, the magnificent Kgalagadi

I’ve had a desire to visit the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP) for over 15 years. My friends eulogize about it often, which only increased my determination to eventually get there and see for myself what the damn attraction was!

So when the opportunity arose, we booked a year in advance for 9 nights in this special park and before I knew it, I was on the dusty road to the park with a carload of groceries to last us 10 days, a tow rope, a spade (in case I had to dig my car out of sand) and a tyre compressor on loan! Plus I’d had a driving lesson on the Atlantis dunes so I was pretty certain I wouldn’t have to use the spade or tow rope!

The road unrolled all the way to the horizon where land and sky were equally wide open and huge, as we made our way out of Upington to the KTP.

One of the world’s last truly unspoilt ecosystems, this park is a result of the unification of SA’s Kalahari Gemsbok park and Botswana’s Gemsbok National Park. It is 3,7 million hectares and one of the largest conservation areas in the world.

What makes this park so different from say, the Kruger Park, is the red and white sand dunes, the dry river beds, the intense and ongoing lack of water and the ultra sparse vegetation (we were fortunate to see the beautiful camelthorn tree in yellow bloom – a sight to behold and abundant in the park, especially those hosting the giant sociable weaver nests).

The park is sanctuary to the famed black-maned Kalahari lion, as well as lots of gemsbok, ostrich, hartebeest, eland and smaller game like mongoose, honey badgers, bat eared fox and randy squirrel (check the photos to see why…) all of which inhabit and roam the semidesert savannah and endless pans.

If you made it all the way down past my amazing photos, you deserve to read more on this awesome place where you can hear the earth breathing, the night sky twinkling under the weight of the Milky Way and the animals moving over the dusty plains in a rhythm unique to this soulful place.

There is something mesmerizing about the ochre red and cream coloured sand dunes, interspersed with sparse vegetation and the occasional bright yellow camelthorn tree in bloom. Spotting a bird or animal is as random as the vegetation. Timing is everything here. I found this out when I got my best shot of the trip of a little bad-tempered pearl-spotted owlet peeking out of her tiny hole in a giant tree, when others with long lenses and more patience had waited all day for the same shot!

Or when I pulled away from a watering hole only to be told later that four young lions had come walking over a nearby dune minutes later to drink. Yes, timing and time is everything here in a place where time stands still.

It’s funny how a place creeps into your soul slowly and without even a hint of notice and this is what the KTP did – it made me a convert and this is my eulogy to a trip of a lifetime. Hopefully there will be another and another to discover more of what this wonderful place holds.

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