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31 October 2019
FIRST-time visitors are sometimes numbed by its stark, grey-white emptiness. It takes a while to wake to the charms of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, to learn that its apparent emptiness is part of its magic – its emptiness and its abundance of life.
The South African section of the transfrontier park, formerly the Kalahari Gemsbok, is a 9 500 square kilometre wedge of arid country, squeezed between Botswana and Namibia and bordered by dry rivers.
There were no fences between the South African park and the adjacent Gemsbok National Park in Botswana so the amalgamation of these two reserves into one 36 000 square kilometre peace park, is a natural and happy marriage.
The palette of this place of pristine, arid wilderness is subdued: white, washed out greys, khaki, brown and straw, bottle green, olive and lime, all contrasting with the oranges and reds of the dunes. The cold mornings are fresh, herb-scented, energizing. The noon landscape is harsh, wind-scoured, sunbaked, silent.
Kgalagadi evenings, forgiving and cool, are my favourite time of day. The desiccated landscape is softened by the apricot light of the setting sun and the long, lilac shadows it casts. Nights are magic, star-filled, crisp and echoing with sounds of lions, jackals, barking geckos. And when the moon is full there is nowhere else that I would rather be.
At Tweerivieren, the busy main camp. the road into the park splits. To the left, it follows the Aoub River to Mata Mata camp and the Namibian border. To the right, the road runs along the Nossob River bed (the border between South Africa and Botswana) to Nossob camp. There it curves left with the river to reach the Namibian border north of Mata Mata, at Unie