KGALAGADI:
The magic of nowhere

Join our photographer and media specialist on safari as she talks about why she loves the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and how our gear was put to the test.

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The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is an arid wildlife reserve in the Kalahari Desert region of South Africa and Botswana. To the west it borders Namibia and is known for its red dunes and large dry pans. The landscape is flat with almost no mountains which makes the sky seem

endless and the sunrises and sunsets almost impossibly beautiful. This barren land of dust and dunes happens to be my favourite place in the world. This is where I go to completely disconnect from the world and live among wildlife for a few weeks.

The park offers traditional rest camps, wilderness camps, and a smattering of isolated camps on the Mabuasehube Reserve (a part of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park). The campsites are the reason I keep going back. On the Botswanan side of the park are a few large dry pans. Each pan has two or three campsites overlooking it. The campsites are separated by kilometers of sandy roads and only one party can book a campsite at a time. These isolated campsites allow you to experience the untouched wilderness of the Kalahari and give you the feeling of being the only people on earth. The closest town is a strenuous five-hour drive away. The closest rest camp is a 12-hour drive away.

As far as amenities go, the Mabuasehube campsites offer nothing more than a wooden A-frame, a longdrop (a non-flushing pit toilet), and sometimes a rusty shower which may or may not have water. The rustic accommodation adds to the experience as it puts the remoteness of your location into perspective -- no plumbing, no electricity, no cellphone signal. Bliss.

You will be spending a lot of time at camp as you have to limit your game drives to save fuel. Most of these camps overlook pans, so bring a hammock and a good pair of binoculars for some comfortable game-viewing. Animals are also drawn to the camps, so you'll have little critters like ground squirrels and guinea fowl hanging around. On our last trip, we were lucky enough to have a pair of resident red-necked falcons in a tree above our tent during the day and a pair of spotted eagle owls at night. Predators are also known to be attracted to these sites so be cautious when walking around - especially at night.

On our very first trip to Mabuasehube, we didn't think it necessary to pack away our things at night. On the second night, we had all gone to bed as the last embers of the bonfire died down. I lay in my tent listening to the night sounds. A barn owl screeched past. The distant roar of lions. The fiery-necked night jar. The jackal. The loud crash of pots and pans. I sat up - wide-eyed, heart throbbing. I've heard stories. Horror stories. But of course I'm a naturally curious person and I couldn't bear the thought of not knowing what was lurking around outside my tent.

The rustic campsites consist of a long drop, A-frame and sometimes a shower.

So, despite the cold and the fear, I unzipped my tent enough to stick my torch out. There in the spotlight I saw glowing eyes and fur. A werewolf? A brown hyena. The first brown hyena I had ever seen.

The following morning, we assessed the damage caused by the werewolf. Overthrown chairs and tables. A full 25-litre container of water dragged through the sand. A pair of binoculars a few metres into the veld. A tripod even further into the veld. A solid steel camping fridge with teeth holes. Lesson learnt: put everything away at night. Everything. Over the years, we have had many predators pay a visit. Leopards, lions, spotted hyenas, and more brown hyenas. It is exhilarating.

Game-viewing in the Kgalagadi is very different to that in bushier, wetter areas like the Kruger National Park or Okavango Delta. There are no elephants, rhino, or buffalo. Impala, kudu, or giraffe that are frequently seen in other places are a rarity in the Kgalagadi. Animals like gemsbok and springbok that are more adapted to desert regions are commonly seen. The first time I visited Kgalagadi was also the first time I saw a bat-eared fox and the incredible Cape cobra.

Kalahari weather is that typical of a desert region. Daytime temperatures can be incredibly hot and drop to below freezing at night. The flat landscape also makes you vulnerable to heavy winds, which get a little uncomfortable when you're surrounded by fine sand.

Those who have visited the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park will understand its magic. There is nothing more rewarding than being out of reach, surrounded by wildlife and the most incredible landscapes. No phones, no shops, no internet, no deadlines. Just you and the unspoiled wilderness.

View from our tent of a leopard in our camp at night.
I couldn't bear the thought of not knowing what was lurking around outside my tent

The camp critters.
You are guaranteed to see ground squirrels in the Kgalagadi - and very likely up close. These little cuties are frequent visitors to campsites and often have burrows right under your camp!

The beauty of staying in one of the Mabuashuabe camps is that you are completely isolated.

The thrill of remoteness.
The best part about staying in one of the Mabuashuabe campsites is that they are unfenced and isolated. It's a thrilling adventure with extraordinary rewards.

Another magical sunset

Five billion star accommodation.
The Mabuasehube campsites may not offer luxury amenities, but it's the isolation and pure wilderness experience that makes it so magical.

Love cats.
We set up our Bushnell camera trap next to a small watering hole a few hundred meters from our campsite. Every morning we checked the footage. On this particular morning we arrived to find the camera knocked off its stand. We couldn't believe our eyes when we saw this clip!

The Kgalagadi offers the most incredible lighting.

Photographer's playground.
Anyone who is mildly interested in photography will agree that the Kgalagadi presents a great opportunity to capture epic wildlife and landscape photos. The morning and afternoon lighting and large open spaces make for great photographs.

The simple life

The simple life.
I am in love with camping. I have the best night's sleep in a tent. Coffee somehow tastes better when the water has been boiled over a fire.

The barren Kalahari.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is located within the Kalahari Desert at the point where Botswana, South Africa, and Namibia meet.

Curious creatures.
We set up a camera trap at a nearby watering-hole. Curious creatures like jackal, porcupines, owls, kudus, and even leopards investigated.