The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is an immense desert area, with grass-covered sand dunes. Formally known as the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park on the South African side and the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana, it existed as a single ecological unit and the international border between the two countries. At over 3,5 million hectares, it’s almost twice the size of the Kruger National Park (and about the same size as the Netherlands), and is jointly managed by the South African and Botwsanan wildlife authorities.
A constant high pressure cell forms a ‘lid’ over the interior, preventing moist air from the ocean reaching the area, and as a consequence the long-term rainfall average is just 213mm per annum, which classifies the Kgalagadi as a true desert. Unusually, there is an abundance of desert grasses, giving the landscape an appearance of a semi-desert.
The rainfall, usually in the form of dramatic thunderstorms, falls between November and April. The temperatures in the area vary from -11°C on cold winter nights to a sweltering 42°C in the shade on a summer’s day. Our winter, from May to August is generally cool and dry. In spring, from September to October, the climate is also dry, but warming up in preparation for our summer which, along with autumn, brings the rainfall combined with high temperatures from November to April.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is characterised by two dry riverbeds that flow through the heart of the game reserve: Auob and Nossop, and the main roads – and game viewing sites – are concentrated along these rivers. As with all deserts around the world, the freedom to move to where water and grazing is available is central to the park’s ecosystem. Thus in winter (when it is dryer and colder) the antelope herds tend to move further north where the savannah vegetation is less susceptible to frost. Predators in turn move into the dune areas where it’s slightly warmer. Conversely, during summer the antelope herds congregate in the dry river beds, and it’s not uncommon to see a thousand head of springbok at a time, standing still in the available shade. In turn, the predators also return to the river areas where there is good hunting.
The game reserve has only 8 antelope species, but 19 carnivores, including the famous black-maned lion. These lions have adapted to the extreme conditions, and kill a far higher proportion of small game than lions in other parts of Africa.
They walk an average of 12km per night in search of food. The park has about 300 bird species of which only 82 are resident. Raptors are common, and highly visible in the arid vegetation.
!Xaus Lodge is located in the South African sector of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP) and access is via the Auob River road that connects Tweerivieren with Mata Mata. The lodge is situated 30 km into the desert, reached after driving over 91 sand dunes from the turn-off at Rooibrak waterhole, 60 km northwest of Tweerivieren.
GPS co-ordinates for a Google search are: S26°09.005′ E20°15.392′.
Click on the map to download a printable PDF.
The distance from Upington to Tweerivieren is 260km. Travelling time is two-and-a-half to three hours.
From Tweerivieren (entry gate to KTP) to Kamqua picnic site (meeting point for !Xaus Lodge) is 64km. It is a game drive all the way along the Auob river bed and takes approximately one-and-a-half hours.
From Kamqua picnic site to !Xaus Lodge is 30km on a single-track soft sand road through the dunes. A 4×4 vehicle is necessary for this leg of the journey. Travelling time is one to one-and-a-half hours.
Allow a minimum of five hours from Upington to Kamqua picnic site to meet the Lodge transport/convoy.
The self-drive to Kamqua picnic site can be done in any standard sedan motor vehicle although a vehicle with good ground clearance is preferable. Guests are met at Kamqua picnic site and escorted to the !Xaus Lodge turnoff at the Rooibrak waterhole. Guests who do not want to take their vehicles over the dunes, park in a demarcated zone off the road behind the dunes for the duration of their stay at !Xaus Lodge and are then transferred to !Xaus Lodge in an open safari vehicle. Guests with 4×4 vehicles, and the ability to drive over sand dunes, may drive to the Lodge, in convoy with the Lodge vehicles. Because the road to the Lodge is a single track, no guests may drive to the Lodge unless in convoy with Lodge vehicles.
Fuel can be purchased at the towns of Askham or Andriesvale (diesel only) or at KTP’s Tweerivieren and Mata Mata.
Tyre pressures should be reduced to 1,6 bar for travelling on gravel roads in the KTP and to 1,4 bar if self-driving through the dunes to !Xaus Lodge.
Upington in South Africa: SA Airlink operates scheduled flights to and from Johannesburg and Cape Town. (see www.saairlink.co.za).
Tweerivieren (entry gate to the KTP) offers a non-commercial landing facility. It has a 1.8km tarred landing strip in good condition that can accommodate aircraft of up to 5 500kg (Kingair 200 or equivalent).
!Xaus Lodge pan can be used for helicopter arrivals.
For guests flying in to Upington, a return road transfer to Kamqua picnic site in KTP is available. From Kamqua, guests are transferred to !Xaus Lodge in an open safari vehicle.
For guests flying to, or wishing to leave their vehicles at Tweerivieren, a return road transfer to !Xaus Lodge is available.
Guests entering through Tweerivieren, and departing into Namibia or Botswana, must clear Customs and Immigration at Tweerivieren even if they are planning to spend some days in KTP before their intended date of departure. This is particularly important if exiting into Namibia because guests will be made to return from Mata Mata to Tweerivieren (120km) if they have not cleared South African Customs and Immigration there.
Guests entering KTP from Namibia at Mata Mata are required to spend at least two nights in KTP before exiting into South Africa. Nights spent at !Xaus Lodge meet this requirement.
A valid passport is required if exiting into a country different to the one from which you have arrived. No passport is required if you enter and exit through the same entry point.
Self-drive guests must be in possession of the motor vehicle licence papers or a letter of authority from the vehicle owner or the car hire company if they plan to clear one of the borders.