This trip was part of my honeymoon, so photography was not the primary factor, although it was definitely high on the agenda thanks to a very understanding wife.
The Kgalagadi spans the border of South Africa and Botswana, forming part of the Kalahari desert. An arid park, I had read numerous reports telling of huge numbers of predators and raptors, plus an abundance of the smaller, rarer animals. There are no rhino, and no elephants, as it’s just too dry for them.
In the Kgalagadi we had some great sightings, fornicating lions, lions asleep in the road, a cheetah with it’s kill, and 3 different leopard sightings.
There was a profusion of birds of prey, owls, eagles, falcons, a really nice range of different birds.
Using my UV torch at night helped me to spot several scorpions, and everything was rounded off with a cape cobra with it’s hood fully flared.
The lack of population means the night sky is almost totally unaffected by light pollution, so you get a fantastic milky way just about every night.
Being in the park just after the rains meant there was quite a lot of vegetation and greenery around, rather than the rolling red sand dunes the park is famous for.
However, both of us (the new wife and I) felt a little underwhelmed by it all. We had had more prolific sightings in other parks, and were hopeful here of finding the smaller stuff that everybody raved about, yet did not see 1 cape fox, nor a single hyena.
There were some disappointments on the trip, in general they were brought about by the almost total lack of accommodation availability in the park. Sure, we could have camped, but we aren’t into camping. It was almost impossible to get 2 nights in a row at any accommodation other than the main camp (Twee Rivieren).
So, we decided on staying at Kgalagadi Lodge, just 5km from the main gate.
We were not expecting luxury, but getting basics wrong is pretty hard to justify.
Just lots of disappointing little bits, which do all add up.
Because of the lack of availability in the park, we had to visit as day visitors, and this severely limits your options for exploring the park. There are only 2 main roads within the park, and barely any link roads between the two, and a lack of little loops such as you get in Kruger, Etosha, Pilanesberg. So, unless what you wanted to see was on or near the main road, you were out of luck. It’s a big park, and it is only just possible to visit one of the other camps and get back in time for the gate closing – so you are limited to a tiny portion of the park.
I know they intentionally keep the amount of accommodation low, to keep the visitor numbers down, and this is reflected in the generally very courteous behaviour of the other people we saw in the park, lots of people stopping for a chat, pointing out sightings, and when there is a good sighting, everybody keeps the road clear, unlike Pilanesberg!
However, when you have to be ready to book the accommodation you want 1 year ahead of time when the reservation opens, it’s not conducive to attracting new people to the park.
As with many other places, there is a Facebook group set up for reporting sightings in the park, but it is also a great platform for sharing experiences and asking questions about the Kgalagadi.
Unless that is you dare to report a negative experience. The venom, hostility, and outright abuse directed at me for daring to mention that it’s not the best park I have ever visited was unexpected. To be honest, being rebuked by a faceless keyboard warrior doesn’t bother me, it actually made me feel sorry for them, their blinkered view of their beloved park means they don’t see the real issue. Whilst they may be glad that ‘normal’ tourists are put off from going there, those ‘normal’ tourists will happily take their money and spend it elsewhere, then the park has less money, and the poor facilities they like to moan about will never be fixed.
I put up a reasoned, balanced post about why I probably wouldn’t be rushing back to Kgalagadi, preferring the other parks I have visited recently, and was told “GOOD RIDDANCE” by one particularly vocal person.
Good effort mate, people are already dubious about South Africa owing to high levels of violent crime, murder and rape, and you are telling tourists good riddance, smart move.
Eventually, the page moderator decided to delete the thread, without bothering to tell me. So, in their own little world everything is perfect again.
Whilst we had a few disappointments with the accommodation, we worked hard for some great sightings and generally had a very pleasant time within the park, and within South Africa as a whole – Kgalagadi was just a third of the trip.
We genuinely think that we are just a little safari’d out – when you get blasé about lions, you know you have been spoiled in the past.
I don’t let the bad bits put me off, but they may delay my return, as there is a whole world to visit. With that in mind, 2 weeks in Costa Rica are coming up soon!
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