Vast and Magical Desert Expanse of Red Dunes and Rare
The Kalahari Desert is part of one giant sand basin that stretches from the Orange River in Angola to Namibia in the west, Zimbabwe in the east and into South Africa. The landscape in this largely unexplored territory in the north-western corner of South Africa provides a marked contrast from the south and east of the country. The vegetation in this semi-arid zone is dominant with Acacia trees, thorny shrub and grasses and in this parched ecosystem they can endure droughts of up to ten months with no water supply. Shifting hue with the changing light, this is an area of surprising beauty, with spectacular desert-adapted plant life and trees weighed down with weaver-bird nests.
The Kalahari is home to the famous black-maned Kalahari lions, whose behaviour patterns are specifically adapted for the fierce diurnal swings in temperature. The long straight horns of the gemsbok are typically seen atop a sand dune through a shimmering heat-haze, while raptors soar on thermals, searching for their next prey.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park itself protects the unique ecosystem of the Kalahari through a joint venture that links Botswana and covers an area that represents double that of Kruger National Park. The word ‘Kgalagadi’ actually comes from the Tswana word for ‘waterless place’ and this area has also been inhabited by San Bushmen for over 20,000 years. One of the other key places to stay in the Kalahari region, especially for a purposeful luxury safari is Tswalu, the largest private game reserve in South Africa, offering you the chance to see cheetah, black rhino and pangolins. Further South you will find the true Green Kalahari, boasting the majestic Orange River and Augrabies Falls. This area is especially known for its range of adrenaline and adventure activities.
Tswalu Kalahari, a Luxury Kalahari Safari with a Purpose
Where the Kalahari Desert extends into northern South Africa, safari-goers will find one of Africa’s truly remote locations. Here, the Korannaberg Mountains create a beautiful backdrop, offering shelter for wildlife and unique biodiversity.
The key luxury safari destination here is South Africa’s largest private game reserve, Tswalu, with nearly a quarter-million acres of protected land. In Setswana, Tswalu means a ‘new beginning’ and they are aiming to deliver exactly that: a fresh era of hope for the people and wildlife of one of South Africa’s last great wilderness areas. Tswalu represents an opportunity to explore not just a landscape, but a new model of conservation. Tshwalu offers one of the most unique and diverse selections of wildlife in all of Africa, 80 mammal and 240 bird species, making a typical safari here not so typical at all.
Large mammals such as the black-maned Kalahari lion, desert-adapted black rhino and Hartmann’s mountain zebra are resident to the area. Tswalu is unquestionably one of the best places in southern Africa to see cheetah in the wild. The vast open spaces and antelope herds of the Kalahari readily lend themselves to high-speed pursuits. Brown hyena are fairly common, and wild dog are occasionally seen. The small mammals of this area are a special drawcard, particularly the chance to see such rarities as aardvark and pangolin, with on-site research focused on this endangered species. Small predators and carnivores abound, from silver and bat-eared foxes, African wild cat, and aardwolf to the charming meerkats, of which there are now two habituated colonies.
Incredible safari experiences at Tshwalu include morning, afternoon and night game drives, guided nature walks and hikes, horseback riding, helicopter safaris, stargazing, meerkat safaris and a Malori sleep-out experience under the night sky. You can also spend time with one of the Tshwalu wildlife researchers to see cutting-edge conservation at work.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Home of Black-maned lions, Oryx and Birds of Prey
Where the red dunes and scrub fade into infinity and herds of gemsbok, springbok, eland and blue wildebeest follow the seasons, where imposing camel thorn trees provide shade for huge black-maned lions and vantage points for leopard and many raptors… this is the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park comprises an area of over 3,6 million hectares straddling the borders of South Africa and Botswana and is one of very few conservation areas of this magnitude left in the world. In this off-the-beaten track destination, red sand dunes, sparse vegetation and the dry riverbeds of the Nossob and Auob easily show antelope and predator species off and provide excellent photographic opportunities, especially at sunrise and sunset.
The Kgalagadi is not a Big Five destination but offers high-end mammal viewing. It is especially renowned for predator watching (lion, leopard, cheetah and hyaena) and for the seasonal movement of large herbivores such as blue wildebeest, springbok, eland and red hartebeest. Ground squirrel and suricate (Meerkat) are two more of the parks more prominent species. Honey Badger, pangolin (Scaly Anteater) and bat-eared fox are some of the park specials to search for, especially at night.
The Kgalagadi could be considered a haven for birders especially for birds of prey. A variety of raptors may be seen, the commonest being Tawny and Black Chested Snake Eagle, Bateleur, White-backed and Lappet faced Vulture, as well as smaller species such as Pale Chanting Goshawk, Gabar Goshawk, Pygmy Falcon and Greater Kestrel. The Nossob Riverbed is rated as one of the best places in South Africa to view raptors, particularly during the summer months when large numbers of migratory eagles, kites and falcons move through the park.
The Southern Green Kalahari – The Shimmering Orange River and Mighty Augrabies Falls
The Green Kalahari is a world full of wonders and contrasts. Here is where the lush green vineyards stand proud in the valley bearing magical fruits not far from where the shimmering Orange River thunders into a deep granite gorge to create the mighty Augrabies Falls. The Green Kalahari boasts the best of both worlds: unspoiled semi-desert against the lush vineyards that fill the fertile valleys of the Orange River. This massive body of water makes its way through this harsh and dry landscape bringing life to the region and an oasis to locals and animals alike.
The Augrabies Falls National Park offers an ancient landscape that will take you back in time to the world of the first hunter-gatherers. The National Park covers an area of 820 km² and stretches along the Orange River. The waterfall itself is about 60 metres high and is awe-inspiring when the river is in flood. The gorge below the falls, averages about 240 m deep and runs for 18 kilometres. The original Khoikhoi people named the waterfall Ankoerebis, meaning the “place of big noises”.
The animals in Augrabies Falls National Park can survive in extreme high and low temperatures. Smaller animals, like mongooses and rock dassies make use of whatever shade is available as well as burrows, rock crevices and fallen trees. An interesting mammal found in Augrabies is the cape clawless otter, indicating that the river ecosystem is relatively healthy. The giraffes found in Augrabies are lighter in colour than those found in the regions of the east, as a counter measure for the extreme heat. One of the most often seen antelope is the klipspringer, which are often seen in pairs. Other antelope found in the park are steenbok, springbok, gemsbok, kudu and eland. Predators include leopard, black backed jackals, caracal, the bat-eared fox, and the African wild cat.
A uniquely endemic plant species is the enigmatic Quiver tree or Kokerboom (Aloe dichotoma). Traditionally, the Khoisan hunters made their quivers from this tree which dates back thousands of years and which produces vivid yellow flowers in May and June.
Activities in the area include camel rides, thrilling white water rafting on the Orange River, parasailing on the many pans in the region, as well as a spectacular afternoon micro light glides above the undulating red dunes and jagged mountains of Riemvasmaak and the Mier Kalahari with its 35 to 40 meters high sand dunes. There is plenty to see and do here and something for all different tastes. For the less adventurous traveller there is an abundance of hiking, canoeing, mountain biking, bird watching, game drives in the national and many exquisite private game reserves, camping and fly-in safaris.
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