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Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Where is the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park?

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is situated in the southern Kalahari, with 73% lying in Botswana and the remainder in South Africa.

The area, which measures 37 256 km2, represents a large ecosystem relatively free of human interference – an increasingly rare phenomenon in Africa. The name Kgalagadi is derived from the San language and means "place of thirst".

Background

This peace park has been in de facto existence since 1948, thanks to an informal verbal agreement between the conservation authorities of the then Bechuanaland Protectorate and the Union of South Africa.

In June 1992 representatives from the South African National Parks Board (now SANParks) and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks of Botswana set up a joint management committee to manage the area as a single ecological unit. This undertaking led to the drafting of a management plan, which was reviewed and approved by the two conservation agencies early in 1997. The plan provided a basis for cooperative tourism ventures and proposed the equal sharing of entrance fees by both countries. An integral feature of the agreement was that each country would provide and maintain its own tourism facilities and infrastructure, giving particular attention to developing and involving communities living adjacent to the park.

On 7 April 1999, Botswana and South Africa signed a historic bilateral agreement whereby both countries undertook to manage their adjacent national parks, the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana and the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa as a single ecological unit. The boundary between the two parks, which is also the international border between the two countries, had no physical barriers, thus allowing for the free movement of animals.

On 12 May 2000 southern Africa’s first peace park, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, was formally launched by President Festus Mogae of Botswana and President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa.

Major features

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park lies in the southern Kalahari, an arid region where annual average temperatures range from 4 - 32°C, but extreme temperatures of -11°C and up to 45°C have been recorded.

The Nossob and Auob rivers cross the area. While these riverbeds are normally dry, they do flow once or twice a century after heavy rains. A good variety of game is supported by the three large pans in the Mabuasehube area of the park. Spectacular parallel dunes of both red and white sand, separated by dune valleys, characterise the area.

Shrubby Kalahari dune bushveld predominates and is characterised by scattered shrubs of grey camel thorn (Acacia haematoxylon) and grasses such as dune bushman grass (Stipagrostis amabilis), gha grass (Centropodia glauca) and giant three-awn (Aristida meridionalis). A second component of vegetation, the thorny Kalahari dune bushveld, is characterised by sparsely scattered trees of camel thorn (Acacia erioloba), shepherd’s tree (Boscia albitrunca) and false umbrella thorn (Acacia luderitzii).

The vastness of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park allows the nomadic ungulate populations and their predators to maintain themselves in balance with their environment, consequently there is little need for extensive management intervention. The 60 species of mammals recorded include large herds of ungulates, mainly gemsbok, springbok, blue wildebeest, eland and to a lesser extent red hartebeest. These ungulates and an abundance of rodents support many carnivores.

The transfrontier park has built up a deserved reputation as one on the few ecosystems in southern Africa where a variety of large predators can be maintained, with leopard, brown and spotted hyena, lion and cheetah all being well represented. Other carnivores include the caracal, black-backed jackal, bat-eared fox and Cape fox. The endangered wild dog is also occasionally sighted. Other threatened mammals include the pangolin, the honey badger and Woosnam’s desert rat. Three hundred and seven bird species have been recorded, including many species endemic to the arid southwest region of southern Africa. Large nests of the sociable weavers are also characteristic of the region and can contain colonies of up to 300 birds. Wild ostrich are frequently seen as well as the world’s heaviest flying bird, the Kori bustard. Of the 80 raptors recorded in South Africa, 52 have been recorded in the Kgalagadi.

Adventure / Wilderness trails

Deep in the heart of Botswana’s side of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park the Polentswa wilderness trail is available through an area that has remained unchanged from the days of our forefathers. For some 257 km of track, on which only 4x4 vehicles may travel for two nights and three days, those who wish to experience a sense of solitude and freedom in the wilderness will find only minimal signs of human intervention. The trail sometimes passes through areas of tall grass and sometimes over dunes of soft sand. The route links various pans, some plain and some spectacular. Kalahari wildlife can be seen in varying concentrations along the trail and lion may explore camps at night.

The Mabuasehube wilderness trail runs through the centre of the Botswana part of the park from the Mabuasehube area of the park to Nossob rest camp. This is a two-day, one-night trail over 155km.

The Kaa game-viewing trail is a roughly circular route starting and ending at the Kaa entrance gate, consisting of a total distance of 191km with camping spots along the way.

The trails must be booked through the Botswana Reservations Office and only one group, of not fewer than two and not more than five 4x4 vehicles, is allowed to start on each trail on any given day to ensure exclusivity.

A further two access routes linking the Nossob riverbed with the entrance gates on the Botswana side alternatively at Kaa and Mabuasehube are also accessible. The distance from Nossob to Mabuasehube is 170km and from Kannaguass to Kaa 81km. Both routes can be driven in both directions.

On the South African side the Nossob 4x4 guided ecotrail runs into the magnificent Kalahari duneveld and allows for up to five 4x4 vehicles per trail. The route runs over three days and four nights and is an excellent way to experience the Kalahari’s tranquillity.

Cultural importance

An important development in conservation as a land-use option took place in October 2002 when a total of almost 58 000 ha of land in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park was restored to the Khomani San and Mier communities. The 27 769 ha of San Heritage Land and 30 134 ha of Mier Heritage Land will be managed as contractual parks by SANParks and the income generated will be split equally. The communities retain commercial benefits and rights, as well as the use of the land for symbolic and cultural purposes. A lodge that will further benefit these communities is also planned for the area. This is a prime example of environmental management that also ensures the sustainability of conservation.

Tourism opportunities

In Botswana, unfenced wilderness camping facilities are available on the eastern side of the Nossob River, at Two Rivers, Rooiputs and Polentswa. For details and reservations, contact the Botswana Parks and Reserves Reservation Office, Department of Wildlife and National Parks, PO Box 131, Gaborone, Botswana; tel.: +267 3 918 0774; fax: +267 3 918 0775; E-mail: dwnp@gov.bw.

On the South African side there are three rest camps, at Twee Rivieren, Nossob and Mata Mata, and six unfenced wilderness camps, at Gharagab, Kieliekrankie, Urikaruus, Kalahari Tent Camp, Bitterpan and Grootkolk. A new upmarket camp for fly-in tourists is being planned near Twee Rivieren. Camping sites are only available at Twee Rivieren, Nossob and Mata Mata, while a restaurant is available at Twee Rivieren. Bookings for interpretive activities can be made at Twee Rivieren, Nossob and Mata Mata. For reservations, contact SANParks at PO Box 787, Pretoria 0001, South Africa; tel.: +27 (0)12 428 9111; fax: +27 (0)12 426 5511; E-mail.

Enquiries: - Specific TFCA enquiries

Botswana:

  • Mr Jan Broekhuis
    Assistant-Director (Parks)
    Department of Wildlife and National Parks
    Gaborone
    Botswana
    Tel: 09 267 3971 405
    Fax: 09 267 3912 354
    e-mail: dwnp@gov.bw

South Africa:

  • Mr Dries Engelbrecht
    Coordinator: Arid Parks
    South African National Parks (SANParks)
    Tel: +27 (0) 54 338 0600
    Fax: +27 (0) 54 338 0601
    E-mail

Reservation enquiries

Botswana:

  • Department of Wildlife and National Parks
    P O Box 131
    Gaborone
    Botswana
    Tel: +267 (3) 918 1774
    Fax: +267 (3) 918 0775
    e-mail: dwnp@gov.bw

South Africa:

  • South African National Parks
    P O Box 787
    Pretoria
    South Africa
    Tel: +27 (0)12 426 5000
    Fax: +27 (0)12 343 0905
    E-mail

Emergencies

Park Tel: +27 (0) 54 561 0021
Park Fax: +27 (0) 54 561 0026