4×4 – Kgalagadi Trans Frontier Park – August 2016

4×4 – Kgalagadi Trans Frontier Park – August 2016

by Gerald O’Brien
This trip has been a long time in the planning, and once the date arrived for us to all meet in Van Zyl’s Rus, we were finally on the move. Because we intended doing the Mosomane Wilderness rail, our numbers were limited, a maximum of five vehicles and 10 people.

On the route that we were taking, we would be going into Botswana for a few days but because it is a Transfrontier Park, passports were not necessary. The fact that we would not be going through a recognised border crossing is in itself a blessing, besides avoiding all the usual border formalities, it also meant that we could quite comfortably carry what we wanted to.

From Van Zyl’s Rus, our first night stop over was at Rooiputs camp on the Botswana side of the park, it’s not far from Twee Revieren, but once there you get the feeling of being totally free in the wilds of the Kalahari. By the time we had covered the 35 kilometers from the main entrance to the camp site we had already had two good sightings, one of leopard and the other of a cheetah and her two cubs, what a way to start the ten day trip.

Rooiputs is a typical bush camp and that what makes it all part of the true Kalahari experience, cold outdoor shower and a respectable Long Drop with a washing basin. We were not alone that night, the fresh spoor around the camp in the morning showed which route the Brown Hyena had taken as it moved around our campsite. The following morning it was a leisurely departure for the drive up to Nossob along the dry Nossob riverbed. The river may be dry but the animals still congregate along the dry bed where the grazing is still better than away from the river bed. The 150 km drive takes a few hours to cover, but then there’s no rush, there’s great game viewing to be done along the way. Once again we were fortunate enough to see leopard moving up to a new shady place in a tree
not too far off from the road. The birdlife is also very good and with an abundance of birds around and enough to keep the birders busy most of the time.

Nossob was a busy camp whilst we were there, but for our party, it was nothing more than a transit camp whilst we were all on our way to Mabuasehube in Botswana. Nossob is also a vital refuel point before heading off into the wilderness for a few days where fuel does not exist in pump form.

The following morning, our destination was Motopi 1, a camp site roughly midway between Nossob and our 3 night stop over at Mpayathutlwa pan in Mabuasehube. The route to Matopi 1 is an interesting one, it takes one across the Kalahari Dunes in the vast wilderness area ranging from dense bush to open veld and grassland. Although there is a lot of game to be spotted along the route, it’s made up of mostly Springbok and Gemsbok. These animals are well adapted to the dry area and water is not high on their agenda when it comes to survival in the desert. Matopi 1 camp has nothing more than a long drop and when booked into the camp you have exclusivity to the camp which is roughly 6 hours by 4×4 track from any sort of civilisation. Early evening we
heard the nearby Jackals crying and in the wee hours for that that were awake, the lion could be heard way off in the distance. Like all the camps on the trip, once the braai fires were out and everyone had put their lights off, the African sky was simply amazing. It’s not always easy to get so far away from any light source and have yourself in total darkness such as this, but when you do, it’s awesome and you need to take time out to enjoy and appreciate it.

The next day it was very similar to the previous day, crossing the dunes through the wilderness while we covered the final 70kms to our next stop over on the pan. The dunes do offer a certain degree of difficulty with most of us having more than one run up to get up and over some of them. Low range 2nd or 3rd usually did the trick for most of us, and of course with deflated tyres to around 1,5kpa. Because we would be doing the Mabuasehube Wilderness Trail on the way back to Nossob, none of us were towing, towing is not permitted on the wilderness trail. At one stage we came up to a road block in the form of a male lion laying down smack bang in the middle of the tracks. His two young lionesses were just to one side in the shade of a tree. After watching them for a while, we progressed very slowly towards the male, and he eventually got up and moved into the shade with the other two. This was a great sighting for the entire convoy.

We arrived at our camp on the pan for the next 3 days by mid-afternoon, giving us all plenty of time to set up camp and get comfortable before darkness fell. Once again, the camp consisted of a long drop, cold shower plus this time a large “A” Frame for shade. What more could we ask for. This is why we come to these amazing places after all. Again, awesome night skies for the next few nights with lion roaring each night but only this time from much closer. At one stage the lions were in fact so close that two ladies from our group bumped into a lioness whilst on their way to the loo. Needless to say, the loo had to wait until the morning and the lioness, unperturbed, just carried on to where ever she was going before she had torch’s shining in her eyes from 10 meters. Two lucky ladies whose hearts upped their beat rates quite considerably for the next hour or so.
The next few days were spent exploring the area whilst driving between the other pans in the area where each pan had something different to offer. We had excellent sightings of Lion at one of the other pans and each evening Bat Eared Fox on the pan in front of us and of course a visit by the resident Brown Hyena each night. The pans did not have any of their natural water but the borehole water was enough to bring the animals in during the course of the day and of course early evenings and mornings.

These were glorious days and such a pity it all had to end so quickly but all was not quite over yet. We still had the two day Mabuasehube Wilderness trail to complete. The trail was to take us back to Nossob in the west over a distance of around 150 kilometers with a bush camp roughly halfway. This was a real bush camp, just a few shady trees, and that’s it. The 4×4 driving was excellent and the vast open spaces that we drove through were simply out of this world. From grassland to bushveld and back to grassland, fantastic scenery for two days of 4x4ing and wilderness driving. Although no a lot of game, we did see more and more as we got closer to Nossob and the dry river bed, even quite a few Eland were spotted. This was a long day for the group, all the way from the bush camp on the trail to Rooiputs, a distance of roughly 245 kms in 4×4 conditions. The tired group of travellers arrived at Rooiputs at around 17h00 after having been on the roads for about twelve long hours.

The only thing that did not go right on the trip was the fact that there were others in our camp when we arrived in Rooiputs. They had paid the day before at the Twee Revieren gate, (I paid for our group in December last year) and whilst at our camp in Mabuasehube we had two groups accuse us of been in their camp, same stories. On the exit at the Twee Revieren gate, the Botswana officials admitted that double booking was taking place caused by a lack of communication between various reservation offices. It seems like some were running an on-line system whilst other were running a manual system.

All in all it was a really great trip in a fantastic environment by a great group of like -minded thinking people. Again next year, without a doubt.