The Northern Cape is the biggest of the nine provinces in South Africa, covering almost a third of the total surface area of the country, with a population of less than a million people.
The wide open spaces, at least 5 national parks with easy access, beautiful red sand dunes, two of the largest rivers in SA, carpets of Spring flowers in Namaqualand, rich diamond history around Kimberley and along the West Coast, a wealth of plants and wildlife, are just some of the reasons why the Northern Cape deserves to be at the top of every traveller’s list.
Imagine exploring the “desert”, with white water rafting on the largest river in SA, game drives and bushman-guided nature walks in the first and biggest transfrontier park in Southern Africa – Kgalagadi, sand surfing on white sand dunes, a visit to one of the six biggest waterfalls in the world – Augrabies, wine tasting at the second biggest cooperative wine cellar in the world, dinners under the BIG starry skies of the Northern Cape Province!
The word Kgalagadi (Kalahari) means “land of thirst” in the Setswana language, quite literally one of the world’s oldest deserts, formed over 60 million years ago.
It is a huge semi-desert region in southern Africa stretching from South Africa, through Namibia, into Angola and comprising the entire western and central regions of Botswana.
It is also home to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, a 3.7 million hectare expanse of pristine desert and a wealth of desert-adapted creatures inhabiting the dunes and plains covered in Bushman grass and Camelthorn trees. Accommodation varies from luxury lodges, en-suite chalets in the traditional fenced rest camps, secluded bush camps (unfenced), to camping.
It is characterised by red sand dunes and sparse vegetation and is home to black-maned Kalahari lion, leopard, cheetah, spotted and brown hyaena, wild dog, black-backed jackal, gemsbok (oryx), blue wildebeest (gnu), eland, springbok, red hartebeest, duiker and steenbok. Some 215 bird species have been recorded.
The desert conditions offer the unique opportunity to observe animals in their natural environment, employing special adaptations for survival.
Nature is more quiet and reserved due to the open terrain, and only the bold will be daring enough to proclaim its territory out loud. It would thus not be uncommon to hear the loud echoing roar of a lion breaking the peaceful silence of the Kalahari night.
Cheetah can be seen stalking their quarry, using the very limited cover and running down their prey over the dry river bed.
A honeybadger boldly following a cape cobra into a camelthorn tree, before finally apprehending it, dropping to the ground and consume it with relish.
After the rain, a pride of lion can be seen inspecting a big puddle of water, before chasing each other through the water as if for the first time.
Kgalagadi has all the elements for dream photography: perfect light and setting, willing models, and sparse vegetation for an unobscured view and shooting angle.
The warm light of the early morning sun, gives an unmatched quality to the red dunes and surroundings. Combine that with a black-maned lion, with bright honeycomb eyes, walking into view… and hopefully you have GIGS of memory available!
The rest camps are situated along the Nossob and Auob rivers, with most tourist routes developed along the dry river beds. Other than the flowing dunes, covered by grass in summer and barren in winter, only the occasional camelthorn tree obscure the view in the wide open expanse. Camp gates open at sunrise and close at sunset, allowing for maximum photographic opportunities.
Water holes are situated at regular intervals along the Nossob and Auob rivers. It is frequented by predators and herds of plains game alike, and the proximity to the tourist routes, make each water hole an ideal vantage point for photographers. Wildebeest jostle and play near the water, while waiting for their turn to drink. Big flocks of sandgrouse approach and land against the breeze, taking two quick sips of water, before flying off in a cloud of dust. Lanner falcons stoop from high above, making spectacular strikes on the departing sandgrouse.
Though animals in this desert environment are well adapted for long periods without water to drink, sightings at the water holes are almost guaranteed.
Winter in Kgalagdi is known for cold nights, followed by crisp air and warm colours in early morning. The arc of the sun is low, allowing for longer hours of good light for photography. Winters are dry and a herd of springbok filing along the riverbed, with a trail of powdery dust creating ghostly images with the backlight of the rising sun, would be a typical appearance. Food is scarce and the herbivores have to travel long distances between their grazing and water holes. Predators often use this opportunity to stalk their prey at the water holes.
Summers are warm to hot, with the occasional thunderstorm that fills the sky with dark clouds and sheet lightning. The nights are short and the predators are often forced to still be stalking their prey in the early morning hours. With the rain come the green vegetation and an abundance of babies, a time of easy “hunting” for predator and prey alike.
With daily flights to Upington, from Johannesburg and Cape Town, or transfers from any city in SA, it has never been this easy to visit the Kalahari region.
OPTIONAL ADD-ON: The itinerary can start in Kimberley area, with a visit to the Diamond mine.
They can stay overnight at a lodge close to Kimberley, where they can take part in a game capture experience, and do a tour of the breeding centre for rare species
After that we can do an overnight stop in Witsand Nature Reserve, where the Roaring Dunes are, before travelling on the Kgalagadi via Upington the next day.
Arrive at Uptn airport.
Depending on time for flight arrival, either overnight in Uptn, or travel to Kgalagadi directly
Assuming they arrive on the morning or mid-day, we travel to Tweerivieren from airport
Check into the park, offload luggage at chalets
Late afternoon game drive
Dinner and overnight Tweerivieren
Depart (luggage loaded) on early morning game drive
Stop around 11am for picnic brunch (yoghurt, muesli, cold meats, bread, spreads, tomato, cheese, fruit, juice, coffee/tea)
Continue game drive to Nossob Restcamp
- accommodation consists of en-suite chalets, all meals prepared by me
Late afternoon game drive
Dinner around the fire
Early morning and late afternoon game drives, 3-4 hours per game drive
Early morning coffee/tea/rusks/breakfast bars; late morning brunch, full dinner
There will be fruit and snacks available all day
Same program, but luggage loaded, as we move to Mata Mata Restcamp
Stay 3 nights
Same program, but luggage loaded, as we move to Tweerivieren Restcamp
Stay 1 night
Depart for Augrabies Falls National Park
Stop at a dried fruit shop along the way
Lunch at Bezalel, with optional Brandy cellar tour
Check in at Augrabies
Late afternoon walk to the various viewpoints along the falls
Dinner at restaurant
Optional walks/hikes/river rafting
Game drive in Augrabies Falls Park, visit Oranjekom with spectacular view of the Orange River Gorge
Lunch, dinner in Park
On day 12, you can be transferred to the Uptn airport, OR continue to 11 Springbok to see the wild flowers
The rest of program can then include 2 nights in Springbok, to view the carpets of Namaqua Daisies, one night at Travellers Rest to see the Bushman Paintings, and drop off in Cape Town (or some days touring around Cpt)