The Kalahari is loved by nature and wildlife seekers and those looking to rediscover, even just for a few fleeting moments, the beauty of the simple life. Here’s a few top picks of things to do in the area:
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
Why you should visit: Travellers wanting to appreciate the distinctive red sands, camel thorn trees and dry scrub landscapes of the Kalahari Desert are advised to make the journey to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. The park has big game and plenty of other wildlife.
The park also offers a true “roughing it” bucket-list safari experience. Schedule your visit to witness migrating herds of blue wildebeest and see springbok, raptors, leopard, eland and others, lounge around in the desert. The park is renowned for its distinctive black-maned Kalahari lions and falcons. Spotting either is a gift from Lady Luck!
How to get there: Find it on the R360 near Upington.
How much does it cost: R89 per adult for South African citizens and residents.
Augrabies Falls National Park
Why you should visit: Named Aukoerabis in the local language, meaning “the place of great noise,” the Augrabies Falls is a 60-metre high waterfall that forms an oasis in the semi-arid desert surroundings. It crashes into the 18 km abyss that is the Orange River Gorge and is a spectacular sight to behold. The best time to visit the falls is from March to May.
The SANParks-operated Augrabies National Park itself is dry with only the odd kokerboom (quiver tree), camelthorn, and Namaqua fig breaking the barrenness.
How to get there: The Augrabies Falls lies 120km from Upington.
How much does it cost: R53 per adult for South African citizens and residents.
Eye of Kuruman
Why you should visit: The blink-and-you-miss-it town of Kuruman is the “Oasis of the Kalahari”, with one of the largest natural springs in the southern hemisphere. It sprouts out between 20 and 30 million litres of fresh water per day. That feat is even more remarkable considering its located in a semi-arid region.
The spring feeds the Kuruman River and a small scenic lake in the centre of the town. As one can imagine, the spring is vital for the survival of all life in this water-scarce region.
How to get there: Find it on Main Street in Kuruman
How much does it cost: A small entrance fee is payable to access the Eye of Kuruman.
Witsand Nature Reserve
Why you should visit: In the Green Kalahari near Upington lies the Witsand Nature Reserve, perhaps better known as the “roaring sands.” Dunes that stretch for almost 10km, up to 100 metres high, emit an eerie sound in the hot, dry summer months (September to April). It is also unusual as the dunes are made of white sand, unlike the usual red sands of the Kalahari.
Another highlight is that a large number of meerkats live here, along with aardvark, pangolins and others. It is an ideal place for hikers with no areas off-limits. The adventurous can hire dune boards to surf the dunes.
How to get there: It’s just short of a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Upington.
How much does it cost: Conservation fee payable on arrival.
Guided walk with a tracker
Why you should visit: The best way to learn about the Kgalagadi landscape is from a local. If you’re staying at !Xaus Lodge, join one of the guided walks with a San tracker. Learn to identify animal spoor, birds, trees and plants and how nature has provided its own medicine for centuries.
How to get there: Book at !Xaus Lodge if you’re an overnight guest, or ask at the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park how you could book a tour.