Kgalagadi tour

By PG Jonker


From: Shell Touring Atlas 1997

In 1999 I took the family for a tour to the Kgalagadi Game Reserve.  I took my mother-in-law along too.  I thought it might be a good idea to introduce her to the renowned Kgalagadi lions, if you catch my drift.  However, we did not see a single lion, and my mother-in-law is still around.  Four years later we did the tour again, this time without my mother-in-law, as by then we had a third kiddo on the back seat. 

The first item that we packed this time was a 25 liter can of water.  It is amazing the thirst that takes hold of you the moment you realize that the salty water is not drinkable.  Then, suddenly, you don’t want a soda.  No, then you want pure, clear water!

My wife read somewhere that it is a good idea to take play balls along on a trip like this.  It is good for the kids.  So she duly complied.  At Vanrhynsdorp, exactly 301km’s away from home, we make our first stop at the fuel station, took out our breakfast, and played ball.  However, if you are only 19 months old you don’t always grasp the rules of the game.  So the moment he saw a ball rolling, Chris-Jan would give chase, confiscate the ball whilst shouting “ballie, ballie, ballie,” and then refuse anyone access to said ball.

We travelled through Calvinia with its massive post box, but decided to take the ‘been there dunnit’ picture on our return trip.  Sadly, I have to report that we neglected to do that on the way back as well. 

At Brandvlei we stopped for petrol, and had lunch at Die Windpomp restaurant, adjacent to the Boesmanland Instap.  The menu at Die Windpomp boasted that it was the best pump in town……


Due to a power failure we could not get the Full Monty, but nevertheless had an extremely decent meal of hamburgers and coffee.  You can catch my wife and me in a trap with good coffee.

From here we travelled further to the North.  This is Boesmanland.  It is a harsh world and I have endless respect for the farmers who make a living here.  There are very few cars on the road, which might not be a bad thing, because the occupants of every single car greet you as they drive past.

We drove through Kenhardt (it looks a bit like Brandvlei, I thought), with Keimoes the next town.  What a beautiful green place.  And just as you think you have passed through the dorp, there is a board that says: “Keimoes 4km”. 

At Upington we rented a bungalow in Die Eiland holiday resort.  With the sun setting our son, then 11 years old, came to call us very excited to come and see the fairy.  Amazing.  I did not know fairies existed anymore.  It turned out, though that he meant the ferry that does sundowner trips from the Upington hotel, which is just across the river from Die Eiland.  But it was a fair mistake, I’d say.  With all the lights on the ferry one could easily mistake it for a fairy.

After we had all the kids clean and ready for bed we found exhibit “A” in the bath, that clearly indicated that the youngest of our kids did somewhat more than just passed a flatulent in the tub.

Last leg to Kgalagadi

The next day we hit the road for the last 255km’s to the Kgalagadi.  The last about 80km’s was extremely bad corrugated gravel road. I understand this road has since been tarred.  It was a relief to reach the gate at Tweerivieren (Two Rivers).

 Reporting at the office with 19-months old Chris-Jan was rather entertaining.  Against the walls there were a number of pictures of Kgalagadi lions.  Chris-Jan would storm up to the picture and shout:  “It’s a ‘whau!’”.

Having had our trial run with our new camping equipment on our Calitzdorp trip, we managed to pitch our tents without much of a problem.  After setting up camp at the Tweerivieren camp site we went for a drive. 

It is my pleasure to inform you that Springbok, Blouwildebees and Gemsbok (Oryx) are not extinct species.

We arrive back at the camp just before sunset.  An errant little sand storm came past, leaving everything under sand.  Then the clouds started stacking up against the horizon until we eventually had a wonderful performance of a thunder storm.  The bolts of lightning would light up the skies, pretty much like daylight.  You would have been able to read your newspaper.  Admittedly, you would have had to do it fast.  Then the rain came.  Not much, just enough to leave everything fresh and wet. 

The next day our older kids found the swimming pool.  There they entertained everyone who wanted to look, and also everyone who were involuntarily exposed to their performance, to 99 ways how to fall in the water.  


From our camping site we had an unrestricted view of the entrance gate to the Park.  It made for some interesting observations watching new guests arriving, especially those doing so with sedan cars, rather than with bakkies or commercial type of vehicles.  Invariably the driver (who has now just finished what could possibly be the worst bit of gravel road he has ever travelled on) would get out, walk to his rear wheel, and upon finding it to still be in place, give it a kick just to be sure his eyes are not playing parts with him, before trundling off to the entrance gate. 

That evening we had ostrich meat and Karoo lamb on the fire.  The Karoo lamb tasted like a dream.  The ostrich meat…. well, nothing good comes to mind.  We later realised that we did not have the ostrich properly done yet.  Clearly we are not rare ostrich meat enthusiasts.  That evening it was so quiet we could sit back and have a dinner outside at candle light.

It is interesting how the days can just rush past without you seemingly having done anything when you are camping.  Not that it is a bad thing.  After all, you are on holiday, intent on doing as little as possible. 

The next afternoon two trucks with German overlanders pulled up at the sites next to ours.  An hour later 16 two man tents were pitched on two sites.  The tour guide walked over to us and assured us that they will not be noisy.  Indicating to my youngest son I explained that I am unfortunately not in a position to return the undertaking.  A later attempt to being social with our new neighbours was unsuccessful due to a language barrier.

After a 120km drive the next day we decided to rather change our plans.  We were supposed to move on to the Mata-Mata camp site, but decided to rather stay at Tweerivieren.  Maybe, one day when the kids are older and can be of more assistance in pitching tent and so on we can try that.

The Kgalagadi has a special magic to it.  Even if I do not see a single animal in the Park it is still worth its while just to be there.  The animals only enhance what is already a wonderful experience.  Previously the Park was called the Gemsbok Park due to the many Gemsbok (Oryx) there.  By now the kids started chirping me every time we saw one of these:  “Dad’s going to say ‘ah, what a beautiful animal’”.


There is also a rich bird life in the Park.  Some of them visited our tent to have some of the raisins the kids dropped.  I got a nice close-up picture of one of them.  Or it would have been a nice picture, if the little bugger did not fly away at the very moment that I took the picture.  Now I have a charming picture of my anchovy net ground sheet against the backdrop of some Kgalagadi sand.  Rather exotic, you have to admit.

Better luck next time!

A night drive offered some further entertainment.  We did not see much animals, and those we did see were smaller species, of which we normally only saw the eyes in the light of the spotlights that had been handed out.  Nothing that nibbles on people. 

“It’s a ‘wau’!”

The day before our departure we still have not seen any lions.  We were busy packing when our neighbour came to report that there were lions some 26 km’s away on the road to Mata-Mata.  We immediately got in the bakkie in search of the lions.  In our hurry we only took a long a bottle with water. 

And then, at last, we saw the Kgalagadi lions! 

Four of them were sleeping underneath a tree.  Chris-Jan made big eyes for me and told me “It’s a ‘wau’!”. 

There was very little action, except for a yawn here and there.  One female turned around on her back and kick the male away who was in her way.  So it happens to animals too. 

In spite of the wonderful sight, after a while, with 34° Celsius outside, even a “wau” has difficulties keeping the attention of a 19 month old.  So we had to leave, but at least we have now accomplished the mission.  We saw the Kgalagadi lions!

That evening in the failing light, I watched a gecko approaching another smaller creepy crawly.  I sat in anticipation, waiting for the gecko to shoot out his tongue to catch his prey.  Not this fellow.  He simply walked up to the prey, bit him like I can imagine a shark would to, and munched away the prey.  Now this is a cool dude, I thought. 

Early the next morning we departed.  We headed straight back home.  Thirteen hours after our departure, 1100km’s later, we arrived home. 

At least this time I had a proper picture of a lion, unlike my experience in the Etosha a few years earlier. 



2 Responses to “Kgalagadi tour”

  • PG! What an incredible trip you made. South Africa is beautiful, however those lions would scare the daylight out of me.
    thank you for taking me on this tour.SJ

  • Ja, beautiful it is, né?