If you are looking for a real wilderness experience without having to ‘rough-it’ then you must visit the wilderness camps of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park! All these wilderness camps are unfenced, which makes the Park so appealing for people who want to get really close to nature.
Some facts about the camps before we discuss our experiences at each:
• There is tourism assistant / camp manager on duty at all times and, in order to retain the serenity and exclusiveness of the wilderness camps, a maximum of eight people are allowed at each camp – two people in each of the four cabins.
• All accommodation units at the Wilderness Camps have en-suite bathrooms, gas fridges and geysers while solar panels provide electricity for lights. All the units have cooking utensils, cutlery, ceiling fans, bedding and towels, and are serviced daily.
This is the highest camp, situated on one of the tallest dunes overlooking a private waterhole. The four dune cabins are spacious with number four being the most private as it is on the end.
The views by day are magnificent as you can see for miles. We have had regular sightings of brown hyena, gemsbok, black-backed jackal, cape cobras, secretary birds and falcons. At night we have seen leopard, caracal, African wildcat, steenbok, porcupines, scorpions and owls. When there is a storm the sight is spectacular with the sky changing color and lightning bolts lighting up the sky!
The waterhole is about 120 meters away so you will need at least a 400mm lens to photograph animals drinking. However, the resident leopard does walk between the cabins to and from the waterhole!
This camp is built on stilts in the dry Auob riverbed and the four riverside cabins are connected by elevated walkways. The bedrooms and toilets are upstairs while the kitchens, dining rooms and decks are downstairs.
The views are not as impressive as at Kieliekrankie and Gharagab but we have seen huge herds of springbok, wildebeest and Tessebe walking past the cabins. We have seen lions, brown hyena and cheetah at the private waterhole by day and even at night. For wildlife photography this camp is great – especially if you don’t have a long lens as the waterhole is just 50 meters from the cabins. One year we had a lioness walking through the camp while our neighbors were unpacking their vehicle!
The camp is situated in the dunes and is built on stilts with wooden walkways linking the reed cabins. Bitterpan is ideal for small groups of friends as there is a communal braai (BBQ) and campfire area.
Behind the cabins there is a six meter-high lookout tower providing great views over the pan, waterhole and dunes. The road leading to the camp is a 1-way route and you must have a 4X4 to drive this road.
Grootkolk, like Bitterpan, has a communal cooking area so is best suited for small groups of friends. Each desert cabin, however, does have its own braai should you want your privacy. We found the units to be a bit cramped.
The waterhole is about 70 meters from the cabins and is not easy to view if the grass is long. We have seen lion and leopard in the area.
The camp is located in the far north of the park and the four log cabins are built on top of a dune providing superb views of the surrounding dunes and woodlands. In addition, there is a viewing deck behind the cabins that provides a 360-degree view of the area.
The private waterhole is about 70 meters from the cabins and we have seen lions drinking here most mornings and evenings. The opportunities to photograph sunrise, sunsets and lightning storms are excellent here. The road leading to the camp is 1-way and you need a 4X4 vehicle.
6. Kalahari Tented Camp
This camp is the largest of the wilderness camps as it has 15 en-suite desert tents made of sandbags and canvas.
The spacious tents are situated on a high sand dune overlooking a private waterhole in the dry Auob riverbed. This is the only wilderness camp that has a swimming pool and where children under 12 are allowed.
This camp and Urikaruus are the only two camps where we see giraffe. In addition we have seen lions and large herds of wildebeest and springbok. The waterhole is about 120 meters away and the middle tents (numbers 6 to 10) are the closest to the waterhole.
The tents are raised on wooden platforms and the one year hyenas chased and killed a young wildebeest under our neighbor’s tent. You can imagine the noise – they were terrified and used a knife to cut the rear tent so they could climb out and ‘escape’! The camp manager assured them that they were safe but the next day they left. Needless to say they were back a few months later – the Kalahari wilderness experience is truly addictive!