Life switches to another gear on a Kalahari farm. If you’re en route to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, break the journey 50km past Upington, directly alongside the R360. By Romi Boom
A last-minute decision had us travelling to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park with our dog, Quinn, a 12-year-old Dalmatian. We were met by incredulous looks from all and sundry. “Are you taking your dog into the park?”
“Of course we are,” I would jest. “Can’t you see, it’s a leopard?”
More sceptical looks. Then uncertain laughter.
Our plan of action was to visit the park as day visitors, from about 08:30 to 15:30 each day, and forfeit the popular and productive early morning and late afternoon drives. We considered it a small price to pay as we just wanted to drive short distances and drink our fill of the park’s addictive atmosphere. We had permission to keep Quinn in our chalet at the Kgalagadi Lodge, our base outside the park, and a promise that any number of the animal loving staffers would take him out in the course of the day to stretch his legs.
Having stayed over in Upington on countless occasions, under different circumstances, our next step was to find pet-friendly accommodation in a more rural setting. A phone call to Riana Loots at the Kalahari Guesthouse & Farmstall confirmed that we would be staying on a working farm amidst livestock, and that as long as our beloved old boy was well-behaved, he was welcome.
Well, what a pleasant surprise! The farm has a guesthouse that sleeps eight people on the main premises, near reception. Across the road, situated in total seclusion in a typical Kalahari setting of kameeldoring, grey camelthorn and driedoring veld, two bush camps and a sprawling campsite with stands for three groups. We were escorted by quadbike and shown to our very own rustic bush camp, consisting of a luxury safari tent with en suite bathroom, covered porch and nearby lapa. Inside we found kitchen utensils, beverage facilities and boerebeskuit; by the lapa, a sparkling zinc, large prep area and a variety of braai grids and tripod stands.
Like the lapa enclosure, the safari tent is cladded in driedoring branches, a novel way to impart authenticity. Owner Paul Loots explained that these have proved exceptionally hardy once the initial job of binding together the bundles wearing protective gloves was completed. They provide privacy and blend beautifully with the surroundings.
Although we were welcome to use the tennis court and swimming pool, long doggy walks and birding were our favoured activities. Still part of the Green Kalahari, this part of the northern Cape, and Uitsig farm in particular, is far from arid. In front of our bush camp a water-filled depression provided lush green scenery. Supplemented from river drainage and brackish seepage, the pan attracts many bird species throughout the year.
The farmstall is the only one along this stretch of road, so don’t miss out! It is well-stocked with bushman products, curios from the region, fresh meat, home-made ginger beer, preserves, jams, freshly baked treats, wood and ice. I left with a beautifully made springbok skin apron, Kalahari certified lamb and honey from the farm’s own hives. Our trip to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park couldn’t have started off better. We are sure to return, for the silence and the solitude – with or without Quinn.
Kgalagadi day visitors
Since May 2017, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park has put a 20 vehicle cap on day visitors. This can be booked with the park directly, up to 11 months in advance.
According to Christa von Elling, tourism manager of the park, the arrangement was implemented due to the park’s limited carrying capacity for people and vehicles. “It will limit the number of vehicles on the gravel roads which will assist in limiting the amount of grading to be done. This in turn helps prevent ‘sidewalls’ on the road increasing in height. The picnic areas also have limited water and space available.”
Twee Rivieren: +27 (0)54 561 2000/2050/2051
Mata Mata: +27 (0)54 561 0907