Few people know the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park like photographer Hannes Lochner. He answers questions about the park that is so close to his heart.
Many of us dream of upping sticks to go and live in a park like the Kgalagadi. But who actually does that? Award-winning nature and wildlife photographer Hannes Lochner, that’s who! He spent six years living in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park to focus on photography. The results are collected in his incredible books: Colours of the Kalahari, The Dark Side of the Kalahari and Kalahari Phototips.
With his former home, the Kgalagadi, celebrating 20 years as transfrontier park this month, Tracks4Africa asked Hannes questions about the park he knows like the back of his hand.
What makes the Kgalagadi exceptional in your eyes?
The park is like no other in Africa, it has its own identity and is unique in every way. Red dunes, black-maned lions, interactions between different species fighting for survival! A true desert oasis.
Do you have a favourite time of year in the park and why?
I like the dry season. You can see further and there is no grass. Grass can get as long as 1-1.5m in the north after good rains and then you can barely see anything except for what’s in the road. But the Kgalagadi is also an amazing place when the rains arrive. The build-up of clouds in the hotter months and then thunder and lightning as the storms arrive. The smell of the first rains – magic.
Where should T4A travellers go if they want to see lions?
Nossob is an all-time favourite, but I’d suggest looking between Rooiputs and Kij-Kij. You still get the high red dunes there. And there is nothing like photographing a black-maned lion on a red dune at sunrise!
Which is your go-to waterhole for photography?
Polentswa waterhole is by far my favourite, with a 180 degree open area. It’s a great spot to capture aerial attacks by lanner falcons, not to mention lions and leopards.
Where would you suggest T4A travellers stay?
T4A tip: If you want to stay at the wilderness camps of Bitterpan or Gharagab, a 4×4 is essential. The other camps, Grootkolk and Urikaruus, can be reached in passenger vehicles, though high clearance is advised.
Where and when is a good time to look for baby animals such as Cape foxes?
October to December is best. Explore the area between Rooiputs and Melkvlei – 100% sightings guaranteed!
Is there a sighting that is engraved in your mind and why?
There are plenty! Not always because of the photography, but just because the Kgalagadi offers so much diversity – you just need to know where to look. One of my favourite moments was seeing a lightning storm behind a young male lion. Clearly on top of the food chain and oblivious to the thunder and lightning happening behind him.
What is the strangest thing you’ve seen a visitor do?
Strangest? Mmmmm. Well, parked by a waterhole to photograph birds, I saw a man disappear behind a bush. Half an hour later a dung beetle came past my vehicle with whatever he deposited there…
Do you have any tips for T4A travellers on handling the roads and conditions?
I want to say stick with Toyota, but the Landy I used there is still going strong after a decade. But good maintenance is key. And make sure your tyre pressure is between 1.2 and 1.6.
I drove an open vehicle when I was working in the Kgalagadi, so I was always either very hot or, in the winter, very cold! Layers help in the winter, as does whisky. Whereas in the summer, opt for ice cubes and a wet kikoi over you.
Tracks4Africa has three products to help you explore the Kgalagadi: the Botswana Self-drive Guide Book, Botswana Paper Map and Botswana GPS Map. All three incorporate both the Botswana and South Africa sides of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, so you can seamlessly navigate your way around.