The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park was declared in 2000, formalising an ecological entity that was already there. Tourists loved it, but this inspiring wilderness has given rise to something more. Now there are ideas of linking this gigantic conservation areas to others nearby. Desert ecology and tourism will be the winners.

Did you know?

This is an excellent area to view birds of prey, especially tawny and snake eagles.

When the first ideas around transfrontier parks linking South Africa with its neighbours were brainstormed, one already existed.

Decades before the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park came into existence, South Africa's Kalahari Gemsbok National Park and the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana had been united in all but name.

These neighbours were separated by nothing but an unmarked international border, an ecological unit of some 37 000 square kilometres; a semi-desert wilderness of blonde grass, red dunes, enormous peace and space.

All that was needed was to formalise the arrangement and co-ordinate ecology management. So in 2000 this became the first of South Africa's transfrontier ventures.

Authorities on both sides learnt much from the union. But tourists loved it the most, being able to cross into an entirely new park without a passport (unless exiting on the other side, of course).

Managing the ecology of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park as a single unit has been a great step forward for desert conservation. But the opening of the border crossing at Mata Mata has opened more than just access between South Africa, Botswana and Namibia.

This gateway has started talk about creating a corridor linking this giant park to nearby Augrabies National Park, due south. And from there, the Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Conservation Area in the west. Just north of that is Namibia's 26 000 square kilometre Sperrgebiet National Park. That in turn abuts the Namib Naukluft National Park, one of the largest conservation areas in the world. Plans are afoot to link all.

Sustaining the spirit started by Kgalagadi may soon give rise to a mega-transfrontier park, protecting a desert storehouse of some of the most exquisitely adapted plants and animals on Earth.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

SANParks reservations
Tel: +27 (0)12 428 9111

How to get here

From the Northern Cape town of Upington, head north to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park's gate at Twee Rivieren.

Best time to visit

Being a desert, temperatures are extreme. Summer (November to March) is searingly hot. Winter (June to August) is mild and pleasantly warm during the day but very cold at night. Spring and autumn are the most moderate and pleasant.

Get around

On the South African side game drives are offered, but for the most part it's most convenient to have your own vehicle. A 4x4 or a vehicle with high clearance is preferable though not essential.

Length of stay

You need several days to do this park justice.

What to pack

In summer, cool, loose clothes. In winter, bring the winter woolies for the evenings. Don't forget your camera and binoculars. And always bring a hat and sunscreen.

Where to stay

The South African side has a variety of self-catering and camping facilities. There's also a luxury lodge between Mata Mata and Twee Rivieren. Ask about the wilderness camps if you'd like an unfenced, more private experience. The Botswana side specialises more in rustic wilderness camping.