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OOn ITV’s ‘South Africa with Gregg Wallace’ episode 3, which aired on Tuesday, 19th January 2021, Gregg experiences the breathtaking natural beauty (and of course, delicious food!) of the Kalahari Desert, following the course of the stunning Orange River and encompassing the very best of the Northern Cape. Catch up on the ITV Hub here.
“Upington can be easily accessed with direct flights from Jo'burg and Cape Town. Hire a 4x4 to explore the province before adventuring along the coast.”
OOn episode 3, Gregg’s adventure begins in the small town of Upington, the gateway to the beautifully vast Kalahari Desert. He traverses along the Orange River, the longest river in South Africa, and witnesses the natural transformation as the river feeds the desert, turning it from a dry orange to a shimmer of green – the perfect combination for growing pomegranates and grapes for the table, wine or to be dried into raisins thanks to the desert heat.
"I think my favourite [place in South Africa] was the Kalahari desert, which has the absolute beauty of a wilderness. The pink Kalahari - the sands are red - with just one lush strip where the Orange River runs through the middle of it. It's stunningly desolate, and life is just clinging on in the middle of this desert, to a fertile strip on either bank of this river. Incredible. As you fly over it, it's like you're looking down on a green zip in a massive red pullover."
As Gregg continues his journey along the fertile riverbank valleys, he arrives at the epicenter of the meandering river; the spectacular Augrabies Falls National Park. These thundering falls are 55 metres high, and at their fullest, carry more water than the Niagara Falls – an impressive contrast to the semidesert surroundings. The river and its surrounds can be explored by partaking in several different activities; hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, open-top 4x4, or as Gregg’s choice – river rafting. For more information, click here.
GGregg heads for the Khamkirri Lodge, where he meets owner and host of the lodge and ‘Meet Your South Africa’ guide Danie Van Zyk , learning the essence of a real South African braai, tasting springbok and other local specialities as he watches the sunset over the river. Khamkirri is a must-stop on any Kalahari adventure - it’s a philosophy that Danie and his family live by; the rooms have no TV or internet and look over the gentle river a place where you can reconnect with yourself and the kids can run wild.
DDanie teaches Gregg about the small but mighty fauna that have adapted to the desert heat, as well as the array of plants and trees that are able to flourish in this scorched terrain. Whilst staying at Khamkirri Lodge, you can experience the desert with someone who knows it best, by taking a guided tour by open-top 4x4, paddle down the orange river or cycle around the property.
GGregg gets the chance to meet the Nama people, the traditional nomadic tribe that once roamed this immense land. Of course, with Gregg, there is always time to indulge in the local cuisine, and on the menu was a traditional Nama meal - sheep’s head. Gregg is challenged by the ‘smiling’ appearance of the head but gives the flavour and texture of the meat a thumbs up! For Gregg’s last stop on his Kalahari adventure, Danie takes him to the oldest part of the desert through the ‘Mountains of the Moon’ to the Riemvasmaak Hot Springs, naturally occurring volcanic springs that are the perfect spot to take a dip in and soak up the surrounding mountainous landscape.
TThe Northern Cape is a lesser-known province of South Africa, but it’s diverse landscapes and natural foundations create fantastic experiences that we don’t think you should miss! For more inspiration, keep reading below.
SSafari at Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
South Africa is widely known for its diverse and wonderful wildlife that flourish within the 20 National Parks and array of private reserves across the country. The wildlife at Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park have learnt to adapt to the extreme climates of this desert-like terrain, and with that offer some of the most amazing sightings. Springbok, blue wildebeest, honey badgers, anteaters, bat-eared foxes and meerkats thrive in these dry conditions, along with the unique black-maned lion, known for their majestic size and thick black manes on the males. Along with spectacular wildlife sightings, the views of the sunset are ones that will stay with you forever; the scorched, vast terrain offer backdrops quite like no other. This national park can be enjoyed by self-drive, or by private game drive with a stay at !Xaus Lodge. For more information click here.
The Kalahari night skies are considered some of the best in the world for stargazing, thanks to the lack of man-made light pollution and the dry climate that sees little cloud throughout the year. Take yourself on a self-guided stargazing adventure and enjoy the scenery with the naked eye, or with a tour guide, using an advanced MEADE computerised mobile telescope to take in the full beauty of the Milky Way above. Some areas of the Kalahari have been given dark sky status, credentials proving it’s some of the best stargazing in the world. Read more here.
This seasonal phenomenon should be on any nature lovers travel wishlist. Each year in August and September (South Africa’s spring), Namaqualand transforms from scorched, dusty plains to a kaleidoscope of colour, with millions of flowers and quiver trees coming alive to greet the sun. The wildflowers carpet from the centre of Springbok all the way to the coast, and the best way to see these flowers is by roaming the dirt roads by car, by following an array of hiking trails or by cycling – visits to the Goegap Nature Reserve near Springbok and Skilpad Wildflower Reserve at Kamieskroon are a must. To make the most of the bloom, we suggest a stay at Namaqua Flower Camps, where you can go glamping in style.
OOnce you’ve fully explored the stunning outdoor arenas of Namaqualand, it’s time to adventure along the West Coast…
Diamond Coast self-drive
Once you have explored the phenomenal natural beauty of the Kalahari and soaked in the wildflower scenery, it’s time to greet the coastline. A road less travelled, the alluring coastlines and rugged views of the Diamond Coast are perfect for explorers looking for peacefulness in unparallel surroundings. Traverse along the coast from Komaggas to Hondeklip Bay, where you’ll find charming locations such as Alexander Bay, a previously restricted diamond mining area which can now be visited by organised tour, as well as dramatic shipwrecks including the Piratiny, Border and Arosa along the Northern Cape coastline. Get ready for amazing sunrises and unforgettable sights of the rich marine wildlife such as dolphins, whales, fur seals etc. These can be explored by tours such as a hike or a 4x4 trip through the coastal dunes forming part of the shipwreck trail. Continue your adventure through the Bushman’s Kloof, the luscious Cederberg Mountains and West Coast National Park, arriving into the cooler temperatures of the Western Cape coastline and to the Mother City, Cape Town.
HHere is our suggested itinerary for a lifetime holiday combination of safari & marine wildlife, adventure, scenic beauty and city lifestyle:
FFor a heart-warming (and racing!) visit to Gansbaai and the Whale Coast, tune in to episode four (26th Jan) of ITV’s South Africa with Gregg Wallace as he comes face to face with adorable African penguins, and takes a trip down ‘shark alley’.