Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park Trip | Blue-Eyed Lion, Golden Cobra, Eland Graveyard
If you’re someone who has the heart of an adventurer and a desire to take epic photographs, you may want to consider a trip to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is in the Kalahari desert region and functions as a wildlife preserve. It’s right by the Namibian border and it is truly breathtaking…
What is the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park like?
Picture rolling hills of red sand with sparse bush to break up the horizon. It’s hot, it’s dry, and it feels like one of the very few places that remains largely untouched. I think when most people think of a wildlife preserve destination, they think of the Kruger National Park. The Kruger is fantastic but if you’re looking for something a little less crowded and a little more unusual, the Kgalagadi is perfect. You may not get the Big Five, but what the Kgalagadi lacks in prominence, it gains in priceless experiences.
We saw plenty of wildlife over the time that we were there but there were definitely a few experiences that stood out. Let’s start with my bizarre relationship with snakes in 2020. I saw two cobras in this trip and encountered another one on foot when I visited Mountain Sanctuary Park, which you can read about here.
I was with my mom for this trip and both of our cobra sightings happened on our first day in the park. We had been driving for about an hour, on our way to our accommodation in the Mata Mata camp, when it crossed our path. The golden thread carved its way into the middle of the road and as we skidded to a halt, the Golden Cape Cobra reared up in the midday sun. It moved like liquid gold and flared its hood like it was nothing more than an extension of its lungs. Then it exhaled and slid away. The whole snake was about one and a half meters long and it was gone too quickly for either of us to even think about whipping out a camera. Although, it’s not the kind of thing you really need a camera to remember.
The next sighting was only about 2o minutes later. We came to a stop because of about five other cars all squished on the side of the road. We quickly learned from the other people that it was a snake fighting a ground squirrel. It was hard to get close enough to see anything but, very briefly, we saw the cobra reared up through the bushes. Its silhouette was leaning back and striking at what must’ve been the squirrel. So although it wasn’t a clear view, it was still really incredible to see a snake move like that.
You know that scene in The Lion King where Simba goes into the Elephant Graveyard and it’s super eery? This was same-same but different. We drove into the hills to one of the waterholes and arrived to find about five Eland carcasses scattered around the waterhole. It’s not uncommon to find a carcass by a waterhole but five seemed a bit odd. We carried on along the road and continued to see more and more bodies. Five quickly became eight and by the time we stopped seeing them, I had counted about fifteen. That doesn’t even include ones that were probably over the hills and out of sight of the road.
I won’t lie, at first it was a bit disturbing. This didn’t seem like your regular circle of life; it looked like a massacre. But after a little while, it actually became quite interesting. I feel like we’re generally quite disconnected from the whole notion of death. I mean we literally just cover it up as soon as it happens with digging graves etc. Talk about burying the evidence. It’s weird, there was something really peaceful about these animals just remaining exactly where they died. It’s definitely something I’ll be remembering for years to come.
Didn’t think that blue-eyed lions existed? Think again. We saw this guy as we were ending our one evening drive and I honestly thought I was imagining things when I noticed that his one eye was particularly unusual. Turns out that he’s blind in one eye, hence the striking blue. None of my pictures do him justice, so here’s a photograph from Ernest Porter who actually won an award for this photograph (no surprise there).
Photograph by Ernest Porter, from the Africa Geographic website.
Final Thoughts on the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
Please. Please, please, please. If you go to the Kgalagadi, take a 4×4. Don’t go in a f***ing hatchback like us. We were Tokyo drifting through the sand, gritting our teeth the whole time. When I say we were the only hatchback in the park, I seriously mean it…
Amazingly, we only got stuck once in the sand and it wasn’t even our fault. Two 4x4s stopped and were blocking the whole road so we had to stop. Regardless, it’s not really part of the vibe there. Imagine, you see a pride of lions chowing some fresh kill but if you stop, you’re stuck in the sand and you sure as hell can’t get out of the car to try to do something about it because…well…surely this is obvious.
Secondly, watch out for the okes obsessed with birds. They will come to a dead stop over a tiny bird that you can’t even see and you’ll waste five minutes of your life trying to figure out what they’re looking at. If you’re into birds, I guess look out for them to join them but if not, get good at recognizing them so you can pass them and be done with the random stopping.
Lastly, just try to enjoy every moment in the Kgalagadi. There are some people who are seriously kitted out with camera gear and literally have lenses bigger than my head, but you don’t need any of that to have a memorable trip. Photographs are awesome and definitely take some, even if they’re on your phone, but the Kgalagadi has way more to offer than just beautiful photographs. It’s an incredible park and if you have the chance, I’d highly recommend planning a trip there. I’d sooner go to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park again than to the Kruger National Park, but I guess that’s just personal preference.
Here are a few more of my favourite photographs from the trip but you can find others in the Photography section of this site.
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