Jan 24th
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Home Adventure Travel Ideas Activities Wildlife Botswana's Kgalagadi Park

Botswana's Kgalagadi Park

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Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park --

    The Kalahari in Africa reveals itself to only those who seek with a true heart…
    I took my 13-year-old son Caleb to the Kalahari Desert not realizing that this trip would be such a memorable journey. The exotic animals and plants we went to see didn’t compare with our encounters with the Bushmen that call this unspoiled arid vastness home.
    In 1999 the presidents of Botswana and South Africa signed a formal treaty that linked Gemsbok National Park and the Kalahari National Park under one unifying name, the Kgalagadi  Transfrontier Park. This created one of the largest conservation areas in the world.
    Caleb and I made our home at the Twee Rivieren Rest Camp, the park’s largest camp. Our thatched-roof bungalow was one of several that opened to a large common area. The camp was located on a knoll overlooking the banks of the dry Nossob Riverbed. We saw insects on the wall of our bungalow and bats flying high in the rafters, while the hum of the air conditioning provided a cool respite.
    Traveling with an African guide in our rented car out into the wilds of the Kgalagadi Park, Caleb and I saw the tall Secretary bird, the Kori bustard and Whitebacked and Lappetfaced vultures. The magnificent gemsbok are spotted in the Park.There were also magnificent gemsbok, ostriches, playful springbok, kudo, a big herd of Blue wildebeest with their babies, and also several sly jackals.
    After another outing, Caleb and I put on our swimsuits and enjoyed the swimming pool. Before dinner on the patio common area with other guests, I opened a bottle of Fleur de Cap Riesling that I bought at the Bergkelder South African Winery, about 50 km from CapeTown. My son and I had Quail for starters, then an appetizing blend of potatoes, cabbageand carrots. For the main meal, Caleb and I devoured spicy steaks of ostrich, tender kudo rump, and a springbok filet in a sweet herb marinade. For dessert, sweet red pepper ice cream.
    As we got ready to turn in for the night Caleb noticed the bats flittering around the ceiling. A Gecko also heralded the sunset by emitting a series of sharp, clicking sounds. The sky was packed with stars and I suddenly felt very small against this immense back drop of twinkles and the enormous bright moon.
    We were awakened at sunrise with the sky now a canvas of colors and swirls. Animals made their way to the watering holes and hunted for breakfast. Birds sang and squawked their disenchantment with our intrusion. We spotted a vicious looking hyena stalking and circling a herd. The hyena’s smaller hind legs and large muscular front legs are well designed for dragging carcasses. As Caleb and I watched, the brown hyena brought down a large gemsbok calf and consumed at least one third of its body weight in this single meal.             
    On this second trek into the park we sat for quite a while watching the dance of death when a thundering daz
The Bushmen have been eking out an existence on the subcontinent  for many thousands of years.zle of zebras stormed past us.
    Farther down the dirt path, we saw a large herd of Blue wildebeest. These creatures are called the junk food of the African continent because everything preys on them. We saw a lumbering black-maned lion, which many visitors don’t get the opportunity to see.
    On the edge of the Kgalagadi Park, we saw Bushmen living on small plots of land allocated to them in 1997. These natives live primarily in Botswana and nearby Namibia, although archaeological traces all over the southern parts of the continent show that their presence go back many thousands of years. They speak a language called Nama, and they were as eager to get to know us as we were them. Ostrich eggs serve the Bushmen as a source of moisture and protein and they also use the eggs to make beautiful crafts. One engaging woman engraved an ostrich egg for us and used ostrich eggshell beads and leather to make Caleb a unique bracelet that he wears daily.
    Before these camps were established for bushmen families, they obtained water and food from the bush. An older man explained, translated by a guide, that the Bushmen knew of 20 edible insects and 180 plants and roots. He even remembers making quivers for his arrows that he poisoned with the juice of beetle larvae. But these nomads all but vanished from the subcontinent and the modern age has severely affected their culture. Even in these remote reaches of Botswana, Bushmen clans live in settlements around waterholes – the nomadic lifestyle is replaced by a more sedentary existence.
    Caleb and I reveled in this unique experience meeting bushmen families and not only captured a piece of their soul through photos, but when we flew back home to Connecticut, we took with us their lively spirit in our hearts.

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--Tracy S. Pillow is a freelancer living in Connecticut with her husband and six kids. She has authored five books.


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