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IIf you think the desert is bland, you’ve obviously never been to the Kalahari. It’s a magical place where dry landscapes and red dunes provide the backdrop to a singularly unique experience, one that can only be found in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is a fusion of the former Kalahari Gemsbok National Park of South Africa, which was set up to protect migratory game such as Gemsbok, and the neighbouring Gemsbok National Park in Botswana.
TThese two wild wonderlands were separated by nothing but an unmarked international border. They form an ecological unit of some 37 000km² – a semi-desert wilderness of blonde grass, red dunes and enormous open spaces.
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.
AAuthorities on both sides learnt much from the union, but tourists were the real winners, being able to move between the two parks, and thus two countries, 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. Plus, the opening of the border crossing at Mata Mata has opened more than just access between South Africa, Botswana and Namibia.
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
TThis gateway has started talks 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 000km² Sperrgebiet National Park.
That, in turn, abuts the Namib Naukluft National Park, one of the largest conservation areas in the world. If all goes to plan, they will all be linked in the near future.
SSustaining 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. Proving that the African ethos of “Ubuntu” – sharing with your neighbours – really is the way forward.
South Africa is home to many diverse safari experiences and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a natural wonder, and notably a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve is renowned as a haven for the Big Five and for luxury game lodges of international standing.
The flamingos of Kimberley's Kamfers Dam offer a rare and lovely sight – thousands upon thousands of these pink birds stretching for as far as the eye can see.
The Jane Goodall Institute’s Chimpanzee Eden, set in a forested reserve between Nelspruit and Barberton, has brought hope, peace and some degree of normality to dozens of traumatised chimpanzees from all over Africa.
If you appreciate the soulful desolation of the desert then look no further than The Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape
Madikwe Game Reserve, one of South Africa’s foremost Big Five malaria-free reserves, was envisaged not by conservationists, but by economists.
Birding in South Africa is simply spectacular at Nylsvley Nature Reserve, which protects a significant portion of the country’s largest inland floodplain.
Dinokeng Game Reserve is not only the first free-roaming Big Five game reserve next to an urban area, but probably the first in the world.
Bush walks - what better way to experience the ultimate in safari experiences - picture walking through the untouched wild of South Africa.