Located on the border of South Africa and Botswana in the southern part of the Kalahari Desert, wildlife conserve Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park comprises South Africa’s Kalahari Gemsbok National Park and Botwana’s Gemsbok National Park. Established as Africa’s first formal peace park in 2000, Kgalagadi is jointly managed by the wildlife authorities of South Africa and Botswana. The 38,000 km² (15,000 mile²) park—three-quarters of which lie in Botswana—is 904 km (562 miles) from Johannesburg and 250 km (155 miles) from Ipington, where its blue skies and red dunes chase the generally dry riverbeds of the Auob and Nossob Rivers.
Known far and wide for its game, large, fenceless Kgalagadi is among the best-known parks for safari. The sparse vegetation and the profusion of animals along its riverbeds and pans makes for nigh-unparalleled game viewing, and its open, barrierless terrain allows those who visit its savannah and grasslands to witness the predatory maneuvers of large mammalian carnivores (cheetah, leopard, hyena and the kingly black-maned lion) and spy the large-scale seasonal migratory movements of large herbivores (blue wildebeest, springbok, eland and red hartebeest). Birders have the opportunity to spy some 300 species of bird, including the flights and carrion-related fancies of many a raptor. Spotting closer-to-the-ground pangolin, honey badger, ground squirrel and meerkat rounds out the experience.
The park takes great care to support its conservation efforts by enforcing strict limits on the number of vehicles and people visiting, so planning ahead is key. 4x4 vehicles are strongly recommended (self-drive and mobile tours), and routes on the Botswana side require a convoy of no fewer than two vehicles (travel limited to daylight hours and on-road driving). If traveling from one country to another, visitors must stay in the park for at least two nights.
Recommended winter (May to August) is cool and dry, with sunny days and cold nights; summer (October to February) temperatures can reach 42 degrees C (108 degrees F) in the shade. This arid region sees annual rainfall of 200 mm (7.8 inches) between January and April, with dramatic thunderstorms between November and April.