This epic road trip will take you through miles of great open spaces and amazing scenery. Traverse an environment unlike any other, sparsely populated by a local population, which has learnt to survive in this unique ecosystem. This is a harsh and untamed world, where the strongest survive. From the Kalahari Desert you will travel south to the ‘fairest cape’. A journey which will deliver beauty, wonder and change around every corner.
The starting point is the main city in the South African North West Cape region, Upington. Located along the banks of the Orange River this city is the lifeblood of the region. Spend a comfortable night in Upington before picking up your car-hire and heading off the next morning. The day’s drive will be long, so a good night’s sleep is essential.
The first major choice is what sort of vehicle to hire. This will clearly depend on the type of trip you are planning. The route can be done in a normal sedan, however for comfort and enhanced enjoyment a four-wheel drive is preferable. Many of the national parks gravel roads require four-wheel drive so you will be maximising the areas you can explore.
There is comfortable accommodation available from self-catering units to hotels and other establishments all along the route. However, if you are considering camping a popular choice is to hire a vehicle with a roof tent, sleeper trailer or a converted sleeper unit in the back. This offers the opportunity to camp without lugging around tents and other equipment. It also facilitates a quick camp set up in the evenings and for those unfamiliar with Africa, being off the ground may give one an added feeling of security.
There are a number of businesses you can choose from but I recommend the following for great service, reliability and the added advantage of being able to drop the vehicle off in Cape Town.
Kalahari 4X4 Hire has been trading since 1990. They are reputable and offer a great and friendly service. You able to drop the vehicle off in Cape Town or any other location agreed with them. Kalahari 4X4 offer a range of equipment and other products which can be hired with the vehicle.
Desert 4×4 has a range of vehicles and equipment that can be hired. They are based in Upington and do delivers and collections throughout South Africa. They have an excellent reputation for service and product.
It’s time to saddle up and head north into the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. The first camp is at the southern entrance and if you intend to pass into Namibia don’t forget to clear immigration here as well. The other two main rest camps are further north at Mat-Mata and Nossob.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park covers 38,000 km’s, bordered by South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. The park supports a distinctive variety of fauna and flora including the legendary Kalahari black-maned lion, cheetah, hyena, gemsbok, springbok, bat-eared foxes and so much more. The bird life is prolific, with the raptors stealing the show. Expect sightings of numerous eagles including bateleur, martial eagle, giant eagle owl, pygmy falcon. Vultures, ostrich and the spectacular secretary birds can also be viewed throughout the park.
Additional smaller camps will add to the wilderness experience and to which you can get access in a sedan vehicle are the Grootkolk, Kieliekrankie and Urikaruus wilderness camps as well as the Kalahari Tented Camp. These smaller camps will have limited or in some cases no facilities so you need to ensure that you take everything you need with you including drinking water for some camps. Make sure you check when you are booking.
You will need a 4X4 vehicle to access certain routes and areas in the park including these camps: Bitterpan and Gharagab wilderness camps and the luxurious
!Xaus Lodge. Should the budget allow consider a really special stay at !Xaus Lodge.
This 24 bed luxury thatched lodge is perfectly positioned overlooking a large salt pan. A strategically placed waterhole presents a unique opportunity for unobstructed game viewing. The camp is owned by the ‡Khomani San and Mier communities. Star gazing at night is just magical as is the game walks with the legendary huntergatherers or an informative game drive in the evenings. !Xaus Lodge offers a unique and ideal honeymoon destination.
After the Kalahari head south to Augrabies Falls , it means ‘Great Noise’ to the Khoi Bushman, reflecting the thundering noise the falls produce when in flood. The best route is the predominantly gravel road which will take you south through Lutzputs, a small but important town for the local people.
This area is amazing, more reminiscent of the wild west of America. Large open spaces, creating a true feeling of freedom, it is truly spectacular. Coming into Kakamas is mind-boggling, the Orange River flows through the valley providing a life line to an established farming community, which have carved out a slice of the wine market. The vineyards produce some really fine wines, try Die Mas Sauvignon Blanc, really nice wine.
The falls are within an 820 square km nature reserve offering herds of Hartmann’s mountain zebra, eland, wildebeest and springbok. There are troops of baboons and vervet monkey, tortoise and Cape Ground squirrels. Klipspringer and rock hyrax are fairly common. You will need a 4X4 for access to many of the routes in the park, so consider this when hiring, sedans can traverse part of the reserve.
The symbolic quiver tree and many other unique species dot this rocky and dramatic landscape. The falls themselves are spectacular and in the rainy season a substantial amount of water passes through the narrow neck of the falls creating a deafening noise.
From Augrabies Falls hit the road south, through Pofadder and onto Springbok. This is the largest town in the area but don’t expect much. When I stopped at the petrol station I asked the attendant, “So where would you recommend I get something to eat here in Springbok?” to which she replied, “Nay, I wouldn’t eat here”. However she was wrong, we ate at Tauren Steak Ranch Restaurant, the steaks were seriously outstanding; try the T-bone, simply delicious.
For accommodation in Springbok I would recommend Naries Namakwa Retreat. The retreat is located approximately 17 miles outside Springbok on the R355 towards Kliensee. Try the Namakwa Mountain Suites they are brilliant, tastefully decorated and unique in character. The night sky is just amazing here. You won’t believe the sheer volume of stars you will see at night, try book when there is no moon.
Alternatively travel south to the Namakwa National Park . The park is renowned for the Namaqualand daisies which bloom around August or September, depending on the rains, transforming this arid region into a tapestry of colour. This natural event is amazing and will certainly be a highlight of any trip if you are lucky enough to witness the daisies in full bloom. The park is also home to the world’s smallest tortoise, the Namaqua Speckled Padloper.
If you are longing for the coast, head to Hondeklip Bay, a small community in which you feel at ease and comfortable. There are a few accommodation providers but the most comfortable self-catering option is Honnehokke Resort.
My next stop would be Clan William. A really beautiful area, set between the Cedarberg Mountains and the Olifants River. If you have the budget there is one place to head, The Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat, it is quite simply, amazing. Walk in the footsteps of our ancestors, the reserve is sanctuary to over 130 Bushman rock art sites.
You are now around 190 miles from Cape Town and depending on that irritant that affects our travels, ‘time’, you could still have many options left to explore. Personally, I would head to the wine region next and I would recommend a less well-known, but fabulous wine farm, Marianne.
The Marianne Wine Estate offers comfortable accommodation on a working wine estate at reasonable prices. The venue has a stunning bar and restaurant with the opportunity to try your hand at some wine tasting and snacks, they’ve got really great biltong. Situated between Paarl and Stellenbosch it is a great base from which to explore the area and the many other wine farms.
You would have been admiring the iconic Table Mountain for a few days so let’s head into the ‘Mother City’. If you have never been to Cape Town it is a brilliant city, beautiful, vibrant and offers something for everyone. After the Kalahari and the West Coast you will be back amongst the mayhem of city life.
There’s Robben Island, I personally thought it was a bit overrated and underwhelming. You have to do the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain, what a view. Cape Point is fabulous and try the restaurant there, the Two Oceans, we had a stunning meal. The waterfront is a great place to stay, lots happening, great restaurants and pubs.
The harbour at Kalk Bay is great to wander around and the shops in St James interesting. Boyes Drive offers stunning views over the ocean. Head to Simons Town and Boulders Beach and go meet the penguins. From here drive over to Kommetjie and Noordhoek, it’s a stunning drive and what a wonderful beach at Noordhoek. From there drive the legendary Chapman’s Peak drive into Hout Bay. Lunch at the Chapman’s Peak Hotel in Hout Bay is a must. For sunset, take a drive up signal hill and take in the magnificent view over the city.
The food in South Africa is fantastic, with many influences culminating in a distinct and varied choice of fine cuisine. Try Bobotie a well-known South African favourite, the seafood is outstanding and the venison, if you love your meats, is marvellous. Karoo lamb is a must and all this great food with some of the world’s finest new world wines on your doorstep.
However long you have in Cape Town one thing is for sure, it will not be long enough. Weather for the trip: Cape Town has a different climate to the rest of South Africa in that it has the majority of its rain in the winter months. So for Cape Town May – September the weather is rainy, windy and not the best time to visit.
For the Kalahari, April – September are the best months. Particularly end of summer, April when the migratory raptors are preparing to leave and spring, September when the migratory birds return ravenous and the animals are birthing. Winter nights in the Kalahari can be chilly, summer, particularly December and January can be very hot, and I mean properly hot, 40 degree +.
Avoid school holidays as local tourists are on the move. December and early January are particularly manic in Cape Town and prices go through the roof. If you need any help with a trip to Southern Africa we are: Awesome @ Travel.