The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park was formed in May 2000 when the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana and the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa were combined to form the 3.5 million hectare Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Proclaimed as Africa's first transfrontier park, the safari park is located in the extreme north of the Northern Cape and stretches up into the south west of Botswana, running along the border of Namibia.
The nature park is situated in what is known as the Kalahari Basin, an area closely associated with the indigenous San people who survived in this vast, sandy, arid area around 20 000 BP. Later the Khoi Khoi people arrived with their livestock around 2 000 BP followed by the Kgalagadi people.
This wildlife park takes its name 'Makgadikgadi' from the Kgalagadi people's word for 'saltpans' or 'great thirstland'. The British arrived in 1891 and annexed the area to present-day Botswana (known then as Bechuanaland). The area was then subdivided after World War 1 and awarded to some of the war veterans. However, after being unable to produce viable produce from the land, the farmers became hunters and the game animal number diminished substantially.
The landscape in the South African section of the nature reserve is dominated by the Nossob (meaning 'dark clay') and the Auob (meaning 'bitter water') riverbeds that run through from Namibia, flowing south-east and joining just 6 kilometres (3.72 miles) north of the one main gate and main camp; Twee Rivieren.
Both rivers only run briefly each year after heavy rains and are otherwise simply just dry riverbeds. The two different types of vegetation found within in the reserve; riverine and duneveld, can be easily distinguished based on location. Along the banks of the Auob and Nossob rivers and in all three of the main camps one will find grey camel thorn trees; the largest trees found in the safari park.
The dry, arid landscape of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park means that visitors to the game park can look forward to exceptional sightings of African game animals. The wilderness reserve boasts a large population of Lion, Cheetah and Leopard, offering excellent sightings of predators. It is said that visitors have a better chance of seeing large cats in this reserve than in the Kruger National Park.
The wilderness park is also home to over 600 Brown Hyena and around 400 Spotted Hyena. There are a number of other smaller predators of which the most frequently seen are Bat-eared Fox, Yellow Mongoose and Suricate. Where there are predators there has to be prey, and the reserve also has large populations of antelope including; Springbok, Gemsbok and Red Hartebeest. Giraffe have been recently reintroduced into the park and are usually sighted near to Mata-Mata camp.
Bird-watchers will be in their element in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park as there are over 200 species of birds regularly spotted here including Ostrich (of which it is estimated there are over 16 000 of them), Lilac-breasted Roller, Crimson-breasted Shrike and Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill. The diversity of raptors is extremely impressive and bird-watchers may have sightings of some of the 34 species found here; including Pygmy Flacons and Lappet-faced Vultures.