A Spring visit to the Kalahari Arid National Parks in South Africa
Kalahari Blooming- A Spring visit to three of the Arid National Parks in South Africa.
In the North West part of Southern Africa one finds the great desert area known as the Kalahari. This is the area that gave birth to the legend of the Lost City of the Kalahari. In 1885 the Canadian explorer Guillermo Farini claimed to have found a lost city buried in the sand and a paper on his findings was presented to the Royal Geographical Society in London. It was also documented in a book he wrote. From 1932 a series of at least 25 expeditions went to the area in search of this legendary city. In 1956 a group of seven amateur adventurers left Natal in a rather decrepit five ton truck, called the Kalahari Polka, on one such search. Their trip was chronicled by the well known author, Alan Paton, in a book called ‘The Lost City of the Kalahari’.
Today the city still lies hidden in the sand, if the legend is to be believed. At the same time a visit to the area will present treasures that will amaze the modern adventurer. A ten day trip from East London to the Kgalagadi National Park and the Namaqualand Wild Flower Kingdom in late August provided such an experience.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park (South Africa, Namibia and Botswana) with an area of 38 000km square is larger than many countries and one of the largest national parks in the world. It is a great place to see many of the raptors of the area and also the desert animals including the ‘big cats’- Lion, Leopard and Cheetha. The Nossob River flows from north to south and the roads between the camps often follow dry river beds. It is at waterholes that the game such as Springbuck, Gemsbok and Wildebeest come to drink and where the Cats come to feed. What is particularly interesting is to see not only the large variety of birds but also the large numbers. We spent a night at the Spitskop Nature Reserve near Upington on the way and then four nights camping at Twee Rivieren, Mata Mata and Nossob. The days were great weather wise but the nights below freezing. That made tent camping a challenge.
The Namaqua Floral Kingdom. When the spring rains come to the West Coast the desert literally blooms. A night at the Augrabies National Park provided us with the opportunity to view the largest Waterfall in South Africa and the six largest in the world. Then on to desert towns like Poffader, Pella and Springbok, each with their own interesting history. It was however when we reached Kamieskroon and the Namaqua National Park that the desert really came alive. It is estimated that 3 500 plant species exist in the desert area with more than 1000 found nowhere else in the world. The beauty of the flowers that bloom in this area is that they vary from place to place and from time to time. Rains come and the seed that are lying dormant provide the glorious carpets of blooms. A closer look at little micro climatic areas shows a variety of bulbs presenting their glorious flower treasures. Only visitors with hours and hour of time and patience can even hope to explore and find many of these. For the casual visitor it is necessary to simply take in the splendor as one drives slowly past, or stop to take another photo that can in fact never do justice to the splendour of what one sees.
Nieuwoudville lays claim to being the ‘Bulb Capital’ of the world and our way back to East London we travelled up the spectacular Van Rhyn’s Pass through Nieuwoudville, Calvinia, Williston, Leeu- Gamka and Graaff Reinet, all places with fascinating stories from the past and inviting travelers to spend time exploring museums and historical markers, At Leeu- Gamka the grave of the tallest British soldier to die in the Boer War, Private Schultz, who was almost seven feet tall, can be viewed. This was also were the last of the Cape Lions (now extinct) was shot.
If you have not been to the desert areas of the North-west Cape then you are strongly advised to add it to your bucket list. You will not be disappointed!