Alan Murphy
Australia AU

Alan is a travel writer and author of over 20 Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guides to Southern Africa and Zambia & Malawi.

Category: Alan Murphy's Column

This week Alan does a whirlwind trip of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in South Africa and Botswana. In this desert country, waterholes are gold for wildlife watchers. Alan stakes out some of the best.

I love this part of southern Africa, so much life in such harsh country. And it’s only possible with the availability of water. As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog about wildlife-watching, staking out waterholes is an integral part seeing animals. In desert country such as Kgalagadi, they take on an increased level of importance as you try to capture that perfect animal shot on film.

However it’s not just a case of rocking upto any ‘ole waterhole.  Oh, no. If only it were that easy! Choosing the right pool of water can be the difference between sweatin’ in the sun and pulling off reel after reel (digitally speaking) of action packed shots.

Creatures: Great & Small
So, what can you expect to see? Well the park has high concentrations of animals that regularly visit the Auob and Nossob's dry riverbeds and waterholes. For wildlife-watching, complementing this is a desert environment, essentially a distinct lack of vegetation for creatures to hide.

Kgalagadi is a wonderful place to spot predators as well as blue wildebeest, springbok, eland and red hartebeest. Alert meerkats are often seen, but you’ll need a sharp eye to spot elusive honey badgers and bat-eared foxes. Species that love their water such as waterbuck and buffalo won’t be seen in the park.

Bird-watchers (you crazy, crazy people you) will have a walk in wonderland with raptors often seen around waterholes in the middle of the day. Commonly spotted are  the snake eagle, bateleur, vulture, and smaller species such as the goshawk, pygmy falcon and greater kestrel.

Some Waterholes Worth Staking Out:
Here’s a few waterholes in the area, just to get you started:

  1. Monro – This waterhole was named after a policeman who was shot by German raiders. It’s a great spot to hunker down and watch for the imposing Kgalagadi lion majestically walking down for a sip. You may also see ostrich. Although probably not at the same time...
  2. Samevloeiing – Haven’t seen a leopard yet? Here’s your chance! Get here at first morning light and sit tight. Also on show are the mighty-horned gemsbok, waddling honey badger and red hartebeest. If you get lucky you may even spot a mighty black-maned lion. It’s a great spot and is located where the Nossob and Auob rivers intersect.
  3. Kwang – Another lion hotspot, you’ll also see blue wildebeest at Kwang. Sunset is a beautiful time here. Golden Kgalagadi silhouettes create special wildlife memories.
  4. Bedinkt – Like the big cats? Who doesn’t?! Cheetah along with leopard and lion are a good bet here. And the meerkat makes an appearance too.
  5. Lijersdraai – A good all-rounder often delivering spotted hyenas, jackals, leopards and gemsbok to the camera lens.

There are plenty more waterholes awaiting discovery in Kgalagadi – go and discover your own. Just take your camera, some patience and a dose of lady luck...

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