“There are a few places in the world where the mere mention of a single name is enough to unlock a wealth of memories and an unknown yearning in anyone who knows and appreciates it. The Kalahari is such a place. The natural beauty of this region remains a constant source of wonder and discovery.” – This quote by J du P. Bothma, former Director of the Centre of Wildlife Management at the University of Pretoria, sums up the park perfectly.

World wildlife day

The Kgalagadi in all its awe and possibility lays vastly stretched across the borders of South Africa and Botswana. Wildlife lives in abundance, particularly predators and large herbivores like blue wildebeest, springbok, eland, gemsbok and red hartebeest. Small mammals such as ground squirrels and meerkats are more commonly seen while the more elusive mammals include the honey badger, pangolin and bat-eared fox. There are numerous waterholes spread across the park, here are a few favourites with some inside info.

Park Map



Here you’ll want to wake up early, make your coffee and drive 5km. Now sit tight and wait patiently to see what the Kalahari has in store for you. While waiting for the elusive leopard, you’ll most probably witness gemsbok duelling in the dusty riverbed, Namaqua doves flying to and from the water’s edge and probably a jackal or two coming by for a drink. Named after the confluence of the Auob and Nossob riverbeds, this scenic waterhole is well known among many Kgalagadi enthusiasts. It’s surrounded by cliffs, riverbeds and dunes; sightings are abundant and you can see all the surrounding areas.

When it comes to gear, you can get away with almost anything because this waterhole is highly accommodating. A large prime lens will allow you to see and capture extra details and a high-speed camera will add additional moments to your reel of burst shots.



This waterhole gained its name after a test of perseverance when it was drilled in 1913, because the drifting sand kept on falling in. A large Camel Thorn tree is a distinctive feature and offers great photographic opportunity at this waterhole. Two main aspects contribute to a great sighting in the Kalahari: Firstly, pure luck and secondly, the waiting game. You have to be patient. The waterhole is close to the road, so photographing an animal drinking won’t be a problem. A 100-400mm or 400mm lens resting on your bean bag over the door will be sufficient. Large open areas around the waterhole (more so in the winter) makes it easy to capture the action.


Craig Lockhart:

A journey of giraffes can either be seen quenching their thirst or browsing between the large acacias around the waterhole. There is a majestic Camel Thorn tree that provides shade for many small mammals and birds. The big cats tend to block the road by sleeping stretched out on the cool sand. The shade allows you to practise patience by relaxing in your vehicle waiting for something to happen. The water is close and giraffes are large animals, so a smaller lens will do the trick. If you want to get a close-up or you’re planning on photographing birds, anything from 400mm will suffice.



This waterhole got its name from a man who encountered a lion on the other side of the dune. It’s an open waterhole with a large reservoir to the left, large trees and red dunes in the distance. The waterhole is about 50m from the road, making a sighting easy to photograph. If you’re visiting the park in wintertime, make sure to check behind the bushes where the sun is baking early in the morning; animals tend to catch those first warm rays of sunshine. The below photos were taken on the same morning – just on different sides of the road.




It offers a picnic site, toilets and some shade for lions to relax in, so make sure you do a quick scan of your surroundings before leaving your car. Although it’s a picnic spot, the sightings here make for breathtaking photographs. It’s directly located in the riverbed with enough space for composition, depth of field and a silky soft background for all your photographs.



Nossob, Rooikop and Marie se gat:

Nossob camp has a very frequently visited waterhole situated directly in front of a hide. Lions, leopards, hyenas and many other species are seen daily. They are elusive and quiet but if you are there at the right time it will be a special sighting. When driving South from Nossob the first hidden waterhole on your right is Rooikop. Surrounded by smallish trees, butterflies and a few pieces of dry branches, sightings can easily be obscured from plain sight. Driving on you will find one of the more famous waterholes, Marie se gat. The origin of the name is rather funny; the waterhole tells the tale of a determined wife who finished drilling the borehole after her husband became too drunk to complete it. Make sure you scan the dune crests while driving for predators taking advantage of the vantage point. 







Marie se gat


Avid birders will love the number of raptors and vultures that this waterhole has to offer, especially midday when the birds are waiting for thermals to take to the sky. Large herds of blue wildebeest are resident at this waterhole and lions make a frequent appearance.


Cubitje Quap

Last but not least, a photographer’s dream, Cubitje Quap situated just North of Nossob camp. A superb waterhole best visited first thing in the morning as the light sits right behind you. Make sure to scan the trees and surroundings for predators that may be lying around going unnoticed. Brown hyenas can be seen here first thing in the morning, but is usually a fleeting moment after which they disappear into the riverbed on the opposite side. Jackals usually trot by, stopping for a drink; or sometimes they hunt the doves and Kelkiewyn who gather in their hundreds around the water. For bird lovers, Bateleurs usually visit the waterhole during the middle of the day to cool down. You have to be patient but it pays off.


Although the Kgalagadi is an arid park it has more recently become dressed with a green haze that covers the red dunes and cracked river beds after all the rainfall in the last few months. There may be trips that don’t deliver on sightings, but if you make sure to take in the serene landscapes, starscapes and absolute silence this breathtaking place has to offer, the Kgalagadi will surely steal your heart.