After spending a night and doing a morning game drive in Augrabies Falls, we headed toward the Kgaldari Transfrontier Park, which we had heard was a must-see. The park sits on the borders of South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia, and is managed by all three countries. It's also known for being home to many big cats, including black-maned lions. Unfortunately, I had not been able to secure camping reservations online but had heard that sometimes spots open up. We arrived a little too late and didn't get a campsite in the park, but we were told to try a lodge just outside of the park. This was our first introduction to what camping in Africa can be.
The lodge, just a few kilometers from the South African entrance to the park, had plenty of spots (we were traveling in the off-season, which made things easier). Once we signed in and paid, we were given a key and told to go to campsite number 1. Each campsite had its own ablutions block, meaning its own little house with a full bathroom, hot shower, shaded patio, and kitchen sink. This was all for the price of $20-$40/night. Most of these types of lodges had little cabins or chalets as well as campsites. And of course, there was a pool and restaurant. This was around the time we realized that the campgrounds all have pools because it is incredibly hot in Southern Africa.
We cooked dinner on the braai (BBQ), "guzzled" some more water with our Stream, and hit our tents before dark. I woke up early and took a peek outside our tent and saw a zebra standing right next to our truck. Pretty cool.
Here is a video of Doogie "guzzling" our water at the Kgaldari Lodge.
We were quickly learning that the downside to the rooftop tents and early morning game drives is that you have to pack everything up as soon as you're up. We started making pb&j and/or Nutella sandwiches to eat for breakfast in the car rather than taking time to cook a morning meal. We got pretty good at packing the tents and truck and could do it in about 35 minutes by the time we wrapped up our trip. And that included everyone getting dressed, bathroom stops, teeth brushing, etc.
In the Kgaldari Transfrontier Park, we got our first big game drive experience. It was a lot like when we went to Yellowstone National Park. We saw cars stopped, so we stopped and looked around with our binoculars. It was still sometimes tough to see the animals, but we ended up seeing two leopards, a black-maned lion, lots of wildebeests, springbok, and other "hoofed mammals". Our self-drive safari was on! The other cool thing about this park is that you constantly switch countries. We were driving in and out of South Africa and Botswana, which we could tell from the markers on the road, but never had to pass customs. We originally wanted to exit the park directly into Namibia but learned the only way to cross into one of the neighboring countries was to spend two nights in a park campground. They did this so people wouldn't try to use the park as a thoroughfare between the countries. So, we had to drive back towards the way we came and on to Namibia along another route.
The Namibian border was our first international border crossing of the trip. We crossed at a sleepy border town where we parked right at the official gate, went into the offices to process all of our vehicle's paperwork and passports before driving on our way. It was in the middle of nowhere and we were the only car there. It looked like most of the border and immigration workers lived in housing just beyond the offices. We exited onto a long straight gravel road, something we would see a lot of Namibia.