The game-viewing highlights in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park are, inevitably, the predators, headed by the Kalahari lion and, enjoying rare status alongside the Big Five, gemsbok, the large, lolloping antelope with classically straight, V-shaped horns. You won’t find buffalo, elephant or rhino, but the other animals more than compensate. Of the remaining Big Five, leopards, as elsewhere, are not uncommon, but remain elusive. Kalahari lions commonly have much darker manes than those found in the bushveld, and studies have shown their behavioural and eating patterns to be distinctively well adapted to the semi-desert conditions here.
Beyond the Big Five, there are various species of antelope, hyena, jackal, bat-eared fox, cheetah and some extravagant birdlife, including vultures, eagles, the dramatic bateleur (which takes its name from the French word for an acrobatic tumbler), bustards and ostrich. There’s also a good chance you’ll see family groups of suricate, a relative of the mongoose and squirrel, striking their characteristic pose of standing tall on their hind legs, looking round nervously for signs of danger.
The best time to take your game drives is as early as possible in the morning, when you’re more likely to see animals out in the open. Drives normally take at least four to five hours, so an early start means you can avoid the desert sun at its zenith. The last couple of hours of light in the afternoon are also a good time for game (and for taking photographs), but it’s a lot more relaxing to go out for a little foray from your base than to be en route to a new camp, destined to arrive just as it’s getting dark. The middle of the day, especially during summer, is a necessarily inactive time for both animals and humans, so don’t plan too full a programme.