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Stirringly beautiful and home to the Kalahari black-maned lion, the Kgalagadi will leave an indelible impression on you. Itching to explore more than 3,6 million hectares of wild remoteness? Take note of travel blogger Ayesha Cantor’s top tips before packing your bags.

For first-time visitors to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, this national park bordering Botswana and Namibia might seem overwhelming when it comes to unforgettable wildlife sightings. Make the most of your visit and consider a few handy tips.

#1: Do your homework

I’m always so scared to get back home to find out I’ve missed out on things I had no idea about. The night before my departure I read a blog advising that one stops at Samevloeiing early morning before heading to Mata Mata as lion sightings may be the order of the day. Ignoring hubby’s already rolling eyes, we popped by. Three beautiful ladies pleasantly surprised us, silently padding around the corner towards the waterhole.

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#2: The bird beat

Even if you’re not a dedicated twitcher, pack at least one good bird book as it will enrich your every-day Kgalagadi experience. The Kgalagadi has so many big and beautiful, easy-to-identify predatory bird species – the ID game proves very satisfactory! And be considerate of others when visiting bird hides – approach slowly and quietly. Remember to greet fellow hide visitors… you never know what nugget of info they may have.

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Swallow-tailed bee-eater

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Rock kestrel

#3: Stop looking

After hours of driving in search of wild action, your eyes will feel the strain. Instead of scouring your surroundings, let your eyes glaze over and simply scan the world as you pass by. You will be surprised at how quickly and easily movement or a break in the pattern of the veld is immediately visible.

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#4: Stay cool

Be prepared for hot days. A wet bandana around the neck works like a charm. You might also consider splurging on one of those water bottles with a battery-operated fan. Oh, and for those who know all too well what ‘Kalahari lips’ entail, remember to pack lip moisturiser to avoid cracked, angry and swollen kissers.

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#5: Think ahead

Anticipate an animal’s next move… We caught a glimpse of a cheetah far away, too far to actually call it a sighting. It looked as if it was on the prowl. Maybe it was moving towards a nearby higher vantage point? Taking a risk, we decided to go there and wait for it. Just as we began to think that we had made an error in judgement, the cheetah appeared on the rise. Magic!

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Tip #6: Order in

Fresh goods are not easy to come by. The good news? Kgalagadi rest camps such as Mata Mata, Kalahari Tented Camp and Nossob offer roosterkoek, vetkoek and bread – baked fresh every day for late afternoon collection. One of life’s most delicious moments is undoubtedly tea, freshly baked goods, butter, apricot jam and cheese.

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#7: Eager eyes

Inspect your picnic spot folks! Don’t for a minute think that when you visit a picnic spot to have a bite, it means an end to the Kgalagadi surprises. Have a close look at your surroundings… This note says it all! It’s worth remembering that no good story ever started with, “I had a salad for lunch”…

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#8: Driving Miss Daisy

As a daily ritual, profusely thank your driver! You owe a lot to the person behind the wheel – in my case my husband, who parks just right (mostly), is a champion spotter and tracker (hardly misses), cooks up a storm, pours the drinks, swallows his frustration, stifles his yawns and promises to bring me back again.

#9: Watch the prey

Be aware of the wildlife’s behaviour. If the prey is not happily grazing, sit up straight in your seat. Look out for that flick of an ear, a twitching tail, or that classic stalk and crouch pose of a hungry predator.

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#10: Social media

Keep an eye on Facebook and Twitter a few weeks before your trip. Most national parks have Facebook pages where visitors post their sightings. This particular young female leopard grabbed our imagination before we even left for our trip. She’d had to fend for herself from an earlier than usual age, battling along but surviving. We were hoping to catch a glimpse of her in the area where she was regularly seen over the previous few weeks. As if on cue, she came strolling up the road towards us and then climbed into a tree above us.

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Head to our park section for more information on the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

Read more about Ayesha’s adventures on her blog, Africa, this is why I live here.