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Nossob 4x4 Eco Trail

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In Twee Rivieren

-25.4211, 20.5974

214km, 84hrs, Grade 3

+27 54 561 2000 www.sanparks.org.za

Configuration: This is a one-way route between Nossob Rest Camp and Twee Rivieren Rest Camp. The starting point at Twee Rivieren or Nossob changes on a monthly basis: Twee Rivieren on even months, and Nossob on uneven months.

Terrain: Gravel, sand and dunes.

This is a strictly guided route and booking is essential. The trail departs every Monday, except for the 2 weeks over Christmas and New Year, when it will be closed. Just remember that summer temperatures could reach 45°C and winter can get as cold as -10°C. Both Nossob and Twee Rivieren Rest Camps offer self-catering accommodation options as well as camping. Both camps have a swimming pool, shop and petrol. There is a restaurant at Twee Rivieren Rest Camp. The Leeuwdril Loop is one of several other 4x4 routes in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. There are also two more trails in the Botswana sector of the park: the 155km Mabuasehube Wilderness Trail and 257km Wilderness Trail starting at Polentswa. Botswana contact number: + 27 67 318 0774. Game drives, birdwatching, a guided hiking trail or day walks and swimming are on your activity list here.

About

This is the kingdom of black-maned Kalahari lions, imposing camel thorn trees and mighty red sand dunes. The infinity of space is sure to make you feel insignificant as regal raptors patrol the skies and herds of gemsbok, springbok, eland and blue wildebeest graze on the sparse dune vegetation. Leopards peer out at you from their vantage points in camel thorn trees in the dry riverbeds of the Nossob and Auob.

The Nossob Eco Trail is a guided three-night/four-day trail winding through typical Kalahari terrain, following sandy tracks and crossing over quite a few challenging dunes. An experienced guide will lead you into areas inaccessible to ordinary visitors. The fun part is that you get to stop, get out, and investigate things like a dancing white lady, a trapdoor spider or the spoor of a puff adder or ant lion. You will be driving mostly in the sand dunes, so if this is not your thing this might not be the trail for you. Some of the dunes are very steep and bumpy with deep, thick, loose sand near the crest. Don't worry too much, however - the guide vehicle has recovery gear.

You will have to be fully self-sufficient throughout the trail. This includes food, water for drinking as well as for the showers and your vehicle, firewood, tents, a braai grid and sturdy bags to take out all your rubbish with you.

It is also very important to take a radiator protection net for the grass seeds that can wreak havoc after heavy rains. A minimum of two and a maximum of five vehicles are allowed on the trail. You only drive 50-65km per day, which means that you will have ample time to enjoy nature.

The campsites en-route consist of a long drop, shower bag and fireplace without grids. Nossob and Twee Rivieren Camps offer self-catering accommodation and campsites with modern ablutions. It is advised to book the night before and after the trail at either of these camps, depending on the direction of the trail at the time. Do not forget to factor in the deep sand and nearly permanent 4x4 driving when you make your fuel consumption calculations.

Follow the R360 north for 255km from Upington towards Askham and Twee Rivieren. Nossob lies another 3.5 hours' drive north of Twee Rivieren.

Green Kalahari

Northern Cape

About

The Green Kalahari embraces a large tract of undulating red dunes, mountain desert, and grasslands in the far north of the Northern Cape Province bordering Namibia and Botswana. In the extreme north it is home to the popular Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park where the black-maned lion is king, while in the west lies the Augrabies Falls National Park.

Upington, which straddles the banks of the Orange River where the N10 and N14 intersect, is the region’s main town. Further down river the other important regional towns of Keimoes and Kakamas bask amongst the vineyards. 

Many may consider ’green’ a little optimistic where the Kalahari is concerned. However, the ‘Green’, in this case, is in reference to the extensive vineyards that flank the Orange River as it curves through the region. In summer they trace a lush, verdant line against an otherwise arid backdrop of hills and plains cloaked in autumnal colours for most of the year. The vineyards follow the river for 350km and cover over 17 000 hectares making it one of the most intensively farmed areas in South Africa. 

From here table grapes are exported to Europe, while some cultivars are turned into award-winning wines by Orange River Wine Cellars. This five-cellar co-operative, which produces around 30 different wines, is the largest in the country. 

Paradoxically, for a region considered by many to be a desert, there are plenty of water-based activities, all of which are centred on the Orange River - at 2200km it’s South Africa’s longest River. Great river-rafting opportunities can be enjoyed along the stretch between Kakamas and the Augrabies falls.

There’s also fishing, ‘twitching’ along the banks, and in Upington, an evening cruise while supping a few cold beverages to watch the sunset.

Then there’s the varied desert wilderness to explore, from the rocky environs around Augrabies Falls and Riemvasmaak, through the rolling red sand dunes further north, to the vast flat pans in the Mier area. Amidst all this rugged scenery Camelthorn trees dot the landscapes and the large thatched nests of the busy sociable weavers crown both trees and telephone poles alike. 

Game viewing in the Green Kalahari is somehow more rewarding than in areas more flush with rainfall. Perhaps it’s the amazement at the variety in an arid land. 

The prime spot is the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, but there’s also Augrabies Falls National Park, isolated areas like Spitskop Nature Reserve near Upington, and a host of game farms.

Birdwatchers, and especially those into raptors, are likely to suffer whiplash from swinging the binos around at the variety, especially in the far north. From the mighty martial eagle to the diminutive pygmy falcon, the region is a birders’ paradise. Wine-tasting, recreation and adventure sports, game-viewing, and bird-watching… and the area is well-known for its dried-fruit production. 

In essence a visit to the region is all about discovery, where visitors can shun the ordinary and expect the unusual. It’s not just an aimless wander through a barren desert, but rather an odyssey across a new frontier far removed from the tourist crowds. Above all, welcomes are as warm as the weather, the hospitality is superb, and the food – especially the meat – is excellent and plentiful.

Look out for

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park - in the far north of the region is a vast wilderness of red dunes, dry savannah, and majestic camel thorn trees along the Auob and Nossob Rivers. It’s a birders’ paradise and there are plenty of antelope and their associated predators, including the black-maned Kalahari lion. The park has 264 bird species, including two thirds of the raptors found in South Africa, however, this list includes many vagrants so numbers vary throughout the year. There is an abundance of smaller wildlife, from mammals to rodents, reptiles, and insects that will keep nature-lovers enthralled for hours. The three traditional camps are Twee Rivieren, Nossob, and Mata Mata, which offer accommodation in both chalets and campsites, and they have shops and sell fuel. However, there are also a number of wilderness camps - some accessible only in a 4x4.

Augrabies Falls National Park - the principal attraction here is the 6th largest waterfall in the world. Other highlights include Moon Rock, a massive granite monolith, and Ararat viewpoint which overlooks some of the 18km gorge below the falls. Although it is primarily a scenic park, wildlife includes giraffe and several antelope species, and 180+ bird species have been recorded. A drive along the network of gravel roads or a walk on one of the trails will reveal some of the region’s sublime mountain desert scenery. Accommodation is in chalets, bungalows, or camp and caravan sites, and there’s a licensed à-la-carte restaurant, a coffee shop, and a shop with basic foodstuffs and curios. Day visitors are welcome.

Orange River Wine Cellars - the cellars at the towns of Upington, Kakamas, Keimoes, Groblershoop, and also at Grootdrink (alongside the N10 between Upington and Groblershoop) offer wine tastings and sales.

Riemvasmaak Hot Springs - 56km north-west of Kakamas, is situated in a deep ravine surrounded by a mountain desert landscape. The 75 000ha wilderness near Augrabies Falls offers visitors a chance to relax in the soothing waters of the hot springs, take up the challenge of three 4x4 trails, break out on foot along three hiking trails, or enjoy other adventure activities. They have basic self-catering accommodation.

River rafting on the Orange - for specialised 4-day canoe safaris and shorter river trips around the Augrabies Falls call Kalahari Outventures. They also do 5-day back road trips through the Kalahari. Khamkirri Private Game Reserve, 30km from Kakamas, is a one-stop activity centre, excellent for those who get bored of routine. They offer game drives, river rafting, angling, horse riding, abseiling, tours to local attractions, 4x4 routes, and bird watching. They also have a range of accommodation.

Dried Fruit - there’s an unbelievable variety of dried fruit that can be bought at farm stalls throughout the region.

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