Kgalagadi is Africa's first peace park - officially opened by the presidents of Botswana and South Africa in May 2000. To date it is still the only peace park that is open in the true sense of the word - where tourists can move freely across the international border within the boundaries of the park. Kgalagadi has become a popular destination for tourists and lovers of its 4×4 wilderness trails wishing to experience the Kalahari's tranquillity. At 35 551 km2, it represents a large ecosystem relatively free of human interference - an increasingly rare phenomenon in Africa. The name Kgalagadi is derived from the San language and means ‘place of thirst'.
The vastness of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park allows the nomadic ungulate populations and their predators to stay in balance with their environment, consequently there is little need for extensive management intervention.
The Twee Rivieren/ Two Rivers joint access facility has removed the last vestiges of two separate national parks, and tourists now enter at a single facility to visit the entire park spanning the border between Botswana and South Africa. The Mata-Mata tourist access facility allows access via Namibia.
In May 2002 the ‡Khomani San and Mier communities reached an historic land settlement agreement with the government of South Africa and South African National Parks (SANParks) which restored a large tract of land to the communities that had once roamed or farmed this area. Named the !Ae!Hai Kalahari Heritage Park Agreement, its outcome resulted in the transfer of ownership of 50 000 hectares of land within the boundaries of Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park from SANParks to the two communities, who then leased the land back to SANParks.
Kgalagadi was given new impetus when the presidents of Botswana, Namibia and South Africa opened the Mata-Mata tourist access facility on 12 October 2007. This historic access point on the border of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and Namibia has boosted cross-border tourism, reunited local communities and enhanced job creation. It also contributes to socio-economic development, especially in the tourism sectors of the three countries.
In 2014 the park’s management committee endorsed the integrated development plan and its joint operations strategy. This strategy enables joint activities such as patrols; the management of the park’s predators; the management of the movement of people, goods and services; road maintenance; the upgrade of the boundary fence; and events such as World Ranger Day. Botswana formally established a country-level park management committee to discuss and guide all decisions that have an impact on their component of Kgalagadi.
The Turner Foundation kindly supported a lion-collaring project. The knowledge gained through the research will be used to better understand the desert lions’ dietary, demographic and behavioural dynamics and how these influence the sustainable conservation of this magnificent species.
Early in 2015, the installation of a Wi-Fi service was completed in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. The camps and gates at Two Rivers / Twee Rivieren, Mata-Mata, Nossob, Mabuasehube and Kaa now all have Wi-Fi. This has significantly improved communications between the Botswana and South African park management teams, and with visitors, especially when it comes to sharing information and making reservations.
The park’s joint management committee continued with collaborative activities and monthly meetings. Throughout the year, staff from Botswana and South Africa work together to ensure that visitors adhere to park regulations. During these joint patrols vehicles are stopped, passports and permits checked and vehicles opened to verify that no illegal goods or substances are being transported. The primary aim of these patrols is to ensure a safe environment for visitors to the park and to protect the fragile desert environment and its wildlife.
In an endeavour to make visitors’ stay more enjoyable, the park management decided to conduct a tourism induction and sensitisation course for staff to align tourism in all sectors of the park. The course was developed by the tourism subcommittee and 32 staff members attended the training. They were taken to areas of particular interest in the park so that in future they can share up-to-date information on the tourist facilities, amenities and activities on offer in all of Kgalagadi. Thanks to the positive feedback from both staff and visitors, further training sessions will be conducted.
In June 2015, Kgalagadi was ranked ninth in the Top 50 Best Safari Parks of Africa. This survey was published by SafariBookings.com and was based on the reviews of visitors and reputable guidebook authors. Kgalagadi was the only transfrontier park on the list.
In 2016, a joint tourism task force developed a draft joint tourism plan for Kgalagadi, with a view to collaborating on the development of tourism infrastructure and in the marketing of Kgalagadi as a single destination. Work also started on the development of a detailed tourism development plan for the Botswana component .