"Teaching children about the natural world should be seen as one of the most important events in their lives." – Thomas Berry, The Dream of the Earth.
What better place to do this than among the red dunes, wide open spaces and abundant wildlife of the Kalahari? We've put together a three-day family itinerary to help visitors explore the Northern Cape's Kalahari Red Dune Route.
Spend the day in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, which is made up of the northernmost tip of the Northern Cape and a part of south-western Botswana. If you want to make the most of your visit, make a full day of it – but ensure you arrive early at the Twee Rivieren Gate as you're more likely to spot a large number of animals in the early morning and late afternoon.
The park is home to lion, leopard, cheetah, the African wildcat, giraffe, spotted hyena, gemsbok, springbok, kudu, eland, blue wildebeest, meerkat and many more. Keep the kids busy by letting them write a list of the animals they've spotted or ticking them off on the brochure you'll receive at reception. At the end of the day, the one who spots the most animals is the winner.
There are a number of picnic sites with braai (barbecue) facilities throughout the park where you can stop to stretch your legs and enjoy lunch.
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Head to Rooiduin Guest Farm & Kalahari Extreme Adventure (see image at the top) for an action-packed morning. Owner Naas Mouton started offering sandboarding on the farm's beautiful red dunes more than 20 years ago "for the kids who have to sit in the car throughout the long drive to Kgalagadi [Transfrontier Park]".
Not that it's for children only – parents are also welcome! You can slide down the colourful dunes "for as long as you have enough breath" – because you'll need a lot of puff to get to the top of the dunes again, says Mouton. The guest farm also offers horseback riding.
As the area experiences exceptionally high temperatures – especially in summer – it's best to escape the heat by enjoying a long, relaxing lunch. Head to the Molopo Kalahari Lodge, where you can choose from a variety of meals and drinks in the restaurant or, even better, on its long veranda – the perfect place to forget about the rest of the world.
Make sure you don't miss out on a visit to ethologist Professor Anne Rasa’s wildlife reserve and meerkat sanctuary, Kalahari Trails. Rasa and her team of researchers look after and introduce abused meerkats to a new group, and prepare them for the wild again before they are released.
Book in advance for a sundowner drive, during which you will get the opportunity to have a look at the meerkats on the farm, or opt for a night walk where your guide will show and teach you more about scorpions. You can also go for a guided walk to see the meerkats in the morning and head out to Rooiduin in the afternoon.
All of the above attractions are situated on the R360 road between Askham and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
The whole family will enjoy a tracking experience with the San, courtesy of Vinkie's Kalahari Experience at the ‡Khomani San community’s Erin Game Ranch on the R31 road between Askham and Andriesvale. You won't only get to examine the spoor of the different animals in the area; you'll also learn more about traditional San activities and the flora of the region.
Pop in at Aunt Koera's Farm Kitchen, situated at the entrance to the Erin Game Ranch, when you're done for a refreshing glass of home-made ginger beer and roosterkoek, traditional bread grilled on a fire.
You can't leave the Kalahari without having had a sundowner on a red dune or in a bright-white salt pan. Several tourism establishments and lodges, including Vinkie's Kalahari Experience, organise sundowner drives for their guests.
- There are several accommodation options available along the route. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +27 (0)82 492 3469 for more information.