Experience the Northern Cape, South Africa

So you’re on a business trip in Upington and you think there’s nothing to do in the area other than work? Think again (and quickly postpone that flight back to Johannesburg or Cape Town).

Here’s the perfect itinerary for a short bleisure (business and leisure) trip if you’d like to add a few days to your next business trip in the Northern Cape and turn it into a mini-holiday:

Day one:

Depart from Upington in the morning and take the R360 in a northerly direction to Askham. Stop at Diamond T Gift and Coffee Shop to stretch the legs and enjoy a cup of coffee and a slice of freshly baked milk tart or cake, or an early lunch (tip: the home-made pies will make you want to go back for more).

Diamond T gift shop
Be sure to visit the Diamond T Gift and Coffee Shop in Askham. (Image: Northern Cape Tourism Authority)

Then head to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, which stretches into neighbouring Botswana. You can overnight in the park or sleep over at several other establishments in the area.

Go on a sunset or early-morning guided game drive (you have to book in advance) and you’ll be sure to spot a variety of wildlife. The park is home to lion, leopard, cheetah, the African wildcat, giraffe, spotted hyena, gemsbok, springbok, kudu, eland, blue wildebeest, meerkat and more. Although some roads in the southern part of the park can be navigated in a sedan, a 4x4 with high ground clearance is recommended.

For day visitors, gates open at 7am every day throughout the year. However, only 20 day-visitor vehicles are accommodated inside the park per day, and therefore booking beforehand is essential.

For more information about the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, email kgalagadi@sanparks.org, visit https://www.sanparks.org/parks/kgalagadi/ or phone +27 (0)54 561 2000.

Day two:

If you spent the night in the park, get up early to do some more game viewing before going on a tracking experience with the San at Erin Game Ranch with Vinkie’s Kalahari Experience, owned by tourist guide Martha (or Vinkie, as she’s more widely known) van der Westhuizen. Here, one of the guides will show you the spoor (tracks) of the various local animals.

Vinkies Kalahari Experience At Erin Game Ranch 3
San guides at Erin Game Ranch will show you the spoor (tracks) of various local animals. (Image: Northern Cape Tourism Authority)

The first valuable tip that guide Hans Witbooi shares with guests is that the spoor must always be between you and the sun so that your shadow falls behind you. This means you’ll always be facing in the direction of the sun when looking for and examining spoor. Witbooi and his colleagues also share their knowledge of age-old San traditions and will tell you about the medicinal value of all the flora on the game farm.

Make sure to book a sundowner experience too – either on one of the red dunes or at the salt pan. Van der Westhuizen loves watching her guests taking in the colourful scenery as the sun sets, painting the sky in shades of pink and purple while covering the desert in a warm orange glow. “The highlight for me is when people are looking at nature around them while enjoying a sundowner … and the beauty of the sunset,” she says.

Sunset Erin Game Ranch Vinkies Kalahari Experience Sundowners
Sundowners at Erin Game Ranch with Vinkie’s Kalahari Experience. (Image: Northern Cape Tourism Authority)

Day three:

If you’d like to fit in a bit more game spotting before taking the road back to Upington, head back in the direction of Kgalagadi on the R360 road, but this time stop at Kalahari Trails, a wildlife reserve and meerkat sanctuary. The earlier you get there, the better your chances are of seeing these adorable creatures playing about.

Contact Professor Anne Rasa at 072 277 2377 or send her an email at annerasa1@gmail.com for more information or to make a booking.

A trip to the Northern Cape is not complete without enjoying a fresh-from-the-fire traditional roosterkoek (grilled bread) and, to top that off, a glass of home-made ginger beer at Aunt Koera’s Farm Kitchen at the entrance to Erin Game Ranch on the R31 road.

Aunt Koera
Magdalena Steenkamp, better known as Aunt Koera. (Image: Northern Cape Tourism Authority)

There are several accommodation options in the area. For more information about the Kalahari Red Dune Route, email rooiduinroete@hotmail.co.za or phone +27 (0)82 492 3469.