Touch down in Upington is a rather surreal experience. Firstly the flight there from Cape Town opens one’s eyes to how vast and unexplored much of South Africa really is. And then, upon reaching the outskirts of Upington, a vast solar panel farm blinks on the sun-baked horizon. With over 4,000 panels, it’s the first of its kind in Africa. And then, emerging from ever more sand, is the bustling town centre and the longest tarred runway in the southern hemisphere.
Airlink offers regular flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg to Upington and it was on one of these little hoppers that I found myself touching down in this lesser known South African town. Upington’s claim to fame is that it is the sunniest place on Earth for three months of the year. And I think they can safely add that the local residents have adopted this sunny disposition, if our local guide from Tata Ma Tata tours was anything to go by.
We were there to visit what is definitely the main attraction of this region – the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park – and while on the road to the park, our guide regaled us with tales of the area, taught us some interesting things about the salt pans one passes on the way to park, pointed out the enormous sociable weaver nests (telling us those were small ones compared to others he had seen) and gave us some insider tricks and tips on the best places to go quad biking, how not to end up with a face full of sand when dune boarding, and the best car for desert 4×4 adventures (thankfully no Toyota fans were present).
And indeed Upington does offer so much more than just the beautiful red dunes of the Kgalagadi. Located on the banks of the Orange River, it is also the ideal starting point for a river rafting adventure, a trip into Augrabies National Park, to see the flowers of Namaqualand, to explore the Fish River Canyon or to visit the Richtersveld, continuing onwards and upwards into Namibia.
The area around Upington is referred to as the Green Kalahari, and many other outdoor activities can also be enjoyed a stone’s throw away from the town. These include abseiling, horse riding, sand boarding, game viewing, micro-lighting, 4×4 trails, mountain biking, canoeing, quad biking, hiking, and even wine and brandy tasting.
To start exploring the Green Kalahari and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, book your flight to Upington with Airlink today. Its vast open spaces and endless dune horizons are calling…
Read more about the Kgalagadi, and how it compares to South Africa’s better known Kruger National Park, in our online magazine article: Kgalagadi vs Kruger