Mata Mata is the gateway to and from Namibia and is the smallest of the main restcamps
Mata Mata Rest Camp: Our full report
Immediately beside the Namibian border, in South Africa's section of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Mata Mata Rest Camp is one of this park's three original restcamps. Like the others, it offers fairly simple self-catering accommodation – with all the kit for cooking provided and a shop on site – and hence affordable access to this spectacular wilderness.
Originally the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park was made up of two separate national parks: Botswana's Gemsbok National Park, and the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa – which never had any fences between them. In 2000 these two countries, facilitated by the Peace Parks Foundation, combined the management of the park to create Africa's first transfrontier park: the Kgalagadi.
This 38,000km² park is set up for self-drive visitors; this is by far the easiest way to visit. One Expert Africa team member visited it as early as 1989, and the park's essential character has remained fairly unchanged since then. Due to its relatively remote location, distant from most major towns, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park gets relatively few visitors – making the place all the more of a pleasure from those who do come here. Amongst its other game, the park has a thriving cheetah population, strong populations of lion, wildebeest and gemsbok, and is probably the best place in the world to see meerkats thriving amongst their native Kalahari dunes.
The original Mata Mata Rest Camp has always been fairly basic, and whilst it was given a facelift in 2009, it remains fairly simple by the standards of most modern safari lodges. (This is generally viewed as hugely positive for many of its visitors, of course.) While many visitors choose to camp here, there are 13 chalets, which differ in size and amenities. All are self-catering.
- Each of the original chalets now comes with an en-suite bathroom with separate toilet and shower, one or two bedrooms, a kitchenette kitted out with fridge/freezer and all cooking and eating utensils; and outside barbecue facilities. Towels and bed linen are provided.
- Eight brand new thatched chalets overlooking the dry riverbed are more modern in style, and include air conditioning, satellite television, a fully equipped kitchen with fridge/freezer, a lounge and a patio with barbecue facilities.
Unfortunately the chalets were all fully booked when we visited in May 2011 so we could not have a look inside.
The restcamp also incorporates a small shop selling basic food items, a game hide overlooking the dry Auob river, a swimming pool and a very useful fuel station.
Note that there is a border crossing between Namibia and South Africa, beside the camp. This was closed for many years from around the 1990s, but opened again in 2007. The Kgaladai's authorities are at pains to point out that this crossing is for tourist use only. This can mean day-drips into the park from the Namibian side, but more usually means visitors crossing into the park in order to stay in it. Thus the rules expect tourists who wish to use this crossing post to have confirmed accommodation for a minimum two nights within the park. Note that Kgalagadi Park's only full passport control post on the South African side is Twee Rivieren.
Our viewMata Mata Restcamp stands at the edge of a massive wildlife reserve which is under-rated and under-visited. However, like most of the places in the Kgalagadi, it is best suited to slightly more adventurous safari-goers who know, from experience, that they enjoy pure self-drive trips. It's a good (although never luxurious) base from which to explore the park – best combined with at least two of the Kgalagadi's other camps. Note that accommodation here, like most places in the park, is often booked up well in advance – so book early if you possibly can.
Ideal length of stay: The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park can't really be fully appreciated in a short stay. To avoid disappointment, a stay of at least four nights is recommended (and preferably 5-7 nights), split between Mata Mata, Twee Rivieren or Nossob. Perhaps consider adding in one of the new wilderness camps: Grootkolk Camp, Kalahari Tented Camp or Bitterpan Camp.
Owner: South African National Parks
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Room Only
Family holidays: Mata Mata is one of the few camps (the others are Twee Rivieren, Nossob and Kalahari Tented Camp) in the Kgalagadi where there is no age restriction; the camp is fenced, making it a good place for families to stay. The camp's self-catering facilities will suit those on a tight budget, but the lack of a restaurant will be a negative point for many.See more ideas for Family holidays in South Africa
Birdwatching: 264 species of birds have been recorded in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Resident species, such as the colourful crimson-breasted shrike, are augmented by many migrants who cannot survive year round in the harsh Kalahari climate. Two thirds of the raptor species found in Southern Africa can also be seen in the Kalahari, including the Pygmy Falcon, Bateleur and Pale Chanting Goshawk to name just a few.See more ideas for Birdwatching in South Africa
Wildlife safaris: These days the number of visitors to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is increasing, especially from South Africa. However, they are still relatively low, especially in comparison to places like Kruger – making it a fantastic place for game viewing without the crowds. Springbok, oryx or gemsbok, red hartebeest, eland and blue wildebeest are some of the larger mammals found here; lion and cheetah sightings are often good.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in South Africa
Attitude towards children: Children are welcome at Mata Mata Camp.
Generally recommended for children: Yes
Notes: Although the restcamp is relaxed and fenced, remember that you are on safari, and that dangerous big game wanders around this park – hence children should be supervised at all times.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: There are no telephones or cellphone reception at Mata Mata.
Health & safety
Malarial area: No
Medical care: The closest hospital is in Upington.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Fire safety: Each chalet is equipped with a fire extinguisher.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Laundry tubs and ironing facilities (no iron) are available.
Money: There are no electronic safes in the chalets and no currency exchange is possible.