Something one often forgets is that country borders are arbitrary, man-made features. Often running along natural geographic features such as rivers and mountain ranges. Sometimes literally just being lines drawn in the sand after territory was fought over and claimed. Being at the tip of Africa, South Africa has a very long coastline (some 2800 kms) and no immediate neighbouring countries to the west, south and most of the east of it. North of South Africa is a different story with the neighbouring countries of Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. As well as the two small kingdoms of Lesotho and Swaziland which lie within South Africa. What this means is a lot of border posts. The main border posts going into Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Botswana are extremely busy and tend to look like this . . .
Queues at border posts sometimes stretch a couple of kilometres, and waiting times can be as long as three hours. See the post Chicken run to Pomene.
The Southern African side of Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP) is a triangular sliver of land in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa, and is wedged between Namibia and Botswana. The border posts from the KTP into both Namibia and Botswana look somewhat different to the norm. Sometimes, as in the area known as Union’s End (where South Africa, Namibia and Botswana all meet), there are no border posts, just fences. And not very impressive ones at that.
As the KTP is a “transfrontier park”, and the KTP lies on both sides of the South African – Botswana border, there are no fences here between the South African side and the Botswana side.
To see a more detailed map of the KTP click here.
Union’s End has quite a long history. From the information notice board at Union’s End comes the following text.
The name Union’s End comes from its association as being the most northern point of what was the Union of South Africa (the Natal and Cape Colonies under British rule from May 1910 to May 1961).
In 1936, a waterhole was established and Jan Jannewarie became responsible for the post at Union’s End.
A border patrol post was to be established in 1934 to stop poaching, but due to lack of funds the request was denied.
The Nossob River was closed to traffic en route to South West Africa (present day Namibia) in 1938. Namibia is fenced off from Botswana and South Africa, but as the spot lies in the Transfrontier Park, there is no fence between Botswana and South Africa at this point. The centre of the Nossob [river], which is the boundary between the two countries, is marked at intervals by cement bollards, with RSA and RB etched on the appropriate sides.
Situated at 24° 45’ 55.3” South and 19° 59’ 58.7” East, Union’s End is the extreme north-westerly point of South Africa.
Today Union’s End still marks the meeting place of the borders of South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. This is also the point where the dry Nossob River enters South Africa from Namibia.
Union’s End is sometimes referred to as “World’s End” on account of its remoteness.
The border fence from Unions End south separating what was then the Kalahari National Gemsbok Park (1931) and South West Africa (Namibia) was completed in 1966.
On the western side of the KTP is the Mata Mata camp, with an actual working border post. Although there is not much traffic here, and if you want to pass through you need to have gone through “border control” back at the main Twee Rivieren camp.
In the south at Twee Rivieren is a more serious looking fence. I could actually believe that this fence would keep the wild animals in the Park.
And now for the type of border post/border control I really like. Housed in an igloo-type building at the main Twee Rivieren camp, is an oasis in the desert which functions as reception area/main gate/border control. This odd-looking building somehow fits in with scenery, yet is nice and cool inside. A haven from the dust, harsh Kalahari sun and heat outside. The KTP has counters where they can process your arrival, and you can relax after a long drive. And if you are going to travel through the KTP to Botswana or Namibia (both countries border on the KTP), officials from those countries can attend to you at their counters. To see more photographs of this building, go to the post An Oasis In The Desert.