The Kgalagadi is full of names that tell a story....

Local names give us an insight into the history of the region and reveal something about the lives of the people who lived there. The Kalahari Gemsbok National Park is no exception. It has a curious collection of waterhole names along the Auob and Nossob rivers that provide clues as to what happened there in the past.

Some of these names were simply chosen at random and have no deeper meaning, while others are self-explanatory, such as Gemsbok Plein. However, certain names tell a definite story, names that were chosen by people who had memorable experiences in the Kalahari.

One of the stranger features of the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park is the number of Scottish names that have been bestowed on some of the waterholes. Names such as “Monro”, “Dalkeith” and “Graig Lockhart”, which seem out of place in this dry and arid region. They owe their existence to the Scotsman, Rodger Jackson. 

The Government hired him in 1914 to survey and beacon off farms in an area of the Northern Cape Province that was years later proclaimed the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park. It was during his employment, and probably while he was feeling homesick, that he gave Scottish names to these places.

Thirteenth and Fourteenth boreholes did not always carry these names. Originally, they were referred to as Grootskrij and Kleinskrij. The reason for the name change is that the translation of the Afrikaans word 'skrij' into English means 'diarrhoea'. A traveller’s cattle suffered this fate after eating the tsama melons and drinking the water here, and the names served as a warning to those who followed.

Rooibrak waterhole on the Auob river translates into “Red Brack”, and refers to the red stone and the brackish water found in this area.

Leewdril, in the southern Nossob River means “Lion Shiver”. A desert dweller named Matthys climbed a dune near this waterhole and came face to face with a lion. He did not have a gun with him, so he could only stand his ground and face the lion. The lion eyed him for a while, and then turned away. Matthys was shivering in his boots, hence the name “Leeudril”.

Jan se Draai refers to a point in the Nossob river where Jan, a Nama on a trek into the Kalahari, thought better of it and turned back, “draai” being the Afrikaans word for “turn around”.

Marie se Gat, or “Marie’s Hole”, tells the tale of a determined wife, who, when her husband started drinking to much and could not complete work on a borehole, rolled up her sleeves and continued with the rest of the drilling herself.

Khoekhoense names

Auob:– bitter river

Bayip: Skaapram / Male Sheep 

Cubitji Quap: Erdvarkgat / Antbear hole

Gharagab: Blyplek van ou Hottentot-kaptein / House of old Hottentot Captain

Gunong: Plek van duwweltjies / Place of Devil’s Thorn

Kaagaan-se-panne: Vernoem na Kgalagadi-kaptein. / Named after Kgalagadi Captain 

Kamqua: Groen kolk

Kannagauss: Kameeldoringboomkolk / Kamelthorn tree

Karibgnoos: Dors met jong tsammas geles / Thirst Quenched with young tsammas

Kijgamies: Groot leeuwyfie / Large Female Lion

Kijgarries: Groot bloedsiekte (miltvuur). Die beeste van die Koranna het hier aan die siekte gevrek. Nadat hulle van die beesvleis geĆ«et het, is baie mense dood. / Great sickness of the blood. The cattle of the Koranna died of this sickness. After eating this meat a lot of humans died.

KijKij: (Ky Ky-ook Melkvlei genoem) ( Ky Ky- also called Melkvlei)

Kousaunt: Growwe wit sand. / Rough white sand

Kwangpan: (Piet Mof-se-werf) Gereelde kampplek van Piet de Villiers (Inspekteur van Lande) / Camping site of Piet de Villiers (Inspector of Lands)

Mata-Mata: Gee en aan jou sal gegee word. / Give and to you shall be given.

Moravet: Vernoem na n pragtige swart skilderborskoei van oom Sarel Burger wat by Kamqua weidingsreg gehad en gebly het. Die koei het haar pasgebore kalwers dae lank in die lang gras van die pan weggesteek. / Named after a black cow which belonged to Sarel Burger whose cattle walked this part of the land. The cow normally hid her calves in the long grass .

Namabies: Hartbeest

Polentswa: Verdwaal rivier of skelmrivier. / Lost river River hiding 

Sekwatspan: Gaan daar en sien die pan is droog / Go there and you will see the pan is dry.

Sitszas: Water met slegte smaak (skalie) / Water with a bitter taste 

Tsamma: Walk way

Afrikaans names

Bedinkt: Because the tsammas were finished Jackson wondered at this point if he should proceed with his oxen.

Bitterpan: Tsammas here are bitter.

Dankbaar: During a thunderstorm Jackson could collect rain water here.
Photo Credit: Koos Marais
Dikbaardskolk: Hunter by the name of Dikbaard stayed here during the hunting season.

Erdvarkgatpanne: Plenty of Antbear holes around the pan.

Grasvlei: Water next to windmill, plenty of grass.

Grootbrak: Prominent calcrete ridges.

Grootkolk: Holes in the pans just south of river are black inside due to water.

Houmoed: The borehole was a test. One had to be patient due to the sand that used to collapse almost every time while drilling, the 2,5m casing still on the site above the ground tells the story. Be patient.

Jan-se-Draai: Turning point of Kortjan Matthys during the hunting season.

Kameelsleep: The Sandersons shot the last free roamimg Giraffe and then with their donkeys pulled it into Botswana.

Kamfersboom: Home of Kamfer who maintained the borehole.

Kaspersdraai: Kasper Sanderson stayed here during tsamma season, he also dug a well here.

Kieliekrankie: Almost sick.

Klein- en Groot-Skrijpanne: Too much tsamma, cucumber, gave the cattle diarrhoea.

Koedoebos: Black thorn bush was a hideaway for Kudu’s visiting this part.

Kraalpanne: Pans lie here just as if they were arranged.

Kransbrak: Calcrete licks where animals come for minerals and salts.

Lekkerwater: (Geigami) Hole with little water but tastes so nice.

Lijersdraai: The turn of the river looks like a baby’s nappy in the closed position.

Rolletjie: Rolling dunes which look like waves.

Rooiputs: A Well dug in almost pure red stone.

Samevloeing: Where the Nossob and Auob meets.

Sewepanne: Place were seven pans are found.

Stoffelsdraai: Previous Park managers successes in pointing out water.

Twee Rivieren: Place where the Auob and the Nossob river meets.

Vaalpan: Place in the red dunes where the water is nice.

Veertiende boorgat: 14th in a series of bore holes which were sunk in 1908 for Union troops.

Article by: Jan Kriel