Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Travel to Central Kalahari Game Reserve – Largest Game Reserve in Botswana
Larger than Denmark or Switzerland, and bigger than Lesotho and Swaziland combined, the 52,800 square kilometre Central Kalahari Game Reserve, which was set up in 1961, is the second largest game reserve in the world. Situated right in the centre of Botswana, this reserve is characterised by vast open plains, saltpans and ancient riverbeds. Varying from sand dunes with many species of trees and shrubs in the north, to flat bushveld in the central area, the reserve is more heavily wooded in the south, with mophane forests to the south and east. Rainfall is sparse and sporadic and can vary from 170 to 700 millimetres per year.
The people commonly known throughout the world as Bushmen, but more properly referred to as the Basarwa or San, have been resident in and around the area for probably thousands of years. Originally nomadic hunters and gathers, the lifestyle of the Basarwa has gradually changed with the times and they now live in settlements, some of which are situated within the southern half of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Government is, however, encouraging these people to move to areas outside the reserve in order that they may be provided with modern facilities, schools and clinics, and to integrate them into modern society.
After the summer rains arrive in the northern section of Central Kalahari Game Reserve, from Deception Valley to Piper Pans, the vast plains burst with sweet grasses and it becomes one of the prime game-viewing areas in Botswana. Not many people seem to be aware of this and visitors are few. The clear blue sky fills with gigantic clouds and the stage is set for an amazing transformation. Into the scene enters thousands of gemsbok, springbok and wildebeest, with plentiful lion, cheetah and jackal in attendance.
This gathering of animals is a sight to behold and can be compared with the Serengeti/ Masai Mara migrations of Tanzania and Kenya. Out in the bush, the ceaseless daytime call of the Black korhaan is replaced at night by the continuous loud cough of the male barking gecko, and under the cover of darkness scorpions emerge. Those with thick tails and small pincers are the most dangerous, while the ones with small tails and big pincers give a painful but harmless sting.
Summer rains are expected to fall on the northern Central Kalahari Game Reserve between November and March, but as rainfall is erratic this is by no means certain. Rainstorms are frequent but fast and roads can become very muddy and a fully equipped 4×4 vehicle is essential. The dry season from May to October is hot, dry and dusty in the Kalahari with little water and limited animals. October is the hottest month.
The main wildlife concentrations are to be found in the tourist areas in the northern half of this vast reserve but it is possible for adventurous and completely self-contained visitors to travel through the reserve between Khutse on the southern boundary to the northern section – a journey that takes a minimum of two days of 4×4 wilderness travelling. Undeveloped campsites are available for overnight stops at Molapo, Gope, Bape and Xaka. Those travellers wishing to travel trans-Kalahari should note that, apart from being self-contained with all fuel, food and water, they should only travel in a group of two or more vehicles with basic spares and survival aids.
- Magnificent cloud formations during the summer rains
- Thousands of grazing animals on the grass plains of the north from February to April
- The beauty of Deception Valley