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A Short Guide to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve

 Devryn Panaino

Author: Devryn Panaino - 1 February 2024

Last Update: 1 October 2018

Part of the Wildlife In Central Kalahari & African Safari Collection

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), recognised as the second-largest wildlife reserve globally, stands as an emblem of untamed beauty and solitude in Southern Africa. Spanning over 52,000 square kilometres, it is larger than some countries like Denmark.

This remote reserve in Southern Africa is a biodiversity hotspot, housing species that have uniquely adapted to the harsh desert environment. Alongside the rhino, black-maned lion, and desert-adapted elephants, the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is also a habitat for rarer species such as the aardvark, caracal, and the Kalahari lion, which is notable for its size and majestic mane.

The San People of the Kalahari 

Echoing the ancient spirit of Africa, the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is not only a natural wonder but also a testament to human endurance and culture. It is home to the San people, an enduring hunter-gatherer society that has survived the test of time, mastering the art of thriving in the vast, challenging desert landscape.

Indigenous to this region, the San have a rich cultural heritage that is intricately woven into the fabric of the reserve. This is vividly illustrated through the rock paintings and artefacts scattered across the area, each telling a story of human resilience and a deep-seated connection to nature.

San rock art
San rock art.

These historical markers provide a unique window into the past, showcasing how the San people have harmoniously lived with and adapted to their environment for thousands of years.

Wildlife in the Kalahari

The diverse terrain of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, from salt pans to sand dunes and wooded grasslands, creates unique ecosystems. During the dry season, the waterholes scattered throughout the park become wildlife magnets, offering spectacular viewing opportunities.

In Deception Valley, named after a deceptive-looking dry riverbed, visitors can observe the fascinating interplay of predator and prey, especially during the early mornings and late afternoons when animals are most active.

Deception Valley
Deception Valley

The park’s unique feature is the presence of the Kalahari black-maned lion, a species that has adapted to survive in harsh conditions with limited water. The nocturnal wildlife in Central Kalahari Game Reserve is equally enthralling, with opportunities to spot the elusive leopard, brown hyena, and various species of owls and nightjars.

Best Time to Visit the Central Kalahari

The green season, stretching from January to April, not only brings a flush of greenery and water-filled pans but also triggers a dramatic change in the landscape.

This period is perfect for birdwatching, with migratory species augmenting the resident population, including the rare and colourful Crimson-breasted Shrike and the sociable weaver, known for its large communal nests.

Additionally, the green season’s mild temperatures make for more comfortable game drives and exploration. For those seeking a more solitary experience, the dry season (May to October) offers its own unique charm, with sparse vegetation allowing for easier wildlife spotting.

The oryx strikes a formidable pose against the backdrop of the Kalahari Desert
The oryx strikes a formidable pose against the backdrop of the Kalahari Desert

Additionally, the green season’s mild temperatures make for more comfortable game drives and exploration. For those seeking a more solitary experience, the dry season (May to October) offers its own unique charm, with sparse vegetation allowing for easier wildlife spotting.

Who Will Love Central Kalahari?

While the Central Kalahari may not be the ideal first safari destination, it is a haven for seasoned safari-goers and nature lovers who appreciate solitude and the raw beauty of nature. It’s also a paradise for photographic, birdwatching, and family safaris.

In particular, it is appealing to those interested in eco-tourism, offering a chance to interact with the San people and learn about their fascinating survival skills, traditional dances, and stories.

This destination also caters to adventure seekers, offering 4×4 trails for self-drive safari that challenge and delight with their ruggedness and scenic beauty. 

Accommodation Options

We recommend staying at !Xaus Lodge or the family-friendly Tau Pan Camp for an enhanced safari experience. These lodges not only provide luxurious accommodations but also are designed to have a minimal environmental impact, blending seamlessly with the surrounding landscape.

Tau Pan Camp
Lion near Tau Pan Camp

Each lodge offers unique experiences, from night drives to specialized birding excursions, ensuring that every guest’s interests are catered to. These lodges have expert guides and trackers, ensuring optimal wildlife sightings. Guests can also engage in walking safaris and cultural tours to visit the local San communities.

Travel Tip for a Seamless Safari

For self-drive enthusiasts, it’s crucial to note that the sandy terrain requires a 4×4 vehicle with high clearance. Also, given the reserve’s remote location, carrying extra fuel, water, and emergency supplies is essential.

For those flying into Botswana, Maun and Gaborone are the primary entry points, with charter flights available to the reserve. Visitors should also be aware of the seasonal changes in the park, as some tracks may become impassable during the wet season.

 If you prefer a self-drive adventure safari, we can assist you in selecting the appropriate vehicle and advise you on essential supplies.

Remember, the reserve’s vastness demands thorough preparation. Always stay within your vehicle, except in designated safe areas, and be vigilant of wildlife.

Giraffes in the Kalahari
Giraffes in the Kalahari

Securing a permit for the Central Kalahari Game Reserve can be complex, but booking with Discover Africa ensures a hassle-free experience as we handle all arrangements.

For an adventure that combines the thrill of wildlife, the beauty of the Kalahari, and the rich culture of the San people, the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is an unparalleled choice.

If you’re ready to explore this majestic wilderness, Discover Africa is here to help tailor your dream desert safari with expert guidance and personalized planning. Let your journey into the heart of Botswana begin with us.

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Copyright © Discover Africa Safaris | A Short Guide to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve | Last Updated: 1 February 2024