The Kalahari is the largest sand basin in the world, stretching over 52,800 square km. The vastness of land of this game reserve is one aspect that makes it extremely exquisite and popular. Laden with tall golden grass standing amidst the dwarfing trees, the Kalahari Game Reserve offers pristine views of the dunes and shallow valleys that stretch from the northern part of South Africa, through Namibia and Angola and ending in the DRC (Congo).
It may have no permanent surface water, but unlike the image of most deserts, the Kalahari is well vegetated with a wide variety of habitats, including acacia trees and areas of flat grasslands that seem to stretch forever. The land is also dominated by silver Terminalia and Kalahari apple-leaf, which along with the majestic grasslands sprawling upon acres of land lined with dunes, make this game reserve seem surreal. Owing to the sheer vastness of this land, the travelers are mostly the most adventurous types that love to witness action and wildlife in its full glory.
Its remoteness, unforgiving climate, and harsh terrain have kept it pristine, and only the fully self-sufficient traveler would venture into the reserve alone. The vastness of the land is so dominating that when viewing this pristine land, the whole reserve gives off the feelings of a private tour of the land – as if it is only you and the majestic land for an ultimate experience.
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) is the largest in the world, and has, until recently, been closed for the public. From the early 1980s to the late 1990s, the Botswana government only allowed a selected and controlled number of visitors to preserve the sanctuary of the place.
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is also popular for inhabiting the last generation of the Bushmen – the aboriginal indigenous community belonging to Southern African Kalahari Desert. They are nomads known for hunting for centuries.
The historical footprints of this amazing land and game reserve can be traced back to efforts for protecting the San people – and indigenous community – in the year 1961. The bold step of closing this game reserve for the general public was also an attempt to revive the glory of the land and preserving its inhabitants.
After the summer rains arrive in the northern section of CKGR, 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. This time is regarded as the best-known secrets among the wildlife enthusiasts as the rain forces wildlife activity on the land – mainly in the northernmost parts of the game reserve.
The clear blue-sky fills with gigantic clouds and sets the stage for an amazing transformation. Into the scene, enter thousands of gemsbok, springbok, and wildebeest, with hordes of lions, cheetahs, and jackal in attendance.
While the herbivores can be seen feeding off from the lush green grass, the game is set for the predators to take on their prey. If you happen to witness this short moment where nature meets the naked human eye, you can see the infamous black-maned lion along with wildebeest, giraffe, and hyenas going about hunting for their prey.
The Kalahari Game Reserve is also best known for inhabiting large concentrations of meerkats that numerous visitors especially want to see.
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 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.
The northern deception valley is the best site for witnessing the nature in its most raw and purest forms. As most of the areas of these vast lands are inaccessible, the deception valley attracts the greatest number of visitors due to its proximity to the Matswere Gate. The gigantic land covered by this massive game reserve has two other gates, Xade and Tsau, where campsites are also offered for the tourists.
1. Rainy Season
Summer rains are expected to fall on northern CKGR between November and March, but as rainfall is erratic, there is no certain time or season for rainfall in this area. Rainstorms are frequent but fast, and roads can become very muddy, and a fully equipped 4×4 vehicle is essential.
2. Dry Season
May to October is hot, dry, and dusty in the Kalahari with little water and limited animals. October is the hottest month.