The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is the ultimate wilderness destination, situated in the centre of the Kalahari Desert. Dominated by an intricate network of open plains, shrub-covered fossil sand dunes and riverbeds, this vast 5 million hectare reserve is the largest in the world. In contrast to perceptions of the Kalahari ‘Desert’, most of the reserve is vegetated with trees scattered amongst the mixed bush, grasses and herbs. Those who venture to this secluded and unforgiving environment get one of the best chances to view magnificent skies and experience untamed Africa at its best.
Home to the San people, who have occupied these lands for 30,000 years, today they are first class safari guides who introduce visitors to their unique culture on ventures across the desert. Often dressed in traditional animal skins equipped with a bow and arrow, the Bushmen are excellent story tellers and bring the Central Kalahari to life. The pristine and untouched Tsodilo Hills were recently proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site; a testament to the San villagers’ history as it displays the only collection of their rock art in Southern Africa.
Low-densities of big game inhabit the Central Kalahari as only highly adapted species can withstand the harsh climate. During the dry season, lion and cheetah are the top predators, with oryx, kudu and springbuck as the main prey. Families of meerkats and yellow mongoose are amongst the most entertaining wildlife in the area. Occasionally nocturnal honey badgers and porcupines are seen around the lodges as game drives at night are prohibited. In contrast, just after the rains, the grass plains come alive with thousands of gemsbok, wildebeest and springbok, which in turn attract plentiful lion, jackal and cheetah. Spectacular predator-prey sightings are therefore frequent from February to April. Renowned for being one of the better locations in Botswana to view Cheetah, the Central Kalahari is also famous for sightings of black maned lion. A good variety of scavengers can be spotted, including the brown hyena, the third rarest carnivore in the world.
Bird biodiversity is varied, with over 220 species including threatened and endemic Crimson-breasted Shrike, Violet-eared Waxbill and Southern Pied Babblers. The world’s heaviest flying bird, the kori bustard weighing 14-19kg, is easily spotted, along with free-roaming ostriches. Black-breasted and brown snake eagles, tawny eagles and lanner falcons are also found aside smaller birds including doves and queleas. Out in the bush, the Black Korhaan call is heard at day, but at night replaced by the loud cough of the male barking gecko.
The area has the lowest density of lodges in any game conservation area in Botswana and receives few tourists, thus enabling a truly remote, natural and ultimate wilderness experience. The Kalahari Plains Camp and Tau Pan Camp are considered the best lodges in the reserve.
Unlike the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa, game is at its peak during and shortly after the rains (Jan-April). Therefore, just after the rains in the months of March, April and May, are the best times to visit to get a well-rounded experience of good weather conditions and decent wildlife sightings. Small predators are best viewed from May to October. Migratory birds are best seen from November to February.
January to April: This summer period of the classic time to visit the area, despite the first 12 weeks experiencing the majority of rainfall. Temperatures remain in the low 30°C’s during the day. The majority of migratory animals should have arrived in search of fresh grazing, and accumulate in great densities on the pans. Inevitably these attract increased numbers of predators. However, as a result of the rains, driving conditions are poor and the terrain is often impossible to venture across due to mud. The landscape is more vibrant at this time and the skies are full of magnificent cloud formations.
May and June: Temperatures begin to drop during this transition period from hot wet summer to cool dry winter. Ground frosts are not uncommon in June, with temperatures ranging from 25°C during the day and 6°C at night. In May the migratory game is relatively widespread across the Central Kalahari, but as the pans start to dry out, grazing deteriorates so animals head towards permanent water. This is the peak time to visit.
July to September: the dry winter months are an unseasonal time to visit. With low temperatures (25°C) and low humidity, skies are clear but nights often fall below zero, especially in July. Virtually all migratory species have left for the north, so gamevewing concentrates on sparse populations of game. This is in stark contrast to the Okavango Delta which is a waterworld at this time.
October to December: October temperatures are the hottest of the year (up to 40°C max) and greatest humidity. When the rains break in November in the form of passing showers, which fill seasonal waterholes, animals move back into the Kalahari in decent numbers. The landscape comes alive with grasses and flowers.
If you’re a birder, then the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is the place to be. It has a ...read more
If you’re a birder, then the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is the place to be. It has a reputation for being one of the best destinations for raptor-spotting.
Photo Credit: Russel Friedman
By December the rains have arrived and the newly green desert attracts ungulates from the Okavango ...read more
By December the rains have arrived and the newly green desert attracts ungulates from the Okavango Delta in their droves to feed on the sweet grasses, closely followed by the opportunistic predators.
Photo credit: Dana Allen
Search out the legendary black-maned lions that have adapted to the harsh existence in the Central ...read more
Search out the legendary black-maned lions that have adapted to the harsh existence in the Central Kalahari so well that they can go for weeks without water.
The Bushwalk experience with San bushmen Kalahari Plains Camp's “Bushman Walk” tops the list ...read more
The Bushwalk experience with San bushmen Kalahari Plains Camp’s “Bushman Walk” tops the list when it comes to guest activities.
Photo credit: Caroline Culbert
Meercat sightings are possible in Deception Valley in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve -one of the ...read more
Meercat sightings are possible in Deception Valley in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve -one of the remotest areas in the Kalahari desert. Deception Valley, made famous in the book Cry of the Kalahari by Mark and Delia Owen.
Without polluting activity, the Central Kalahari, travellers will marvel at the twinkling network ...read more
Deception Valley Lodge is set in a private concession on the north eastern boundary of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Professionally run by the ... Read More
An exclusive 20,000 ha private reserve hugging the northern edge of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the new 5 star Dinaka Safari Lodge is host to ... Read More
Grasslands Bushman Lodge is unique in several ways - the predator conservation project, the window into the San culture, the window into the settler ... Read More
Kalahari Plains Camp is situated in a remote part of the diverse and productive Central Kalahari Game Reserve, and offers some of the best ... Read More
Tau Pan is located in the heart of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, a pristine wilderness area. Set on the ridge of an ancient sand dune ... Read More
The Big 5 Safari company is a supporter of the The Zambezi Society and support its vital conservation work and anti-poaching patrols.Discover