Central Kalahari Game Reserve
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is the Kalahari at its most remote. It is best visited on an intrepid mobile safari in the early months of the year. For those looking for more comfort there is also a lodge just outside the northern boundary of the reserve and two found in the north of the CKGR itself.
Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), situated right in the center of Botswana was set up in 1961. It is the largest game reserve in the world at 52 800 square kilometer. The reserve is characterised by vast open plains, salt pans 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 Mopane forests to the south and east. Rainfall is sparse and sporadic and can vary from 170 to 700 millimeters per year.
The people commonly known throughout the world as Bushmen, but more properly referred to as the San, have been resident in and around the area for probably thousands of years. Originally nomadic hunters and gathers, the lifestyle of the San has gradually changed with the times and they now live in settlements, some of which are situated within the southern half of CKGR.
Other residents were Mark and Delia Owens, who spent many years in the Deception Valley area of the park undertaking research mainly on brown hyaena. They set up their camp in the northern section of Deception in a prime “tree island”, however tree islands are no longer used for camping in these days of more environmental awareness. The Owens’ book, “Cry of the Kalahari” brought the attention of readers to this previously little-visited area and even today many people refer to the Central Kalahari simply as Deception. The name “Deception” comes from a pan in the area of which the dry surface at times appears convincingly full of water until one gets right to the edge.
Trans-Kalahari Travel: 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 which takes minimum two days of 4×4 wilderness travelling. Undeveloped campsites are available for overnight stops at Molapo, Gope, Bape and Xaka. Those visitors 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.
Wildlife: Game viewing for animals which include gemsbok, springbok, ostrich, kudu blue wildebeest, red hartebeest, giraffe, eland, brown hyaena, warthog, wild dog, cheetah, leopard, lion and is best between December and April, when the animals tend to congregate in the pans and valleys. Visitors are warned that sleeping in the open without a tent is dangerous and foolhardy and that they should keep their tents fastened to prevent snakes, scorpions, etc. from gaining entry. Foodstuffs, etc. should not be kept in the tent but should be closed into the vehicle to avoid the unwanted attentions of lions and hyaenas. Visitors may walk in pan areas where visibility is good, but walking in areas of tall grass or thick bush is potentially dangerous and not encouraged and it is always wise to stay within easy reach of the vehicle.