The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is the second-largest wildlife reserve in the world. The vastness of the 52,800 km reserve in the midst of the Kalahari desert of Botswana is mind-numbing. Here time comes to a standstill as the wide white earth conspires to meet the open, blue sky.
Golden grass can be seen in all directions, occasioned by short trees and scrubs while wide sand pans beckon the tourist to come closer and feel awed.
While the summer rains bring together scores of wild animals eager to graze on the lush and sweet grass, the dry season has its own beauty that attracts the visitor, though lucky visitors might spot an animal or two. The wildlife usually seen includes wildebeest, brown hyena, warthog, hartebeest, eland, wild dog springbok, giraffe, gemsbok, cheetah, lion and leopard.
The northern deception valley, so named because it is a 80 km. long ancient riverbed where mirages take place, has the highest concentration of herbivores and predators seen in and after the rains. Hence, it is the most visited area of the reserve also close to the eastern Matswere Gate. There is also a large diversity of bird life and a number of endangered species. A number of public campsites cater to the visitors. The Sunday and Leopard Pans, Passarge Valley and Piper's Pan are popular spots to visit.
Access is from Ghanzi on the west for about 3 hours to the gate at Xade, Rakops and Maun (3 and a half hours to Matswere) on the north east and Khutse from the south. The gates at Xade and Tsau also house campsites. Petrol and diesel are available at Ghanzi and Rakops. By air, the tourist can land at one of the four airstrips at Deception Pan, Xade, Xaka or at the game scout in Khutse.
The reserve was formed originally in 1961 with the issue of protecting the San in mind. It was proposed that the San could live a private life and continue their hunter/gatherer ways without intrusion from the external world. Now they have mixed with people from other tribes and some have found employment in the various lodges as guides. Using their traditional wisdom passed down through generations, the Bushmen can show visitors how to survive life in the great arid desert.
The two permanent accommodation options are the private camps Kalahari Plains Camp and Tau Pan Camp. There is an old-style safari camp near the Kalahari Salt Pans called the Meno a Kwena Tented Camp that offers 2-3 days short trips. Visitors may also find lodges just outside the reserve including the Deception Valley Lodge and the Grassland Bushman Lodge.
The reserve conditions though harsh, reward the tourist with the ultimate African holiday. A night sky full of stars, fascinating reptiles, scorpions and insects, immense number of grazing animals and the peace and solitude that the great Kalahari Reserve has to offer are a visitor's dream come true.