Stretching for 52,800 square kilometers (20,400 square miles, larger than the Netherlands and almost 10% of Botswana’s total land area) across the remote Kalahari Desert is the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, one of the remotest yet outstanding protected Areas in this largely unexplored African country. The Kalahari Desert stretches from the northern part of South Africa through Angola and Namibia until the Democratic Republic of Congo, making it the largest sand basin in the whole World.
Originally gazetted in 1961 with the aim of serving as a Sanctuary for the San people, the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is the World’s second largest Game Reserve but is one of the rarely explored destinations in Africa, often receiving only a handful of tourists each year. However, with its exceptionality, nothing will ever prepare you for the natural wonders of this Reserve, not even its wildlife species and beauty. Surprisingly, there is always an immediate love and impression for its unending landscape and feeling of having the whole Reserve to yourself because of the fact that it is explored by few tourists. This land is mainly flat and gently undulating but is covered by bush and grasslands covering the sand dunes and areas of bigger trees.
The San (also referred as Bushmen) have occupied the area where the Reserve is found for several years and roamed around the area as nomadic-hunter-gatherers but since the mid-1990s, the Government of Botswana tried so hard to relocate these people from the Reserve due to the drain they create on financial resources despite revenues from the tourism industry. Due to the inaccessibility and remoteness, the Park was recently closed to the public much as there have always been small groups of the San people inhabiting the Game Reserve.
Flora and Fauna within Central Kalahari Game Reserve
The Reserve is characterized by waist-high golden grasses that extend interminably and dotted with short trees and scrub bushes. However, wide and empty fossilized salt pans appear as vast white extensions of saucer-flat earth within the river valleys and meet a beautiful blue-white sky. Additionally, the landscape is dominated by Kalahari sand acacias, silver terminalia sand veldt and the Kalahari apple-leaf dotted with occasional sand dunes, grasslands, shallow fossil river valleys and pans.
During and immediately after the summer rains, the flat grasslands of the Game Reserve’s northern side is endowed with rich wildlife species that gather at the best grazing areas. These animals include large numbers of Plains zebras, Sable antelopes, spotted hyenas, Honey badger, bush elephants, Brown hyenas, South African giraffes, Meerkat, African leopards, greater kudus, Cape hares, African cheetahs, spotted hyenas, Caracal, Cape ground squirrel, Springbok, Kalahari lions, gemsbok, red hartebeests, warthogs, black-backed jackals, common elands, Chacma baboons, yellow mongoose, white rhinos, Aardvarks, Gemsboks, impalas, Cape wild dogs, hartebeests, Cape buffaloes, Cape foxes, Cape porcupines, blue wildebeests and Springboks among others.
Therefore, regardless of the large size and numerous wildlife species in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, it is remote and most of it is inaccessible. At some times of the year when the animals are sparsely distributed, the experience of traveling through the unexplored wilderness of seemingly unending dimensions is the draw.
Where to Stay while in Central Kalahari Game Reserve
There are generally two relatively new private Safari Camps within the Game Reserve as well as only two permanent accommodation options within the site. For maximum satisfaction and unforgettable safari experience, you can spend overnights within the Deception Valley Lodge, Kalahari Plains Camp, Meno a Kwena Tented Camp and Tau Pan Camp.
There are also a number of accommodation facilities within the Kalahari Desert although far from the Game Reserve and they include Edo’s Camp.
In conclusion, the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is a spectacular Reserve within the largest sand basin in the World and is a home to the Bushmen in addition to providing fresh grasslands for wide range of wildlife species such as greater kudus, gemsbok, red hartebeests, warthogs, common elands, white rhinos, Gemsboks, impalas and many others.