Central Kalahari Game Reserve Botswana

Central Kalahari Game Reserve Botswana

Nothing prepares you for the immensity of this reserve, nor its wild, mysterious beauty. There is the immediate impression of unending space, and having the entire reserve to yourself. Waist-high golden grasses seem to stretch interminably, punctuated by dwarfed trees and scrub bushes. Wide and empty pans appear as vast white stretches of saucer-flat earth, meeting a soft, blue-white sky. At night the stars utterly dominate the land; their brilliance and immediacy are totally arresting.The Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) is the largest, most remotely situated reserve in Southern Africa, and the second-largest wildlife reserve in the world, encompassing 52 800 sq km.

During and shortly after good summer rains, the flat grasslands of the reserve’s northern reaches teem with wildlife, which gathers at the best grazing areas. These include large herds of springbok and gemsbok, as well as wildebeest, hartebeest, eland and giraffe.

At other times of the year, when the animals are more sparsely distributed, the experience of travelling through truly untouched wilderness, of seemingly unending dimensions, is the draw.

The landscape is dominated by silver Terminalia sand veldt, Kalahari sand acacias, and Kalahari apple leaf, interspersed with grasslands and dotted with occasional sand dunes, pans and shallow fossil river valleys.

CKGR is unique in that it was originally established (in 1961) with the intention of serving as a place of sanctuary for the San, in the heart of the Kalahari (and Botswana), where they could live their traditional hunter/ gatherer way of life, without intrusion, or influence, from the outside world.

The reserve was closed for about 30 years until, in the 1980s and 1990s, both self-drive and organised tours were allowed in, albeit in small, tightly controlled numbers.

The Botswana government has initiated plans to develop tourism away from the Okavango and Chobe areas and has allocated concessions for lodge construction, both at the peripheries of and inside the reserve, allowing for fly-in tourists.

The northern deception valley is one of the highlights, principally because of the dense concentrations of herbivores its sweet grasses attract during and after the rainy season (and of course the accompanying predators). It is also the most travelled area of the reserve, with a number of public campsites, and proximity to the eastern Mats was Gate. The other two gates are completely at the other side of the reserve, at Xade and Tsau, where public campsites are also available.

Other worthwhile areas to drive are Sunday and Leopard Pans, north of Deception Valley, Passarge Valley, and, further south, Piper’s Pan.

Size of Central Kalahari game reserve Botswana

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) is the largest, most remotely situated reserve in Southern Africa, and the second-largest wildlife reserve in the world, encompassing 52 800 sq km.

Location of Central Kalahari game reserve Botswana

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve covers a large section of central Botswana. Its harsh, sprawling terrain is dominated by grasslands, home to wildlife such as giraffes, cheetahs, hyenas and wild dogs. There are several fossilized river valleys, including Deception Valley and Passarge Valley, which offer basic campsites. Dirt tracks wind south through the reserve’s remote landscapes to the Piper’s Pan Area.

How to get to Central Kalahari game reserve Botswana

From Maun

From Maun, there are numerous options depending on where you are travelling to in the central Kalahari. If you’re heading to Deception Valley then the easiest route would be on the tarmac road heading towards Nata, turning off at the Makalamabedi Road. After Makalamabedi village the road travels along the cutline of the veterinary fence before reaching the gate to Deception Valley.

From Maun you may also choose to travel via Toteng, entering the Park in the North before heading on to Passarge.

Flights from Maun

Concession areas have been set aside for some lodges to lay airstrips for easy access into the Kalahari. It is a 45-minute flight into Deception Valley from Maun.

Things to do in Central Kalahari Game reserve Botswana

Game drives

There is a network of roads linking the various areas in the game reserve to provide an overall picture of the landscape of the park and for game viewing. In private areas, limited off-road is possible.

Bushmen interaction

The lodges in the park have Bushmen trackers that go out on nature walks to interpret the environment for guests and in the private areas there is the opportunity for cultural interaction in the villages


Despite the aridity of the area, the Kalahari is one of the best birding areas in Botswana, especially so in the wet season when all the migrants are around. The Kalahari is particularly well known for its raptors due to the prevalence of small mammals.

Nature walks

Nature walks in the Kalahari are generally accompanied by Bushmen trackers who enhance the experience with their incredible knowledge of the area and its life.

Night drives in concessions outside the park

Night drives are done on some of the private areas outside the game reserve boundaries, providing a unique look at the nocturnal creatures of the Kalahari.


With its clear, unpolluted sky the Kalahari is one of the best places in Africa for stargazing and each lodge will have a guide with knowledge of the skies.

When to visit Central Kalahari game reserve

The best time to visit the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is during the wet months, from December to March. Wildlife migrates through the park with the seasons and during these months animals congregate around the pans in the Deception Valley area. However, at this time, roads can get very muddy.

Where to Stay in Central Kalahari game reserve Botswana


The newest addition to Ker and Downey Botswana’s portfolio, Dinaka is based on a private game reserve on the northern boundary of the CKGR

Deception valley lodge

A private reserve on the border of the CKGR, Deception Valley Lodge offers more flexible activities than within the reserve and a particularly good Bushman experience.

Edo’s camp

Edo’s Camp is a small camp with only four spacious tents overlooking a permanent waterhole. Surrounded by 20,000 hectares of private game conservancy you can expect to see white rhino, springbok, oryx and eland here.


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