The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is one of the most scenic, remote and unspoiled wilderness areas in Africa.
It is also one of the largest game reserves on Earth, covering an area larger than Switzerland. Never mind off the beaten track, the Central Kalahari is entirely off the grid: no pesky cellphone calls or emails will bother you in this vast expanse. This is authentic wilderness, and travellers must come prepared. Private safari camps or guided mobile safaris are an excellent choice in this unfenced wild paradise – where star performers include the Kalahari black-maned lion and numerous cheetah – although self-drive camping safaris can be undertaken by intrepid (well-prepared and entirely self-sufficient) travellers.
The arid and semi-arid landscape varies from open plains to salt pans to undulating sand dunes covered in bushveld and golden grasses. The area boasts four fossilized rivers, including Deception Valley – named for the shimmering mirages that lure thirsty travellers to an illusory oasis – which dates back some 16 000 years. This is big-sky country: by day the unending dome of sky is mirrored by the flat, wide pans stretching as far as the eye can see; at night, the Milky Way in the southern sky is startlingly clear and immediate. This reserve conveys a sense of vast, wild and timeless beauty. No one departs without a renewed sense of privilege and wonder.
Resident species include giraffe, elephant, white rhino, Cape buffalo, spotted and brown hyena, honey badger, warthog, caracal, Cape wild dog, black-backed jackal, blue wildebeest, zebra, red hartebeest, eland, gemsbok, springbok, baboon, ostrich and the Kalahari black-maned lion as well as leopard and cheetah, plus loads more. After good summer rains (November to March) the flat grasslands of the reserve’s northern reaches teem with wildlife, drawn to the best grazing areas. These include large herds of springbok, gemsbok, wildebeest, hartebeest, eland and giraffe – as well as the predators that follow them, making for exciting Big Cat action. 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.
As well as game drives and guided walking safaris, activities include guided walks with San (Bushman) trackers to explore their culture, learn survival techniques and hunting skills, and be amazed by their extensive knowledge of all plant and animal life. Traditionally nomadic hunters and renowned for their rock art paintings, the San trace their history in southern Africa back tens of thousands of years.
Central Kalahari Game Reserve