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Central Kalahari Game Reserve 2
Central Kalahari Game Reserve 1

Central Kalahari Game Reserve

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve lies within the Kalahari Desert in the southwest of the country. It covers 52,800 square kilometers of the Kalahari, an expanse that amounts to 10% of the total land area in Botswana, making it one of the largest reserves in the world.  The Central Kalahari has long been synonymous with the bushmen, or San, also known as the Basarwa people. The hunter-gatherer San are one of the oldest cultures on earth, directly descendant from the first people in Southern Africa. Although a desert park, there is a huge amount of life here and a walking safari with San guides is a once in a lifetime adventure.  The Central Kalahari is made up of mostly flat and gently undulating bushveld, with areas of sand dunes and stands of taller trees. The area also has Passarge and Deception Valleys with their numerous fossilized salt pans.

The‌ ‌History‌ ‌of‌ Central Kalahari Game Reserve

  • 1960: The British colonial government established the reserve for the preservation of the Basarwa tribe’s traditions. While the Basarwa lived peacefully in the settlements within the park for several years, a time came when boosting Botswana’s economy became a priority at the expense of others.
  • 1980: Diamonds are discovered, bringing speculators from around the world in search of more diamond deposits, looking to exploit the untouched wilderness of the Following the discovery of diamond deposits, the Basarwa were forced to move into the government-built villages outside the park. To make the deal more appealing, they added schools, clinics and offered employment opportunities.
  • 1997: Over the years, news about the government’s underhanded tactics to get the Basarwa outside the park started to get out. The promises of employment opportunities remained unmet and the Basarwa that remained in the settlements within the park became victims of harassment. These original inhabitants of the Central Kalahari were forced to move from the land they had inhabited for more than 20,000 years.
  • 2006: The Botswana High Court gets In December 2006, the Basarwa won the court battle, which gave them the right to inhabit the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and to continue practising their traditional ways.
  • 2008: A fire, the cause of which remains unknown, burned down 80% of the game reserve.
  • 2014: Even after the court proclamation, Basarwa faced challenges, beginning with the opening of a new diamond mine in the southeast section of the game reserve.
  • 2015: A nationwide ban on hunting which classified it as illegal activity ensured that Basarwa couldn’t continue their hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

Wildlife In Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Deception Valley, one of the key attractions of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and home to a rich water source during the wet season, attracts large herds of herbivores such as Oryx, springbok and blue wildebeest. Small herds of red hartebeest, greater kudu and eland can also be seen gathered around the water source. These herbivores aren’t alone; they are followed by cheetahs and the famous black-maned Kalahari lion.

An excellent birding location, the reserve is home to 250 recorded bird species. Martial eagle, black-chested snake-eagle, and several raptors are seen taking the skies of the Central Kalahari. The large concentration of small animals offers them plenty of food. Other exceptional bird species include the chat flycatcher, double-banded sandgrouse, Marico Flycatcher, Namaqua dove, sandgrouse, red-billed quelea and yellow-throated sandgrouse.

Central Kalahari Game Reserve Premier Attractions

  • Deception Valley: A remnant of an ancient river that once flowed through the Kalahari desert, this valley flourishes with lush vegetation during the monsoon. In the rainy season, it is surrounded by thousands of animals, a sight that might easily make you forget how dry the area is. The name Deception Valley and Pan, was coined by pilots flying over the area..  When viewed from the sky, the dry blue-clay pan creates a mirage of the river.
  • Passarge Valley: A long valley housing several pans and camp-sites, the Passarge Valley landscape is a mixture of small trees and bushes. As you move further, into the heart of the valley, the landscape opens up into grassland. The valley floor is a fossil river bed whose clay floor grows nutritious vegetation for much of the Kalahari game.

The Major Salt Pans

  • Motopi Pan: The region is a classic representation of Kalahari country, starting with dune-hills covered with light woodland, acacias and thorn scrubs. It has a waterhole that attracts giraffes, ostriches and gemsbok in the afternoon heat.
  • Piper Pan: A striking stretch of flat grass, which is lush green during the rains, changing to stunning gold by May. There are two camp-sites in the vicinity of the Piper Pan; first within a grove of beautiful trees in the west and second on the low fossilized sand dune in the south.
  • Tau Pan: Tau is a Setswana word for Lion, which hints that it is a popular spot for lion sightings. Tau Pan is not limited to the lions as aardwolves and cheetahs can also be seen in the vicinity.

When To Visit Central Kalahari Game Reserve

For wildlife viewing, both game and birds, the wet season is an ideal time to visit the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. From December to March, the animals gather around the Central Kalahari’s fossilized pans, Deception Valley.  Peak time being February to March. The roads can get quite muddy and a 4×4 vehicle is essential for self-drive visitors. If you are lucky to be staying in a lodge then you will be taken out on 4×4 game drive vehicles.

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