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Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Size

52,800 sq. km

Founded

1961 (Game Reserve)

Best time to visit

December to March

Into the wild

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is a place to truly take a break from the rest of the world. It is vast and wide and beautifully undeveloped. The terrain can be harsh and roads tough, but stunning landscapes and wildlife encounters off the beaten track will reward you on an unforgettable adventure.

Wildebeest on the plains of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Far from your standard wildlife game reserve

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve has its own special appeal: Its sheer size, its untamed wilderness and its harsh conditions, create a unique experience for those who venture into it. The animals of the CKGR have had to adapt to survive and any traveller to this region will admire nature’s resolve and ingenuity.

Although the Kalahari is not technically a desert, it is no stretch of the imagination to call it dry. Any rainfall in the region is precious and vital for the ecosystem’s survival. However, it wasn’t always like this. Dried riverways and pans indicate a time when water flowed through the Kalahari. Now these pans are the gathering points for much of the CKGR’s wildlife as they can hold water well into the dry season. Of these the most famous is in the Deception Valley, where the pan of the same name has deceived many a traveller into believing it was filled with water when it was actually bone-dry. Together with other pans such as the Leopard, Sunday and Piper’s Pan, they form an integral part in the perseverance of the CKGR’s wildlife.

It is during the wet season, when the CKRG is most alive and active. During this time, you can encounter large herds of oryx, springbok, impala, zebra, and wildebeest with their predators always nearby. The rare Kalahari lions, with their distinct black manes can best be seen during this time. They have adapted to the harsh conditions, covering a wider territory, and moving in smaller prides, sometimes even solitary in their search for prey. Reports indicate that these lions can go up to two weeks without consuming water. The wide-open plains of the Kalahari is ideally suited to the hunting style of cheetahs and the CKRG is considered one of the best locations to observe them. If you are very fortunate you might also come across a pack of wild dogs and, due to the nature of the CKRG, you could very well have this sighting all to yourself.

During your stay in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, you will notice that every animal has an interesting story tell. For example, the African giant bullfrog. They survive the dry season by aestivating in the mud. Some suggest they can even spend years in this state. They will then emerge after heavy rains and the chorus of their chanting can be heard from far afield as the males try to impress the females with their bellowing and the resulting vibrations caused in the water. Sometimes their contest results in dramatic fights. Watching these giant, sometimes over 1-kilogram bullfrogs rival each other for mating rights is a sight to behold.

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is a place which gives you no quarter and that is why you can so easily fall in love with it. Its beauty is one of ruggedness and its inhabitants have learned to adapt in order to survive its harsh conditions. Due to the low number of visitors, you have the opportunity to feel like you have this massive reserve all to yourself and you can truly get away from the world as you know it and immerse yourself in the nature around you.

Botswana Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Botswana game reserves

So much Space

You can explore the second largest game reserve in the world. The Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) is larger than the Netherlands and spans almost 10% of Botswana’s land area.

Lion King of Kalahari

King of the Kalahari

You can observe the rare black-maned lions of the Kalahari. These striking lions have adapted to the arid conditions of the region and are the kings of the Kalahari plains.

Fascinating landscapes Kalahari

Fascinating Landscapes

You can be forgiven should you also be deceived by the mirage created at Deception Pan. The clay pan appears to be filled with water, even when completely dry and attracts animals year-round.

Stars in the night sky in the Central Kalahari

Starry night skies await you in the vast and remote Central Kalahari Game Reserve

A zebra in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve

During the wet season, large herds of zebras and antelopes roam the wide open plains.

A male black mane lion in the Kalahari

The herds are followed by predators like the rare black-maned lions of the Kalahari.

A Kalahari landscape with the moon in the sky

From sunrise to sunset and moon rise, the Central Kalahari will create magical moments for your visit.

A hornbull against the blue sky as backdrop

The hornbill bird has adapted to the dry conditions of the Central Kalahari.

WHEN TO GO

Best time to go to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve

The CKGR is worth a visit at any time of year and never feels crowded. During the dry winter months, temperatures are cooler, and the reserve offers amazing landscapes which completely contrast the Okavango Delta. During the wet summer months, large herds of grazing animals move into the CKGR, closely followed by predators creating fantastic game viewing opportunities.

Botswana dry season for Kgalagadi safari tours

Dry Season

April to October

Best for stunning landscapes

Botswana wet season for Kgalagadi safari tours

Green Season

December to March

Best for wildlife sightings

Why to go

A great chance to see cheetahs

You will be in one of the best locations to see cheetahs in the wild when you are surrounded by the vast, open plains of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The flat plains of the CKGR create their ideal hunting conditions and witnessing a cheetah in full flight is a breath-taking sight.

A cheetah lying in the shade of a tree in the Central Kalahari
Holger, expert for Kgalagadi safari tours
The Central Kalahari is one of those places that have a very unique appeal, especially for seasoned travellers who have ticked off the sights on their bucket list and are now ready to appreciate the beauty in the moment. If you’re looking for that one trip that has the potential to sweep you off your feet, I would recommend taking the detour that will bring you to the Central Kalahari.
Holger | Founder Botswana-Experience
Game drive in the Kalahari in a safari vehicle with a pop-up roof
Classic Game Drives

Look for lions, cheetahs, and antelopes

A group walking safari in the Central Kalahari in Botswana
Night Game Drives & Walking Safaris

In one of the private conservancies outside the Game Reserve

Campfire at night on a safari in the Central Kalahari
Mobile Camping Safaris

Explore even the remote corners of the vast Central Kalahari

Things to do

Making the most of your visit to the Central Kalahari

As accommodations are remote and limited in the Central Kalahari, flying instead of driving can save you quite a lot of time and get you exactly where you want to be. Bordering the Game Reserve are private conservancies with additional activities.

Two cheetahs below a tree in the Central Kalahari
Cheetahs

The fastest land mammal on the planet hunts on the Kalahari plains

A male black maned lion seen in the Kalahari in Botswana
Lions

Their distinct dark manes are typical for the rare Kalahari lions

A large Oryx antelope with long horns in the grassland of the Central Kalahari
Oryx

During the rainy season, you can spot large herds of these beautiful antelopes

A hyena lying on the ground in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Hyenas

These opportunistic survivors can be found roaming the Central Kalahari

WILDLIFE IN THE CENTRAL KALAHARI

Unique, off the beaten track game drive experience with lots of predators

You need a bit of luck to spot them, but the Central Kalahari is the ideal hunting ground for cheetahs which hunt on the wide open plains. The rare black maned lions follow large herds of antelopes during the rainy season. Your best chances to spot wildlife are at dusk and dawn, and during the wet season.

Where to stay in the Central Kalahari

Campsite setup in Makgadikgadi Pans night sky

Adventure Camping

Mobile Camp setup with guest tent campfire mess tent

Mobile Camps

Guest tent at Kalahari Plains Camp

Kalahari Plains Camp

Guest tent at Tau Pan Camp at night

Tau Pan Camp

Interior of guest tent at Deception Valley Lodge

Deception Valley Lodge

Location

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is located in the centre of Botswana and within the Kalahari Desert. It covers almost 10 percent of Botswana’s total land area. You can fly to Maun international airport, from there, either go by road (5-hour drive) or fly directly to one of the camps.

Experience the Central Kalahari Game Reserve

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