Overview – Central Kalahari GR

Anthony Ham
By Anthony Ham

Anthony is a renowned Africa expert and author of many Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the 'Botswana & Namibia' guide.

Anthony is a renowned Africa expert and author of the 'Botswana & Namibia' Lonely Planet guide.

Anthony is the author of the 'Botswana & Namibia' Lonely Planet guide.

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is Botswana’s biggest reserve and is situated in the middle of the Kalahari Desert. This is pure, untrammeled wilderness. The inhospitable desert habitat doesn’t support the wide variety of safari animals found in greener destinations – but sightings in this arid landscape are special.

Best Time to Go December to March (Best in Deception Valley)
High Season July to October (The park never gets crowded)
Size 52,800km² / 20,387mi²
Altitude 941-1,132m / 3,087-3,714ft

Pros & Cons

  • Adventurous wilderness destination
  • Off-the-beaten-track and little visited
  • Stunning desert scenery
  • Chance to see striking Kalahari black-maned lions
  • Very little accommodation in and outside the park
  • Self-drive visitors exploring the interior of the park need to be totally self-sufficient
  • Limited animal species
  • It is very hot and dry
  • Limited tracks inside the park

Central Kalahari GR Safari Reviews

  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding


Big herds of desert-adapted antelope, such as springbok and oryx, can be seen walking along the dunes. Predators are easy to spot on the plains. The Kalahari black-maned lions are particularly stunning, and cheetah thrive in this open country. Lucky visitors might even come across a pack of wild dogs or a solitary honey badger.


The scenery can be monotonous but the endless horizons – as the sun gets low in the sky and afternoon colors soften – are mesmerizing. The landscape is a mix of straggly bushes, including the desert-adapted silver terminalia, patches of acacias, pans and fossil riverways interspersed with dunes. In the Wet season, the inter-dune valleys transform to green.

Weather & Climate

The desert climate of the Central Kalahari is at its most testing in the Dry season (April to October), with average daytime temperatures peaking at 33°C/91°F. The only exception is early in the morning, when you’ll need to rug up against the chill if you’re doing a game drive. The Wet season (November to March) cools things down with its intermittent showers.

Best Time to Visit

For prime wildlife viewing and fewer crowds, you should avoid the driest times of year and visit in the Wet season (November to March). Besides the low-season prices, this is also when animals make the most of the returning rain by gathering around the pans in Deception Valley. The trade-off is that some roads can turn into muddy bogs.

Want to Visit Central Kalahari GR?

Central Kalahari GR Safari Reviews

  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
Most Helpful Expert Review
Wild and Wonderful

This reserve, the second largest in the world, is the ultimate get-away-from-it-all, wilderness destination. It is of course, desert so if you visit in the extremely arid dry season you’ll see vast expanses of sand, dunes, dry river beds...

Latest User Review
Marco Valentini  –  
Italy IT
Reviewed: Oct 26, 2018

Less mammals than other places, food resource are scarce, animal are kept in with artificial warterhole, huge herds migrating have been depleted by fence system in the country, but loneliness sensation is unique

Full Review