Expert Reviews – Central Kalahari GR
Paul is a travel writer, author of the Bradt guidebook to Zimbabwe and is closely involved in promoting tourism to Zimbabwe.
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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 and pans with sparse vegetation interrupted by the occasional, oasis-like ‘tree islands’. Game viewing is limited then so the best time to visit is during or just after the (unpredictable) rains, December to April. Exceptional numbers of plains game like giraffe, springbok, warthog, wildebeest, kudu, eland and gemsbok attract, cheetah, leopard and lion, with a very healthy population of wild dog. Sunset brought our small group of campers two very special treats – the amazingly loud serenade of thousands of barking geckos; and then we spotted a group of the illusive brown hyaena patrolling on the edges of our site in the twilight. CKGR is wonderfully undeveloped so you can only camp here; visitor numbers are strictly limited and with no facilities whatsoever in the reserve, your group must be fully self-sufficient. 4x4s are essential and deep, powdery sand can make driving slow and difficult.
Anthony is a photographer and writer for travel magazines and Lonely Planet, including the guides to Kenya and Botswana & Namibia.
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The heart of the Kalahari
One of the largest protected areas in Africa, the Central Kalahari can feel like you’ve fallen off the map. This may be a desert wilderness, but don’t come here expecting sand dunes – the Kalahari’s dunes are usually concealed beneath thorn scrub and light woodland. Wildlife densities may be low, but lion sightings – Kalahari male lions have distinctive, luxuriant black manes – are surprisingly common; there are an estimated 500 lions in the park. I’ve seen Kalahari males every time I’ve visited the reserve, and have also had luck with cheetahs, bat-eared foxes and even a honey badger and an aardwolf, along with larger numbers of ostrich, gemsbok, silver-backed jackal, kori bustard and springbok. Deception Valley – a broad shallow valley of golden grasses and acacia stands – is the park’s prettiest corner but also sees the most vehicles. To the north, Passarge Valley’s terrain is similar, but less frequented. The south is pure wilderness, although wildlife is sparse.
Harriet is a zoologist with more than 20 years’ experience. She has the privilege of working with the world’s top wildlife photographers and photo-guides.
Cry of the Kalahari
Situated in the heart of Botswana, the CKGR is vast. It is a semi-desert with much of it covered in acacia scrub together with a series of open pans. At first site the CKGR can seem rather under-whelming. You come here for the wilderness experience, rather than expecting to see lots of wildlife. However the longer you stay, the more the CKGR works its magic on you, and you appreciate how special this wilderness is. You should hope to see oryx, wildebeest and springbok and if you’re lucky the famed black-maned lions and possibly cheetah. The smaller animals are fascinating to watch such as the mongeese, ground squirrel and bat-eared foxes, and lodges may offer the opportunity to visit a habituated meerkat colony.
The CKGR is best visited during February to May, during and after the rains, however there’s some wildlife all year round.