Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Sun May 20, 2012 10:39 pm

Thu Feb 09, 2012

Larger than Denmark or Switzerland, the 52 800 square kilometre Central Kalahari Game Reserve, which was set up in 1961, is the largest game reserve in the world.

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Situated right in the very centre of Botswana, this reserve is characterised by vast open plains, salt pans and ancient riverbeds. Varying from sand dunes with many species of trees and shrubs in the north, to flat bushveld in the central area, the reserve is more heavily wooded in the south, with mopane forests to the south and east. Rainfall is sparse and sporadic and can vary from 170 to 700 millimetres per year.

The people commonly known throughout the world as Bushmen, but more properly referred to as the San, have been resident in and around the area for probably thousands of years. Originally nomadic hunters and gathers, the lifestyle of the San has gradually changed with the times and they now live in settlements, some of which are situated within the southern half of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

Image ©telegraph.co.uk

The main wildlife concentrations are to be found in the northern half of this vast reserve but it is possible for adventurous and completely self-contained visitors to travel through the reserve between Khutse on the southern boundary to the northern section - a journey which takes a minimum two days of 4x4 wilderness travelling.

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Game viewing is best between December and April, when the animals tend to congregate in the pans and valleys. The reserve is home to gemsbok, springbok, ostrich, kudu blue wildebeest, red hartebeest, giraffe, eland, brown hyaena, warthog, wild dog, cheetah, leopard and lion.

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Visitors may walk in pan areas where visibility is good, but walking in areas of tall grass or thick bush is potentially dangerous and not encouraged and it is always wise to stay within easy reach of the vehicle.

Undeveloped campsites are available for overnight stops at Molapo, Gope, Bape and Xaka. Those visitors wishing to travel trans-Kalahari should note that, apart from being self-contained with all fuel, food and water, they should only travel in a group of two or more vehicles with basic spares and survival aids.

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Matswere is the access point for designated but undeveloped campsites in the region of Deception Valley, Sunday Pan, Leopard Pan and Passarge Valley, whilst the campsites at Piper Pan can be accessed from either Matswere or Xade. Water is available from the Wildlife Camp at Xade but is currently not reliable at the Matswere entrance. NO petrol, diesel or food supplies are available in the reserve.

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For reservation enquiries go to: http://www.mewt.gov.bw/DWNP

Re: Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Sun Jan 27, 2013 8:49 am

I have done a few trips into the CKGR over the past few years and I am leading a group of 10 WN's to this awesome place in July of this year. I thought some "unofficial" info may help others who are thinking of visiting this awesome place.
Firstly, lets set the scene. As mentioned above, the CKGR is the largest Game Reserve in the world, it is the heart of the true Kalahari with rolling grasslands stretching from horizon to horizon, here you get a sence of timeless, limitless space. Dotted throughout are pans which supply life giving water to the animals of the region, particularly in the rainy season. Bush thickets are intersperced on any vista you look upon. It is a dry place, but infamous Kalahari thunderstorms start in November and can happen until March each year. I say "infamous" because when they do happen, rain comes down in buckets but it is short lived.

At the outset, I will be talking about the northern half of the park only, where most of the action is.There is no infrastructure in the park, no hotels, lodges, chalets, huts or anything like that in the way of accommodation. There is no fuel, water, shops etc, once you leave the B300 highway, you are on your own. For those who love the wilds of Africa with no trimmings, this is the place for you.

A true 4x4 vehicle with high ground clearance and low range is essential and owing to the fact that you will be carrying everything but the kitchen sink, the vehicle needs to be able to handle a heavy load in rough conditions. You have to be totally self sufficient with food, water, fuel, camping equipment and in addition ensure that you have all the tools, normal spares and recovery equipment for your vehicle. Roads are few and far between and are of the soft sand "twee spoor" variety with a high center ridge. Some roads, particularly further south don't see a vehicle for 3 months, so you are not going to get help in a hurry. For this reason, very few people venture into the CKGR in only one vehicle and you will find that most go in a group of 3 vehicles. Don't forget the seed net for the front of your vehicle, many vehicles have had radiators clogged up and engines blown, in addition regularly check for grass caught underneath in areas near the exhaust, you don't want to be standing on the side of the track with a smoking ruin of a burned out vehicle, the only eveidence that you were in the CKGR.
Summer months are hot and winter nights can be bitterly cold with temperatures reaching -5C, but winter days are pleasant with temps sitting around the mid to high 20's.

Possibly the best way for me to give everyone an idea of a visit to the CKGR would be to put together a typical trip plan.
So let's start in that big African city of Johannesburg where most roads converge and the big international airport is found where most overseas flights land.
This will be a 'normal' plan, but certainly not the only way to do it.

Because of distances to be traveled you will have to leave Joburg very early in the morning (04:00) and head up the N1 past Pretoria, Bela Bela until you reach the Kranskop toll plaza before Nylsstroom. Here you hang a left and pass through Vaalwater, Elissras and go through the SA/Bots border post at Groblersbrug/Martins Drift. The Limpopo river forms the border between the two countries here. Continue westward to Serowe where there is a good Spar grocery shop and a butcher that will vacuum pack and freeze a meat order you have phoned through prior to departure. About 35 k's past Serowe you will come across the Khama Rhino Sanctuary on the left, here is a good place to stop for the night. By this stage you have done about 600 kilometers all on good tarred highways.
Khama Rhino Sanctuary is a small reserve with all kinds of game other than lion, elephant and other scaries and accommodation gives you the choice between camping, chalets, huts etc. It is a very popular stop over for people heading into Botswana, so booking is essential. http://www.khamarhinosanctuary.org.bw/
Some people stay here for two nights to break the long trip from Joburg. The next day you will be in the CKGR. :-)

Another early morning start sees you back on the tarred B300 heading in a northwesterly direction where you pass little towns such as Orapa, Mopipi & Letlekane, it is time to start thinking of your fuel situation. The jump-off town to the CKGR is Rakops, but fuel is not that reliable in Rakops so you need to start topping up your tank and extra jerry cans at towns along the way. After about 450 k's you will find Rakops, don't sneeze, you may miss it, but here you can fill those water tanks for your stay in the CKGR. A common rule of thumb is 5 litres per person per day for drinking and cooking. If you plan on showering you will need more.
About 3 kilometers after Rakops you will find the turnoff to CKGR on the left. It is absolutely essential to make reservations months before your intended trip as there are not an abundance of camp sites in the CKGR and particularly in the holiday seasons these sites are booked at least 10 months in advance. The booking agent for these camps is Bigfoot tours. http://www.bigfoottours.co.bw/

At the turnoff at Rakops it's time to stop, kick your shoes off, get rid of any tight fitting clothes or undergarments, take a deep breath and relax, you are about to head off into paradise. Here you will need to lower your tyre pressure to about 1 bar to give you traction in the soft sand. Everyone ready? Off we go. From here on, out of neccessity, you will be driving low and slow, fuel consumption will rise and engine tempratures need to be monitored. After about 55 k's you will reach the Matswere Gate where you do the normal Park entrance formalities and move on to find your designated camp site for the night. General Gump has reported a new camp at Matswere gate which could be very usefull if you are running a bit late.
Camp sites in the CKGR are exlusive, it will only be your party in any particular site and depending on which site you have booked, your neighbours will be between 100 metres and 15 kilometres away fro you. In your site you will find a fire pit, wooden pole enclosed long drop toilet and in some sites a wooden pole enclosed shower cubicle with a bucket provided to pour your precious water into for a shower. That's it, nothing else, no fences between you and the wild open spaces ...... perfection. My personal favorites, because of the view of pans and waterholes is Sunday Pan 2 and Passarge Valley 2. These are also far away from other camp sites so I don't have to worry about noisy neighbours.

Set up camp, pull out the refreshment of your choice,relax and enjoy an awesome Kalahari sunset. By law in Botswana you have to sleep in a tent, some prefer the rooftop variety and some, good quality ground tents. In my opinion you are equally safe in whatever you choose, naturally good common sense is all important when camping in the wild. Visits from lion or leopard in your camp at night are not unheard of, so don't go wondering off into the dark. Tell your partner when you need to visit the loo and check out the area with a good flashlight before taking that short nerveracking walk in the dark.
I once saw an hilarious picture that a wife took of her husband cooking the steaks and wors over the fire and the camera flash picked up 5 sets of yellow eyes about 15 metres behind him, a small lion pride lying low, waiting for their turn at the fire. Everyone totally unaware that the lion were there. The next pic showed anxious faces peering out of the vehicles, the lion devouring good fillet and wors.

During the days, go on game drives, but don't forget to take water and some food or snacks. Should you have vehicle problems or get stuck in the sand or black cotton mud in the rainly season, you will very likely have a bit of a wait before another vehicle passes by. The asortment of animals is awesome, lion, leopard, cheetah, bat eared fox, serval, anteater, gemsbok, kudu, giraffe, elephant, you name it.
You are permitted to exit your vehicle, but please only do so if you have a clear view for a few hundred metres and don't get too far away from your vehicle. It is best to take your own fire wood, although the gathering of wood in the park is permitted, but be considerate about having a huge bonfire, wood is scarce.
There are no garbage facities at the camps, so whatever you take in, you bring out, leave only your footprints behind.

The CKGR is normally visited by people continuing up into the Okavango Delta or the Panhandle. Most people will exit through the Matswere gate, but it is possible to exit via Tsau gate and take a cutline westward where you will meet up with the Ganzi/Maun tarred road. Make sure you know what you are doing if you decide on this option.

All I can say about the CKGR is that it is one of my favorite places on earth and if you like the wild, you should not miss it.

I am by no means an authority on this vast game reserve, but if anyone has any questions please go ahead and ask them and I'll try my best to answer or to find the info you are looking for. General Gump is also a regular visitor to the CKGR, so he can also assist.

Re: Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Sun Jan 27, 2013 10:08 am

Very interesting and helpful info, iNdy. Thanks! \O

How much time would you recommend to stay in the park?

Can you give me an idea about the game densitiy in the park?
E.g. will you travel for half a day before seeing anything or do you get to see critters more often?
I know the beast do what they want, but just as a guideline. ;-)

Re: Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Sun Jan 27, 2013 10:41 am

Mel, it is a long drive to CKGR so it is not worth spending any less than 4 days there at the least, however one needs to take into account that you have to carry everything in and out so must have the means to sustain yourself over a long period. For me, the ideal is 6 days, my vehicle has the capacity to carry the water and fuel I would need for this length of time.

In regards to game densities it depends very much on the season and availability of water for the animals. The northern half of the park is where you'll find most game, and animals do congregate close to the pans when water is available there. In dry times they migrate out to the Boteti River if there's water there or even as far as the southern Okavango delta.
Having said all that no matter what season you go in, you will not be dissapointed and will seldom drive for even 30 minutes without seeing something and this is one place that people add lifers to their lists, the diversity is amazing.
It is by no means a zoo like Kruger when it comes to game density, but in all my visits I have never come away without having had a superb wild life experience and this all comes with the feeling of remoteness, that I am the only person within hundreds of miles that is experiencing it all.

Re: Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Sun Jan 27, 2013 10:57 am

Great, thanks! :-)

Re: Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Sun Jan 27, 2013 11:08 am

Go asap, before there will be developments :shock:

I have heard rumors long ago about lodges to be built there, but have not researched, the only info I have googled just now is from http://www.botswanatourism.co.bw/ckgr.php

The Botswana government has initiated plans to develop tourism away from the Okavango and Chobe areas, and has allocated concessions for lodge construction, both at the peripheries of and inside the reserve, allowing for fly-in tourists.

Re: Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Sun Jan 27, 2013 11:13 am

So when are you going? ;-)

Re: Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Sun Jan 27, 2013 11:16 am

Great info coming through. I will probably be at Dinaka, bordering CKGR in late Apr, wife permitting. Will find out more on the campsite at Matswere gate.

Re: Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Sun Jan 27, 2013 11:17 am

It seems to me that a trip of this kind requires careful planning and
somebody travelling with you. Doesn't look like it's going to happen
all too soon, I guess. But CKGR has been on my bucket list ever since
I read those books by Mark and Deliah Owens.

Toko, 0*\ for the building plans. Will probably be those luxury thingies
once they really materialized. Another 0*\

Re: Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Sun Jan 27, 2013 11:19 am

-O iNdy .... I am busy thinking where in Southern Africa to spend my holidays in Aug/Sept. SO mumbled something like deception valley was great yesterday ;-) But I don't think we go, I feel a severe longing for the Caprivi and Etosha and maybe a detour to South Luangwa =O: