The Highlights of the Central Kalahari

05 Mar 2024

Lion in the Kalahari

Wild and remote, the surreal beauty of the Central Kalahari needs to be seen to be believed. A tapestry of desert bushveld, vast open plains, salt pans, ancient riverbeds and dunes are woven across this extraordinary terrain which is the ancestral home of the San people and habitat to some of the world’s most magnificent desert adapted wildlife. Add utterly spectacular sunsets and pristine star-studded night skies into the mix and you’ll understand why there are few things that can compare with a Central Kalahari safari.

Location

Located in the centre of Botswana, it’s one of the largest parks in the world and by far the largest in southern Africa. What makes it truly magical is a mixture of wildlife and culture, where you’ll discover the area’s famous Black-maned lions and learn more about the nomadic San bushmen, a tribe of hunter-gatherers who have lived here for centuries.

When to visit

The best time to visit the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is during the rainy season between January and April. At this time the vegetation flourishes and attracts the grazers, followed by predators hot on their hooves. When the valley vegetation dries out as the dry season begins, the herbivores head out into the vast dunelands of the Kalahari.

Where to stay

The luxury option here is Tau Pan Camp which sits on a low sand ridge with panoramic views overlooking its namesake - a pan that attracts a lot of wildlife. It’s also the first permanent camp to open inside the Central Kalahari Game Reserve – and still one of only two within the reserve. The camp boasts just eight luxurious safari chalets and one family tent, all built on raised decks with awe-inspiring views over the plains. Additional facilities include a sleep-out deck where you can experience an unforgettable night stargazing under the magnificent African night sky. The camp also has a bar, lounge, dining area and an outdoor fireplace with spectacular views of a waterhole teeming with wildlife. The camp’s curio shop is the perfect spot to pick up those all-important souvenirs before you leave.

Activities

  • Culture

    Learning ancient wisdom from the San Bushmen and their way of life is one of the most memorable experiences in Botswana. Bushmen trackers will accompany you on nature walks and interpret the environment for you or you can experience cultural interaction within their private villages.

  • Game Drives

    A network of roads link the various areas in the game reserve for game viewing. Highlights in the reserve include the well-known Deception Valley, Sunday, Piper and Passarge Pans.

  • Birding

    The Kalahari is one of the best birding areas in Botswana, especially during the wet season and is particularly well known for its raptors due to the prevalence of small mammals. Montague’s harrier, pygmy falcon and steppe eagle can often be seen wheeling in the skies and rarer sightings include the endangered lapped-face vulture. Birds are numerous around the ancient river valleys, with sightings of larger species such as ostriches and kori bustards.

  • Stargazing

    The Central Kalahari has clear, unpolluted nights skies making it one of the best places in Africa for stargazing.

Regional highlights

There are several fossilized river valleys such as Deception Valley and Passarge Valley. that were carved out by ancient rivers, which ceased flowing more than 16,000 years ago.

Deception Valley

Deception Valley attracts high concentrations of herbivores during the rainy season. With the arrival of the summer rains, large herds of springbok and gemsbok, plus wildebeest, red hartebeest, eland, kudu, warthog and giraffe gather to graze the northern grasslands, accompanied by a host of predators such as brown hyena, wild dog, cheetah, leopard and lion.

Passarge Valley

Like Deception Valley, when the rains arrive, Passarge Valley bursts into life providing optimal grazing for large herds of herbivores, in turn attracting a variety of predators, including cheetah, leopard and brown hyena. It’s also one of the primary sites in Botswana to catch a glimpse of the famous black-maned Kalahari lions. If you are particularly lucky, you could even get the chance to view one of Africa's rarest animals - the African wild dog.

The Pans of the Kalahari

One of the most fascinating features of the Kalahari are the intriguing clay pans that are found periodically on the landscape. During the dry season the pans consist of dry cracked clay, or white powdery salt but during the wet season they fill with water attracting hordes of wildlife.

  • Deception Pan

    The most famous of the pans is undoubtedly Deception Pan, due to the illusion of beautiful blue water. This curious mirage occurs when viewed from a distance at certain times of the day and is so deceptive it has even confused pilots flying above, and some of the most seasoned travellers to the Kalahari.

  • Piper’s Pan

    Deception Valley seems to rise in a series of beautiful pans known as Pipers Pan. Here pans of differing sizes create a pattern of intricate ecosystems, from long grass to bushes favoured by lions during the heat of the day, while birds of prey soar above the treeline on the ancient shorelines.

  • Sunday Pans

    Another one of the better-known pans in the Central Kalahari is Sundays Pan, a large crater-like pan surrounded by relatively high dunes. In the pan are some acacia tree islands that provide shelter for the wildlife of the area during the scorching hot days.

How to get there

By Air: You can access Tau Pan Camp by air. Flights from Maun, a major gateway to the Okavango Delta, can take you directly to the camp. This is a convenient and efficient way to reach the camp and enjoy the stunning desert safari experience.

By Road Transfer: If you prefer a combination of desert and delta experiences, you can take a road transfer from Maun to Tau Pan Camp. This allows you to explore both the Kalahari Desert and the Okavango Delta, creating a unique and diverse safari adventure.

You’ll never forget the remoteness, the desert silences punctuated by the sound of lions roaring in the night, or the awe you’ll experience when you witness the region’s utterly spectacular sunsets or its dazzling night skies. If you’re looking for the ultimate African getaway an adventurous journey into the heart of Botswana is the unparallelled choice. Contact us today and we’ll plan the desert safari of your dreams.

Call UK 01233 80 27 27 or visit our website www.bestofsouthafricatravel.co.uk

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Fugitives Drift Lodge

Exceeded our expectations

Dear Ash
We are home safely from our wonderful holiday. We had the best time and cannot thank you enough for all your perfect organisation. Each part of our itinerary was fabulous and so different. Everyone we met was kind; nothing  was ever too much trouble at the lodges and on the tours; the food and drink were excellent and …

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