The mere mention of the name Kalahari conjures up images of romance and adventure. It is derived from the word “Kgalagadi” which means “The Great Thirst” or “Waterless Place”. The Central Kalahari Reserve itself lies right in the middle of the country and is Botswana’s largest national park. The desert habitats here and the species which they attract are very different to the rest of the country’s main safari areas so it can make for a wonderful contrast on longer trips.
There is no surface water here besides a few pans which fill up for a few days during the wet season. At this time (December – April) this desolate place suddenly flushes with green growth and gives rise to a temporary abundance of life. The fossil riverbeds, remnants of those which flowed through here thousands of years ago, attract large numbers of desert antelope and their predators.
During the rest of the year (May – November) this is a stark and barren place, where the local inhabitants eke out a harsh existence. At this time the game viewing can be challenging, especially considering the absence of elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo. Experienced safari aficionados, however, will appreciate the sheer desolation, the stark landscapes and the lack of other people.
This vast wilderness, with only two permanent camps, offers one of the lower visitor densities anywhere. Tau Pan and Kalahari Plains are of a very similar standard and which one you choose will depend largely on the other camps in your itinerary. The safari here is focused mainly on game drives during the day with the odd Bushman walk. No night drives, off-road driving or walking safaris are allowed so your safari activities are fairly restricted. There are a handful of other properties just outside the national park which offer more flexibility and they will also make forays into the park itself. These are generally of a lower standard but the stand out is definitely Deception Valley Lodge.