Kalahari Central

About Kalahari Central

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is the biggest reserve in Botswana and the second largest reserve in the world. It is situated in the middle of the Kalahari Desert and it is by far the most remote reserve in Southern Africa. It covers an area of 52000 square kilometres. It is home to an ancient hunter-gatherer society, the San Bushmen. They have managed to live through their hunting skills and ability to adapt in the harsh desert.

Best time to visit

Central Kalahari can be visiting at any given time throughout the year. The animals move through the park with the seasons. The best time for wildlife viewing is during the wet months, from December to March, when animals hang around the pans in the Deception Valley area. However, due to the rains the roads can be very muddy and inaccessible at times. In April and May the roads are normally in much better shape and you can still see a lot of animals.


Animals to be found here are springbok and gemsbok, wildebeest, red hartebeest, eland, kudu, warthog and giraffe and predators such as brown hyena, wild dog, cheetah, leopard and lion.

What To Experience

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Travel Guide For Kalahari Central

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Map Of The Kalahari Game Reserve

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) is located in the heart of Botswana right in the middle of the Kalahari Basin. Descriptors like "vast" and "extensive" don't do justice to the sheer size of this massive reserve, which spans over five million hectares of arid bush veld. Several private conservancies have successfully converted former farmland to its original state along its borders, and the protected area is supplemented to the south by the 250,000 hectares of Khutse Game Reserve. People normally combine their visit to (CKGR) with a visit to Khutse.

Kalahari Central Map

When To Go To The Kalahari Game Reserve

Unlike other Botswana Safari destinations, the Best Time To Visit Kalahari Game Reserve is from January to April. During Botswana's rainy, 'green season,' the beautiful inter dune valley becomes lush with vegetation, attracting thousands of springboks and gemsbok (Oryx), as well as ostriches, herds of wildebeest, and giraffes. The green season also marks the beginning of the calving season, when hundreds of new-borns enter the world, making for some truly exciting predator-prey interactions and fantastic photographic opportunities.

It’s good to visit during the wet months, from November to March. It is a good opportunity to see wildlife however, roads can get very muddy around this time and to avoid that you can travel from April through to early June. There will still be a lot of animals around and the roads will be in a better condition.

How To Get To The Kalahari Game Reserve

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is located 250km south of Maun. The most convenient mode of transportation is by light aircraft, which can fly directly to your preferred lodging. The majority of the luxury lodges are located in the CKGR's northern section. The nearest international airport is Maun, from which you can take a light aircraft transfer. You can also arrange a mobile tented safari with a local tour operator, departing from Maun or Gaborone and entering through the Northern and Southern gates, respectively.

When travelling during the rainy season, the CKGR is also accessible by vehicle, but self-driving should be reserved for those with advanced driving experience. The roads can be deceptive, particularly when driving across a dry surface that may conceal a bottomless mud pit beneath. It is therefore advised to travel in a convoy so that if one car gets stuck, the other can assist.

There are three entrance gates, one in the North at the Matswere Gate, 3-4 hours from Maun, most visitors use this gate, another one in the west at Xade Gate about 6 hours from Ghanz. There is another one in the south at Khutse about 4 hours from Lethlakeng to Khankhwe campsite.

Main Attractions In Central Kalahari Game Reserve

  • Wildlife in the Central Kalahari adjusting to semi-arid conditions
  • Spectacular cloud formations during the summer rains
  • That wild and remote sensation
  • What a rush it is to see those massive Kalahari lions for the first time.
  • Pipers Pan, Sundays Pan, and Deception Valley
  • Wild Dogs in the vicinity of Sundays Pan
  • Sunsets are breath-taking.
  • Khutse Game Reserve is located in the south.

Central Kalahari Game Reserve Entrance Fees & Rate

The Central Kalahari Game reserve opens from 6.30am – 6.30pm from April through to September and between October to March it opens from 5.30am – 7.00pm

Below Are The Entrance Fees To Central Kalahari National Park.

For tourists and guests, the entrance fee to the Park is:

  • -$10 USD for children over 15 years
  • -$5 for children aged 8 to 15 years
  • Children under 8 years old go in free

Vehicles have an entry fee for just USD $1 for all vehicles with local registration and only USD $4.50 for a vehicle with foreign registration. Amounts are paid per entry per day.

Camping Rates
The campsites at the CKGR are located in the north of the park and offer basic amenities.
Prices are from $20 per person per night.
Having with you some Pula (BWP), the Botswana currency will come in handy when paying for smaller food, snacks or ticket items.

Central Kalahari Game Reserve Tips

If a self-drive safari into the CKGR isn't for you, a stay at Duma Tau or Deception Valley Lodge will include a fly-in transfer, taking a lot of the stress out of your trip.

If the idea of a wilderness adventure in your own vehicle appeals to you, let us advise you on the best vehicle to use and where to stock up on supplies. Because the reserve is massive, it is critical to arrive prepared.

Except in designated areas, we never get out of our vehicle. Even there, you must keep an eye out for potentially dangerous wildlife.

It can be time-consuming to obtain a park permit; book your trip with us and we'll handle everything for you.

Things To Do At Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Luxury Safaris
For some guests even though they will be in the middle of the desert still want to splurge away in luxury. The game reserve offers top notch luxury safari lodges with excellent views of wildlife and sand dunes.

Desert Camping/Salt Pans Sleep Out
This experiential sleep out under the stars on the vast Salt Pans is an experience like no other. Many of the river valleys have been fossilised by these salt pans, and guests can sleep in tents under the stars on them.
Tents have a veranda and a bathroom/shower, and a delicious bush menu will be prepared and cooked under the stars around an open fire.

Deception Valley
Meet the Naru-speaking San tribe's Bushman guides and relax in nearby luxury lodges overlooking epic sand dunes.

Khutse Game Reserve
The Khutse Game Reserve is at the south of the (CKGR) and is ideal for game drives, camping, and sightings of lions, leopards, cheetahs, giraffes, wildebeest, zebras, springbok, and a variety of other animals.

Wildlife Sightings In The Central Kalahari Game Reserve

The sheer size of the CKGR makes spotting wildlife difficult, though many species tend to congregate in the park's northern section. If you're a wildlife enthusiast looking for predators, Deception Valley is a must-see.

Predators include the famous black-maned lions, spotted and brown hyenas, sociable suricates, and the rarely seen cheetah, wild dog, and leopard. There are also jackals, honey badgers, bat-eared foxes, the African wild cat, zebras, and giraffes to be found. After the rains, large concentrations of herbivores such as blue wildebeest, Oryx, and springbok can be seen in the harsh desert environment. Eland, greater kudu, and red hartebeest can be found in smaller numbers, and the black-maned Kalahari lion and cheetah follow this migration.

Safari Game Drive In The Central Kalahari Game Reserve

The Scenic Game Drive focuses on all of the plant and animal species found in the area - our Game Drive guide knows everything there is to know about the Kalahari bush and is passionate about every living creature found. He will educate you on details ranging from the smallest insects to the tallest trees, ensuring that everyone remembers this experience for a long time.

  • The Lion Tracking Experience is the most exciting of all game drives because collared lions are tracked down, ensuring an excellent encounter with the Kalahari's king. These magnificent animals are the highlight of any Africa safari trip, and seeing these Lions up close is a unique feature of the Kalahari Game Lodge. The guide sees value in expressing his knowledge of the lions and educating tourists so that they can fully appreciate the area's uniqueness. The Kalahari Game Lodge is the only place in Namibia where you can see free-roaming lions that have survived the desert conditions for centuries.
  • The Sundowner Drive takes you through some of Namibia's most beautiful landscapes and ends with you watching the Kalahari sun set over the red dunes while enjoying light snacks and drinks before returning to the lodge's comforts.

What Type Of Traveller Would Enjoy The CKGR?

The Kalahari wouldn’t be ideal for a first time safari traveller looking to experience wildlife in abundance. For something like that it’s best to go to Kruger National Park in South Africa Safari or Chobe National Park in Northern Botswana. Photographers, families, explorers and self-drive enthusiasts will enjoy the central Kalahari. It is also good for those interested in bird watching as well.

Central Kalahari Accommodation Options

Lodges at the reserve offer quality accommodation, restaurants and other facilities. Some have swimming pools. We recommend the Deception Valley Lodge or the the Dinaka Safari lodge.

You can opt to stay at the park’s demarcated campsites or at one of the lodges outside the park.

Camp Kalahari
Camp Kalahari is one of three camps in a one million-acre private wildlife reserve, with only 12 Meru-style tents nestled among the palms. Visitors can participate in activities such as quad biking, horseback riding, bushman walks, and traditional game drives in the area. The camp is recommended for families because it is unique, new, and affordable. Children of all ages are welcome, and there is a dedicated family tent, dining area, and fence around the camp.
From January to April, visitors can watch 50,000 zebras and wildebeest migrate through the area, as well as take lazy siestas in the swimming pool pavilion and, during the dry season, watch elephants come to drink at the water.

Best Month to Visit Central Kalahari

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Safari in January

Kalahari summers consist of incredibly hot days and mild nights. January is the peak of the rainy season which lasts until May when the dry season begins. January is the wettest month of the year in the Kalahari and is the best time to visit the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

Safari in February

The rainy season continues in February. This is the second wettest month of the year in the area and this climate mostly consists of long showers combined with hot humid weather. This is the best time to go to the Kalahari for a safari particularly for springbok, oryx and wildebeest sightings.

Safari in March

March is officially the start of autumn in the Kalahari, which is welcomed by the locals after the very warm summer months. Things begin to cool down in the area and temperatures are more bearable for those visiting on a Kalahari safari. Occasionally, late rainfall occurs during the months of March, April and May.

Safari in April

The Kalahari’s dry and cold winters last from April to October. Wildlife is found throughout the year in this semi-desert area, but it’s an ideal time to visit the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. These two renowned game parks offer some of the best wildlife viewing experiences.

Safari in May

May is a great month for a Kalahari safari. With the dry conditions there is less vegetation around, making it much easier to spot elusive wild animals. Leopards, black maned lions and cheetahs are just a few of the big cats that reside in the Kalahari.

Safari in June

A winter’s day in the Kalahari is not the cold you would imagine. The early mornings can be crisp on a game drive before the temperatures rise from mid-day. The temperatures will fluctuate dramatically during the month of June, cold in the evenings and warm in the daytime.

Safari in July

July is high season in the Kalahari, especially in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. This is the largest reserve in the whole of southern Africa and covers an area of 5,200 square kilometers (2,007 square miles). The reserve is home to a wide variety of wildlife including springbok, wildebeest and kudu, while the predators are some safari favorites including lion and cheetah. This game reserve is extremely popular during this time.

Safari in August

August is bone-dry with very cold nights in the Kalahari, as this is the peak of the dry season. Game viewing is still very popular and spectacular cheetah hunts are a regular occurrence during this period. The grass is very short in the dry pan areas which makes for splendid wildlife viewing on a safari in the Kalahari. Sightings of smaller wildlife such as honey badgers and blacked-backed jackals are also common in August.

Safari in September

September is still a very dry and dusty month but is extremely hot during the day. The temperatures start to climb rapidly throughout the month and no longer drop below freezing at night, preparing for the warm, wet summer months ahead. This is a great time to go on a Kalahari Safari.

Safari in October

October is an extremely hot month in the Kalahari. During this spring period, just before the summer, plants start to come into bloom and the dry conditions slowly start to fade before the wet summer months ahead. The Kalahari is a year-round game viewing destination but during the dry season months which includes October, there is always more wildlife to been seen on a Kalahari Safari.

Safari in November

November is the start of the wet summer in the Kalahari. The daily temperatures are high, and this extreme weather is often cooled by thunderstorms later in the afternoon. This weather brings the herds out to their local watering holes to cope with the heat and lion prides can often be seen waiting to pounce on unsuspecting prey.

Safari in December

December is the hottest month of the year, but despite the heat this is the best time to visit the Kalahari for a safari. Wildlife migrate through the parks and during these months animals mostly congregate around the watering holes, making them easy to spot on game drives. December is right in the middle of the rainy season when the dry landscape turns into vibrant green hues. If you can handle a bit of rain on your safari, then the early summer months of the Green Season are often considered the perfect time to visit the Kalahari.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Botswana, Central Kalahari Game Reserve is located in Botswana. Established in 1961, Central Kalahari Game Reserve is the largest game reserve in Southern Africa. It is also known as the great thirst.

Yes, the northern part of Kalahari Game Reserve was fenced when migratory wildebeests were in the reserve itself.

December to March is the perfect month to visit the Kalahari Central Game Reserve. The Central Kalahari Game Reserve turns into green lush vegetation attracting many animals.

The nearest city to Central Kalahari Game Reserve is Maun, which is 250 km away. It takes 5 hours to drive. Central Kalahari Game Reserve has 4 entrance points. The common entrance gate is Matswere Gate.

Generally, the CKGR has four entrance gates but the most used entrance gate is Matswere Gate. The nearest airport is Maun Airport.

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