Central Kalahari Desert Game Reserve

game reserve

Central Kalahari Desert Game Reserve

Destination Information

The Central Kalahari Desert Game Reserve is the largest game reserve in the world. Its remoteness, unforgiving climate and harsh terrain have kept it pristine and only the fully self-sufficient traveler would venture into the reserve alone. Those that do are rewarded with untamed Africa at its best.


After the summer rains arrive, from Deception Valley to Piper Pans, the vast plains burst with sweet grasses and it becomes one of the prime game-viewing areas in Botswana. Not many people seem to be aware of this and visitors are few. The clear blue sky fills with gigantic clouds and the stage is set for an amazing transformation. Into the scene enters thousands of gemsbok, springbok and wildebeest, with plentiful lion, cheetah and jackal in attendance. This gathering of animals in the kalahari desert game reserve is a sight to behold and can be compared with the Serengeti/Masai Mara migrations of Tanzania and Kenya.

Out in the bush, the ceaseless daytime call of the black korhaan is replaced at night by the continuous loud cough of the male barking gecko, and under the cover of darkness scorpions emerge. Those with thick tails and small pincers are the most dangerous, while the ones with small tails and big pincers give a painful but harmless sting. Game viewing in the kalahari desert game reserve will give you sites of giraffe, brown hyena, warthog, cheetah, wild dog, leopard, lion, blue wildebeest, eland, gemsbok, kudu, red hartebeest and springbok, is best between December and April, when the animals congregate in the pans and valleys.

How to get there

There are three entry points to the reserve, the one through Khutse in the south, then a western entrance through Xade and also in the northeast through Matswere.

Access to Xade, where there are two undeveloped campsites near the Xade Wildlife Camp, is made by turning off east from the Ghanzi-Kang road about 36 kilometres south of Ghanzi where indicated by signpost. Xade is reached after following this loose sandy track for 160 kilometres, taking about three hours for the full journey from Ghanzi. Visitors should fill up with fuel at Ghanzi and ensure that they have sufficient for their entire stay. On arrival at Xade visitors are required to check in at the tourist office in the Wildlife Camp.

Access to Matswere can be made via Rakops, where petrol and diesel are available most of the time, 55 kilometres from the check-in point at Matswere. Rakops can be accessed from the north from Maun – Motopi – Kumaga – Tsoe, or from the south from Mahalapye – Serowe – Letlhakane – Mopipi. Matswere can also be accessed from Maun by travelling 57 kilometres east, turning right at the Makalamabedi junction, continuing for 20 kilometres to the village and turning right on the western side of the veterinary fence.

The fence is followed south for some 80 kilometres of sand track to the Kuke corner veterinary gate, after which a further 21 kilometres down the eastern boundary of the reserve takes the visitor to the entrance gate which is then only 9 kilometres from Matswere. This “short cut” from Maun takes about three and a half hours travelling time.

Deception Valley Lodge has its own airstrip which takes light aircraft from Maun, 1 hours flight time away.

Camping facilities

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. New tracks and campsites have been opened up along the Passarge Valley, where game viewing can be most rewarding, and south from the Passarge waterhole area through to link up with the Piper Pan/Deception road.

It is along this latter route that the new Tau campsite has been opened in an area that well reflects the very spirit of the Central Kalahari Desert.

Plans have been made to put in rustic pit latrines to service most of these undeveloped campsites, but until this development has been completed, visitors dig their own mini-latrine to ensure they leave no signs of being there, particularly where toilet paper is concerned.

Firewood may be collected from well-wooded areas but not from tree Falcons. The ashes from campfires must be buried before vacating a campsite, combustible rubbish burnt and non-combustibles carried back to the pit at the entrance gate. Water for purposes other than drinking is available from the Wildlife Camp at Xade and at the Matswere entrance gate/tourist office.There is also a plan to develop some basic shower facilities at the Matswere entrance gate for visitors’ use, but the provision of water for this purpose is, in common with most desert areas, a problem at present .

Deception Valley Lodge is a luxury Lodge bordering the Reserve, and offers game drives in the Kalahari Desert Game Reserve as well as on its own concession.

The Central Kalahari Desert Game Reserve is within the Ghanzi District, and together with the Khutse Game Reserve they form the largest Game Reserve Complex in Botswana and the third largest in the world. Abutting the southern boundary of the Central Kalahari Desert Game Reserve is Khutse Game Reserve. Being closer to Gaborone than other parks or reserves, Khutse attracts many local visitors. Even with some of the way now tarred, the 250 km road journey form Gaborone is not an easy one, must be accomplished in four – wheel drive vehicles and takes over four hours from the capital.

Like its larger northern neighbour, Khutse also is without facilities for the visitor who, as elsewhere in the Kalahari Desert, must, therefore, be totally self contained. Some consider this a disadvantage but to most it is an element of attraction.


Rainy season:Summer rains are expected to fall November through to March, but as rainfall is erratic this is by no means certain. Rainstorms are frequent but fast and roads can become very muddy and a fully equipped 4×4 vehicle is essential.

Dry season:May to October is hot, dry and dusty in the Kalahari Desert with little water and limited animals. October is the hottest month.


-Magnificent cloud formations during the summer rains
-Thousands of grazing animals on the grass plains of northern part of the reserve from February to April
-Fascinating reptiles, scorpions and insects
-Beautiful Deception Valley
-Starry nights of spectacular proportions


The Central Kalahari Desert is four-wheel drive country. In the north of the reserve the roads are in fairly good condition but are sometimes covered with tall grass while roads in the south are very sandy. You must make sure that you have plenty of water and fuel as there is no petrol in the reserve and water supplies can be erratic. Even firewood needs to be on your list of essentials to carry with you.

Only parties with the right equipment and experience should contemplate a visit to the reserve. However, various mobile tour operators will include a safari into this area if you so wish. There is an airstrip in Deception Valley for the use of Deception Valley Lodge Guests, but with prior arrangement will accept private aircraft.

Larger than Denmark or Switzerland, and bigger than Lesotho and Swaziland combined, the Central Kalahari Desert Game Reserve spans 52,800 square kilometre

Explore Further

More about the Pans in the kalahari desert…
More about the Central Kalahari Desert Game Reserve
More about the Bushmen people of the San…
More about the Bird Species found in the Kalahari Desert …

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