Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Excursion with expedition character

The CKGR – Central Kalahari Game Reserve – covers 52,000 km2 and is therefore 1 1/4 times the size of Switzerland. As the name suggests, it is located in the Kalahari Basin and is one of the few remaining large retreat areas. The Kalahari is not a desert but belongs to the semi-arid zones with about 200mm of rain per year.

In our travel guide to Botswana from Reise Know How Verlag, it says that a trip to the Central Kalahari has an “expedition character”. This is certainly correct and one should not travel to the Central Kalahari unprepared. However, anyone expecting to be completely alone could be disappointed. In the Deception and Passarge Valley areas in particular, you can expect to encounter not only animals but also “humans”.

One more thing: if you’re afraid your vehicle might get scratched, you’d better not drive into the Central Kalahari. Since our visit to the CKGR, we know what it means when someone says “he’s going into the bush”. It’s hard to imagine such a thicket of bushes in Europe. Not enough, many bushes are equipped with strong thorns and when you drive through them, it scratches and squeaks so violently and unpleasantly that you soon don’t want to hear it at all. Since then, our Sprinter – especially the painted body – has had a thorny bush-savannah patina, i.e. it is completely scratched.

Further information in the article “Info-Central Kalahari Game Reserve”

With great respect

On 17 April 2016, we drive the 45 km from Rakops, the “last outpost of civilization”, to the Matswere entrance gate of the game reserve. We have great respect for this stage of the journey. On the one hand, because we imagine the condition of the roads to be catastrophic, on the other hand because we are still not familiar enough with the performance of the 4×4 Sprinter. We have not yet filled up our service water reserves, but there should be good water from a borehole at the Matswere entrance gate.

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The Bigfoot Tours employee responsible for the camps and the game reserve officer are very friendly. I ask him about the tap where we could fill up our water. Then he grimaces – “We don’t have any water here, our borehole is out of water, we get our drinking water delivered by tanker” . After all, he says, we are their guests and they are there for us, so he will find a solution. After consulting with his boss, he led us to a green tank behind a house of Gamer Reserve employees. The floor is littered with splinters of smashed beer bottles. Some beer bottles are standing or lying in a corner of the house. Out of respect, we don’t photograph this scene, but we think that someone must have a problem with alcohol in this remote location.

The water from the green tank is rainwater. Although we have a water filter and also disinfect with silver ions, we don’t want to take any risks and decide not to use this water for cooking and brushing our teeth. Luckily we have enough drinking water with us.

Imagined quite differently

Yes, that’s right. We imagined the Central Kalahari to be very different. Lots of sand, hardly any vegetation, just a few bushes and grasses and the occasional camel thorn tree, deep sandy tracks etc…. – and now this: Bushes as far as the eye can see and lots of grass in the lower-lying pans and even really tall trees or tree islands in the huge grassy areas. We are perplexed.

When we arrive at the camp, we have something to eat straight away. We pose for a picture, but not for long. As soon as there is food on the table, numerous flies buzz around us. They don’t just sit on our food, but on our ears, noses, corners of our mouths and eyes … Quickly into the car and close the mosquito net! In the evening light, we drive through part of the Deception Valley and enjoy the golden rays of sunshine.

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Deception – Letiahau

18.4.16 – Today we only drive 50 km – but 15 strenuous kilometers, as the road leads through densely overgrown land. Our average speed is around 15 km per hour.

There’s usually a short window-to-window chat with oncoming vehicles. “Have you seen any lions?” “No, and you?” “Neither have we”! Of course, the crowning glory is to spot a predator one day. But we also enjoy the small and inconspicuous things – and the solitude and the wide horizon.

After sunset, the clicking geckos lull us to sleep …


Letiahau – Piper Pans

19.04.16 – Last night was restless. Lions roar outside, we hear clear footsteps on our roof – a leopard on the roof or just an owl? We do not know. Either way, the morning glow is beautiful and we only see it because we are not standing on the camp but on the access road during the night.

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Piper Pans

20.04.16 –
WOW and WOW again
that’s how much we like the Piper Pans. Solitude and the waving sea of grass, and then the colors of the sky at sunrise. Yes, yes, even late riser Ernie has changed his inner and outer rhythm. It’s simply wonderful to get up before the sun rises. Well, now we’re bluffing a little – it’s not that much of an effort, because the sun rises at around 7 o’clock. Nevertheless, we get up at 5:30 am.

After sunrise, we drive around the pans. “Look, there’s a Secretary Bird” says Vreni. Yes, she often sees the animals faster and more accurately than Ernie. Normally the secretary birds run away so quickly that you can usually only photograph them from behind. But not this time. We manage a whole series. Incidentally, they are called “secretary birds” because of the long feathers on their heads, which look like the feathers used for writing in the Middle Ages.

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Tentatively, a herd of wildebeest wanders out onto the grass. As we approach, the herd turns around again. We therefore drive backwards to maintain the escape distance and can then observe the herd.

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The bristle-necked squirrels are common – you can hardly avoid them … because they often build the biggest holes directly in the roadways. Are they the real heroes of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve?

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Piper Pans – Phokoje – Passarge Valley

21. and 22.04.2016 – Too bad, we had hoped to see a big cat, but nothing, absolutely nothing. At Letiahau Camp we heard at least one lion roaring in the night …

We continue our exploration trip and reach the Passarge Valley within two days.

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Motopi and Passarge Valley

23. and 24.04.2016 – From Passarge Valley we make our way to Motopi. A strenuous but beautiful route. We hope for the waterhole at the Motopi pan – but in vain. Early in the morning we see a lion from behind for about 5 seconds – that’s all.

We would save ourselves the trip to Motopi next time – we would have invested these two driving days better at the Piper Pans and in the Passarge Valley.

Sunday and Leopard Pan

25. and April 26, 2016 – Obviously there must be enough water somewhere in the hinterland, but no big cats at the Leopard Pan either.

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The 10 days in the Central Kalahari go by all too quickly.
We would have liked to stay longer, but our water supplies are almost exhausted. So we set off.

Even if we couldn’t see any big cats, the seclusion, the peace and quiet and being on your own are unique experiences. We think back to those wonderful days with a little nostalgia, even if you can only guess this from the pictures.

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