Info 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 encounters not only with animals, but also with “humans”.

The camps are rented out by the company Bigfoot Tours in Gaborone. Bigfoot reserves the right to occupy the individual pitches with two to three vehicles at the same time, which is why you may not be alone for the night – it can even get a bit cramped. Except for one night, we were lucky enough to always be on our own – not another soul far and wide.


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 a bush thicket like this 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 a thorny bush-savannah patina, i.e. it is completely scratched.

While we previously had concerns that we were traveling in the wrong vehicle – because the Sprinter is not a truck 4×4 camper – the Sprinter completely convinced us, especially in the CKGR. Its size is simply absolutely ideal for such undertakings. Of course, a Toyota Landcruiser would be even better in terms of off-road capability and maneuverability, but if you relate living comfort to vehicle size, then there are only two vehicles that come to mind: Mercedes Sprinter 4×4 and IVECO Daily 4×4.

Our travel stages

Day 00 – 16.04.16: Maun – Rakops (225 km) refuel with diesel in Rakops, camping at Rakops River Lodge

Day 01 – 17.04.16: Rakops – Matswere Gate – Deception Valley, Kori Camp (90 km)

Day 02 – 18.04.16: Deception Valley – Letiahau Camp (50 km)

Day 03 – 19.04.16: Letiahau Camp – Piper Pans, Piper Camp 02 (50 km)

Day 04 – 20.04.16: Piper Pans – Phokoje Camp (60 km)

Day 05 – 21.04.16: Phokoje Camp – Passarge Valley Camp 03 (75 km)

Day 06 – 22.04.16: Passarge Valley Camp 03 – Motopi Camp 02 (55 km)

Day 07 – 23.04.16: Motopi Camp 02 – Passarge Valley Camp 02 (80 km)

Day 08 – 24.04.16: Passarge Valley Camp 02 – Sunday Pan Camp 04 (50 km)

Day 09 – 25.04.16: Sunday Pan Camp 04

Day 10 – 26.04.16: Sunday Pan Camp 04 – Rakops – Maun (335 km)

The Rakops River Lodge near Rakops, where we spent one night before the CKGR, was too expensive and too unkempt for us, which is why we drove straight back to Maun from the CKGR.


If we were to visit the CKGR again, we would change our travel plans, as the clear highlights for us were: Deception Valley, the Piper Pans and the Passarge Valley. Even though the trip to Motopi and back was very nice, we would do without it (or drive out of the CKGR there).

Day 00 – 16.04.16: Maun – Rakops (225 km) refuel with diesel in Rakops, camping at Rakops River Lodge

Day 01: Rakops – Matswere Gate – Deception Valley, Kori Camp

Day 02: Deception Valley

Day 03: Deception Valley – Letiahau Camp

Day 04: Letiahau Camp – Piper Pans, Piper Camp 01

Day 05: Piper Pans

Day 06: Piper Pans – Phokoje Camp

Day 07: Phokoje Camp – Passarge Valley Camp 03 or 02

Day 08: Passarge Valley

Day 09: Passarge Valley Camp – Leopard Pan – Deception Valley, Kori Camp

Day 10: Deceprion Valley – Rakops – Maun


We cannot support the evaluation of the camps according to the Hupe-Verlag travel guide.

  • Kori Camp 03 = O.K. But you don’t really have a view from any of the Kori Camps. The other Kori camps are also okay.
  • Letiahau Camp = O.K. little view, we have placed ourselves on the access road, because of the view. In addition, the Letiahau waterhole is only about 7 km away (evening drive)
  • Piper Pans Camp 02 is slightly elevated, in itself a nice camp, but Piper Camp 01 is closer to the Pan, perhaps offers a little less shade, but we would prefer it
  • Phokoje Camp looks unkempt, but here we heard lions roaring very close at night
  • Passarge Valley Camp 03 is relatively nice, with some views (sunrise and sunset), but is not yet or no longer in Passarge Valley
  • Motopi Camp 02 is practically without a view, a few km to the waterhole, a bit tedious in the bush
  • Passarge Valley Camp 02 would actually be our favorite. View of the Passarge Valley, however: infested with ants, you can barely stand up and the ants are already biting …
  • Sunday Pan Camp 04, relatively nice, view of the Sunday Pan, but it is far away. The edges of the Sunday Pan are heavily overgrown with bushes
  • Leopard Pan: beautiful tour around the Pan.


We would not go to the CKGR if there was persistent rain or if there had been persistent rain shortly beforehand. We have seen many tracks in all variations from those who got stuck in the mud – and the most difficult places are often in a “forest” of bushes where everyone has to get through …


With the exception of Deception and Passarge Valley, the roads generally consist of narrow lanes. The Mercedes Sprinter just fits into these lanes – wider would be problematic.

In bush areas, it seems that the bushes along the road develop better and more vigorously …. which is why it sometimes gets quite narrow between the bushes. Scratches cannot be avoided here.

The height of our vehicle – 3 m – was not a problem and where there was one, we were able to avoid it.

  • Rakops – Matswere – Deception: mostly sand
  • Deception – Letiahau: mainly dirt road (hard in dry conditions)
  • Letiahau – Piper Pans: Large pieces of ruts in the sand
  • Piper Pans – Passarge Valley: alternating sand / earth
  • Passarge Pan – Motopi: mostly sand
  • Passarge Valley: mostly earth
  • Leopard Pan – Deception Valley: mostly sand

Driving on the sand and dirt roads was absolutely no problem in April 2016, even though there were local thunderstorms.

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