Larger than Denmark or Switzerland, and bigger than Lesotho and Swaziland combined, the 52,800 square kilometre Central Kalahari Game Reserve, which was set up in 1961, is the second largest game reserve in the world.
Situated right in the centre of Botswana, this reserve is characterised by vast open plains, saltpans and ancient riverbeds. Varying from sand dunes with many species of trees and shrubs in the north, to flat bushveld in the central area, the reserve is more heavily wooded in the south, with mopane forests to the south and east. Rainfall is sparse and sporadic and can vary from 170 to 700 millimetres per year
The people commonly known throughout the world as Bushmen, but more properly referred to as the Basarwa or San, have been resident in and around the area for probably thousands of years. Originally nomadic hunters and gathers, the lifestyle of the Basarwa has gradually changed with the times and they now live in settlements, some of which are situated within the southern half of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Government is, however, encouraging these people to move to areas outside the reserve in order that they may be provided with modem facilities, schools, clinics, etc. and to integrate them into modern society.
The main wildlife concentrations are to be found in the tourist areas in the northern half of this vast reserve but it is possible for adventurous and completely self-contained visitors to travel through the reserve between Khutse on the southern boundary to the northern section - a journey that takes a minimum of two days of 4x4 wilderness travelling. Undeveloped campsites are available for overnight stops at Molapo, Gope, Bape and Xaka. Those visitors wishing to travel trans-Kalahari should note that, apart from being self-contained with all fuel, food and water, they should only travel in a group of two or more vehicles with basic spares and survival aids.
Game viewing for animals which include giraffe, brown hyena, warthog, wild dog, cheetah, leopard, lion, blue wildebeest, eland, gemsbok, kudu, red hartebeest and springbok, is best between December and April, when the animals tend to congregate in the pans and valleys. Visitors are warned that sleeping in the open without a tent is dangerous and foolhardy and that they should keep their tents fastened to prevent snakes, scorpions, etc. from gaining entry. Foodstuffs, etc. should not be kept in the tent but should be closed into the vehicle to avoid the unwanted attentions of lions and hyenas.