Central Kalahari Game Reserve

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is a vast, beautiful desert and the largest reserve in Botswana. It is pure, desolate wilderness where black-maned lions prowl the land and can be heard roaring through the night. While not as hospitable an environment as the other parks, the Central Kalahari has many special animal sightings on offer. From incredible landscape photographic opportunities to superb wildlife sightings, this remote, desert land offers an array of exceptional adventures. If you are seeking to experience the wonders of a true wilderness then this is the place for you. With its rugged terrain and harsh, inhospitable environment, the Central Kalahari is a beautiful and unique place.

  • Best Time To Visit

    December - March (Deception Valley)

  • Average Safari Cost

    $200 to $1,500pp/day

  • Highlights

    Black-maned lions, star-gazing, Deception Valley, beautiful scenery, game drives, night drives, native cultures, Piper’s Pan and Passarge Valley

Why Visit Central Kalahari?

While visiting Central Kalahari is slightly more challenging than the other reserves, don't be put off. As long as you are sufficiently prepared and organised, you will have the adventure of a lifetime in the Central Kalahari. The magnificent expanse of the desert with its seemingly endless horizons boasts the most mesmerizing sunsets.

Nights are consumed by an absolute silence, interrupted only by the mighty roars of black-maned lions and the calls of black-backed jackals. Despite being a desert habitat, there are still many animals to see. Deception Valley is an area of grassland in an ancient riverbed, which now provides a place for animals to gather.

While it offers great wildlife viewing, Deception Valley is an amazing sight to behold itself. In the daylight the blue-grey clay pan creates a mirage of submerging in water. The Central Kalahari Game Reserve offers many unique and exciting experiences and is truly worth a visit.

Pros And Cons

  • Beautiful scenery
  • Very isolated and secluded so no crowds of people
  • Black-maned lion sightings
  • Incredibly quiet and peaceful
  • Good for birdwatching, especially birds of prey
  • Not as suitable for a self-drive safari
  • Few accommodation options within and around the reserve

Best Time To Visit

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve can be visited at any time throughout the year. However, the animals migrate to different areas within the reserve as seasons change. Wildlife viewing is best from December to March in the wet season.

This is when animals gather around the Deception Valley area and can easily be spotted. Newborn animals and plenty of migratory birds can be found. Unfortunately, roads can also get too wet and muddy during this time and be closed off. Heavy rains during the day can sometimes disrupt planned activities. It can also get very hot during these months with temperatures reaching 93.4˚F (34˚C).

During the dry season, May to October, animals disperse over the plains in search of food, which makes wildlife viewing more difficult. It is extremely dry and can get very cold during these months. The high season is also from July to October, so safari rates may be higher.

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Wildlife And Birds

Despite the harsh, desert environment, many species of animals and birds can still be spotted within the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. From cheetahs and the famous black-maned Kalahari lions to bat-eared foxes and yellow mongooses, many amazing predators can be found prowling through the desert. Large herds of wildebeest, springbok, oryx can easily be seen gathering in Deception Valley during the wetter months. With over 250 recorded species of birds, Central Kalahari is a great birdwatching destination.
Rare Animals
  • Cheetah
  • Leopard
Leopard, cheetah, wild dog
Commonly Seen Animals
  • Lion
  • Hyena
  • Giraffe
Wildebeest, oryx, springbok, giraffe, lion, meerkat, hyena
Central Kalahari is a good birdwatching destination as there are plenty of different species to see as well as migratory birds that can be found during the wet season, from December to March. It is a particularly good destination to see raptors as they circle the skies looking for small creatures to hunt.

Endangered birds:

  • Hooded vulture
  • White-backed vulture

Getting There And Safety

It is easiest to fly by chartered plane to one of the camps or lodges within or around the reserve. Charter flights can be booked online and are often booked as a part of a tour package, so check with your operator. Alternatively, you can rent a 4x4 vehicle from Maun Airport if you wish to drive yourself to and around the park or book a safari and be fetched from the airport by your driver.

All foreign visitors must have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months after their visit.

Visas are not required by visitors of many nationalities, who will receive a 30-day entry permit upon arrival.

Visitors must also pay a $30 Tourism Development Levy when they arrive.

For more information on visas see Botswana Safari - Complete Travel Guide.


The vaccinations recommended for Botswana are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, rabies and typhoid.

Boosters are recommended for measles, tetanus and diphtheria.

Unless you plan to visit the more northern parks in Botswana, anti-malarial drugs aren't necessary. It is still advised to use insect repellent.

A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required if travelling from a yellow fever zone.

It’s better to check with your local medical authority, which vaccinations are required.

For more information on vaccinations see our Botswana Safari - Complete Travel Guide.

Travel Insurance

Going on a safari in Africa comes with obvious risks. We recommend you get travel insurance for all safaris in Botswana. Make sure your insurance has full medical coverage, emergency air evacuation, repatriation and the standard travel insurance for cancellations, delays and luggage cover.

Check the World Nomads’ travel insurance calculator to see the cost of your safari trip cover.

What To Pack

Pack clothes for both warm and cool weather, as it can get very hot during the day and quite cold at night. Preferably neutral, earthy toned clothes. Other essential items are a hat, sunscreen, toiletries, closed shoes, torch, batteries, insect repellent, binoculars, camera, a good map and a First Aid kit. If you are self-driving be sure to pack your vehicle with 2 spare tires, tire pump, car jack, shovel and a sand mat.

For more details about what to take with you on a safari see our Safari Packing List.

It depends on the season, but temperatures at night can go as low as 41˚F (5˚C) and reach 93.4˚F (34˚C) during the day.
Overall Safety
Like any safari or wild game reserve there are dangers and risks in Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Safety precautions should be followed to ensure a safe trip. You will usually be briefed on safety precautions upon arrival.