The name “Kalahari” is driven from Tswana calling Kgalagadi. Kgalagadi means a land of thirst, because to find good fresh water without salt in Kalahari is difficult.
Nothing prepares you for the immensity of this reserve; nor its wild, mysterious beauty. There is the immediate impression of unending space and having the entire reserve to yourself.
Waist high golden grasses seem to stretch interminably, punctuated by dwarfed trees and scrub bushes. Wide and empty pans appear as vast white stretches of saucer – flat earth, meeting a soft, blue white sky. At night the stars utterly dominate the land, their brilliance and immediacy are totally arresting.
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) is the largest remotely situated reserve in southern Africa and the second largest wildlife reserve in the world, encompassing 52,800 sq km. It is larger than Denmark, Lesotho and Swaziland combined.
During and shortly after good summer rains the flat grassland of the reserves attract massive wildlife , which gather at the best grazing areas. These include large herds of springbok and gemsbok , as well as wildebeest , hartebeest, eland and giraffe. The landscape is dominated by silver terminalia sandveldt, Kalahari sand acacias , and Kalahari apple leaf, interspersed with grasslands and dotted with occasional sand dunes , pans and shallow fossil river valleys the most famous being Deception Valley and Passarge Valley.
CKGR is unique in that it was originally established in 1961 with the intention of serving as a place of sanctuary for the San, in the heart of the Kalahari (Botswana ) where they could live their traditional hunter / gatherer way of life, without intrusion, or influence from the outside world . The reserve was closed for about 30 years, until in the 1980s and 1990s both self drive and organized tours were allowed in, albeit in small, tightly controlled numbers.
The northern Deception Valley is one of the highlights, principally because of the dense concentration of herbivores its sweet grasses attract during and after the rainy season (and of course the accompanying predators). It is also the most travelled area of the reserve, with a number of public campsites and short distance to the eastern Matswere Gate. The other two gates are on the other side of the reserve at Xade and Tsau.