Monday, December 13, 2010

Central Kalahari Botswana

Lucia van der Post
Central Kalahari, Botswana
safari at the Kalahari Plains Camp in Botswana
On safari at the Kalahari Plains Camp in Botswana
I like my Africa remote and wild and beautiful and they don’t come much more remote, wild and beautiful than the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. This is the land the San people made their own, where Sir Seretse Khama, Botswana’s first president, promised them they could live forever. Here are some 5m hectares of the world’s most pristine, untrammelled landscapes – and don’t be fooled by the word desert. The Kalahari is only a desert in the sense that it has no surface water. Underneath it flow cooling waters that make it a treasure-house of rare and life-enhancing plants. I had imagined a barren land of sand and thirst, of overwhelming heat and dust but what I saw was golden grass and broad acacia trees, a wide blue sky by day and a canopy of glittering stars by night.
Though independent overland travellers have been wandering through it for some 20 years or more, it is only now that Wilderness Safaris’ Kalahari Plains Camp and Kwando Safaris’ Tau Pan Camp have arrived that there is somewhere for the less intrepid to stay, be guided and fall irrevocably in love. The Kalahari Plains Camp, which has just 10 simple but comfortable canvas tents, overlooks one of the Kalahari’s famous pans and is close to Deception Valley, home to the famous brown hyenas that Mark and Delia Owens wrote so fascinatingly about in Cry of the Kalahari. For much of the year, the land may seem “rude, silent, incomprehensible at first” but stay, listen, watch, learn to love the silence and its subtle beauty will get to you. Watch the shadows on the sand, see the moon, study the ways of the black-backed jackal, the meerkat, the Cape fox or the honey badger.
Go in summer (late October-April), during the rains (usually short and sharp) and you’ll find another land entirely. Herds of game – zebra, wildebeest, steenbok, springbok, gemsbok, red hartebeest – arrive for the lush short grass. Stalking them down are the predators, the awesome black-maned lion and cheetah, brown hyena and leopard. Many of the camp staff come from the ancient San clans who made this land their home. Take a walk with them and they will illuminate a world that is quite unlike any other.
Details: Africa and India Explorations ( offers a six-night trip to the Kalahari Plains Camp from £2,570, including all meals, but excluding flights. Kwando Safaris’ Tau Pan Camp ( costs from $420 per person per night.

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