It was a scorching day in November, typical weather for this time of year. I had put my bags down, grabbed a cold bottle of water and headed straight for my deck chair to take in the sweeping views of the Central Kalahari Desert.
The Kalahari was nothing like I thought it would be, except for the heat. That was exactly how I anticipated but one can never fully prepare for it.
Movement between my tent and the main area was more of a hop, skip and a jump! I had opted to wear open sandals, and these are great on a flat surface, but they sure made for clumsy dance in the red-hot sand.
Standing on the deck outside my tent, I took in the incredible views of the Desert before me. Those who have been to Botswana, know how flat the land is, one can literally see for days! Yet here in the Kalahari; equally as flat, an ancient sand dune exists, and up on this ridge is where Tau Pan Camp is located.
This was to be my temporary home for the next 24 hours and every image I had previously held in my imagination was wiped out by the beauty unfolding before my eyes. The Kalahari is not barren and sandy, as one would expect in most deserts. Even when it is dry enough to ‘qualify’ as a desert, it is not strictly speaking a desert because the ground cover is too dense.
‘Tau’ is the Setswana word for lion and the Kalahari is famed for the impressive compliment of black-maned lions, the very same that frequent the permanent water hole located in front of camp. What I thought was going to be a quiet dreamy night under the stars, turned out to be rather a noisy and interrupted sleep with a choir from the wild; well more like a symphony of roars from one pride to the next that bellowed throughout the night. It was an impressive sound, one that never rings tired with me.
I sat down in my deck chair, dusted the sand from my feet and lifted them up to the small table in front of me. Head back, eyes closed and just about ready to take in my afternoon siesta when something inside me insisted that I look up.
As I opened my eyes, I caught a glimpse of a bushy striped tail hanging from a rafter; and there it was…a beautiful little genet, sleeping peacefully in the shade of the thatch. We both had the same great idea for that hot afternoon in Africa; quiet uninterrupted blissful sleep.
For those wanting to visit the Kalahari, do it on your next planned safari in Botswana. It’s wild and mysterious beauty almost never disappoints!
Interesting facts about the Central Kalahari:
With 52,000 km2 the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is the world‘s second largest protected area and one of the most remote and pristine areas in Africa.
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is mostly famous for its ancient fossil river beds, which form valleys through the bush of which Deception Valley is the most famous. A highly recommendable read is “The Cry of the Kalahari” by Delia and Mark Owens.
Specialized desert species are found in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve with gemsbok (oryx) and springbok often seen; the famous black-maned Kalahari lions and of course bat-eared foxes. And if you are very lucky, the brown hyena.
Although the Central Kalahari is an all year round destination, an especially magnificent time is during and after the summer rains when the colors of the Kalahari explode and grey turns into fifty shades of green. The rainy starts in mid November and ends in March.
Information on Kwando Tau Pan:
Tau Pan is one of two lodges located within the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the other being Kalahari Plains.
Activities offered at Tau Pan include game drives, day trips to Deception Valley, Sunday, Piper and Passarge Pans, star gazing and nature walks with Bushman trackers.
Accommodation consists of 9 environment adapted en-suite rooms including 1 family room and a sleepout deck (an absolute treat for the more adventurous!).
100% solar operated
Guide and tracker team
On arrival at Dinaka Camp we were welcomed by a lively song sung by the camp staff, which brought a smile to everyone’s faces and set the mood for a fun and most enjoyable weekend. Dinaka has just recently opened after an extensive refurb following it’s take over by Ker and Downey. This beautifully constructed camp is set on a private conservancy bordering the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. It still had the “new car aroma” one would expect of a newly refurbished camp, so I have to take my hat off to the staff who created such a welcoming and homely atmosphere, that one could be lead to believe that the camp had already been operating this way for a several years.
After a sumptuous lunch we had a little time to enjoy a short siesta in our rooms or a relaxing moment by the crystal clear pool overlooking the water in front of camp before our afternoon game drive.
The Kalahari is truly a kaleidoscope of colours during the green season. The contrast of colours created by the budding flowers from the scrubland and the summer skies is simply amazing. The thick scrubland can make game viewing a little harder during this time of year, but this is compensated for by the landscape and birdlife, not to mention the chance to observe young offspring. The skyline makes for incredibly rich and vivid pictures and when the sun breaks out from the rain cloud formations, spectacular rainbows arch across the landscape. The wildlife also makes for picture perfect conditions as a large male giraffe posed for us against the back drop of the dark rain clouds heading north. The sunsets are spectacular at this time of year and provide the perfect scene at sundowner hour. On our game drive back to camp, we were lucky enough to spot a caracal with its cub and a puff-adder before settling down to an amazing dinner under the stars. Our guide’s knowledge of astrology was really impressive and star gazing and identifying the different constellations around the camp fire after dinner completed what had been an excellent day on safari.
I was lucky enough to be allocated the spacious family room all to myself, with the only disadvantage being that it is quite close to the main area so I was awoken earlier than I had planned by the generator starting up and to the voices of a few of the staff starting off their busy day. We then set off on a safari walk with the Bushmen of the Kalahari and the Ker and Downey Guides. I appreciated having the guides there with us as they were armed for our safety which is paramount in an area renowned for our favourite big cats, the lions. Getting down on the ground and immersing oneself in the surrounding wildlife is always an exhilarating activity, as we were walked through the ancient survival techniques used by the Bushmen in the harsh terrain that is the Kalahari. We returned to camp to say our goodbyes and could not help thinking how this area would be completely different during the winter season as the foliage disappears and the wildlife concentrates around the waterholes on the conservancy.
“Inside tips from your local experts”
- Guests are accommodated in seven spacious twin and double-bedded safari tents on raised decks. Each en-suite bathroom has an indoor and outdoor shower, hot and cold running water and flush toilet. Families are accommodated in a two-bed-roomed tent, sharing a spacious en-suite bathroom.
- The area is a big contrast to the Delta so works well when combining different locations within Botswana.
- In green season, the annual rains transform the arid desert landscape into a lush profusion of Kalahari vegetation, offering guests a unique insight into the lesser known desert experience. It gets very bushy and lush with thick, green vegetation, so spotting game can become very difficult. However, there is still game about and the birding is good, so this would be a great time for birding enthusiasts.
- Dinaka being based in a private concession outside the Central Kalahari Game Reserves offers a different experience to the camps inside the Game Reserve. Our experts recommend it in dry season, ideally combined with camps in the Delta. The camps inside the Game Reserve (namely Tau Pan and Kalahari Plains offer a great experience during our green season when the Kalahari comes to life again).
- Activities include early morning, afternoon and night game drives, birding, guided walks and photographic hides.
- Best suited to your mid-range clientele along with families or honeymooners. People who want to experience something different and are not highly concerned with lots of game but rather quality game viewing opportunities. Such as from the underground bunker, viewing decks, hides, game walks etc.