A Grand Kalahari Safari: An Immersive Journey Through Nature's Mystique

A 11 day trip to Botswana 
5
5 out of 5 stars
3 reviews

The Kalahari is an epic wilderness draped across Southern Africa, Namibia and Botswana. Amidst this desert, you will find abundant lion prides, migrating zebra, iconic oases, shimmering salt pans, and the Okavango Delta, for this is no ordinary desert. It's a clash of nature's forces, a complex cycle of life that baffles scientists and safari-goers alike. The Kalahari is an icon of our world, a fable of mystique that offers some of Africa's finest and most intimate safari experiences. 

Customize This Trip For Me
Most tours are customized for private travel.

General Information

Photos
Zebras in Botswana's Great Salt Pans.
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Kalahari Desert, Northern Tuli Game Reserve, Khutse Game Reserve, Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, Nxai Pan National Park, Moremi Game Reserve, Okavango Delta, Selinda Game Reserve

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Khutse Game Reserve – Inspiring Game Drives and Big Game Action

Khutse Game Reserve captures the Kalahari mystique in a compact area in the south of the desert. Ecosystems collide here, the savannah rolling into the desert with the oasis provided by permanent waterholes. It's an easy safari experience, so much to see in a short game drive, making it ideal after your long international flight. A light aircraft transfers you from Gaberone International Airport, and an elegant lodge awaits for a few hours of tranquility in the Kalahari. Rest, relax and watch the wildlife slowly wander by, then take a private afternoon game drive. Looping across the game reserve, take in dozens of mammals, including the famed giants that dominate the desert plains. The emphasis here is on an introduction, a chance to get a feel for the Kalahari and the big game that roams the wilderness.

What's Included: accommodation, micro flight, afternoon game drive, lunch, dinner

Days 2 – 3: Central Kalahari Game Reserve – Lost in the Epic Scale of the Kalahari Wilderness

Wake up to the sight of an elephant roaming along the horizon, and a springbok herd grazing beside the verandah. Rested? Inspired? Now the Kalahari extends, dusty plains rolling onto the horizon, interrupted by the odd towering baobab. This huge reserve stretches across the center of the Kalahari and provides an iconic desert safari experience. You can drive for 30 minutes here and see little but the subtle beauty of colors merging softly beneath the wheels. Then, you can turn a corner and find an epic battle, a pride of black-maned lions stalking thirsty zebras wanting to drink, then a giraffe tower approaching the water. An elephant appears, and the warthogs scurry away. So much concentrated in a single scene, one that's laced with nature's tension.

This is one of Africa's largest reserves, and it's traversed on a long full-day game drive. Depart as the mornings' javelins of light reveal big cats on the prowl. The early-morning hours are when you see the Kalahari at its active best, mammals marching onwards and scenes of drama unfolding. A herd of kudu cantering around, a large buffalo herd with steely uncompromising stares. Now a cheetah, perched on a rock, watching her realm unfold. Elephant tusks point skywards as eyes reveal melancholy, the herd desperate to find the next waterhole. You are also seeking out the waterholes, the places where every desert resident must visit. Stop for a snacks and lunch beside these shriveled places of water, allowing the safari to continue without you having to move.

This is a reserve of intimacy, of exploring the depths of the wilderness. Prides feasting on a fresh carcass, emaciated giraffe trying to mask their fear, roars that punctuate the evening stillness and antelopes that appear like lost children, alone and separated far from home. Raw and redolent, it's a destination that's uncompromising in its portrayal of nature's drama. You're traveling north, crossing the reserve and staying in two different camps. Each has been erected to continue the theater, with pristine views over a waterhole. Yet for all the wonderful wildlife action, perhaps the great memory from the Central Kalahari is the sense of being amidst an epic wilderness. You'll hardly see another person or vehicle. This is true desert; open, evocative, seemingly extending for eternity.

What's Included: accommodation, full-day game drives, all meals

Day 4: Central Kalahari Game Reserve – People of the Kalahari

This openness hides contradiction. While the landscape appears scorched and infertile, a tribe of people has survived here for thousands of years. San bushmen uniquely coexist with the environment, staying clear of the lions while hunting for meat with traditional arrows. Spend your day with a laconic bushmen guide, learning the tricks of survival and tracking wildlife in an immense desert. Even within wider Africa, these people are not known for their verbal conversation. Instead they teach with gestures and movements, an ancient method of communication that's far more authentic than struggling through English.

Clues are everywhere, and as you walk through the Kalahari you start to recognize them. A tiny indent in a tree is evidence that a herd was grazing underneath it. Animal dung is an obvious clue. But who is it from and can you judge its age from its firmness? A paw print in the sand--you can see it. The guide can feel it and reveal how many hours ago the hyena wandered by. Barefoot and nimble, the bushmen skip through the trees, oblivious to the thorns. Follow (in your walking boots) and you're won over by their indelible calm. The people of the desert are unflappable, attuned with nature's rhythm, alive to changes and always inspecting opportunity. Spending a full day with the bushmen is an authentic immersion in a lifestyle unchanged for millennia.

What's Included: accommodation, full-day San bushmen tracking, all meals

Day 5: Makgadikgadi Pans National Park – The World's Largest Salt Pan

And now the colors change. It's been glowing orange, and flickering through the reds but before you now is an ongoing sea of white. This was once Africa's largest lake, but now it's a salt pan that's bigger than Switzerland. A mirage settles across the horizon, blurring the elephant legs that roam in the distance. A meerkat jumps out, and disappears again. As you travel across the salt pan, a fuzzy image gains clarity, the stripes dividing to reveal a herd of zebra. You'll spend the afternoon driving an ATV, following an ancient indent in the lake bed. The sea of white expands in all directions, enveloping you in an image that can never feel real. While big game is rare here, the immersion in the wilderness is staggering. Makgadikgadi doesn't have roads as its a giant salt pan, cracked, glistening and baffling every camera. There are two options for the night--sleep at a lodge that overlooks the pan, or roll out camping mats and sleep beneath the stars, surrounded by the whiteness as a fire crackles beside you.

What's Included: accommodation, ATV guided tour, all meals

Day 6: Nxai Pan National Park – Big Game Amidst the Baobabs

You could travel for days in the Makgadikgadi and only see white. The pans induce transfixion, every angle appearing white, yet every angle somehow different. It would be easy to travel in circles, lost without the sun being used as a compass. But your guide knows the way. Out of nowhere, a series of huge baobab trees emerge, broad trunks delivering shade as they guide your journey. You're in the Nxai Pan, and it's here that big game comes to congregate. Zebras are on the move, kudu and springbok skip onto the mirage, and an odd elephant rumbles past with tusks protruding. You won't see the same abundance of life as in the Central Kalahari or Moremi, but the juxtaposition is a highlight of travel in Africa, the herds crossing a surrealist landscape that looks like you've taken a safari on the moon.

What's Included: accommodation, full-day game drive, all meals

Days 7 – 8: Moremi Game Reserve – Exploring the Evocative Okavango Delta

From white to blue, the Kalahari continues its surprise. Deserts are defined by precipitation, yet in the middle of the Kalahari is a flood of water, channels expanding in every direction. It hasn't rained for months and you've watched wildlife roam feverishly in search of the drying waterholes, and now this? A bounty of water cascading beneath the window as a micro flight takes you further north through the Kalahari. This water started its journey in the Angolan Highlands many months ago. It has descended into the Kalahari, and then broken the banks of the Okavango, cascading across the floodplains and spilling so profusely that it's visible from space. Water brings life in the desert, and when there's seemingly endless water in the Kalahari there's a seemingly infinite number of wild animals.

Touch down on an island, marooned amidst it all. You're in Moremi, a thrilling game reserve surrounded by water. Zebra herds skip along the channels, lion prides feast on a rare abundance, vultures circle overhead, and the classic scenes from safari reverie start playing out. This afternoon, travel in a traditional dugout canoe, moving quietly along the banks and watching the drama unfold at the water. Big hippo pods are circumnavigated, the gondolier taking you around their rumbustious antics. Baby elephants squirt jets of water, a buffalo herd bathes, then rolls in the mud, a hyena sips with a look of menace. The sights are as surreal as the activity: you're in Southern Africa's big desert and you're on a canoe safari.

Next day, the journey continues in a safari vehicle, sweeping across the grasslands that have sprung up in the Delta. Action is always unfolding. A leopard dips into the green and disappears. Keep looking, and seek out the spots as she stalks the impala. Oryx, springbok, gazelle, kudu, eland, and more antelope species find their space in this abundance. A cheetah elusively passes by, but the lion pride remains in full view, cubs approaching the vehicle with a bashful charm. Moremi is Botswana's, and possibly Southern Africa's, most bountiful landscape and over these two days, you'll be watching the wildlife world wander by. Your luxury camp has stunning river views and you're likely to be woken at sunrise by the hippos grunting.

What's Included: accommodation, micro flight, program of game drives and mokoro canoe safari, all meals

Days 9 – 10: Selinda Game Reserve – The Abundant Northern Periphery of the Kalahari

Fly further north, traveling from Moremi to Selinda, a game reserve in the northern periphery of the Kalahari. How the colors and landscape have changed since your time in Khutse! Savannah closes in and becomes woodland, a place where tens of thousands of elephants roam with unruly power. Giraffe are everywhere, poking their heads above the trees then cantering by with a bizarre, yet graceful gait. Water arrives here from the Delta, but also from two other great rivers that zigzag across the reserve. Nothing is dusty or scorched, instead you're enveloped in a green land that's as appealing to your eye as it is to so many species. As your journey beneath the trees continues, the intimacy rises.

Vervet monkeys approach, jumping onto the truck if they sense a chance to steal it.  Baboons move in large troops, shouting and banging trees to scare their rivals. An elephant stands above the truck, waiting, waiting, waiting and then slowly wandering down the trail. You also have to wait, as nobody interrupts the elephants. Through the foliage,  you may spot a lucid pair of leopard eyes. On the woodland's outskirts, there are roving lion pride. As the game drives continues the night falls, bringing nocturnal creatures out to play. Selinda is a private reserve and the safari itinerary is fully flexible, enabling you to combine the daytime exploration with walking safaris and exhilarating nighttime game drives. As you'll have come to expect, the luxury camp ensures game viewing that continues beneath the stars.

What's Included: accommodation, micro flight, flexible safari program including walking safaris and nighttime drives, all meals

Day 11: Selinda to Maun – Departure

Move across the Kalahari by light aircraft, cruising above the Okavango Delta before touching down in Maun to connect with your international flight.

What's Included: micro flight, breakfast

Price

Starting Price 

$6,595
This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.