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Central Kalahari 2020, self-drive


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Where do I even begin describing a place so special and unique as the Kalahari? Do I start with the magical sunsets, the feeling of origin or the wonders of all the animals adapted to this nature? It is the most spectacular place I have ever visit and I feel so blessed to have experienced it. 


We went on a guided self-drive in February 2020 starting in Gaborone and ending 12 days later at the same hotel, but we came back with new prospective of life and with memories that will last a lifetime.




The Central Kalahari has been on high up on my bucket list for a long time. But I wanted to see not just the northern parts where the camps are, I wanted to travel through the whole Kalahari, and that’s not something you just do. It’s very remote and a tough environment and unexperienced self-drivers as we are not an option. 

We meet Brian in South Africa in October 2019 when we were visiting the kennel that Wildhood Foundation supports with our friends Jonas and Filippa (Filippa is the founder of Wildhood). Brian took us on a safari walk to find rhinos and also a drive in the Timbavati. 


We found the rhinos and that was my first rhino sighting in Africa, so special to see the animals that Wildhood protects alive and free! Brian is a very experienced guide and runs his own safari company - Open Skies Wilderness Safaris. We got to talking about self-drives and the Kalahari and Brian told us he did guided self-drives to the Kalahari! I didn’t even know that was a concept! Christian and I started talking about it and got very excited about the idea. Brian had some available spots on his trip in feb 2020, the green season in Kalahari. I have always preferred the green seasons going on safari, the nature is lusher and more beautiful and temperature more suited for us Scandinavians ;)


When we got home from South Africa we talked to Brian and a few weeks later we had booked two weeks in Botswana, we were going to the Kalahari in just 3 months! Sometimes it’s just meant to be right? :) 


Our route on the papers was a little bit different than the one we actually did but that’s the beauty of traveling to remote places, you have to be prepared to change the plan if necessary. This is the route we took: 


  • Cresta Lodge Gaborone - 1 night
  • Khutse game reserve - 3 nights
  • Xaka campsite, Central Kalahari game reserve - 1 night
  • Xade campsite, Central Kalahari game reserve - 1 night
  • Piper pan campsite, Central Kalahari game reserve - 1 night
  • Deception valley, Central Kalahari game reserve - Deception campsite- 3 nights 
  • Makadikgadi Pan, Kubu Island - 1 night
  • Khama Rhino Sanctuary - 1 night
  • Cresta Lodge Gaborone - 2 nights


I’m going to dive this trip report in to the places we stayed, and of course a big part of a self-drive is of course the driving itself. Already at home preparing for the trip we know we were going on a big adventure not just a safari :) Christian focused on learning as much as possible about off-road driving and a we found a new friend on YouTube, Andrew St. Pierre White - 4xoverland. Very entertaining and a good way to keep up the excitement before the trip. As a birthday present, I gave Christian an off-road driving lesson in Sweden, muddy and lovely, haha. We probably didn’t need to do that, Brian planed everything in detail and known exactly what to do in every situation, but it was fun and as we love to read up and learn thing before a trip this was perfect!


To kick of here are some of my highlights from the trip!

















Edited by safarigirl.se
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@safarigirl.se Like you I did not know that there is something like a guided self drive safari, so I am really looking forward to your trip report. We did a self drive into the Namibian part of the Kalahari, and from South Africa into the Kgalagadi TP, but always stayed “on the safe side”. 

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@safarigirl.se Beautiful photos!  Afraid I am past the age to be able to do this kind of safari....but am

eager to follow along and enjoy yours.

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What a great opener @safarigirl.se . Am going to enjoy following.

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What a blessing and privilege to be able to visit such a special place before the world wide lockdown, @safarigirl.se! Just in time. :)

The beauty and remoteness of CKGR in the green season is rare and unmatched. I'm looking forward to following your trip report. 

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Great start to one of the last trips before we all went into lockdown and as I do prefer remoteness to crowds you have my full attention ; lovely opening photo of the two oryxes by the way .

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Thank you @Biko, @Ginny, @Caracal, @Ritsgaai and @BRACQUENE. We were truly lucky to have done this trip this year. When we let Sweden there was one know Covid-19 case in Sweden, but when we came out of the wilderness the world was completely changed. It make you extra grateful and made me cherish it even more. 


@BRACQUENE the Oryx was one of the highlights, so beautiful animals and one i haven't seen before. We really loved the remoteness and i think we gonna struggle being crowded again, maybe we did this trip to early, haha. 



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Let’s go -first stop Khutse game reserve!


This is Tess, her full name is “Ten tonne Tess” a Land Cruiser Station wagon, and a real beast. Her and Dolph Lundgren (we named Brians car Dolph) would take us through the whole of Kalahari (1000km) and a total of 2200 km start to finish. We loved her even if we had some troubles on the way, but what to expect right? :) 






Brian and Owen meet up with us on Cresta Lodge and we started with stocking the cars with fresh food, drinks, drinking water and fuel, a lot of fuel! Everything we would need in the Kalahari needed to be fixed now as it’s no shops or fuel stations in the Kalahari. We would be able to top of some fuel just before entering the park and there is a place to refill water for showers and washing but nothing more. We brought

lot of luggage (to much) as we were a bit worried about washing clothes to save water, so the cars were absolutely stuffed. 


The other couple that should have come with us unfortunately had to cancel as they got sick, so instead of a three vehicles we were only two. I felt like we were going on an expedition just the four of us.






First stop was Khutse game reserve, a reserve on the boarder to CKGR and a perfect first stop. We loved Khutse, it was a good start to our adventure, and we had so many lovely sightings and experiences here.




Park rules, little would we know, but we would break a few of them ;)




The drive to Khutse was fine and we got there in time for a first short game drive and to set up our camp for the next three nights. We were the only ones in the camp, and we didn’t meet anyone else during our stay. It’s a quite unreal feeling to look out over the waste plains with no other humans around. Even though the tents and beds were not as luxurious as on a normal safari, it felt so much more exclusive than any of our previous trips. 


This little guy was our first animal sighting, very different from the usual Impalas :D




The Kalahari is still green but it's very dry. I'm amazed over how nature and animals adapt and find ways to survive. Today it's was terribly hot with temperatures going up to 40 degres celsius but the nights were cool and no trouble sleeping if you don't mind lions ;) 








Time for dinner and drinks around the campfire. We went to sleep with lions roaring in the night, we could not wish for a better start!








Good night safarilovers! :wub:

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wow can't wait to read more about this fantastic sounding trip! I would love to do one like that!

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Well done so far! 

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Sounds like an incredible safari - thanks for  posting this  trip report @safarigirl.se.



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Really looking forward to following along.


My interest in a similar trip is certainly aroused already!

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When you start off with a tortoise, you just have to have good luck throughout the trip.  Gorgeous intro photo.

Your timing was perfect to pull this off, all part of the tortoise luck.

Edited by Atravelynn
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  • 1 month later...

Thanks for sharing your adventure with us.


I did Khutse molose before which was magical, in 2021 I will try central Kalahari for a week around deception vally, combined with moremi/savuti/chobe.

Looking forward to enjoying the sceneries 

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