If Africa is an open book, then the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is its centrefold – beautiful yet mysterious, receptive yet at times unreachable. I love the Central Kalahari for the feeling it gives me of getting right to the heart of the matter. In the middle of Botswana and the middle of nowhere, this vast remote wilderness somehow speaks to me.
I’m not the only person to have heard its siren call – a game drive through Deception Valley passes through the heart of the area where Cry of the Kalahari was set. The valley retains its power to deceive thanks to a mirage that makes it appear full of water when in fact it’s bone dry.
Further north, the evocatively named Sunday and Leopard Pans suggest either quiet reflection or great game-spotting opportunities, while Passarge Valley causes armchair travellers to reach for their dictionaries.
Whether you follow in the hoofprints of the summer herds, or visit the Central Kalahari in the winter to concentrate on resident desert-adapted wildlife, this is a wildlife experience like no other. Slow, meandering game drives might let you cross paths with Kalahari lion – with their full, black manes, they’re some of the most impressive big cats in Africa – while aardwolf, aardvark and other interesting species put in regular appearances.
A San cultural experience puts TV ‘survival’ shows in their place – not least because it’s the survival of the ecosystem that takes precedence. Some luxury safari lodges even let you sleep out on the pans, wrapped in a blanket of stars with a planet for a pillow.