There’s a special kind of magic in the desert, in the dry heat rippling beneath the horizon, the deep, eroded fissures in arid pans, and in the rugged persistence of all those hard and prickly things that grow there. Even for the many who aren’t easily captivated by the day to day, in-your-face extremes of these crude and often inhospitable, desiccated destinations, there’s magic in the vehement thunderstorms that rock the arid landscapes, in the brief downpours or the dry gales that follow, in the clear night skies awash with stars, and there’s magic in the indeterminable sightings of desert beasts: the robust antelope, rangy scavengers, and enormous tawny cats.
Khutse Game Reserve, a tiny bump on the southern tip of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana, somehow distils all of that desert magic in an almost flawless bubble of isolation, and those who understand the draw of insularity in the wilderness and enjoy the gamble of unexpected visits from things that go bump in the night, might find that it’s exactly their cup of tea.
Desert camping is not for the faint-hearted, nor for those without the trappings for fully self-sustained living from the back of a sturdy vehicle. What it is though, if you have the patience and fortitude to put up with arid extremes well cut off from the outside world, is extraordinary, and often particularly memorable.
Sightings may be scarce, but that only makes each one more rewarding (if only up until you get home with 300 photos of springbok), and the best memories are often un-photographable. Great big Kalahari lions gambolling with your toys (or tyres), much like crafty hyenas snatching chops off the braai, aren’t all that easy to forget, but neither is the thrill of a brief yet violent desert thunderstorm, the anticipation of a leopard sighting after a morning of tracking, or the hefty silence of midday on an open pan.
For those who appreciate the odd arid adventure, Khutse’s wonderfully refined desert magic is the ultimate treat.
If you think you’re going to get heaps of award-winning photographs of Kalahari lions and other predators in Khutse, you’re going to be disappointed. The big cats here are few and far between, and often very shy. You may just find that you use your shorter lenses much more often than your telephoto lenses – to photograph the golden grasses, epic skies and memorable campsites. The skies are usually at their most dramatic in October and November when massive thunderstorms roll in from the horizon. After the rains, the veld is transformed to something quite spectacular as colourful flowers pop up everywhere – the most stunning of all being the Kalahari Crinum Lily.
If I want to go:
Take the N4 west, past Rustenburg and Zeerust, all the way to Skilpadshek Border Post (open 6am to 12pm) – ±190 km. Immediately after you’ve crossed into Botswana, turn left onto the A2 tar road and follow it towards Kanye. After ± 50 km on the A2, turn right on the A10 and follow the road for ± 85 km, via Thamaga, to Molepolole. From here it’s another 165-odd kilometres, via Lethlakeng, to Khutse’s South Gate.
Total distance and time: Approximately 600 km / ± 9 hours to the entrance gate.
Khutse’s climate is typical of the Kalahari, so avoid it in mid-winter (June/July) if you don’t like the cold, and avoid it in mid-summer (December to February) if you don’t like the heat. Game viewing is relatively slow right throughout the year, but the reserve is at it’s most scenic during the rainy season (December to April) when wild flowers can be seen everywhere.
We suggest that you book these three campsites in Khutse:
For wildlife: Molose 1 – it’s spacious and located a stone’s throw from a permanent waterhole that often attracts lions and other wildlife.
For scenery and isolation: Moreswe 2 – this campsite looks out over Moreswe Pan and, if you stand on your bakkie’s roof, you can see the nearby waterhole.
For shade: Mahurushele 3 – Khutse can become scorching hot in summer and no other campsite offers as much shade as this one.
Accommodation to be paid in advance with Bigfoot Tours
Contact: Bigfoot Tours
Phone: +267 395 3360 or +267 391 0927
You should know:
You need to be completely self-sufficient, so bring your own food, drinks, water and extra fuel. If you’re afraid that some of your food may be confiscated at the border post, buy your groceries in Gaborone. You won’t find better shops closer to the reserve. The last reliable place to fill up is at Letlhakeng, approximately 100 km outside the park’s southern entrance gate.
This far from civilisation, a satellite phone is convenient for emergencies and peace of mind.
Contact Shana Coetzee of Sat4Rent on:
(011) 023 4290 / 082 822 9549 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Also visit: www.sat4rent.co.za
Usefull GPS coordinates:
Khutse Southern Entrance Gate: S23.36601° E24.62017°
Moreswe 2 campsite: S23.56194° E24.09685°
Moloswe 1 campsite: S23.38425° E24.18688°
Mahurushele 3 campsite: S23.28445° E24.38987°