Larger than Denmark or Switzerland, and bigger than Lesotho and Swaziland combined, the 52,800 square kilometre Central Kalahari Game Reserve, which was set up in 1961, is the second largest game reserve in the world. Situated right in the centre of Botswana, this reserve is characterised by vast open plains, saltpans and ancient riverbeds. Varying from sand dunes with many species of trees and shrubs in the north, to flat bushveld in the central area, the reserve is more heavily wooded in the south, with mophane forests to the south and east. Rainfall is sparse and sporadic and can vary from 170 to 700 millimetres per year
The people commonly known throughout the world as Bushmen, but more properly referred to as the Basarwa or San, have been resident in and around the area for probably thousands of years.
Deception Valley is all that remains of a sprawling riverbed that has long since dried up. Stretching across 80km of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve's north, the valley is now covered with short grass, dotted with the occasional island of bushy trees. Some of the roots of the larger trees extend as far as 50m below the surface to the water table, enabling them to survive the dry winters.
Makgadikgadi and Nxai National Park. Because of their complementary natures regarding wildlife migrations, Makgadikgadi Pans Game Reserve and Nxai Pan National Park were established concurrently in the early 1970s, in the hope of protecting the entire ecosystem.
In December of 1992 the area of the Nxai Pan National Park was extended south to the main Gweta/Maun road, so it adjoins the Makgadikgadi Pans Game Reserve, which was renamed "The Makgadikgadi Pans National Park" to form one vast area covering just under 7,500km2. The park incorporates Ntwetwe Pan, Makgadikgadi Pans, Nxai Pan, Baines' Baobabs and Kudiakam Pan.
Makgadikgadi is not always dry. The pans, which are situated in half the south, east and northeastern areas of the park, fill with water during the rains from mid-November and mostly retain their water into April or May. The "thirstlands" are then transformed into great sheets of water, which attract a spectacular array of waterbirds and trigger dramatic migrations of wildebeest and zebra.
A sister to the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, and located close by, is the 2,578 square kilometre Nxai Pan National Park. Originally state land, an area of 1676 square kilometres was declared a game reserve in 1970 and then in 1992 the boundaries were extended to include Baines Baobabs to give the present total area of 2578 square kilometres and National Park status was granted.
Baines Baobabs were named after the famous painter and explorer of the last century Thomas Baines, who painted this unusual group of baobabs in 1862 during his journeys through Southern Africa. This remarkable cluster of trees, also known as Seven Sisters, has been immortalized by other painters as well, including Prince Charles.
Today, the scene that captivated Baines, inspiring him to record the formation on canvas, is little changed and still attracts the attention of visitors, although now the baobabs are recorded on film.
The seven giant trees dominate a small island on the edge of the open grassless Kudiakam Pan.