Nothing prepares you for the immensity of this reserve, nor its wild, mysterious beauty. There is the immediate impression of unending space, and having the entire reserve to yourself.

Waist-high golden grasses seem to stretch interminably, punctuated by dwarfed trees and scrub bushes. Wide and empty pans appear as vast white stretches of saucer-flat earth, meeting a soft, blue-white sky. At night the stars utterly dominate the land; their brilliance and immediacy are totally arresting.

The Central Kalahari game Reserve (CKGR) is the largest, most remotely situated reserve in Southern Africa, and the second largest wildlife reserve in the world, encompassing 52 800 sq kms.

During and shortly after good summer rains, the flat grasslands of the reserve’s northern reaches teem with wildlife, which gather at the best grazing areas. These include large herds of springbok and gemsbok, as well as wildebeest, hartebeest, eland and giraffe.

At other times of the year, when the animals are more sparsely distributed, the experience of travelling through truly untouched wilderness, of seemingly unending dimensions, is the draw.

The landscape is dominated by silver terminalia sandveldt, Kalahari sand acacias, and Kalahari appleleaf, interspersed with grasslands, and dotted with occasional sand dunes, pans and shallow fossil river valleys.

CKGR is unique in that it was originally established (in 1961) with the intention of serving as a place of sanctuary for the San, in the heart of the Kalahari (and Botswana), where they could live their traditional hunter/ gatherer way of life, without intrusion, or influence, from the outside world.

The reserve was closed for about 30 years, until in the 1980s and 1990s, both self-drive and organised tours were allowed in, albeit in small, tightly controlled numbers.

The Botswana government has initiated plans to develop tourism away from the Okavango and Chobe areas, and has allocated concessions for lodge construction, both at the peripheries of and inside the reserve, allowing for fly-in tourists.

The northern deception valley is one of the highlights, principally because of the dense concentrations of herbivores its sweet grasses attract during and after the rainy season (and of course the accompanying predators). It is also the most travelled area of the reserve, with a number of public campsites, and proximity to the eastern Matswere Gate. The other two gates are completely at the other side of the reserve, at Xade and Tsau, where public campsites are also available.

Other worthwhile areas to drive are Sunday and Leopard Pans, north of Deception Valley, Passarge Valley,and, further south, Piper’s Pan.

Victoria Falls presents a spectacular sight of awe-inspiring beauty and grandeur on the Zambezi River, forming the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. It was described by the Kololo tribe living in the area in the 1800’s as ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ – ‘The Smoke that Thunders’. In more modern terms Victoria Falls is known as the greatest curtain of falling water in the world.

Columns of spray can be seen from miles away as, at the height of the rainy season, more than five hundred million cubic meters of water per minute plummet over the edge, over a width of nearly two kilometers, into a gorge over one hundred meters below.

A journey to the Okavango Delta – deep into Africa's untouched interior – is like no other. Moving from wetland to dryland – traversing the meandering palm and papyrus fringed waterways, passing palm-fringed islands, and thick woodland, resplendent with lush vegetation, and rich in wildlife – reveals the many facets of this unique ecosystem, the largest intact inland delta in the world.

The Okavango Delta is situated deep within the Kalahari Basin, and is often referred to as the 'jewel' of the Kalahari. That the Okavango exists at all – deep within this thirstland – seems remarkable. Shaped like a fan, the Delta is fed by the Okavango River, the third largest in southern Africa. It has been steadily developed over the millennia by millions of tonnes of sand carried down the river from Angola.

Swollen with floodwaters from the summer rains, the Okavango River travels from the Angolan highlands, crosses into Botswana at Mohembo in the Caprivi, then later spills over the vast, fan-shaped Delta. The timing of the floods is uncanny. Just as the waters from Botswana's summer rains disappear (April, May), so the floodwaters begin their journey – 1300 kilometres of which is through Kalahari sands – revitalising a vast and remarkably diverse ecosystem of plant and animal life.

The water's flow, distribution and drainage patterns are continually changing, principally due to tectonic activity underground. As an extension of Africa's Great Rift Valley, the Okavango is set within a geographi-cally unstable area of faults, and regularly experiences land movements, tremors and minor quakes. By the time the water reaches Maun, at the Delta's southern fringes, its volume is a fraction of what it was. As little as two to three percent of the water reaches the Thamalakane River in Maun, over 95 percent lost to evapo-transpiration.

But the flow doesn't stop in Maun. It may continue east to the Boteti River, to fill Lake Xau or the Makgadikgadi Pans, or drain west to Lake River to fill Lake Ngami.

Truly at the interior of the park, Savuté boasts most of the chobe species, except for water-loving antelope. It is best known for its predators,particularly lion, cheetah and hyena, of which there are large resident populations.

The Savuté channel flows from the Linyanti River for about 100 kilometres, carrying water away from the river and releasing it into a vast swampland called the Savuté Marsh, and further south onto the Mababe Depression, which is also fed by the Ngwezumba River from the northeast. The Mababe – immense and flat and fringed by thickets of trees – was once part of the Makgadikgadi super-lake. When filled with water, it becomes the venue for thousands of migratory birds and animals, particularly large herds of zebra.

Geographically, Savuté is an area of many curiosities. One of its greatest mysteries is the Savuté channel itself, which has over the past 100 year inexplicably dried up and recommenced its flow several times. This irregular water flow explains the numerous dead trees that line the channel, for they have germinated and grown when the channel was dry and drowned when the channel flowed again.

The Ngwezumba pans lie approximately 70 kms south of the Chobe River and comprise a large complex of clay pans, surrounded by mophane woodlands and grassland plains.

During the rainy season, the pans fill with water, then attracting wildlife that move away from the permanent water sources of the Linyanti and Chobe Rivers.