North-west Kalahari & Panhandle

North-west Kalahari & Panhandle

Stretching across three countries and 930,000km2 the sand-covered plain of the Kalahari Desert is enormous. To the west, its reddish sands merge with those of the Namib in an uninterrupted sand sea, halted only by the Atlantic Ocean; to the south the sands give way to the mountain ranges of the Cape as the climate changes; and to the north and east the hills and rivers of Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe give rise to a more verdant landscape. Given its vast size and variety, it is impossible to address the Kalahari in its entirety in just one section of our website. So, as you will see, we break it down into more manageable chunks, including the The Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the Kalahari's Salt Pans and the Okavango Delta, and this section on the North-West Kalahari and Panhandle.

Compared with some of the more well-known areas of the Kalahari, the north-western region may seem remote, inaccessible and empty. However, there are some truly special places, which can be incredibly rewarding for those willing to make the effort to reach them.

The Okavango Panhandle

Perhaps the best-known, most accessible part of the region is the Panhandle, on the north-western side of the Delta. There are some well-established camps here, the best of which are Nxamaseri Lodge and the much newer Shakawe River Lodge. These are often categorised as fishing camps, as the deep water channels of the Okavango River make the tiger-fishing here some of the best around, and there are plenty of other species to keep anglers interested. However, the birdwatching in this area is also first class, with rarities such as African skimmers and Pel's fishing owls as well as a host of egrets, storks, kingfishers and warblers. These camps offer a good-value Okavango experience, especially if you are driving on the west side of the Delta, perhaps as an extension of a trip down Namibia's Caprivi Strip.

Tsodilo Hills

Listed as Botswana's first UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, the Tsodilo Hills are home to over 4,500 rock paintings in an area of just 10km2, earning the region its nickname, 'the Louvre of the desert'. It’s a magnificent and magical sight that needs to be experienced before you can begin to understand its significance. Archaeologists have found evidence of human activity here dating back at least 100,000 years, and the area remains a place of significant cultural importance for the San people who call this region home. Perhaps it is this rapidly changing living link to our ancestors that makes the whole area so intriguing. The area is best visited on a superb day trip from Nxamaseri Lodge or as a part of a private mobile safari; contact us for details.

Gcwihaba Caves and Aha Hills

The Gcwihaba Caves, also know as Drotsky's Caves, are not especially well-known and are even less visited, due mainly to their remote location. This network of caves and pits, complete with superb examples of stalactites and stalagmites, was first visited by Europeans in 1937 when Martinus Drotsky was invited to the area by !Kung San. Gcwihaba, which translates as ‘hyena's hole’, is Botswana’s only known major cave network. Linking two separate entrances is a system of passageways and chambers that form a walkable route of approximately 1km long, albeit with many dead ends. Given the size and remoteness of the caves we suggest exploring them only with a local San guide, which should prevent you getting lost.

Straddling the Namibia–Botswana border, the Aha Hills are the smaller, more rugged cousins of those at Tsodilo. Their isolation and existence draw in the intrepid, though there is seemingly little else to detain visitors. That said, there are a couple of impressive sinkholes – albeit very difficult to find – and this is one of a few areas where travellers can arrange to see a San Bushman trance dance. Given the remoteness of these areas it is really only possible to visit as a part of a private guided trip, or whilst staying at the superb and intriguing The Lodge at Feline Fields.
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