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. Originally nomadic hunters and gathers, the lifestyle of the Basarwa has gradually changed with the times and they now live in settlements, some of which are situated within the southern half of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Government is, however, encouraging these people to move to areas outside the reserve in order that they may be provided with modem facilities, schools, clinics, etc. and to integrate them into modern society. Other fairly recent residents were Mark and Delia Owens, who spent many years in the Deception Valley area of the park undertaking research mainly on brown hyaena. They set up their camp in the northern section of Deception in a prime "tree island", however tree islands are no longer used for camping in these days of more environmental awareness. The Owens' book, "Cry of the Kalahari" brought the attention of readers to this previously little-visited area and even today many people refer to the Central Kalahari simply as Deception.
The name "Deception" comes from a pan the dry surface of which sometimes appears convincingly full of water until one gets right to the edge. See Deception Valley. Trans-Kalahari Travel The main wildlife concentrations are to be found in the tourist areas in the northern half of this vast reserve but it is possible for adventurous and completely self-contained visitors to travel through the reserve between Khutse on the southern boundary to the northern section – a journey that takes a minimum of two days of 4×4 wilderness travelling.