Khutse Game Reserve, Botswana
The 2,500 square kilometre Khutse Game Reserve was opened in 1971, on Bakwena tribal land. Prior to this date, due to the almost complete absence of surface water and the fragile vegetation, very few people lived in this area of undulating plains of dry Kalahari bush savannah. Those who did subsisted by gathering wild foods, undertaking limited hunting and keeping small stock. Wildlife was therefore considered to be a good alternative form of land use.
The extensive mineralised pan system within Khutse provides an important habitat for wildlife attracting herbivores to graze on the grasses of the pans, drink the mineralised water- during the rainy season and to lick salt during the dry season. These herbivores in turn attract predators, such as lion, cheetah and leopard. Boreholes have been established at certain points within the reserve in order to encourage wildlife to stay within the area throughout the year.
Whilst the visitor to Khutse should not expect to see or meet up with large concentrations of game, giraffe, gemsbok, red hartebeest, eland, kudu, wildebeest, springbok, steenbok, grey duiker, lion, leopard, cheetah, brown hyaena, black-backed jackal, bat-eared fox and wild dog can be seen within Khutse, as well as many other smaller mammals. A wide range of birdlife from ostrich and kori bustard down to the LBJs (little brown jobs) will keep bird enthusiasts well occupied.
How to get there
The route from Botswana's capital Gaborone to the Khutse Game Reserve covers some 210 kilometres of varying road conditions taking some four hours of driving time. The first 50-kilometre section is along a good national road to Molepolole, where a turn to the right is taken following the directional signs to Letlhakeng. A further 61 kilometres of good tar road brings the traveller to the village of Letlhakeng, where the feature of a traffic circle brings an end to the tar. At this circle a green sign indicating the direction to Khutse is a most welcome sight as the variety of tracks is confusing to the uninitiated. Letlhakeng has a small filling station.
Proceeding along a sand road after Letlhakeng soon illustrates to the traveller why only 4x4 vehicles are recommended, as the sand is loose and deeply rutted, particularly during the dry season from about April to the time when the rains break usually in November. Some 25 kilometres from Letlhakeng is striking Khudumelapye, where an abundance of fine trees gives this village the appearance of being an oasis. Here large pools of sweet water accumulate following heavy rains and large numbers of livestock congregate. This is very much cattle country.
A further 36 kilometres of sandy road brings the traveller to the last large settlement before reaching Khutse. This village is called Salajwe and some basic supplies and drinks may be obtained there. The traveller will notice that it is not always easy to find the way through the villages, as tracks seem to lead in all directions. However, the green Khutse signs are there as a guide. The remainder of the journey has fewer features, although there are small settlements away from the road.
Eventually a sign advises the weary traveller that the boundary of Khutse Game Reserve has at last been reached. A short distance later the National flag can be seen flying above the trees, and the Wildlife Camp, which incorporates the tourist reception office, is finally reached. Here visitors are required to check in and pay the fees for their stay.
There are no tourist lodges, no chalets nor rest camps in Khutse. Nor are there any shops or fuel supplies. Khutse is a protected area where development has been kept to a minimum and where the wilderness atmosphere has been carefully preserved. There are areas that have been designated as campsites, some of which have pit latrines but no other form of development. Although Botswana's central and southern parks and reserves are not as well known as their northern sisters, visitors who are devoted to the wilderness have come from places as far afield as Spain and the United States to enjoy the wonderful sense of isolation and timelessness these areas have to offer.
The main concentration of campsites is grouped in an area between Khutse I and Khutse II Pans, whilst more isolated individual camps are to be found at Moreswe Pan in the south-western area of the reserve. Further isolated sites, named Mahurushele, Sekusuwe and Khankhe, are actually situated in the adjoining Central Kalahari Game Reserve but administered by Khutse. Visitors to Khutse should be completely self-contained with all their requirements including drinking water.
Water for purposes other than drinking can be obtained from the Wildlife Camp. All litter should either be totally removed from the reserve or deposited at the Wildlife Camp. The basic rules to be observed when in the reserve are to drive only on the tracks indicated on the map that is obtained on arrival; to camp only at the designated campsites which are clearly indicated; to ensure that no grass fires are caused, nor litter left, nor other visitors disturbed - in other words consideration for others and for the environment should be of paramount concern.
When travelling between Molose Waterhole and Moreswe Pan, first time visitors will be interested to come across a sign in what appears to be the middle of nowhere, proclaiming that this point intersects the Tropic of Capricorn. There cannot be many visitors who have not stopped there to take a photographic record of this.