Khutse Game Reserve is a protected area in the Kalahari of Botswana, full of wilderness yet only a few hours drive from Gaborone.
Khutse Game Reserve is at the southern edge of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in central Botswana. It is 3-4 hours north of Gaborone and at least 8 hours drive from Johannesburg, excluding the time needed to cross the border. Khutse is often visited either by itself or combined with driving through to the northern half of Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
Khutse Game Reserve Map
- Khutse Game Reserve is mainly busy on the weekend and South African holidays, and very empty during the week. In busy times you might need to book months in advance, while if you visit on weekdays there will probably be spots available fairly last minute.
- You can rent an equipped 4×4* from Maun, Kasane, Gaborone or South Africa.
- Pay park conservation fees in advance or have cash.
- The Tracks4Africa Botswana Map* is very useful.
- Fuel up and get groceries at Letlhakeng or beforehand, there’s no fuel or shops within the park.
- There is borehole water at the Khutse South Gate though this is borderline too salty to drink and not always reliable. Bring enough water with you.
- Prepare for hot days in summer, and freezing nights in winter.
- For a similar, remoter wilderness experience, head to Mabuasehube, a long day’s drive to the southwest.
- We stopped at Khutse near the beginning of our two-month Botswanan road trip which you can read more about in my book*.
Khutse Game Reserve is a small park covering Kalahari scrub and several large pans where game concentrates. There are fewer animals here than either Mabuasehube or the northern section of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) but outside of the weekend and holidays, there are very few visitors. We spent a few days here and felt like we had the entire park to ourselves. That is, apart from the lions who wandered around our two different campsites two nights in a row. You can read more about that in the travel adventure book I wrote, No Footprints in the Night: On Safari in Botswana*.
Information and Itinerary
Khutse Game Reserve is not as remote as some other parks in Botswana and there is mobile coverage just outside the park coming from the phone mast in the nearby village of Kaudwane (compare coverage of the three Botswanan phone networks – Mascom, Orange or Bemobile). The only park staff are based just outside Khutse South Gate.
There are no facilities within the park so stock up beforehand. Letlhakeng, 100 km to the south, is the last town with fuel and there is also a big Choppies supermarket. There might be salty borehole water available at Khutse South Gate but don’t rely on this as occasionally it is broken, so bring all your own water.
Things to bring to Khutse Game Reserve
For things to bring to Khutse Game Reserve, see our other post on what to bring to Mabuasehube, since what you need is the same!
Gate Opening Hours
Gate hours of Khutse Game Reserve are 06:30-18:30 Apr-Sep, 05:30-19:00 Oct-Mar. Make sure you’re back in your campsite outside these hours.
If you arrive at the park gate too late to reach your campsite before dark, the rangers will send you to one of several emergency sites just inside the gate where you can overnight.
Khutse Game Reserve Itinerary
We spent three nights in the park, all at different campsites. On our first day we drove to the park from Kang (Kalahari Rest Camp), 380 km away, and it took about 5hr30 to reach Khutse South Gate. We arrived mid-afternoon and after checking in at the gate and showing our reservations, we drove to our first campsite, Mahurushele 3 (KH-MAH-03).
On our second day we headed north toward Khankhe Pan on an early morning drive before returning to our Mahurushele site for breakfast. We then headed down past Molose Pan and the waterhole there to our campsite at Moreswe 2 (KH-MOR-02) which was near the Morsewe Pan waterhole. We drove around the pan that evening.
Up early again on our third day, we looped around the pan before heading along the southern route to Khutse 9 (KH-KHU-09), our final campsite. We drove some loops near here in the afternoon and sat at the nearby Khutse waterhole that evening, though not many animals visited.
On our fourth and final day we left the park early for a long drive via Kang to Ghanzi, 640 km away. We then headed into the northern section of the Central Kahalari Game Reserve.
I thought three nights in the park was a good amount of time. It was enough to see most of the park without being rushed. I enjoyed moving campsites as we could explore more locally. We made the most of the mornings and evenings and didn’t drive too much.
Khutse Game Reserve Contact Details
Botswana: Contact Bigfoot Tours to book the campsites in the reserve. I’ve given multiple phone numbers and emails because they seem to change quite often. Bigfoot Tours also manages several of the campsites in CKGR. Contact the Department of Wildlife and National Parks to pay conservation fees in advance and receive a voucher, or pay in cash at the park gates.
Department of Wildlife and National Parks: Botswana Parks and Reserves Reservation Office, +267 397 1405 or +267 318 0774, [email protected] Office hours 07:30-16:30 on weekdays. Closed weekends.
How to Book Khutse Game Reserve Campsites
Outside of weekends and summer holidays, Khutse is not busy. You may be able to get a campsite on the day when you arrive, but it’s always preferable to book in advance. If you do just turn up, make sure to have enough cash as cards are not accepted. You have to have an overnight booking within Khutse Game Reserve to be able to enter the park and there is no other accommodation nearby.
There are 25 individual campsites in Khutse Game Reserve spread over five pans, plus several emergency campsites by the gate that you can’t book. All the campsites in Khutse are privately managed by Big Foot Tours and must be booked through them (see Contact Details). All campsites have a longdrop toilet and bucket shower and most of the sites have shade. There’s a limit per site of six people and three cars.
We ended up booking all our campsites in Botswana via Botswana Footprints who were very professional and their booking fee was surprisingly low. It saves a lot of hassle.
Khutse Game Reserve Entrance Fee and Camping Rates
The park entrance fee has significantly increased in 2022. Now P20/145/190 for citizens/residents & SADC/ international per person per day + vehicle fees per day of P20/75 and trailer fees of P10/40 for local/international. Children 8-15 half price and under 8 free. Contact DWNP to pay fees and receive an entrance voucher in advance, or take cash to pay at the gate.
The campsites in Khutse Game Reserve are all privately managed by BigFoot Tours. Rates are Citizens P88, Residents P190, SADC P250, International P350. Rates are per person per night, all half-price for children under 16 and free for children under 8.
Getting to Khutse Game Reserve
A decent 4×4 is required to reach and drive around Khutse Game Reserve. Remember to deflate your tires when you reach the sand. Take a compressor to pump them up again when you’re back on the gravel and tar.
Most people visit Khutse from the south and return the same way. The alternative option is to continue far through the wild Kalahari to the northern part of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR). This is only for hardcore wilderness enthusiasts with a fully-equipped vehicle and recovery gear, and ideally travelling in a convoy. We visited CKGR but instead of the direct route we drove around. This meant heading south out of Khutse, west to Kang, north to Ghanzi and then east to CKGR.
Khutse Game Reserve from the South
From the south (Gaborone, the South African border or Kang in western Botswana), the routes to Khutse converge at Letlhakeng. This is the last significant town before the park and the last place to get fuel and other supplies. Letlhakeng is also the end of the tarred road.
Khutse South Gate is 100 km north of Letlhakeng, most of which is on a good gravel road where you can travel 60 km/hr. Roughly 10 km before the gate the road turns to sand. Deflate your tires now if you haven’t already as the rest of the park is entirely sandy tracks. Between Letlhakeng and Khutse the route is well signed, but you should have either a physical map or use Tracks4Africa / Maps.me as well. After rain, the gravel can be a bit slippery.
Khutse Game Reserve to/from Central Kalahari Game Reserve
The northern area of the CKGR is far away and not possible to travel to in one day. The commonly taken route heads from Khutse South Gate to Piper’s Pan. Piper’s Pan is the further south campsite in the northern part of CKGR), 340 km away. You should plan to average around 20 km/h so this route takes about 17 hours.
There is a very low density of game on this route. The track is sandy and very corrugated, and in the rainy season can be wet and muddy. Go this way only if you love the wilderness and are confident about vehicle self-recovery or you are travelling in a convoy. If you can’t recover yourself, be prepared to wait days for rescue. Enough water is essential.
There are three campsites on the way. In order of distance from Khutse South Gate, these are Bape (110 km), Xaxa (225 km) and Xade (270 km). Bape and Xaxa have no facilities at all and are managed and booked through DWNP. The Xade campsite is at Xade gate and managed by Big Foot Tours.
Campsites on the way to the Northern CKGR
Bape Campsite is just a cleared area directly by the side of the road. Xaxa Campsite has two sites and is 12.5 km north of the main track, you have to return the same way the following morning. A highlight is a waterhole here, the only one in a very large region, though this is sometimes broken by elephants. There’s thick sand between Xaxa and Xade, and lions have been seen in this area.
Xade Campsite has five sites and most of them are located by an old San village that used to be here, though you can’t see any trace of it now. It’s just next to the Xade Gate and a rangers camp, from which you can hear the noise of an electricity generator, but apart from that the camps feel quite wild. There is an ablution block but the water for it is often not running because elephants break the pump. Site 2 of Xade Campsite (CKXAD02) is 1 km east of Xade Gate on its own with no facilities, a beautiful location.
For very rough timings, Khutse to Bape might take around 4.5 hours. Khutse to Xade may take 11 hours or more. From Xade it is an additional three to six hours to Piper’s Pan. This will be quicker on the cool, dry morning sand and longer if it’s rained and the track is muddy.
Roads and Fuel within Khutse Game Reserve
Road Conditions in Khutse Game Reserve
The tracks within the park are mainly sandy single-spoor routes through the sand dunes. When we were there in 2021 they were widening and grading some of the tracks to make them more accessible to non-4x4s, though a decent 4×4 is still recommended as they hadn’t got very far with their road project. Make sure to deflate your tires – the track gets sandy a few kilometres before the park gate so you should already deflate your tires here. The speed limit in Khutse Game Reserve is 40 km/hr.
The roads across and around the pans are often harder, with a base of solid, salty soil and faster driving is possible while still not recommended as it is here where you will see the most game.
Rain drains quickly through the sandy tracks while those on the salty soil can become muddier during and after heavy rain though large ruts are not common and the tracks, in general, are good throughout the year.
How much Fuel do I need for Khutse Game Reserve?
From Letlhakeng until we were back in Lethlakeng three days later, we drove 440 km and used 46.2 litres of fuel, giving a fuel efficiency of 9.5 km/l (Land Rover Defender 110 TD5). 180 km of the total was on gravel where we average almost 10 km/l, and through the sand we average around 9 km/l. If you are pulling a trailer your fuel efficiency will be much worse. Always have spare fuel.
For an idea of distances, within the park itself we drove 240 km. This included driving from the gate to our first campsite near Maharushele Pan, heading north to Khankhwe Pan, driving down to our second campsite by Mareswe Pan via Molose Pan, a few loops of Mareswe Pan and then driving back to Khutse campsite, a few short drives there and the return to Khutse South Gate. We found all the tracks totally fine.
The additional 200 km we drove was to and from Letlhakeng to Khutse South Gate, which was mainly a good gravel road.
Do I need to travel with at least two vehicles in Khutse Game Reserve?
It’s always recommended to travel in a convoy of at least two 4×4 vehicles within the game parks of Botswana, but Khutse Game Reserve is one of the smaller, less remote parks so this is not necessary. Do make sure that you are self-sufficient and have recovery gear if you travel in a single vehicle. If you have a problem, on the weekends another vehicle will probably pass by within a few hours, though during the weeks you may be waiting a day or two if you’re unlucky. We travelled alone but made sure to always have enough spare water and food in case we had to wait for help.
Non-Exhaustive List of things to bring to Khutse Game Reserve
- Seed net/grill
- Two spare tires
- Puncture repair kit
- Sand tracks
- High-lift jack
- Kinetic strap/rope
- Tire pressure gauge
- Car tools and spares
We found a powerful flashlight with a red filter* very useful for spotting animals at nighttime. The red filter disturbs the animals much less than a normal white light so you can be less afraid of annoying them.
Instead of very expensive proper sand tracks, we had two bathmats. I know someone who swears by carpet strips. If you don’t want to splash out on sand tracks, then at least buy a pair of sturdy bathmats for R80 each from Builders. They will also give grip. But most importantly, reduce tire pressure and you probably won’t need them.
You might not see animals all the time, but you probably will see birds. A bird guide* is very useful and can make the trip so much more fun. I wasn’t into birds before I got a bird guide, but now I wouldn’t go anywhere without it and love spotting them. We have a small one*, great for beginners.
The above list is very much incomplete, you obviously need all your camping gear as well, I just listed some things you might forget.
Your seed grill will stop most grasses and seeds from getting into your radiator, but some will slip through. Check your radiator every so often to remove any bits. Also make sure to check around your exhaust pipe for seed/grass buildup as this area can get hot and start a fire. Be careful when removing stuff not to burn yourself.
Things to do in Khutse Game Reserve
The main activity in Khutse Game Reserve is self-drive safaris and enjoying the wilderness from your campsite.
There are several pans within the park that game visits for water or as a salt lick and for grazing. The surrounding dunes contain less game.
Self-Drive Safaris in Khutse Game Reserve
The main pans in Khutse Game Reserve and Khutse itself, which is actually two adjacent pans and nearest to the entrance gate, Molose and Moreswe Pans in the west, and Mahurushele and Khankhe in the north. These all have campsites. When we visited (April 2021), we saw the most game at Moreswe followed by Khutse and then Molose Pans. Though obviously the animals move and it’s mainly down to luck and being patient. The track around the eastern edge of Khankwe Pans was overgrown when we were there.
Additionally, a good place to see animals is at the four waterholes within the park: Molose Waterhole, Moreswe Waterhole, Khutse Waterhole and Khutse Pan Waterhole.
Pans and Waterholes in Khutse Game Reserve
The Molose Waterhole (map↑) is rumoured to be a favourite haunt of lions, though we only saw some nice antelope including springbok and kudu when we were there. Additionally, Molose Waterhole is often visited by gemsbok, jackal and occasionally elephants.
This waterhole is (map↑) visited by impala, gemsbok, giraffe, jackal, sometimes elephants and the bigs cats if you’re lucky. We saw elephant spoor there and we heard lions walking around our tent and down the track to this waterhole in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, they were gone by morning.
There is a waterhole on the edge of Khutse Pan that you can drive right up to, but there is a second waterhole in the middle of the pan that’s in a slight depression and far from any tracks so you can’t get close to it.
Khutse Waterhole (map↑)
Visited by birds and many antelope, sometimes lions and if you’re very lucky cheetah. We saw lots of egrets and other birds, impala and gemsbok at this waterhole.
Khutse Pan Waterhole (map↑)
Waterhole in the centre of the pan in a slight depression. Visited by many animals, though they are slightly out of sight and far from the road. We saw thousands of vultures circling over the waterhole so knew if only we could see a bit better there would be a kill there! The following day we saw two elephants heading here.
Campsites in Khutse Game Reserve
Camping is the only accommodation within Khutse, there are 25 campsites around 5 different pans. All campsites have a longdrop toilet, bucket showers and most have a shade tree. I think the best campsites in the park are Moreswe 2 for the views and Molose 1 for the proximity to a good waterhole.
See contact details box for booking information.
There are 10 sites at Khutse (map↑) and we were assigned site 9. Because of the large number of campsites here we thought it wouldn’t feel wild and remote, but it was a weekday and there weren’t any other people staying in the entire campsite. Lions wandered close by during the night, probably heading to the nearby waterhole on Khutse Pan. While relaxing at camp in the middle of the day, two elephants surprised us by wandering right through the middle of this campsite, eating some of the camelthorn trees. It was quite a shock for us as we didn’t even know there were elephants in this park!
There’s little difference between any of the sites in Khutse Campsite. Some campsites, i.e., 2, 3 and 6 have their toilet and shower slightly far away from the main site, making it scarier to go to the loo.
- The closest site to the waterhole, which nevertheless isn’t visible.
- In the centre of the campsite, the toilet and shower are both 60 m away from the camping area.
- Also on the inner side of the campsite loop track. The toilet and shower are both 30 m away from the camping area.
- On the outside of the campsite loop, not close to many other sites.
- Similar to 4 but slightly further from the loop track.
- Nice shade tree and quite far from the other campsites. However, the toilet and shower are both 60 m away from the camping area.
- On the inner side of the campsite loop.
- Nice shade tree, and on the inner side of the loop.
- Large site with a nice shade tree, in the middle of the camp.
- Nearest to a pan but not really any views.
There are 3 campsites near Mahurushele Pan. Sites 1 and 2 are fairly close to each other – Site 1 is closer to the main track but larger than Site 2. Site 3, where we stayed, is far from the other two sites. There used to be a lovely big shade tree at this campsite, but it has now disappeared (2021) so there is no shade in the large sandy open area by the toilet/shower, but there is a tree for shade on the way into the camp that can be used for sheltering under in the middle of the day.
We moved out from this shade tree when it began to cool off to set up our tent in the middle of the empty sandy area. A large male lion walked right by our car in the middle of the night and I was terrified.
KH-MAH-01: (map↑): Shade, longdrop toilet and bucket shower. 150 m from campsite 2. No real views.
KH-MAH-02: (map↑): Shade, longdrop toilet and bucket shower. 150 m from campsite 3. No real views.
KH-MAH-03: (map↑): A large campsite with no shade on the clearer circular area, but a nice shade tree near the site that can be used to shelter under in the day. The other two sites are over a kilometre away so there is a real sense of solitude. Recommended for single-night stays, not big setups because of the lack of shade. Directly on a small loop that not many people would drive but you might get a few visitors during busy periods.
There are 4 campsites here, known as both Khankhe and Khankhwe. Because of their northerly location, these sites are quite quiet. The four sites are fairly similar but Site 1 has the best view of Khankhwe Pan. Confusingly, these sites aren’t numbered in order from east to west. 2 is the site furthest east, followed by 1 then 3 and then 4. Site 4 is at the end of the track. It’s 350 m from the nearest campsite so apart from site 1, probably the best site.
KH-KHA-01 (map↑): Shade around the edge of the site. With views over the pan but directly next to an infrequently travelled road.
KH-KHA-02 (map↑): Shade tree and limited views over the pan.
KH-KHA-03 (map↑): Shade tree and limited views over the pan.
KH-KHA-04 (map↑): A large site with a shade tree and limited views over the pan. At the end of a track and the nearest campsite, Site 3, is 350 metres away so it feels remote.
There are 4 campsites strung along the side of the track on the edge of Molose Pan. Site 1 is more separate from the other three and nearest to the Molose Waterhole so this is a great site. However, the other three sites have more shade and perhaps better views.
KH-MOL-01 (map↑): Nice site with shade. Near the Molose Waterhole and far from the other three sites by the pan.
KH-MOL-02 (map↑): Enough shade, and the neighbouring campsite is 335 metres southwest.
There are 4 campsites near Moreswe Pan. Sites 1 and 2 are remote from each other and both slightly raised above the pan with campsite 2 having the better views. Sites 3 and 4 are only 115 m from each other but large and peaceful with good shade.
Moreswe pan has quite a bit of game such as impala, gemsbok and the highest concentration of giraffes within the park. We also saw elephant spoor by the waterhole and had several lions walk around our car during the night.
KH-MOR-01 (map↑): Nice site with shade, and just about views to the pan.
KH-MOR-02 (map↑): The best Moreswe site with shade, views over the pan and a view to the waterhole if you stand on your car.
Khutse South Gate Campsites
These are emergency sites (map↑) and can’t be booked in advance. Only people who turn up too late to travel to their booked campsite can overnight here.
Khutse Game Reserve was the second stop in Botswana on our two-month road trip which you can find out more about by reading the travel adventure book I wrote, No Footprints in the Night: On Safari in Botswana*.
Guidebooks & Maps to Explore More of Botswana
The Lonely Planet Guidebook* covers all of Botswana, but not in much detail. The Bradt Guide* has a wealth of information and is great for planning a safari around northern Botswana, but doesn’t cover southern Botswana. The Tracks4Africa Map* is an essential item for driving around the country and its national parks. For more information, see our Best Botswana Guidebooks article.
FAQS – Khutse
The speed limit in Khutse Game Reserve is 40 km/h.
Khutse means ‘place where you can kneel down and drink’ in the local San language.
The campsites in Khutse Game Reserve are all unfenced so it requires common sense to avoid any potentially dangerous animal encounters. Don’t stray far from your car or walk around in the dark, and children should be closely supervised at all times. Watch out for snakes and scorpions – always wear shoes.
Khutse Game Reserve is at the southern edge of the much larger Central Kalahari Game Reserve in the middle of Botswana, 3-4 hours north of Gaborone.
Yes, you need a 4×4 to visit Khutse Game Reserve due to the sandy tracks within the park.
Nov-Mar is the best time to visit Khutse Game Reserve as the water in the pans attracts the game. Several artificial waterholes within the park attract game in the dry season.