The Kalahari Desert is situated in the North Eastern part of the Northern Cape province, stretching right across Botswana and is a day’s drive from Johannesburg. Here - close to the Botswana border in a remote area - a private game reserve has been established on 5,300 hectare (13,500 acres) of typical African Savannah, where a lucky few can experience and enjoy an extensive range of fauna and flora in the exclusive and relaxing environment of CAMPBELL.
For thousands of years the area has been home to the Kalahari Bushmen, small and slender built people who eked out a living as hunters and gatherers. In this environment a unique hunting experience awaits the visitor, whilst stalking plains game as the Bushmen did. The lack of surface water characterises a desert. However, contrary to common expectations, a variety of grasses, bushes and tall trees are prevalent in the Kalahari.
The famous Kalahari Transfrontier National Park, a large tract of untamed wilderness jointly managed by Botswana and South Africa, is situated only 100 km (70 miles) North of CAMPBELL. Until as recent as the Thirties of the last century, when cattle ranches were established in the area for the first time, the region around CAMPBELL was teeming with plains game including a large variety of predators, such as lion, cheetah, leopard, wild dog and hyena.
Still today Cheetahs roam freely in the area. There is also the occasional sighting of wild dogs, spotted hyena and, very rarely, lion, which stray across from the nearby National Park. In years with good rains, even elephants have been sighted along the Molopo, a normally dry river forming the border between Botswana and South Africa.
Livestock was only introduced in the Thirties of the last century in the context of a government supported settling programme. Until then, the area existed as untamed wilderness, similar to the Kalahari Transfrontier National Park, with no road infrastructure or surface water.
The healthy climate, free of malaria and other tropical diseases, which led to the almost total eradication of the vast game herds of the past, made way for livestock, mainly cattle. The selective grazing habits of these animals, together with, at times, poor farming practices, impacted adversely on the environment. Only Oryx Antelope and Springbok still roam the area and, to an extent, cross under the fences between the farms, thereby maintaining a relatively healthy gene pool.
The introduction of game required the creation of an animal friendly environment. All internal fences were removed and ground-level drinking troughs were constructed. The latter had a profound effect on the raptors of the area, which subsequently frequent these water holes on a regular basis.
With the exception of Impala, the habitat of which is predominantly the Northern Kalahari, only species typical to the Southern Kalahari were introduced, thereby avoiding creating a zoo of animals not indigenous to the area. The conservation of nature and wildlife, as well as its sustainable usage, is the aim of the Private Game Reserve, CAMPBELL. Thirteen species of plains game are on offer for hunting. For the wing-shooter, depending on the season, a limited number of birds are available.
Predators that do occur naturally in the area are Caracal, Jackal, Leopard and Brown Hyena. It is the intention to introduce Cheetah at a later stage, once pry animal numbers have increased to levels where they are sustainable.
Whereas hunting is the prime activity, the keen wildlife photographer will enjoy the variety of species, both large and small. Approximately 220 different species of birds can be observed in the reserve, some of which migrate there from as far as Europe and India.
Only a maximum of four hunters and their (non-hunting) partners from overseas will be accommodated simultaneously. This ensures personal attention by professional hunters from the area and their highly motivated and dedicated personnel. At times the owner of CAMPBELL, Mr. Helmuth Fischer, a professional hunter and hunting contractor in his own right, will be your host. Whilst you will arrive as a stranger - it is our ambition that you will leave as a friend.
History of the area
The area around CAMPBELL borders on the South-Western part of Botswana, formerly known as the British protectorate “Betshuanaland”. Botswana is larger than France, with only 2.5 Million inhabitants, of which 80% live in the more fertile Eastern region of the country.
The South African part of the Kalahari Transfrontier National Park was only proclaimed in 1931. Until then, and due to the lack of roads and water, only San Bushmen and hunters/poachers visited the inhospitable area. A government sponsored road-building project and subsidised drilling for water drew cattle farmers into the area. The mode of transport at that time was almost exclusively ox wagons or donkey drawn carts.
The land belonged to the Rhodesian Railways and had first to be cut up into manageable farms. For the surveying of the area, surveyors of differing nationalities were used. In the area of CAMPBELL, a surveyor of Scottish origin worked on the project; hence all the farms in the area were given Scottish names, such as Campbell, Millar, Cullinan, and Pringle.
For the past three to four decades the farm CAMPBELL was managed on a part-time basis and predominantly as additional grazing. Apart from herding staff, the area was uninhabited, thus preserving the pristine character.
The San Bushmen
The Kalahari is the last home of the San Bushmen, a race whose remarkable way of life has gone virtually unchanged since the Stone Age. For more than 10,000 years these tiny people dominated the vast hinterland of Southern Africa. Mostly about 1.5 m (5 feet) tall, the San Bushmen bear certain resemblances to the pygmies of the Central African forests.
In the last few hundred years the advance of black and white races has driven the San into the hostile, inaccessible wilderness of the Kalahari. Their numbers have reduced to approximately 40,000 in total. Most of Botswana’s 25,000 San Bushmen already live amongst the Africans as cattle herders. Only about 4,000 to 5,000 still live in the wilderness, surviving as they have always done by hunting and gathering plants and roots for food. Plant life – not meat – is their staple diet.
The hallmark of their social attitudes is their utter belief in co-operation, excluding anything that might cause personal antagonism. There is, therefore, no ownership of property. Even the spoils of a hunt are divided according to customary allocation. A San Bushman never takes from the soil or a herd of game more than he needs to stay alive. In all his long history there is no evidence that he has ever needlessly exploited nature, making him one of the world’s greatest conservationist.
San Bushmen are great hunters. There are many tales of their prodigious stamina, outstanding eyesight and uncanny tracking abilities. The San are known to track game at a run for 30 kilometres (20 miles) non-stop. The Bushman’s bow is small and light, and his arrow fragile. He relies on poison to kill the prey. The poison can be blended from leaves, berries, spiders, caterpillars, grubs, crushed larvae, snake venom, poisonous ticks and the pulp of a venomous worm. There is no known antidote. It can be strong enough to kill even the largest of animals. A big buck may travel for 15 km (10 miles) before collapsing. The Bushman follow close behind, using all his skills as a tracker, to claim his prey.
Topography and Vegetation
The sand formation of the Kalahari Desert (also called Kgalagadi, or Kgalagare) stretches over an area of 2.5 Million square kilometres from the North-Western part of South Africa, across most of Botswana, into the East of Zimbabwe and parts of Zambia and Angola. The name Kgalagadi means “wilderness”, but other interpretations, such as “the great drying up”, are also known.
Mainly as the result of intensive advertising for the Kalahari Transfrontier National Park (jointly managed by South Africa and Botswana and larger than the famous Kruger National Park), impressions of vast stretches of red sand dunes have been created. This is far from reality, as only the extreme South-Western part with less than 125 mm (50 inches), match such a description. For the rest, and in areas with much higher rainfall, vast stretches of grassland, interspersed with bushes and trees, dominate the landscape.
Of the trees, the Camelthorn Tree (Acacia Erioloba) is perhaps the most commonly known species. The territory of the CAMPBELL reserve undulates ever so slightly, making it ideal for hunting, giving both the hunter and the game a fair chance.
Scattered amongst the vast grasslands lie dry “Pans” (fossil lakes), the surface of which consists of a mix of sand and clay. Three-thorns, a thorny bush, the leaves of which are enjoyed by Springbuck, grow at the edges of the pans.