There is a place at the heart of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana that has confused travelers for centuries, and today even seasoned pilots are taken in by the mirage that is Deception Pan.
© Ritual San dance at Deception valley Lodge
Deception Valley is the course of an ancient river that once flowed in the wetter times - thousands of years ago. The river may have been a tributary of the vast ancient lake
that once covered much of the central plateau, or may have been part of the lake at one time, but now it a place of waving grass where herds of springbok and gemsbok gather.
During the rainy season when the grass in the valley is lush and green the site of thousands of animals can make you forget how dry the area is in general. Despite being in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Deception Valley is grassed and lies between wooded dunes. This habitat provides for wildlife year round, even during the dry season when there is no surface water.
The valley is the remnant of the ancient Deception River
, still marked as such on many maps, and this has caused many disgruntled visitors to wonder why the area is so dry. There is the story of the group of Spaniards, on a fishing holiday, who got off the aircraft in Deception Valley, looked around the dusty plain, asked their guide where the river was, and got back on the aircraft - having been told that the river had been dry for a very long time.
Deception by name
Deception Valley gets its name from a pan in the area that has been the source of confusion for travelers. A mirage-style effect
makes the blue-clay pan look as though it is filled with water when in reality it is bone dry. This deception is most noticeable from the air, from where even seasoned pilots have been taken in by the effect.
At times during the day, from up close, the illusion can be very real
. On the occasions that the pan showed where its name came from I would often wonder at the early travelers into the Kalahari and the hardships they potentially faced. The pan would have driven some of these people insane as they caught site of it in the wrong light and arrived to find what they thought was water was actually blue-grey clay.
'There has obviously been a bit of rain, I see one of the pans is full of water', a seasoned pilot informed me when dropping my safari guests off at the Deception Valley airstrip
. As the guests were raring to go I did not have time to mention to him that what he had seen was more than likely Deception Pan.
Deception Valley today
With the development of tourism in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Deception Valley is accessible to more visitors
. Camping safaris are the most popular way to see the Valley, while Deception Valley Lodge
offers more comfortable accommodation.By Leigh Kemp
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