Stretching across Namibia, Botswana and South Africa, the 360,000 square miles of vast fossil desert lands make up what is known as the Kalahari Desert. The name derives from the Tswana word meaning "great thirst". Most of the desert is not considered true desert, due to the amount of rainfall the area receives. Although huge tracts of land provide excellent grazing areas after good rains, there is still a great deal of the desert that remains arid and covered by vast expanses of red sand.
Nearly 10,000 years ago, this area was dominated by the large, ancient Lake Makgadikgadi. Since its drainage, the region has been left with dry riverbeds. The annual wet season, which can bring anywhere from 3-7.5 inches of rain annually, provides the longed-for rains that sustain various grasslands and the flora and fauna of the area. The rains drain into the salt pans of the Makgadikgadi Pan in Botswana and the Etosha Pan in Namibia. These wetlands attract tens of thousands of flamingos as well as many other species of wildlife.
The dry riverbeds used to be havens for large wildlife such as elephant and giraffe. Now they act as occasional grazing spots for the wildlife of the area. Popular wildlife of the Kalahari include lion, cheetah, leopard, brown hyena, meerkat, warthog, jackal, and several species of antelope. Abundant species of birds and reptiles can also be found in this region.
Despite the arid climate and desolate landscape, the Kalahari Desert is dotted with many different species of plant life. The abundant, native acacia trees can be found throughout and various grasses provide sustenance for the desert-adapted wildlife. Remarkable, large nests of weaver birds can be found in the camelthorn trees. Certain exotic fruits in the region include Kiwano fruit and Tsamma melon, or wild watermelon.
A native people to the Kalahari Desert, the San people, have lived in this region for nearly 20,000 years. As foragers, they have survived on remarkable methods of hunting with bow and arrow, and gathering the fruits, insects and roots. Due to the lack of water resources, the San collect rain water in blown-out ostrich eggs, and acquire much of their daily water from roots and fruits on or under the desert floor. Only a small number of the San still practice and follow the traditional Kalahari way of life due to the threatening influence of industrial civilization.
The extraordinary landscape of the Kalahari Desert and the fantastic phenomena of an arid, fossil desert teeming with spectacular flora and fauna is an outstanding sight for safari lovers.
Visit the Kalahari Desert on an extension to any of our Botswana Safaris.