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Kalahari Desert

What can I expect from the Kalahari Desert?

The rolling red dunes of the Kalahari Desert cover most of southern and eastern Namibia. Do not expect to find the tall dunes associated with the Namib Desert and Sossusvlei. The Kalahari landscape is one of golden grass on small red dunes.

The Kalahari is cheetah country, Namibia has the world’s largest free-roaming cheetah population. Many living and hunting in the Kalahari. Other wildlife includes aardwolf, honey-badgers, mongoose, meerkats, springbok, hare, porcupines, giraffe and zebra.

Birdlife is plentiful with raptors including martial eagle, brown snake eagle, black-breasted snake eagle, white-backed and lappet-faced vulture and pale chanting goshawk.  Huge sociable weaver nests dominate acacia trees & telegraph poles. The Kalahari is also home to crimson-breasted shrike, rosy-faced lovebird, Gaber goshawk, pygmy falcon and ant-eating chats.

The Kgalagadi, as it is called in Botswana, stretches across seven countries: Botswana, Zambia, the Republic of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This name derives from the Tswana language with the word Kgala, meaning “the great thirst”, and Kgalagadi, meaning “the great waterless place”.

The San people who live here have identified over a thousand useful plants.. In Namibia the Kalahari is covered with trees, dry river beds and grass. Regular rainfall allows diverse species of animals, bird and plants to thrive. The vegetation in the drier southern regions includes quiver trees, while in central areas large sprawling camelthorn trees line dry river beds.  Further north, where rainfall is higher, large teak & tamboti trees become more prevalent.

While the Namib Desert is impressive with huge dunes (at Sossusvlei and other areas) the Kalahari doesn’t have an obvious focal point, or must visit section. It is as diverse as it is sprawling and a visit to any part is sure to enthrall and calm the spirits.

Things to See and Do in the Kalahari

Sit and listen to the silence
Visit a cheetah rehab center
Drink a Windhoek Lager (or 2!)
Enjoy the tranquility
Kalahari scenery

Typical Kalahari scenery

Cheetah in the Kalahari

Cheetah

The Basics

Accommodation – There are not many lodges in the Kalahari. The best are situated in southern Namibia, around the town of Mariental. Others can be found east of Windhoek and the international airport.

Food – The Kalahari is sheep farming country. So expect the menu to include lamb and mutton

Transportation – Some guided safaris spend a night or two in the Kalahari. But if you really want to explore we suggest renting a car and including the area on your self drive holiday of Namibia

Steenbok

Steenbok

Bushman village

San demonstrating traditional village life

Local Tips

1
Relax The Kalahari is not a place that will instantly take your breath away. But it is a place that will gently ease itself into you heart and soul.
2
Read Sitting in the silence of the desert enjoy a good book. Although not strictly set in the Kalahari, the short stories by the South African author Herman Charles Bosman seem right at home in this setting
3
San People The Kalahari is the last remaining home of the San / Bushmen people. Those interested in a cultural experience can book a visit to a San village. Usually, this includes joining a hunt, gathering fruits and sitting around the campfire experiencing traditional dancing and storytelling. Be warned such experiences are not for everyone - this way of life does not really exist nowadays but it is one of the few ways the San people can earn money and pass on their history to a younger generation.

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