The expansive scrublands of the semi-arid Kalahari Desert extend some 900,000km² across Namibia, South Africa, and a large portion of Botswana. It forms part of the larger Kalahari Basin that - including the desert - also supports various wetlands such as the Makgadikgadi Pans and Okavango Delta of Botswana.
Although the Kalahari Desert cannot be correctly classified as a desert because of the amount of rainfall it receives annually (somewhere between 12-25 centimetres), the parched earth greedily absorbs any moisture that remains after the wet season. The desert’s rust-coloured valleys of sand dunes, peppered with scrubland in some parts, are considered the largest continuous expanse of sand on the globe. The endemic fauna and flora have learnt over aeons of acclimatisation to survive in this sun-baked wilderness.
The indigenous San bushmen have called the Kalahari home for 20,000 years and although many have begun to live sedentary lifestyles in towns, some can still be found living on the fringes of the desert. Visitors can experience the true essence of the Kalahari landscape by visiting the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The wider Kalahari Basin in Botswana includes the abundantly fertile Okavango River Delta and other verdant landscapes further north such as the Chobe National Park and Moremi Wildlife Reserve.
Facts and Information
Travel to the Kalahari is a uniquely rewarding experience. The Kalahari is a series of diverse and changing landscapes that are not confined to one country but span Botswana, South Africa and Namibia. In Namibia, the Kalahari occupies the south and east and is often combined with a visit to the Fish River Canyon, the scond largest canyon in the world. The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (in South Africa and Botswana) has a great collection of protected wildlife as does the massive Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana. Discover your perfect accommodation for your Kalahari adventure.
Although we have treated them as a separate destination, the vast Makgadikgadi Pans, the largest in the world, are actually part of the Kalahari region - marvel at the flamingoes and huge migrating herds of wild animals crossing the wide open spaces! There are also a number of other pans in the region (e.g. Nxai Pan) which are filled with water during the summer rains and attract an array of animals.
Climate and Landscapes
Most of the Kalahari is not a true desert as it receives an average rainfall of between 75-250mm per year, greater than the minimum requirements for a desert. It can be exceptionally hot in the summer with temperatures reaching 40°C though the seasonal rains do alleviate the heat and attract animals to the pans and waterholes. During Spring, flowers and plants bloom transforming the usually barren landscape into an oasis of colour and life. The winter is pretty dry and while daytime temperatures are more bearable, it can get quite chilly at night.
With a variety of habitats including moist broad-leafed woodland, dry savannah thornveld, and semi-arid duneveld, the Kalahari supports an astonishing diversity of flora and fauna in one of the most sparsely populated places in the inhabited world. Private game farms the size of small countries have high concentrations of wildlife and birdlife, offering a unique and exclusive viewing experience.
The Kalahari is a massive region, spanning 900,000 km² and 3 separate countries. So getting here really depends whether you want to experience the Kalahari in South Africa, Namibia or Botswana.
Botswana, South Africa or Namibia?
Most visitors to the Kalahari tend to visit the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, an absolutely enormous reserve in the centre of the country, or the vast Makgadikgadi Pans slightly further north. The closest town is Maun, with regular flights from Johannesburg, Cape Town and other destinations in Botswana. Most travellers will then take a private charter flight into the camp of their choice, since Maun is still quite a distance from the reserve and Makgadikgadi.
Travellers can head to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park which also spills over into Botswana. To get here, take an internal flight with South African Airlink to Upington from either Cape Town or Johannesburg. The Twee Rivieren Entrance Gate is approximately 250 km north of Upington and you will have to drive there.
The Kalahari is located in the south and east of the country and is usually combined with a trip to the majestic Fish River Canyon. Getting here is not easy, a long drive from either South Africa or Windhoek. As such most travellers head to Botswana to experience the Kalahari since it is the most viable option.
NB: The Kalahari is an ideal travel destination to combine with a Botswana Safari in the Chobe National Park or the Okavango Delta. We can organise everything from your trip, lodge and flights.
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- The Kalahari Desert extends some 900,000km² across Namibia, South Africa, and most of Botswana
- It forms part of the much wider Kalahari Basin which is home to a variety of thriving wetlands
- The Kalahari Desert has the largest continuous expanse of sand in the world
- Visitors can experience the arid beauty of the Kalahari from the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve