Stretching to 360,000 square miles, the Kalahari Desert extends beyond the borders of three countries in Africa. It covers some regions of South Africa, parts of Namibia, and much of Botswana. It is one of the most impressive landmarks on the continent, and the aforementioned countries use a lot of the land areas in Kalahari as national parks and reserves. If you also include the surrounding Kalahari Basin, which covers 970,000 square miles more, the coverage of Kalahari actually encroaches into parts of Zimbabwe, Angola, and Zambia as well.
Just like most national parks and game reserves in Africa, Kalahari Desert offers excursion and safari, or both at the same time. On your adventure, you will come across some of the desert’s most exotic animals including black-maned Kalahari lions, Kudu antelope, water buffalo, and hundreds of bird species. In some areas, there are artificial watering holes for the animals to hydrate themselves in the middle of the dry desert.
Top experiences in the Kalahari Desert include the following destinations :
The most popular attraction of Botswana inside the Kalahari Desert is the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR ). To make your excursion more manageable, you can divide CKGR into several main areas as follows:
Deception Valley: it is safe to say that the most iconic attraction of CKGR is Deception Valley. It is a broad valley filled with grasslands and cluster of trees as well as a number of roaming Springboks and Gemsboks.
Northern Parts: wandering further to the north will take you to Motopi Pan. You can consider this the classic image of the Kalahari Desert with light woodlands, dune hills, thorn scrubs, and the sense of being lonely in the middle of nowhere.
Western Pans: two of the most popular are Piper’s Pan and Tau Pan. Both of them are inhabited by a good number of animals including Lions, Cheetahs, Wildebeest, and Aardwolves.
Southern Ends: filled with flat golden grasslands and small concentration of other vegetations, you are basically far away from anywhere else in the southern part of CKGR. Prides of Lions do live here, but wildlife is pretty scarce compared to other areas.
Another popular attraction is the Khutse Game Reserve. It is the extension of the southern boundary of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. It is a popular attraction regularly visited by Gaborone residents during the weekends. Khutse Game Reserve covers more than 965 square miles. It offers every attraction that you can find anywhere else in the Kalahari Desert, which is why the game reserve is popular among locals. The trails leading to the location are well-maintained.
SOUTH AFRICA and BOTSWANA
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is shared by two adjacent countries: Botswana and South Africa. This park is a merger between Gemsbok National Park in Botswana and Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa.
There are two big sections which are as follows:
Two Rivers Section: the dry beds of Nossob and Auob Rivers create pool of water thanks to the rain, providing best chance of witnessing wildlife in the park. On the other parts, you will see stretches of grasslands sprinkled with camel thorns.
Mabuasehube Section: most easily accessible from Botswana, this is where you will find Mabuasehube and Mpayathutlwa, the two largest pans in the section. There are water holes here and there, so it should not take long before you can capture images of wildlife. Smaller pans in the section include Bosobogolo, Lesholoago, and Monamodi.
The landscape is primarily comprised of red dunes, yet it is home to diverse wildlife including Wildebeest, Eland, Springbok, Gemsbok, Leopards, Cheetahs, and Lions especially around the water holes. More than 250 bird species also live in this park.
While Namibia is more popularly known as home to the oldest desert on Earth, the Namib, some parts of the country are covered by the Kalahari Desert. In the Southern part of Namibia, one of the iconic tourist destination within the Kalahari is the Quiver Tree Forest. Located about 9 miles northeast of Keetmanshoop, the forest is comprised of no less than 250 specimens of Aloe dichotoma. Bushman people, the indigenous inhabitants of southern Africa (Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa), traditionally use the plant to make quiver. To the north of the forest, there is another place of interest called Giant’s Playground, which basically is filled with piles after piles of dolerite rocks.
Part of Kalahari Desert that belongs to South Africa is located in the Northern Cape Province. In this part of the desert, the largest destination to continue your safari and excursion is Tswalu Kalahari Reserve. Covering an area of 110,000 hectares, it is the largest private game reserve in the country. It is also the game reserve that offers the most luxurious lodges all across the desert. Conservation is the main agenda. With the exception of elephant, it has all the members of African Big Five.
When you are visiting a desert, it is probably wise not to set your expectation too high that you will come across luxurious hotels or fancy accommodations. Kalahari Desert may not offer much in terms of facilities indeed, but it will bewilder your mind, make you feel small, and creates everlasting impression on your memories with its wildlife diversities, red dunes, solitariness, and liveliness at the same time. The life and experience in Kalahari are almost unreal; it is both harsh and magically beautiful.