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The Kalahari Desert (shown in maroon) & Kalahari Basin (orange)
Kalahari in Namibia
The Kalahari Desert (Dorsland in Afrikaans) is a large arid to semi-arid sandy area in Southern Africa extending , covering much of Botswanamarker and parts of Namibiamarker and South Africa, as semi-desert, with huge tracts of excellent grazing after good rains. The Kalahari Desert is the southern part of Africa, and the geography is a portion of desert and a plateau. The Kalahari supports some animals and plants because most of it is not true desert. There are small amounts of rainfall and the summer temperature is very high. It usually receives of rain per year. The surrounding Kalahari Basin covers over extending farther into Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, and encroaching into parts of Angolamarker, Zambiamarker and Zimbabwemarker. The only permanent river, the Okavangomarker, flows into a delta in the northwest, forming marshes that are rich in wildlife. Ancient dry riverbeds—called omurambamarker—traverse the Central Northern reaches of the Kalahari and provide standing pools of water during the rainy season. Previously havens for wild animals from elephant to giraffe, and for predators such as lion and cheetah, the riverbeds are now mostly grazing spots, though leopard or cheetah can still be found.


Derived from the Tswana word Kgala, meaning "the great thirst", or Khalagari, Kgalagadi or Kalagare, meaning "a waterless place", the Kalahari has vast areas covered by red sand without any permanent surface water. Drainage is by dry valleys, seasonally inundated pans, and the large salt pan of the Makgadikgadi Panmarker in Botswana and Etosha Panmarker in Namibia. However, the Kalahari is not a true desert. Parts of the Kalahari receive over of erratic rainfall annually and are quite well vegetated; it is only truly arid in the southwest with under of rain annually, making the Kalahari a fossil desert. Summer temperatures in the Kalahari range from 20 to 45°C (68–113°F).

The Kalahari Desert was once a much wetter place. The ancient Lake Makgadikgadimarker dominated the area, covering the Makgadikgadi Pan and other areas, until its final drainage some 10,000 years ago. It may have once covered as much as and was approximately deep.


Despite its aridity, the Kalahari supports a variety of fauna and flora. The native flora includes acacia trees and many other herbs and grasses. The Kiwano fruit, also known as the Horned Melon, melano, African horned cucumber, jelly melon, hedged gourd, and/or English tomato, is endemic to a region in the Kalahari Desert (*specific region unknown).

Some of the areas within the Kalahari are seasonal wetlands, such as the Makgadikgadi Pansmarker of Botswanamarker. This area, for example, supports numerous halophilic species, and in the rainy season, tens of thousands of flamingos visit these pans.

Game reserves

The Kalahari has a number of game reserves—the Central Kalahari Game Reservemarker (CKGR, the world's second largest protected area), Khutse Game Reserve and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Parkmarker. Animals that live in the region include brown hyenas, lions, meerkats, giraffes, warthogs, jackals, several species of antelope (including the eland, gemsbok, springbok, hartebeest, steenbok, kudu, and duiker), and many species of bird and reptiles. Vegetation in the Kalahari consists mainly of grass and acacias, but there are over 400 identified plant species present (including the wild watermelon, or Tsamma melon). Camel rides flourish when it rains.


The San people, or Bushmen, have lived in the Kalahari for 20,000 years as hunter-gatherers. That means they survive by hunting wild game with bows and arrows and gathering edible plants, such as berries, melons and nuts, as well as insects. Bushmen rarely drink water; they get most of their water requirements from plant roots and desert melons found on or under the desert floor. They often store water in the blown-out shells of ostrich eggs. The San have their own characteristic language that includes clicking sounds. These Bushmen live in huts built from local materials—the frame is made of branches, and the roof is thatched with long grass. The Bantu-speaking Tswana, Kgalagadi, and Herero and a small number of European settlers also live in the Kalahari.

Settlements within the Kalahari



South Africa

The Kalahari desert in popular culture

See also


  1. Dorsland Trek, Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 13 Oct. 2009
  2. The Dorsland Trekkers, - The Dorsland Trekkers
  3. Dorsland trekkers, - CHRONOLOGY OF NAMIBIAN HISTORY. 02 January 2005
  4. Mary Sadler-Altena, "Kalahari: Introduction" webpage: SouthernCape-Kalahari : Kalahari name/climate/reserves and history.
  5. Mary Sadler-Altena, "Kalahari: Introduction": Kalahari climate/reserves and history
  6. Martin Leipold, Plants of the Kalahari
  7. WikiHow, ' Kiwano Fruit]
  8. C. Michael Hogan (2008) Makgadikgadi, Megalithic Portal, ed. A.Burnham

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