Zebra im Lichtschimmer im hohen Gras

A magical natural wonder

Red sand, huge, mosaic-like white salt pans, diverse ecosystems and flora that blossoms in all its splendour during the rainy season, a rich variety of wildlife and one of the oldest peoples in the world - the Kalahari has so much to offer that you absolutely have to see. In this magical place, you will not only experience the many facets of nature, but also exciting wildlife sightings and insights into the original African culture. Embark on a journey into the world of baobabs, zebras and Bushmen, discover artistic rock paintings and be mesmerised by the fascinating starry sky.

Written by: Dana Leidel Last updated at: May 17, 2024
Karte Kalahari in Botswana

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About the geography and landscape of the Kalahari

The largest part of the Kalahari Desert, the Central Kalahari, is located in Botswana, but it extends far into Namibia and also touches small parts of countries such as Angola and Zimbabwe. While the total area covers more than one million square kilometres, the area of the central Kalahari is around 52,000 square kilometres. The Kalahari Game Reserve is also located in this area. The game reserve is characterised by former river courses that have been transformed into salt flats due to drought.

But there are other ecosystems in the Kalahari. Even though it is called a desert, it is mainly a thorn bush and dry savannah. There are also semi-deserts and even forests. It is only the sand, which allows the rain to seep away quickly, that makes the area so dry and desert-like.

Climatic conditions

The climate in the Kalahari is characterised by the rainy season (November to April) and the dry season (May to October). Heavy rainfall is to be expected during the rainy season, turning the clay into slippery mud. The campsites are also flooded by the masses of water. However, the rain is a real blessing for the vegetation: The area shines in lush green and is enriched by beautiful flowers. The wild animals flock to the numerous waterholes - the Kalahari epitomises life in bloom.

Due to the drought, however, nature is monotonous and sparsely vegetated in the dry season, which makes for better animal sightings. In addition, the wild animals are drawn to the few waterholes, increasing the chances of spotting more animals in one go.

The wildlife diversity of the Kalahari

Whether lions, leopards, cheetahs or caracals - both wild cats and wild dogs call the Kalahari Game Reserve their home. Hyenas, springboks, wildebeest and meerkats can also be found. The north in particular boasts elephants (albeit in small numbers) as well as zebras and antelopes. Ostriches and hornbills also enrich the Kalahari birdlife. Caution is also advised at every step, as scorpions and snakes lurk on the ground. And another particularly unusual creature crawls out of its cave in the dark: the pangolin.

The wild animals can be observed in various ways. The north of the Kalahari Game Reserve is ideal for self-drive safaris. However, numerous guided tours in various areas of the central Kalahari are also possible - whether by four-wheel drive vehicle, quad bike tour or on foot.

Ein Löwe liegt auf dem Gras und ein Schakal schleicht sich an

Cultural insights - the San people

"Like a snake that slithers and writhes" - this is how a clan leader of the "Khomani San", as the oldest people in the world are called by the whites, describes it. This is exactly how they themselves associate this term, their naming: laborious. But they don't want to wriggle and writhe like a snake. Instead, they prefer to call themselves Bushmen, which sounds direct, simple, clear, pure. Just as they live in the seemingly endless expanse of the Kalahari: simple and pure.

Thousands of years ago, large parts of Botswana, Namibia and South Africa were already part of their homeland. But they did not have it easy - discrimination, oppression, isolation and exploitation characterised their lives. Their land was taken away from them. Until they managed to get 100,000 hectares of their land back at the end of the 1990s after a long legal battle. Of this, 60,000 hectares belong to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park.

Even though they hardly speak their original dialect of N!u any more and now speak the language of the white settlers - Afrikaans - they try to continue their traditional life as best they can. Adapted to modern times, this means that they move with the animals and live freely in nature, but are also dependent on the western world. If there is no rain, for example, they are dependent on the newly constructed wells. In any case, they only live in the Kalahari for weeks at a time and keep returning to more distant villages to lead their forced Western life. The conditions in the desert are too difficult - especially as hunting and living in the wild are no longer permitted.

But they are pinning all their hopes on the opportunity that tourism brings. They want to pass on their knowledge of their culture. To make their traditions unforgettable. To bring people closer to the beauty of their country. Perhaps one day they will manage to realise their visions and live them out even more extensively.

The best time to visit the Kalahari

Typical for the rainy season in the Kalahari is that it usually rains heavily for two to three days and then it is dry again for several days. Temperatures also drop to a pleasant level after the rain. Temperatures only rise again shortly before the new rains begin and thunderstorms break out, which finally cool things down. The second half of the rainy season in particular is characterised by hot temperatures of up to 40 degrees. Even the nights are tropically warm at around 25 degrees. Due to the low humidity and the resulting lack of humidity on the days without rain, the heat is still easy to bear.

If you can tolerate hot temperatures, are not afraid of rain and the odd day when no tours are possible, then you will be enchanted by the breathtaking nature of the Kalahari Game Reserve and the wildlife.

As the dry season is characterised by rain-free days and temperatures of around 20 degrees, safari trips in the central Kalahari are particularly pleasant at this time. Only the nights are very cold with temperatures below zero. This is where good equipment counts.

So if you prefer stable weather with cooler temperatures, enjoy this time of year with its beautiful salt pans and unobstructed views of the wild animals searching for water - including tell-tale footprints in the sand.

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