Spanning over 900,000 square kilometres across Africa, the Kalahari Desert extends across Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. Find out why we love the Kalahari and why it should be on your bucket list …
The Kalahari Desert stretches across almost all of Botswana, the eastern third of Namibia, and parts of northwest South Africa.
Traditionally, to be classified as a desert, an area receives less than 250 millimetres of rain annually. However, a more accurate definition is a region where the potential evaporation rate is twice as great as the precipitation.
Both of these criteria are applicable to the southwestern half of the Kalahari. The northeastern portion, however, receives much more rainfall and, climatically, cannot qualify as a desert; and yet, it is totally lacking in surface water.
In the southwestern Kalahari, nearly all rain disappears almost instantly through the deep sand leaving virtually no surface water. The area essentially has no drainage system leaving it dry even during heavy rainfall periods.
Contrastingly, the northern Kalahari has a complex drainage system, with significant amounts of runoff water feeding south-flowing streams, merging to form the Okavango and Kwando rivers.
What can I see?
The Kalahari is huge and there are many national parks across three countries you can visit. Here are our top picks from each country.
South Africa’s largest privately owned game reserve is Tswalu Kalahari. Located in the Northern Cape, it consists of 110,000 hectares of protected grasslands and mountains. Dedicated to conservation, no more than 30 guests are able to stay in the reserve at any given time.
The area is renowned for incredible rare wildlife sightings. You can expect to see wild dog and the critically endangered hook lipped (black) rhino as well as the elusive pangolin and aardvark.
The Makgadikgadi Pans span approximately 16 000 km² and are the largest salt pans in the world. The salts pans are scattered with sandy desert and minimal vegetation. During the wet season, the pans are filled with water and attract large flocks of flamingos, as well as big herds of zebra, springbok and wildebeest. In addition, the area is great for predator sightings, including, cheetah, lion and hyena.
There are actually no national parks in the Kalahari region of Namibia, however there are plenty of lodges that allow you to explore the area. In the Namibian area of the Kalahari Desert you will find trees, fleeting rivers as well as fossil watercourses. The annual rainfall allows for huge numbers of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians to thrive.
The Kalahari is a diverse desert offering incredible game viewing opportunities and unparalleled landscapes. Nowhere else in the world can you find such a landscape with so much wildlife.