Make your own free website on

| Main Kalahari page |
| Visist Kalahari Marketing for Fine arts and Crafts of the Kalahari desert |

The Kalahari or Kalahari desert, as it is called mainly by people who has never been there, is a large basin of deep wind-blown sand in the South West of Africa. The Mega-Kalahari basin covers a large area from North of the Gariep or Orange River in South Africa, North-wards almost to the equator.

The "real" Kalahari is the Southern Kalahari dune-veld that covers the area where Namibia, South Africa and Botswana comes together. Although Botswana contains a larger part of the Kalahari Savannah or thorn-veld, the southern-Kalahari dune veld is distributed almost equally between the tree countries, with South Africa just winning the race with most dunes.

The Kalahari is one of the last intact eco-systems in the world, and this is perhaps because it is so remote, is acessible by only a few roads, and because it contains so little surface water, that man has not yet suceeded in messing it up.

map of kalahari desert, area covered by kalahari desert sand

Map of Kalahari desert basin
The full extent of the Mega-Kalahari desert.
The introduction of fences and drilling of bore-holes to make ground-water available, has made possible farming in the Kalahari, but this also holds the key to possible future degradation and destruction. The Kalahari desert has a finely balanced eco-system, and the introduction of fences to try and keep game on farms, to establish border control, and to prevent the spread of disease, has already had an serious impact on game numbers.

The Kalahari region has a very patchy rain-fall pattern and the ratio of locally high rainfall to regionally low rain-fall, is amongst the highest in the world. Even in the high-rain-fall periods, some ares will receive a lot of rain and others little. It is a standing joke in the area, that two farmers stood talking over the fence separating their properties, when a flash-flood broke out. The guy on the left then called out to his neighbour "Hi Jan, why don't you climb through the fence, and come to my side? It's not necessarry for you to stand in the rain!"

All joking aside, this have the serious lesson that in order to surviver, animals in the Kalahari, as in much of Africa and of South Africa, must be free to "trek" or move from dry areas to areas with rain. And from grazed-out areas to fresh fodder. The millions of miles of fences, has made this impossible and has led to serious degradation and over-grazing. The Klahahri is large and untameable, burt relentless pressures from man and his animals. in ever greater numbers, will ultimately destray even this last intact eco-system.

Fortunately, with the creation of the massive Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, accross the border of South Africa and Botswana, things has once again swung in nature's favour, and the survival of a number of species has moved just that little bit further into the future!

In the drought years, which occurrs in a cycle of about 13 to 15 years, the kalahari desert becomes a harsh and unforgiving environment, where only water from extremely deep boreholes, which are often so saline or brackish that only the hardiest of mans domestic animals will drink it, keeps a few surviving animal alive. The indigenous Kalahari plants and animals are better adapted and can survive in condition which to mankind appears to be impossible.

Every thirty to forty years, an extreme drought occurs in the Kalahari desert, and then even the best adapted plants and animals suffer and carcasses and skeletons litter the red sands of the Kalahari desert. Towards the end of such a severe drought, if it is wide-spread enough. even the majestic Kalahari lion doesn't look so much like a king, but more like a pauper, and one may even find carcasses of lions and vultures.

In true African fashion, these extreme droughts in the Kalahari desert are almost always broken by flash floods, that appear all the more extreme in contrast with the preceding long drought. Over the last century, these severe floods has caused great disruption in the Kalahari, as the roads run in the dry river-beds. After floods, temporary roads must be made in the dunes next to the rivers. Of course, the tarred road from Upington to Rietfontein (also known as the Mier nedersetting or "settlement" are not in a dry river bed of the Kalahari desert. The presently to be tarred road to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, or Gemsbok Kalahari Park, runs mostly in the river.

Although only a few hardy plants and animals are really able to call the Kalahari home and thrive there, and although the Kalahari has fewer plant and animal species than the rest of Africa, and especially the Southern Cape and Cape peninsula area, which has about 22000 plant species in an area slightly larger than the British iles, the Kalahari has some rather well known plants and animals.


Vivid Kalahri colours in a single picture!

The "Kameeldoringboom" or Camel-thorn-tree, the Grey-Camel-thorn tree, the Shepperd tree, the tsamma, the Gemsbuck-cucumber and the yellow-flowered devils-thorn is the specimen plants of the Kalahari. At least 200 other species occurr here and there, and many may still await discovery as many Kalahari plants have adapted to this harsh life and shifting substrate by forming large underground structures that may remain invisible and undetected until the right amount of rain falls in the right spot. Unless a botanist or amateur with the right botanical knowledege is present to observe this event, it may go totally unnoticed. There may still be many surprises in the Kalahari

The gemsbuck or Oryx, Kalahari lion , springbuck, and wildebeest or gnu, cheetahs and both brown-hyenas and spotted hyenas, silver-jackal and bat-eared foxes, are some of the better known animals that occurr in the Kalahari. Lesser known, but perhaps more spectacular are little seen denisens such as the nocturnal porcupine, the pangolin and the aardwolf or anteater. The ever-present suricates or meerkats are also of great interest.

And then of course, there are the Kalahari Kung San Bushman! A dying race, of which the remaining last few are fighting a lost battle for genetic survival, and also for the survival of their ages old, really aeons old, hunter-gatherer culture and way of life. The last truly "stone-age"-people remaining on Earth! Once you are in South Africa, you must get to Upington, the unofficial capital of the Kalahari,
Click here to go to my unofficial Upington page!

To browse and order fine art, craft, game leather and skin products from the Kalahari and Green Kalahari regions, please visit the web site of my good friend, Estelle Visser at Kalahari Marketing by clicking on the link:

Estelle sells and exports a number of Kalahari products. If you ever have the opportunity to visit Upington and the Kalahari, you are welcome to visit her shop for Tourist information, a friendly chat and even a free cup of coffee or tea! Estelle always seem sto have the answer to every question about the Kalahari and its happenings, so don't be shy with your questions and your comments.

More information

| Main Kalahari page |
| Visist Kalahari Marketing for Fine arts and Crafts of the Kalahari desert |