Fan of Deserts? Go Big With Kalahari Desert!
Traveling into the breathtaking Kalahari Desert stirs up emotions of solitude and remoteness, oneness with nature, adventure, and romance. Not many holiday destinations can bring this package of adventure all at once, the vastness and desolation of this enormous space is almost difficult to take in.
Although it is called a desert, the Kalahari Desert is actually a vast basin of savannah and red sand reaching all the way across a great expanse of Botswana and into Namibia and South Africa. The outer limits of this region even reach Zimbabwe, Zambia and Angola. It spans a great area of approximately 930,000 square kilometers and holds an average altitude of around 1,000 meters above sea level. The name Kalahari comes from the Tswana term ‘Kgalagadi’ or “waterless place”, which is quite fitting. This enormous expanse of savannah and red sand received much rain but is almost completely devoid of any permanent surface water. The seasonal rainwater gathers in pans, which brings in the herds of game. It is these herds of game bring in the tourists!
Not everyone travels to the Kalahari Desert for the animal sighting alone; there are ghost towns to explore, and a variety of canyons and different landscape to behold.
When To Go:
If you want to see animals in the southern Kalahari Desert, the best time of year to go is the months of May and June after the heavy rains. This is the time of year when the animals return to the region. Try to avoid travel during November and December, as the region is unbearably hot and you also run the risk of being caught in very sudden storms.
Due to the great expanse of the area covered by the Kalahari Desert, paired with the fact that it spans over three African countries and touches on many others, the best course of action is to first decide which tour operator best suits your needs, and go forward from there. After choosing an ideal tour you’ll be able to narrow down the area where you’d start your journey – will it be Namibia? Botswana? Or South Africa? You decide!
Kalahari Desert Tour: From the Kalahari Desert to the Atlantic Ocean!
There’s an interesting variety of tours available in different price ranges, varying durations, each offering
something a little different – such as a 4×4 trek through the Kalahari Desert to the Atlantic Ocean offered through Private Kalahari Safari:
This 4×4 tour, which will take minimum groups of two people, will bring you on a fantastic journey across Kalahari Desert, through parts of the Namib and finally to the Atlantic Coast. You can decide what suits your budget and whether you’d prefer to camp or stay in chalets along the way – meals are provided.
- Track lions on a safari drive through the Kalahari Desert
- See Namib Naukluft Park
- See the world’s biggest dunes at Sossusvlei and Sesriem Canyon
- Visit the Castle of Duwisib
- Spot beautiful wild horses of the Namib desert
- Visit the town of Lüderitz along the Atlantic Coast
- See a ghost town – Kolmanskop
- Visit Fish River Canyon, the second largest canyon on earth
Departing from Upington, South Africa, fully equipped and on to Twee Rivieren, which is the entrance to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park. Begin your first Kalahari Desert safari drive once inside the Park.
Spend another day touring South Africa’s second biggest National Park, Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park where you can see animals like springbok, oryx, blue wildebeest and red hartebeest, which are common in the area. This national park is renowned for great opportunities to see the famous black maned Kalahari Desert lions and cheetahs. The region is also known to be a bird watcher’s paradise with over 20 larger raptor species calling this area home.
Drive through the Kalahari Desert to Mata Mata on the Namibian border. Keep an eye out for cheetahs and giraffes. After lunch, cross the border to Namibia and we continue on to Mariental. Drive through the Kalahari Desert via Maltahöhe to the fringes of the oldest desert on earth, the astounding Namib desert. Take a refreshing and enjoyable bath in the pool.
Depart early – before sunset – in order to reach the highest dunes at Sossusvlei as early in the day as possible. Climb to the tops of the dunes, from where you will be granted a spectacular view over the ‘ocean’ of sand that makes up the Namib Desert, quite the contrast from the red sand and savannah that makes up the Kalahari Desert. Head back to Sesriem, and visit the gorge of stunning Sesriem Canyon before driving on to Duwisib Castle. Have breakfast, and visit the medieval-looking fortress Duwisib Castle which was built nearly 100 years ago by a German aristocrat. Featuring 22 rooms and building materials shipped from Germany, the structure is very unique in its desert setting. Drive south to the small village of Aus on the edge of the Namib desert, and head to “Klein Aus Vista Lodge” which will be home for the next two nights. Pay a special visit the wild Namib horses.
Visit the Atlantic coast, and the tiny town of Lüderitz nestled happily in a natural bay. At Kolmanskop, see the diamond ghost town and the surreal houses half filled with desert sand which have become the subjects of prize winning photography. Take 4×4 tours around Lüderitz Bay, and drive via Goageb to the final highlight of the desert tour, the amazing Fish River Canyon. Enjoy a drink near the edge of the world’s second largest gorge as the sun sets. Back through Kalahari Desert, head to South Africa and arrive in Upington in the late afternoon.
The San, and Other Population of the Kalahari Desert
The San people have a fascinating way of life, and have called Kalahari Desert home for over 20,000 years, as hunter-gatherers. They use bows and poison arrows to hunt wild game, and gather edible berries, plants, melons and nuts, and also insects. The San achieve most of their water requirements from eating desert melons and plant roots they harvest. Water is also stored by the San in blown-out ostrich egg shells. The San build their homes using materials they have at hand. Branches make up the frame, and long grass makes the thatched roof. Bantu-speaking Tswana, Kgalagadi, Herero and several European settlers also call the Kalahari Desert their home. The city of Windhoek is located in the Kalahari Desert Basin.
In 1996, Diamond exploration, mining and retail group of companies De Beers recognized the potential of diamond mining at Gope. Come 1997, the eviction of the San and Bakgalagadi tribes in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve from their land of the Kalahari Desert began. Eventually, in 2006, a Botswana High Court ruled in favor of the San and Bakgalagadi people in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, stating their eviction from the land was unlawful.
Guides who work on conservation projects for the San people of the Kalahari Desert can arrange for special opportunities to greet the San, and even take part in ceremonies. It’s one thing to drive across the desert, but getting out and actually meeting the people who have called it home longer than recorded history is an entirely different experience.
Where to Stay in The Kalahari Desert
THE WHITE HOUSE
Tel: 00 264 63 262061
Stay in an unmistakably German 1912 Kalahari Desert farmhouse, in a little town just beyond Inselbergen – and tell your friends you’ll be sleeping in the White House tonight. The White House is owned by a wonderful and friendly Afrikaans couple, who have built a few nice bungalows in the back of the house. The White House itself has spacious bedrooms with high ceilings and Oregon pine floors. Namibia is home to many guest houses like this, and they are worth checking out. This one is delightful and charming. Dinner at the farmhouse can be lamb chops, or springbok pie, a whole shoulder of lamb, pumpkin fritters, or a steamed pudding.
Gondwana Cañon Park, Namibia
Tel: 00 264 61 230066
An affordable place for lodging, this Roadhouse has a bar, a café and basic rooms. Outside on the terrace under the false pepper trees, you can have your coffee as the sun rises. The roadhouse and garden are decorated with old car parts and signs, all strangely kitschy and wonderful in a remote Kalahari Desert place.
Gondwana Cañon Park, Namibia
Tel: 00 264 61 230066
This could possibly be one of the most soothing and relaxing places you can hope to stay in the Kalahari Desert. Located in a large private game reserve, Cañon Lodge is nestled in many large hills of tumbled red rocks. The old tractor in the grounds, plenty of ploughs and farm equipment remind you of the lodge’s history. There is a most relaxed atmosphere, and an undeniably fantastic view out over the rocky hills. 20 chalets, which are literally set into the hills, are accompanied by a swimming pool built into another hill. Guests may visit the home farm, where milk, cheese, vegetables, bacon and chicken meat is produced. Horse riding is also an option, and a wonderful way to spend a day in the Kalahari Desert.
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Namibia
Tel: 00 27 21 701 7860
The exclamation mark in the name represents the sound of a click of Khosian, in the Bushman language. The accommodations are owned by the San Bushmen and the Mier people, who had originally hunted the lands here and received a large tract of land in the park returned to them in recent years. You will be picked up by an arranged vehicle at a designated waterhole, and drive by 4×4 over the sand dunes. Look out for oryx, giraffes, ostrich and springbok as make your way to your lodging. !Xaus is truly unique and spectacular, resembling a row of wigwams on the high point of a larger dune. The lodging is a series of 12 thatched chalets with red plastered walls, situated along a boardwalk that connects them all to a central library. Below you’ll discover a salt pan with a permanent waterhole, with water from the swimming pool. Guests may dine in an enclosure outside in the lamp light, and
feast on dishes of butternut soup, gemsbok stew and Malva pudding.
Kuruman, South Africa
Tel: 00 27 11 274 2299
The Kalahari Desert obviously spans several different African countries, each with their own particular animals, plants, landscapes and people. Just across the border from Namibia, the Tswalu Kalahari house in South Africa can be found, and it’s a family-owned reserve near the tiny town of Vanzylsrus.
Not many guests come here by car – they usually fly in from Johannesburg. These accommodations are luxuriously elegant and operated with charm. Tswalu is a Relais & Châteaux member and every last detail is taken care of from the binoculars and books, to the hot towels provided upon arrival. Stay in your own thatched house in the Kalahari Desert, which features an indoor and outdoor hot running shower, an extravagantly large and fluffy bed, and private deck to lounge away the day. Take a dip in the large swimming pool, visit the spa and the gym, and enjoy the delicious food. Board includes two daily drives, walking safaris and local beverages. What a spectacular way to stay in Kalahari Desert!
Visit the African destinations category to learn more about other tourism opportunities available in Africa!