Desert is a large semi-arid sandy savanna in Southern
Africa extending for 900,000 square kilometres
(350,000 sq mi), covering much of Botswana, parts of Namibia
and regions of South Africa.
4 Vegetation and flora
6 Threats and preservation
8 Kalahari, San and diamonds
9 Settlements within the Kalahari
10 In popular culture
11 See also
13 Further reading
14 External links
Kalahari is derived from the Tswana word Kgala, meaning "the great
thirst", or Kgalagadi, meaning "a waterless place"; the Kalahari
has vast areas covered by red sand without any permanent surface
Drainage of the desert is by dry valleys, seasonally inundated pans
and the large salt pans of the
Makgadikgadi Pan in
Botswana and Etosha
Pan in Namibia. The only permanent river, the Okavango, flows into a
delta in the northwest, forming marshes that are rich in wildlife.
Ancient dry riverbeds—called omuramba—traverse the central
northern reaches of the Kalahari and provide standing pools of water
during the rainy season.
A semi-desert, with huge tracts of excellent grazing after good rains,
the Kalahari supports more animals and plants than a true desert, such
Namib Desert to the west. There are small amounts of rainfall
and the summer temperature is very high. The driest areas usually
receive 110–200 millimetres (4.3–7.9 in) of rain per year,
and the wettest just a little over 500 millimetres (20 in). The
Kalahari Basin covers over 2,500,000 square kilometres
(970,000 sq mi) extending further into Botswana,
South Africa, and encroaching into parts of Angola,
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (December
North and east, approximately where the dry forests, savannahs and
salt lakes prevail, the climate is sub-humid rather than semi-arid.
South and west, where the vegetation is predominantly xeric savanna or
even a semi-desert, the climate is "Kalaharian" semi-arid. The
Kalaharian climate is subtropical (average annual temperature greater
than or equal to 18 °C, with mean monthly temperature of the
coldest month strictly below 18 °C), and is semi-arid with the
dry season during the "cold" season, the coldest six months of the
year. It is the southern tropical equivalent of the Sahelian climate.
The altitude has been adduced as the explanation why the Kalaharian
climate is not tropical; its altitude ranges from 600 to 1600 meters
(and generally from 800 to 1200 meters), resulting in a cooler climate
than that of the
Sahel or Sahara. For example, winter frost is common
from June to August, something rarely seen in the warmer Sahelian
regions. For the same reason, summer temperatures certainly can be
very hot, but not in comparison to regions of low altitude in the
Sahel or Sahara, where some stations record average temperatures of
the warmest month around 38 °C, whereas the average temperature
of the warmest month in any region in the Kalahari never exceeds
29 °C, though daily temperatures occasionally reach up to close
to 45 °C (113 °F) (44.8 °C at Twee Rivieren Rest
Camp in 2012).
Heavy thunderstorm near Stampriet
The dry season lasts eight months or more, and the wet season
typically from less than one month to four months, depending on
location. The southwestern Kalahari is the driest area, in particular
a small region located towards the west-southwest of Tsaraxaibis
(Southeast of Namibia). The average annual rainfall ranging from
around 110 mm (close to aridity) to more than 500 mm in some
areas of the north and east. During summer time in all regions
rainfall may go with heavy thunderstorms. In the driest and sunniest
parts of the Kalahari, over 4,000 hours of sunshine are recorded
annually on average.
In the Kalahari, there are two main mechanisms of atmospheric
circulation, dominated by the
Kalahari High anticyclone:
The North and North-west of the Kalahari is subject to the alternation
Intertropical Convergence Zone
Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ)/"Continental Trade winds". The
ITCZ is the meeting area of the boreal trade winds with their austral
counterparts what meteorologists call "Meteorological equator" and the
sailors "Doldrum" or "Pot-au-noir" : the ITCZ generates rains in
the wet season, whereas the continental trade winds cause the dry
The rest of the Kalahari is subject to the maritime trade winds, that
largely shed their moisture as they cross up and over the Southern
African Great Escarpment before arriving over the Kalahari.
There are huge subterranean water reserves beneath parts of the
Kalahari; the Dragon's Breath Cave, for example, is the largest
documented non-subglacial underground lake on the planet. Such
reserves may be in part the residues of ancient lakes; the Kalahari
Desert was once a much wetter place. The ancient Lake Makgadikgadi
dominated the area, covering the
Makgadikgadi Pan and surrounding
areas, but it drained or dried out some 10,000 years ago. It may have
once covered as much as 120,000 square kilometres
(46,000 sq mi).
The Kalahari has had a complex climatic history over the past million
or so years, in line with major global changes. Changes in the last
250,000 years have been reconstructed from various data sources, and
provide evidence of both former extensive lakes and periods drier than
now. During the latter the area of the Kalahari has expanded to
include parts of western Zimbabwe,
Zambia and Angola.
Vegetation and flora
Due to its low aridity, the Kalahari supports a variety of 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, or hedged gourd, is endemic to a
region in the Kalahari
Desert (specific region unknown).
Even where the Kalahari "desert" is dry enough to qualify as a desert
in the sense of having low precipitation, it is not strictly speaking
a desert because it has too dense a ground cover. The main region that
lacks ground cover is in the southwest Kalahari (southeast of Namibia,
South Africa and southwest of Botswana) in the south of
the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. For instance in the ZF Mgcawu
District Municipality of South Africa, total vegetation cover may be
as low as 30.72% on non-protected (from cattle grazing) farmlands
south of Twee Rivieren Rest Camp and 37.74% in the protected (from
cattle grazing) South African side of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier
Park : these southernmost Kalahari xeric savanna areas are
truly semi-deserts. However, in all the remaining Kalahari, except on
salt pans during the dry season, the vegetation cover can be clearly
denser, up to almost 100% in some limited areas.
In an area of about 600,000 km2 in the south and west of the
Kalahari, the vegetation is mainly xeric savanna. This area is the
ecoregion identified by
World Wide Fund for Nature
World Wide Fund for Nature as Kalahari xeric
savanna AT1309. Typical savanna grasses include (Schmidtia,
Stipagrostis, Aristida, and Eragrostis) interspersed with trees such
as camelthorn (
Acacia erioloba), grey camelthorn (Acacia
haematoxylon), shepherd’s tree (Boscia albitrunca), blackthorn
Acacia mellifera), and silver cluster-leaf (Terminalia sericea).
In certain areas where the climate is drier, it becomes a true
semi-desert with ground not entirely covered by vegetation: "open" as
opposed to "closed" vegetation. Examples include the north of the ZF
Mgcawu District Municipality, itself in the north of South Africa, and
Keetmanshoop Rural in the southeast of Namibia. In the north and
east, there are dry forests covering an area of over 300,000 km2
in which Rhodesian teak and several species of acacia are prominent.
These regions are termed Kalahari Acacia-Baikiaea woodlands
Outside the Kalahari "desert", but in the Kalahari basin, a halophytic
vegetation to the north is adapted to pans, lakes that are completely
dry during the dry season, and maybe for years during droughts, such
as in Etosha (
Etosha Pan halophytics AT0902) and Makgadikgadi
Zambezian halophytics AT0908).
A totally different vegetation is adapted to the perennial fresh water
of the Okavango Delta, an ecoregion termed (Zambezian flooded
The Kalahari is home to many migratory birds and animals. Previously
havens for wild animals from elephants to giraffes, and for predators
such as lions and cheetahs, the riverbeds are now mostly grazing
spots, though leopards and cheetahs can still be found. The area is
now heavily grazed and cattle fences restrict the movement of
wildlife. Among deserts of the Southern Hemisphere, the Kalahari most
closely resembles some Australian deserts in its latitude and its mode
of formation. The Kalahari
Desert came into existence approximately
sixty million years ago along with the formation of the African
Although there are few endemic species, a wide variety of animals are
found in the region, including large predators such as the Southern
African lion (Panthera leo melanochaita), South African cheetah
(Acinonyx jubatus jubatus), African leopard (Panthera pardus
pardus), spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), brown hyena (Hyaena
brunnea), and Cape wild dog (Lycaon pictus pictus). Birds of prey
include the secretary bird (Sagittarius serpentarius), martial eagle
(Polemaetus bellicosus) and other eagles, the giant eagle owl (Bubo
lacteus) and other owls, falcons, goshawks, kestrels, and kites. Other
animals include wildebeest, springbok and other antelopes, porcupines
(Hystrix africaeaustralis) and ostriches.
Some of the areas within the Kalahari are seasonal wetlands, such as
Makgadikgadi Pans of Botswana. This area, for example, supports
numerous halophilic species, and in the rainy season, tens of
thousands of flamingos visit these pans.
Threats and preservation
A meerkat in the Kalahari.
African wild dog
African wild dog in CKGR.
The Kalahari has a number of game reserves—Tswalu Kalahari, Southern
Africa's largest private game reserve, the Central Kalahari Game
Reserve (the world's second largest wildlife park), Khutse Game
Reserve and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Animals that live in the
region include brown hyenas, the Kalahari lion, meerkats, giraffes,
common warthogs, jackals, chacma baboons, and several species of
antelope (including the eland, gemsbok, springbok, hartebeest,
steenbok, kudu, and duiker), and many species of birds and reptiles.
The biggest threat to wildlife are the fences erected to manage herds
of grazing cattle, a practice which also removes the plant cover of
the savanna itself. Cattle ranchers will also poison or hunt down
predators from the rangeland, particularly targeting jackals and wild
San people have lived in the Kalahari for 20,000 years as
hunter-gatherers. They hunt wild game with bows and poison arrows
and gather edible plants, such as berries, melons and nuts, as well as
insects. The San 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 live in huts
built from local materials—the frame is made of branches, and the
roof is thatched with long grass. Most of their hunting and gathering
techniques replicate our pre-historic tribes. Their mythology includes
legends of a god Chikara, protecting them from starvation and death by
sacrificing his own life by being hunted in the form of a deer and
other wild game they hunt for food. Bux is the enemy of Chikara and is
in the form of snakes which are found in considerable numbers in the
kalharian desert region. Bantu-speaking Tswana, Kgalagadi, and Herero
and a small number of European settlers also live in the Kalahari
desert. The city
Windhoek is situated in the Kalahari Basin.
Kalahari, San and diamonds
San people § Ancestral land conflict in Botswana
In 1996, De Beers evaluated the potential of diamond mining at Gope.
In 1997, the eviction of the San and Bakgalagadi tribes in the Central
Kalahari Game Reserve from their land began. In 2006, a Botswana
High Court ruled in favor of the San and Bakgalagadi tribes in the
Central Kalahari Game Reserve, claiming their eviction from the
reserve was unlawful. The Government of
Botswana granted a permit to
De Beers' Gem Diamonds/Gope Exploration Company (Pty) Ltd. to conduct
mining activities within the reserve.
Settlements within the Kalahari
In popular culture
This article appears to contain trivial, minor, or unrelated
references to popular culture. Please reorganize this content to
explain the subject's impact on popular culture rather than simply
listing appearances; add references to reliable sources if possible.
Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (August 2017)
Desert Nights, 1929 silent film starring John Gilbert, Ernest
Torrance, and Mary Nolan, set in the Kalahari Desert
The Hunters, 1957 documentary filmed by John Marshall that documents
the efforts of four
San people hunting a giraffe in the Kalahari
Desert of Namibia
World of the Kalahari, 1958 travel book by Laurens van der
Post; a 6-part BBC series of the same name.
Sands of the Kalahari, 1965 adventure film
Lost in the Desert, 1969 adventure film
Animals Are Beautiful People, nature documentary film released in 1974
The Gods Must Be Crazy film series, 1980 onwards
Power of the Sword, 1986 historical novel by Wilbur Smith
A Far Off Place, 1993 film, starring
Reese Witherspoon and Ethan
Randall, based on the books A Story Like the Wind and A Far Off Place
by Laurens Van Der Post
Meerkat Manor, 2005–2009 television series documenting the Kalahari
Africa, 2012 BBC television series' first episode centres on the
^ a b "The Kalahari-Basin". 15 July 2010. Archived from the original
on 25 July 2015.
^ (in French) Les milieux désertiques, Jean Demangeot, Edmond Bernus,
2001. Editor: Armand Colin. ISBN 9782200251970, page 20 in
World Record Temperatures -Highest Lowest Hottest Coldest
^ (in French) Tropicalité Jean Demangeot Géographie physique
intertropicale, pages 44–45, Figure 19, source: Leroux 1989.
^ Goudie, Andrew (2002). Great Warm Deserts of the World: Landscapes
and Evolution. Oxford University Press. p. 204.
^ Thomas, D.S.G. and Shaw, P.A. 1991 'The Kalahari Environment'.
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
^ Martin Leipold, Plants of the Kalahari
^ WikiHow, '
^ Wasiolka, Bernd; Blaum, Niels (2011). "Comparing biodiversity
between protected savanna and adjacent non-protected farmland in the
southern Kalahari". Journal of Arid Environments. 75 (9): 836–841
[Table 2 on p. 838]. doi:10.1016/j.jaridenv.2011.04.011.
^ a b c "
Deserts and xeric shrublands
Deserts and xeric shrublands - Biomes - WWF".
^ Kitchener, A.C.; Breitenmoser-Würsten, C.; Eizirik, E.; Gentry, A.;
Werdelin, L.; Wilting, A.; Yamaguchi, N. (2017). "A revised taxonomy
of the Felidae: The final report of the Cat Classification Task Force
of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group" (PDF). Cat News.
^ "Kalahari xeric savanna - Ecoregions - WWF".
^ C. Michael Hogan (2008) Makgadikgadi, Megalithic Portal, ed. A.
^ Marshall, Leon (16 April 2003), "Bushmen Driven From Ancestral Lands
in Botswana", National Geographic News, Johannesburg, retrieved
^ Workman, James (2009). Heart of Dryness. Walker Publishing.
^ "UN report condemns Botswana's treatment of Bushmen". Survival for
Tribal Peoples. 3 March 2010. Retrieved 31 March 2013.
^ ""The Lost
World of the Kalahari" (1956)". IMDb. Retrieved 8 January
Main, Michael (1987). Kalahari : life's variety in dune and
delta. ISBN 1868120015.
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Coordinates: 23°S 22°E / 23°S 22°E / -23; 22
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