On this page of Interesting Africa Facts we list facts about the Kalahari Desert which is one of the many interesting Africa landforms. The Kalahari is not really a desert it is a large semi-arid sandy savannah. Many parts of the Kalahari receive significant rainfall (over 9.8 inches / 250 millimeters annually) and have quite a bit of vegetation. This information is written for both kids and adults.
Kalahari Desert Facts - General
The Kalahari Desert came into existence approximately sixty million years ago along with the formation of the African continent.
The desert covers approximately 350,000 square miles (900,000 square kilometers) encompassing most of Botswana and parts of Namibia and South Africa.
The desert gets its name from the Tswana word Kgala ("the great thirst"), or Kgalagadi, Khalagari, or Kalagare, meaning "a waterless place".
The Kalahari Desert actually has huge areas that are good for grazing and support more animals than are found in a true desert.
The Kalahari has several game reserves and other conservation areas. The reserves include the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (The second largest protected area in the world), Khutse Game Reserve, and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
The Kalahari gets very hot; it can reach temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in the summer. In winter the desert has a dry, cold climate where the temperature can reach 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit).
The Okavango River is the only permanent river that flows through the desert. During the rainy season (October through April) temporary rivers such as the Nata and several tributaries which flow into the Limpopo River are formed.
Kalahari Desert Facts - People
Even though survival in the Kalahari Desert can be challenging there are several tribes that make it their home. These tribes include the San (San Bushmen), Kung, Khomani, Khios (Hottentots people), Nama (or Namaqua) and Griqua people.
A small number of Europeans also live in the Kalahari.
The San Bushmen have lived in the Kalahari for approximately twenty thousand years and are considered to be the oldest culture in the world. A small group of these people still follow the traditional lifestyle as hunters-gatherers, as their tribe has done for thousands of years.
The Kung (!Kung) people, like the San people, were traditionally hunters and gatherers. To pronounce "Kung" correctly you must make a clicking sound before the 'k' sound, this sound is usually expressed in writing with an exclamation mark.
Kalahari Desert Facts - Animals
Survival in the Kalahari is difficult, animals need to be able to withstand extreme climates (both hot and cold). Evolution has produced some amazing animals native to this region who are well adapted for survival. Here we list some facts about these animals.
One of the most common Kalahari animals is the Gemsbok/Oryx (Oryx gazelle). This animal is well equipped for survival in the extremely rough conditions of the desert.
Many of the world's most dangerous cats can be found in parts of the Kalahari. These include lions, leopards, cheetahs, and caracals.
Another animal found in this region is the eland (Taurotragus Oryx). It is the largest of all the African antelope. They can weigh up to 1985 pounds (900 kg).
The desert is actually the home to some amphibious animals. These include the bushveldt rain frog and the tremolo sand frog that live in the southern Kalahari where there is a long rainy season.
Kalahari Desert Facts - Plants
Over four hundred species of plants have been identified in the Kalahari Desert.
The Kalahari's sand is better than most deserts at retaining water, and therefore allows for more plant life than most deserts.
The vegetation in the arid southern regions consist mostly of grasses including Eragrostis (lovegrass), Aristida, and Stipagrostis, as well as scattered trees and shrubs including Acacia, Colophospermum, Commiphora, and Terminalia.
As you head north in the desert the arid lands give way to areas of greater and more diverse plant life characterized by a denser population of Acacia trees and shrub thickets. In the north east part of the Desert there are actually woodlands.