The Kalahari Desert is a large grassland in South Africa in an area 900,000 Sq.kms (350,000 Sq.ms) surrounding eastern parts of Namibia and large areas of Botswana. It is an excellent travel destination in Africa. It is not a real desert but called one because of the sand
layer that extends from the Northern Cape province of South Africa into the central African rain forests. There are vertical walled hills called kopjes. Apart from kopjes, three surfaces are there in Kalahari desert: – sand sheets, longitudinal dunes and vleis(pans).
Geography of the Desert
Dating back to the period of Pleistocene epoch, i.e., around (2,588,000 to 11,700) years ago, sand sheets were believed to be formed and settled there. In some areas, they seem to have a fluvial origin, a large part of them are wind-formed. Eastern part of Kalahari are the sand sheets. The sand depth exceeds 200 feet. The sand is red in some areas because of a thin layer of iron oxide that coats the sand dunes.
Western parts of Kalahari desert are surrounded by long sand dunes roughly to the north and north-west. You will be surprised to know that the length of them extends to 1 mile, 20 to 200 feet in height and several hundred feet in width. Each dune is separated from its neighbour by a wide parallel path called straat(Street or Lane) which is easy to travel.
Vleis or pans are desert waste drainage system at the end of ephemeral streams. Many feature from an earlier period of greater precipitation. Because of scarce water flow to the sea from Kalahari. Each stream ended in a dry depression. Streams dried up, the beautiful silt particles were deposited with soluble calcium minerals and salts precipitated out of the evaporating water. The result is panned, vleis without any vegetation, hardened by the minerals, covered by stagnant water where the salt content is low but vleis sometimes become covered with grass after a rainfall.
The famous British Tv programme produced by Oxford Scientific Films for Animal Planet International was premiered and shot in Kalahari desert. People use Taa dialect in Kalahari desert. This language consists of the most vowels and consonants. In Tswana dialect, Kalahari means ‘great thirst’ a dialect used in Botswana. 500 types of vegetation blossom between rainy season.
Vegetation of the Desert
The Northern part of the desert is full of thick vegetation whereas there is not much vegetation in the southern part of Kalahari desert. In such harsh conditions in Kalahari plant is rooted deep in order to exist for a long time and get water from top to bottom and to offer them support.
Grasses, bushes, trees like acacia, camelthorn, hoodia prickly plant, etc. grow in such adverse conditions in Kalahari. Baobabs are found nearer Okavango Delta. Baobabs are named Baines’ Baobabs after the name of a 19th-century cartographer Thomas Baines.
Summers are fiery hot and sweltering in Kalahari desert and in winters the temperature goes below 0-degree celsius. Okavango River is the only river that flows through the desert in Southwest Africa.
Fauna of Desert
Fauna found in Kalahari are lions, cheetahs or panthers, zebras, elephants, antelopes, wild hunting dogs, foxes, jackals, hyenas, porcupines, snakes, etc. It is the sixth greatest desert by zone on earth and second greatest in Africa after the Sahara desert.
Natives of Desert
Aboriginals or primitive natives are found in some parts of the desert. The hills in Kalahari are not wandering. Earlier Kalahari desert was full of life; there were countless lakes in the desert. But today, in place of these lakes, salt pans are left. Makgadikgadi Pan is one such pan which was once a lake and covered an area larger than Switzerland but dried up several thousand years ago.
The successful game Mario Kart highlights a track named Kalimari desert. The name of the course is a pun of the real life desert, Kalahari desert in southern Africa. A proposal was made to make Kalahari desert productive for farming with a watering system plan, but nothing came out in the result.
In 1885, a Canadian Guillermo Farini was the first Westerner to cross the unexplorable Kalahari desert. After returning to Europe, he also published a book detailing his experiences which included descriptions of unusual rock formations which he believed to be the ruins of the buildings he saw there. He described Kalahari desert as lost city where he found man-made walls and rocks with art work. So this article provides immense information about the Kalahari desert for the readers to know.