15+ Interesting Facts About the Kalahari Desert

  1. The Kalahari is an arid to semi-arid flat area in southern Africa. It covers most of Botswana and parts of Namibia and South Africa.
  2. A vast area of the Kalahari Desert is composed of reddish sand due to a thin layer of iron oxide. The soil is alkaline, very dry, and low in organic material. There are various pans in the desert where the soils are extremely saline, making them toxic to most plant life.
  3. Okavango River flows from Angola and drains into the Kalahari Desert, where it forms the Okavango Swamp, an inland delta. It is one of a few inland delta systems without an outlet to the sea, making it the largest endorheic delta in Africa. This delta is responsible for the diversity of wildlife in the Kalahari Desert.
  4. Different areas in the Kalahari support diverse plant life according to their precipitation level. The southwestern part is the driest region and generally contains short grasses and drought-tolerant shrubs. There are shrubs, grasses, and scattered trees in central Kalahari. The northern Kalahari receives the most rain and is rich in woodlands and several tree species (evergreen, deciduous, and palm).
  5. Animal life in the Kalahari Desert also differs according to the climate in various regions. There are herds of wildebeest, hartebeest, and springbok in the arid southern Kalahari. The northern part is rich in large mammals (elephants, giraffes, buffalos, zebras, and antelopes), small mammals (hares, porcupines, anteaters, etc.), predators (lions, leopards, cheetahs, African wild dogs etc.), reptiles (snakes and lizards), and birds.
  6. Jwaneng Diamond Mine in the Kalahari is the world’s richest diamond mine by value. This mine opened in 1982 and produced 10.6 million carats of high-quality diamonds in 2015. This mine has transformed Botswana from one of the poorest to one of the wealthiest countries in Africa. (Source
    Jwaneng Diamond Mine in the Kalahari
    Jwaneng is the richest diamond mine in the world

  7. The Dragon’s Breath Cave is one of the largest underground lakes in the world. The depth of this 575-foot-wide lake is 670 feet below the part of the Kalahari Desert in Namibia. (Source)
  8. Dunes in the Kalahari Desert formed nearly 10,000 years ago after the drying of Lake Makgadikgadi. These dunes have retained their position for the past 10,000 years due to the abundance of grasses. However, water pumps and extensive cattle grazing have converted vegetation in many areas from grassland to shrubs and woods. Consequently, dunes in this desert have started shifting places in the last four decades. (Source)
  9. The high altitude and dry air determine the temperature in the Kalahari Desert. The summer temperature reaches 43-46 C during the daytime and drops to 21-27 C at night. The winter night temperature can drop to as low as -12 C.
  10. In 2021, researchers discovered ancient calcite crystals, ostrich eggshell fragments, and raw materials for stone tools from the Kalahari Desert. These findings indicate that the initial arrival of humans in this desert was nearly 105,000 years ago. (Source)
  11. The Kalahari is the sixth-largest desert in the world and the second-largest in Africa after the Sahara Desert. Its total area is around 930,000 sq. km (360,000 sq. miles).
  12. Most people of the Kalahari Desert consist of Bantu speakers and San (speak Khoisan), while a small population of Europeans also reside here. San (Bushmen) are the oldest living people in the desert, arriving here thousands of years ago. Bantu Speakers settled here in the late 18th Century, while the Europeans arrived in the 19th Century.
  13. The word Kalahari comes from the local language. Its meaning in the native language is “the great thirst” or “the waterless place.”
  14. Taa language, part of the Khoisan language group, is limited to the Kalahari Desert. Taa and other Khoisan languages are unique for using click consonants. The taa language has more than 100 speech sounds, the highest in any language. (Source)
  15. The Kalahari Desert receives no rainfall for six to eight months, particularly during the winter. Most of the rain falls as summer thunderstorms. The northeastern part gets the highest rainfall (more than 20 inches per year) from the Indian Ocean, while the southwestern half of the desert is the driest region (receives less than 5 inches of rain annually). However, the northeastern portion remains free from surface water because the rain drains into its deep sands (over 200 feet deep).
  16. Hoodia is a cactus-like succulent plant that grows in the Kalahari Desert. It is famous for suppressing appetite, which makes it a popular ingredient in several supplements for weight loss.
  17. Central Kalahari Game Reserve is one of the largest national parks in Africa. It is one of the few places that contain black-maned lions.
  18. A Scottish explorer, David Livingstone, became the first European to cross the Kalahari Desert in 1849. He achieved this milestone by using waterholes for survival and taking assistance from local people.


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