The grasslands of the Kalahari and the moon-like landscape of Makgadikgadi salt pans make a striking contrast with the verdant, game-rich Okavango and Linyanti regions. In the dry season you can explore the vast expanse of the salt pans on light-weight quad bikes, enjoy breathtaking sunsets and learn survival skills from the local San Bushmen. Once part of a ‘super’ lake covering much of central Botswana, the salt pans fill with water in the rainy season, transforming from a harsh, arid landscape into a breading ground for huge flocks of flamingo and other migratory birds. The rains regenerate the grasses, which in turn attract a large migration of zebra and wildebeest. The Kalahari and the Makgadikgadi are a must for those who relish the opportunity to travel off-the-beaten track.
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) is the largest game reserve in the world (52,800 sq km's) and for many years was closed to the public, hence it is know for being one of Africa's last true wild areas.
The term 'desert,' is however not quite accurate when referring to the Kalahari, the region receives an annual rainfall of 60mm-175mm, too high to be classified as a true desert. The Kalahari's vegetation consists of stunted thorn and scrub bush, as well as grasses and acacia's. There are over 400 identified plant species present.
Annual rain season is between December and March when summer temperatures can get quite high. About 1,100 meters above sea level – the largely unchanging flat terrain is occasionally wrinkled by gentle valleys, sand dunes and a large number of pans, which vary in size and complexity. These pans are invaluable to the wildlife as they supply them with nutrients from the salts and the grasses of the pans.
Wildlife in the Kalahari
Famous for being where the waters of the Okavango come to rest the Kalahari has been written about by several explorers, notably David Livingstone and more recently in Cry of the Kalahari by Mark and Delia Owens, during their time studying of the Brown Hyena.
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is the annual destination for the migratory herds such zebra, wildebeest and springbok which come in their thousands. There are many lion in the area, especially the famous Kalahari black-maned lion, as well as leopard, jackals and cheetah. Brown hyenas and wild dogs can also be seen.
Several species of antelopes make the trip to the sweet grasses of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve which include hartebeest, kudu, duiker, eland, springbok, steenbok and gemsbok. Honey badgers are regular visitors as well as ground squirrels and colonies of meerkat - many an hour can be wiled away watching these fascinating animals as they forage and bask in the morning sunshine.
Bird life is rich with the world heaviest flying bird, the Kori Bustard, being common as well as the Black korhaan's continuous daytime calls. Ostrich are seen roaming free, usually in large flocks. All the sand grouse species of southern Africa live here. The Namaqua, which are a sight to see in the mornings, flock to the waterholes in their thousands to drink and bathe in the water holes. Raptors from the most common pale-chanting goshawk to the rock kestrel, bateleurs and brown and tawny eagles are also seen regularly.