Kalahari Desert Facts – Where Is It On The Map, What Plants & Animals Are Found There?

The Kalahari Desert is a large basin-like plain located in the southern part of Africa. The semi-arid desert which appears to be endless got its name from the local Tswana word Kgala, which means “the great thirst” or Khalagari, meaning a waterless place. However, the sand can retain water quite better than some of the other deserts you have probably heard of.

Continent and Map Location

The desert, located in Africa, occupies a large part of Botswana, the northernmost part of the Northern Cape Province in South Africa, and the eastern third of Namibia. It also merges with the Namib desert of Namibia in the southwest. The Kalahari has a long north-south extent which is roughly 1,000 miles, while the east-west stretch is about 600 miles.

Kalahari Desert Animals, Plants

Although a land of extremes, droughts and unpleasantly rough weather, the Kalahari is one of the deserts where one can actually notice a variety of plant and animal life including cheetahs, zebras, black-maned lions, flamingos, hyenas, and leopards.

The Kalahari desert hosts a number of game reserves like Tswalu Kalahari, the largest private game reserve in South Africa and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve which is the second largest protected area in the world at the moment. Apart from these popular game reserves, there are several other ones inhabited by the Kalahari lion, meerkats, chacma baboons, brown hyenas, warthogs, jackals, giraffes, and different species of antelopes, birds and reptiles.

The World’s largest Antelope known as Eland is also found in this area. The Eland can weigh up to 2,000 pounds.

Kalahari Desert Facts
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Despite the fact that the Kalahari desert is semi-arid, it supports various kinds of plants. Nearly 500 species of vegetation there during the rainy season and because of the desert soil and sand has more moisture retaining ability than normal desert sand, plant life thrives in some parts. While the northern part of the desert is known to have more dense vegetation, the southern part is naturally dryer and so the plants here survive in the harsh environment by growing deep root in order to get to the depth of water.

Majority of vegetations that grow on this desert are grasses and shrubs. These include plants such as African horned cucumber, acacia trees, hedged gourd, the Kiwano fruit, and some species of cactus like the Hoodia cactus.

The Kalahari desert, however, supported more plants and animals than it does now. Almost 1,000 years ago, the desert had several large lakes, with time the lakes evaporated and left large salt craters or pans that can still be seen up-to-date.

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Facts About Kalahari Desert

1. Physiographic

Did you know that the Kalahari Desert is featureless? Yap, this undulating, sand-covered plain that is about 3,000 feet above sea level is kind of featureless. Its bedrock is exposed in the low yet vertical- walled hills that are called kopjes.

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 2. The entire western Kalahari Desert has long chains of dunes, and they are oriented roughly to the northwest? The dunes can measure a length of at least 1 mile and a height of about 20 – 200 feet. The dunes are separated from one another by some broad parallel depression that has locally been named straat – meaning a lane or street.

3. Coverage area

The Kalahari Desert covers an amazing 350,000 square miles. It is known as a semi-desert as it gets some little rainfall and can support more animals and plants compared to the other conventional dry deserts.

See Also: 20 Happy and Beautiful Pictures from South Africa

Kalahari Desert Facts
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4. The desert is quite rich in mineral resources. Did you know that the Kalahari Desert has some of the largest diamond mines in the whole World? The area is also very rich in nickel, copper, and coal. If you thought the Kalahari Desert is an area with minimal activity, you will eventually notice that it is quite an active zone.

5. The Kalahari Desert with its vast space has a variety of landscapes and covers three major countries. As I had earlier stated, this vast area covers part of South Africa, most of Botswana and parts of Namibia. Meaning this Desert is situated in the southern part of Africa. The desert hosts the World’s oldest culture known as the San Bushmen. This culture has lived in this desert for almost 20,000 years.

6. Did you know that this desert features in two great movies; first is the comedy known as “The Gods Must be Crazy” and the famous animation ‘The Lion King’. The desert is home to various species of birds. During the summer, temperatures in this desert reach a peak of 100 degrees and then freeze during the winter. And it has only one permanent flowing river known as Okavango River.

7. The Kalahari is the second largest desert in Africa after the Sahara and is the sixth in the whole World.

8. It is believed that the Kalahari Dessert came into existence approximately 60 million years back almost the same time with the formation of the continent. The desert has some huge subterranean water reserves, the Dragon’s Breath Cave is an example and it is one of the largest documented non-sub-glacial underground lakes in the entire universe.

The Kalahari Dessert closely resembles some of the Australian deserts in the same latitude and the mode of formation. It seems to have a lot of activities going on and proves to be quite an interesting place to experience game reserves and do so many other things as a tourist.

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Andile Smith
Andile Smith
Andile provides articles on anything from Politics, Sports, History and entertainment to funny, creepy and weird. His passion for writing allows him to take what is ordinary and transform it into a real masterpiece. He's a true storyteller with a passion for tech and literature


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