37+ Kalahari Desert Facts: That Will Leave You Desert-Blown!

The Kalahari Desert is a vast, sandy expanse that covers much of Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. It is a large semi-arid desert located in Southern Africa that covers 350,000 square miles. It has vast areas covered by red sand.

It is the second-largest desert in Africa and the seventh-largest desert on the planet. This place has several interesting features, like diverse wildlife, harsh weather, unique geology, and higher rainfall than other deserts.

So, here, we will explore some really amazing facts about this semi-desert called the Kalahari Desert.

Interesting Kalahari Desert Facts

The geography of the Kalahari Desert:

Kalahari Desert

The Kalahari Desert covers an area of almost 360,000 square miles, stretching across Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa. It is a vast and sandy place that is characterized by its sparse vegetation and red sand dunes.

However, unlike other deserts, the sand dunes of the Kalahari Desert are not wandering dunes. The dunes here do not move but remain static, and hence the shape and look of the desert are permanent.

This is a striking contrast to the neighboring Namib Desert because, in the Namib Desert, the contour of the sand dunes shifts with the wind.

It receives higher rainfall than other deserts:

The Kalahari Desert has more amount of rainfall than other deserts, with somewhere between 5 and 10 inches of rainfall every year. Hence, around 500 species of shrubs and plants thrive from this higher amount of rainfall.

The Okavango river runs here:

The Okavango River

The Kalahari Desert is not completely arid. Through this land, the Okavango river flows, running for around 1000 miles in length. This water body starts from Angola, where it is called the Cubango river and flows into the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana.

However, before this river runs into the lands of Botswana, the water drops shockingly for 4 meters, forming a series of rapids known as the Popa Falls.

This Okavango river is the fourth longest river in Southern Africa. Also, the Okavango Delta creates the largest inland river delta in the world.

The climate of the Kalahari Desert:

The Kalahari Desert has a dry and hot climate, with temperatures reaching up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and dropping below freezing at night. This region is also prone to strong winds, which can whip up sandstorms and make navigating difficult.

This desert receives most of its rainfall during the summer months, between November and April. Moreover, the rainfall is highly variable from year to year, and in some years, the region may receive no rainfall at all.

The rare TAA language comes from this region:


Around 5000 people speak the rare TAA language in the world. The is a unique Khoisan language, and a good number of the speakers of this language live in Botswana. However, the root of this native language arises in the population in the Kalahari Desert

This native tongue is also unique for having a lot of consonants and vowels than other spoken languages.

There are several dialects of the TAA language and some other closely linked languages within the wider family of the TUU language. This suggests that the language has a connection from East to West.

The history of the Kalahari Desert:

The Kalahari Desert has a complex and rich history dating back thousands of years. The earliest evidence of human habitation in this specific place dates back to the Stone Age when hunter-gatherer societies roamed this region, depending on hunting and gathering for their subsistence. 

In more recent times, this desert was home to different indigenous tribes, like the San people, who are also called the Bushmen.

The San have lived in this desert for thousands of years and have adapted to its harsh conditions by forming a unique set of survival skills and deep knowledge of the locality.

The meaning of its name:

Kalahari Desert

The name Kalahari is derived from the word ‘Kgala’ in the Tswana language. In this language, the word ‘Kalahari’ translates as the ‘waterless place’ or the ‘dry place.’

Though this desert region receives enough rainfall for plants and some specific trees to survive; still its climate is very harsh and dry, and hence, it is called the Kalahari Desert. 

Moreover, not only just specific plant species, you can find here some unique animals and human populations, like the San bushmen as well.

The San people in the Kalahari Desert:

San Bushmen

The semi-arid Kalahari Desert is home to the San Bushmen population. These indigenous tribe has been living here for thousands of years.

This San tribe had developed several technologies and techniques for surviving in the harsh Kalahari environment, such as the use of poisoned arrows for hunting and the ability to track animals over long distances.

However, recently, the San tribe has faced several challenges, like displacement from their traditional lands and discrimination from other tribes like the Bantu tribe. Many of them were forced to work in the cities as well. 

Other tribes in the Kalahari Desert:

Along with the San Bushmen tribe, the Kalahari Desert is home to other ethnic groups, such as the Bantu-speaking Tswana people, the majority ethnic group in Botswana.

The Tswana have a rich cultural heritage and is well-known for their dance, music, and various traditional crafts. All the tribes living in this desert need to face various types of challenges due to the semi-arid atmosphere of this vast desert.

The Kalahari Desert is rich in Nickel, Coal, and Copper:

The Kalahari Desert

This semi-arid desert is rich in different types of valuable minerals, like copper, nickel, and coal.

There are different types of extraction or mining projects in this place and several management strategies that work to prevent negative impacts on the natural environment of this desert. Thus, many mining companies have established operations in this area.

The Kalahari Desert has one of the world’s biggest diamond mines:

This vast desert is home to one of the biggest diamond mines in the world. Around 30 years ago, diamonds were discovered in the Kalahari Desert, and the year 2014, the Gaghoo Mine first opened. This mine opened after a 3-year construction project.

The first diamonds which were found in this mine went on sale in 2015 on Valentine’s Day. However, there were a lot of controversies due to the local tribe and bushmen facing illegal eviction from the diamond mining companies.

The animals in the Kalahari Desert:


The vast Kalahari Desert is home to several unique animal species that are specially adapted to its semi-arid conditions. A large list of animals is the inhabitants of this dry region spanning parts of Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa.

Some animal species that live in this desert are meerkats, lions, giraffes, baboons, warthogs, jackals, and various reptile species. Here, you can find antelope of almost all variations, such as gemsbok, eland, kudu, springbok, hartebeest, steenbok, etc.

In this desert, all three of Africa’s big cats can be seen:

This famous desert is home to Africa’s all three big and famous cats, such as lions, cheetahs, and leopards. Due to the dry conditions of this region, sometimes they may hide under big trees or gather at watering holes for shade or hunting purposes.

Moreover, this desert is also home to some rarely seen smaller cats, like the African wild cat, the caracal, and the black-footed cat. Here, you can also see several types of hyenas, like brown and spotted hyenas.

The Kalahari Desert was formed more than 60 million years ago:

The Kalahari Desert

This desert was formed more than 60 million years ago. At that time, the area of this desert was mainly a shallow basin. However, what happened after that is unknown to us, but there is a common theory.

The theory is that the Okavango, the Zambezi, and the Kwando rivers all flowed through just a single channel across the Kalahari region. 

However, seismic movements created a ‘super lake’ which dried out later, leaving behind several salt deposits that created a part of this desert known as the Kalahari Desert.

The vegetation in the Kalahari Desert:

The Kalahari supports various types of plants due to its low aridity. As the soil and sand of the Kalahari can retain water more than other deserts, here plant life is rich. In several parts of this desert, vegetation is dense, including shrubs, grasses, and trees.

The native vegetation of this place includes acacia trees and some other herbs. The horned melon, also known as the kiwano fruit, jelly melon, African horned cucumber, and hedged gourd, can all be seen here. Also, in the parts like south and west Kalahari, you can see the xeric savannah.

The Kalahari is a perfect place for birding:


In this desert, you can see different types of birds. Among them, the popular small weaver birds can be seen creating huge nests at the tree tops.

Here, you can seven see some birds of prey like a martial eagle, secretary bird, the giant eagle owl, and some other types of birds like goshawks, falcons, kites, kestrels, etc. Also, here you can see ostriches as well.

As some parts of the Kalahari are seasonal wetlands, here you can see several halophilic species, and in rainy seasons, you can see thousands of flamingos as well.

The Kalahari Desert has three game reserves:

Within the Kalahari region are three significant game reserves: Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the second largest protected area in the world, and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and the Khutes Game Reserve.

Thus, the Kalahari Desert is a fascinating region with diverse wildlife, rich history, and interesting cultures. Despite its harsh conditions, this place is home to various animals, plants, and indigenous populations.

At the end of this article, we learned about 17 really amazing facts about this fascinating part of the world. These facts offer us a clear picture of this famous desert of our planet, known as the Kalahari Desert. To know more, you may visit our website.

 Kalahari Desert Facts
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