Most of Botswana is mantled by
the sands of the Kalahari Desert, so termed because apart from a few
perennial springs, the soils are poor and the landscapes arid. The is
no surface water in the Kalahari and precious little rain. It is not a
true desert though, but rather an arid savanna wilderness - its broad,
largely featureless plains are clad, albeit scantly, by
sweet grasses and patches of Camelthorn, Blackthorn and other Acacias.
The Park is home to scattered groups of Bushman people,
but also to large numbers of game animals that, because they are so
remarkably well adapted, manage to thrive in a region where rainfall
is rare and there are no rivers or permanent waterholes. This area
is really remote.
Few geographic names are as evocative
as "the Kalahari".
This miss-spelt angloism has come to represent the vastness of Africa's
all the romantic undertones of nomadic hunter-gatherers, lions and golden
grasslands gently waving under the canopy of a limitless blue sky.
Yet within this remote expansive landscape there is a rich diversity
of life, each with its own remarkable adaptation to survive the parched
200 Million years ago, the super continent of Gondwana started breaking
up, and formed several basins, one of which, The Kalahari Basin is now
almost completely full of Aeolian sand. Fragments of granite gneiss rock,
which formed the base of this original basin, can be found along the
borders of the country, particularly around Francistown and the southern
Barolon are. These rocks are more than 3.5 billion years of age and are
probably the oldest rocks in the world. Overlaying this deeply buried
foundation stone is a matrix of Karoo deposits, made up of sandstone,
baalt lava's, shale's and thin seams of coal all about 300 million years
80 Million years ago, the eruption of several kimberlitic volcano pipes
punched through the earth's crust. The right temperature and pressure
conditions changed the carbon contained in some of these lavas over a
long period, into the diamonds, which today fuels Botswana's economic
The Kalahari, or "Kgalagadi" as
it is correctly called in Setswana, covers much of Botswana.
With little more than 100 to 200mm of rainfall per year, the fauna and
flora in the Kalahari wages a daily struggle for survival and cannot
cope with the additional pressures on unchecked visitors or the encroaching
It is said that in the Kalahari it is not necessarily the strongest
or most intelligent of species that survive, but rather those that can
best adapt to change. This being the case the wildlife of the Kalahari
should be able to survive almost anything, as they have made remarkable
adaptations in the past to overcome this challenging environment.
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve covering an area just under the combined
size of Holland and Belgium, is truly immense, and the irony is that
when it was declared in 1961 one of the primary purposes was not necessarily
to protect the animals that lived in the area but to protect the people
that lived there.
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is
one of several reserves and parks in Botswana that seek to protect
the unique wilderness environment, its fauna and its flora from human
encroachment and spoliation. The Park is huge, 60,000 square kilometres
(23,166 miles2) in total area, a fact which makes it the
world's second largest conservancy.
This great, forbidding place manages
to sustain an amazing quantity and diversity of animals.
Herds of graceful Springbok and Gemsbok, Blue Wildebeest, Eland, Red
Hartebeest, animals that are superbly adapted to the bone-dry conditions,
roam the great sunlit spaces. The movements of the herds are determined
by the rare rains and the gift of the short-lived grasses they bring.
Many of these animals also extract water from such unlikely sources
as the dew-covered
plants, from deep roots of succulents, or from the moisture-laden Wild
Cucumber and Tsamma Melon.
In turn, the antelopes provide food for the carnivores of the desert
- Cheetah, Lion, Leopard, both Brown and Spotted Hyena, and Wild Dog
The Park also supports populations of
Giraffe, Ostrich, Eland, the well-documented Suricate (or Meerkat),
Bat-eared Fox, Honey Badger, Jackal, Porcupone, and many other species.
As in most desert biomes, there are snakes and other reptiles but also
a great diversity of bird species.
The Kalahari also has its indigenous human presence: it is home to
the last of the "traditional" Bushman communities - descendants of
the once-dominant semi-nomadic hunter-gatherer inhabitants of these
thirstlands. The pressures of Western culture however, have proved
irresistible, and few, if any, of these people now follow, in any
complete sense, the ways of their ancestors.
The Bushmen of Southern Africa are renowned, both for their ancient
culture and their unique ways of surviving. Even in the most inhospitable
environments, such as the arid Kalahari, hunting and gathering provide
sustenance as it has done for thousands of years. The ancestors of the
Bushmen were the first-known inhabitants of the sub-continent.
Fascination with the Bushmen has many dimensions. The heritage of their
ancestors includes artefacts and rock art. The contemporary arts and
crafts produced by various groups of Bushmen today in Botswana have received
international acclaim. The veldcraft and hunting skills of the Bushmen
are legendary, and their complex traditions and social life are of continuing
interest to people who are intrigued by the rich cultural fabric of sub-Saharan
The Bushmen or San as they are also called
are one of Africa's oldest peoples. These "little yellow people" as
some writers describe them, unfortunately can't live the subsistence
way of life
It is also interesting to note that the Khoi Khoi (herders) who lived
more along the coastal areas and parts of South Africa did not survive
the Colonial changes, however the Bushmen (hunter gatherers) who mainly
lived in arid semi desert areas survived to tell their tales, although
their lives was far more difficult.
Needless to say, present-day Bushmen do not live in the Stone Age, but
their way of life - collecting plant foods and hunting game - is the
oldest known human economy, on which provides a lining even in the vast,
arid stretches of the Kalahari.
Although their style of living seems simple, it is based on an intimate
understanding of the environment, as well as traditional knowledge that
may go back many generations.
The Bushmen also have an extraordinary rich cultural and social life.
Anthropologists have extensively studied all their story-telling traditions,
dances, music, traditional healing practices, arts and craft making.
San-speakers today are acutely aware of their heritage and of the need
to preserve it.
It is often thought that the Kalahari Bushmen were driven into this
inhospitable region through conflict with other African peoples and European
settlers, but archaeology shows that hunter- gatherers have lived in
the Kalahari for millennia, developing unique ways of dealing with the
Another misconception has it that the
Bushmen lived in isolation, but they have in fact been interacting
with their neighbours for many centuries. Even in the arid Kalahari,
the veld provides people with all the materials
required for their everyday lives.
complete list of Recommended Safari Reading
Cry of the Kalahari by Mark & Delia
Owen is an entertaining and readable account of an American
couple who studied brown hyena in Botwana's Deception
Lost World of the Kalahari by Laurens
van der Post is an anthropological classic about the San people of
of Central Kalahari
/ Land Activity Table for Botswana camps: Water/Land
Times between Botswana camps: Fly
further information about Botswana, click More