SAN CULTURE ♥ WILDLIFE ♥ UNENDING SPACE
This area dominates central Botswana holding one of the biggest protected areas in Africa, namely, Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The Kalahari Plains are popular for significant populations of wildebeest, gemsbok, lion, cheetah, brown hyaena. The key bird species to be found are crimson-breasted shrike, violet eared waxbill and the southern pied babbler.
In the Kgalagadi Region, the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is an ultimate remote safari destination — and at its best when visited on an intrepid mobile safari in the early months of the year when the beautiful valleys between dunes become lush with vegetation, attracting thousands of springbok and gemsbok. You’ll also find good numbers of ostrich and giraffe, herds of wildebeest, excellent cheetah and the Kalahari’s famous black-maned lions. Less easy to spot are the leopard and brown hyena — common residents of the Central Kalahari. Overall, this is a very arid region — desert-like in the summer, cold in the winter. Ghanzi is the main city for this region. One of the top attractions for visitors is visiting a village of the San bushmen with a guide and observing their unique way of life. The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the Southern Kalahari, straddles Botswana and South Africa and is the first formally declared Transfrontier Park in Africa – being designed to serve as a model for conservation in the 21st Century. On the Botswana side is the Mabuasehube (‘red earth’ in Segologa) area of the Park; one of the world’s largest and most pristine wildernesses with shifting sand dunes and herds of Eland and Gemsbok.
Covering a full 84 percent of Botswana’s land area, the semi-arid Kgalagadi terrain dominates most of the country. Refuting the classical perception of desert as a barren, vegetation-less, useless land, the Kgalagadi (Kalahari) is rich in natural resources.
Within Botswana, the Kgalagadi embraces two unique geographical regions: the Makgadikgadi pans, which research reveals to have been a huge prehistoric lake, suggesting that the Kgalagadi was at one time much wetter than it now is, and the wetland delta system of the Okavango.
Many desert animals, including springbok, gemsbok, eland, and even the Kalahari lion, are supremely adapted to its semi-arid conditions, and can live without water, though they will drink if water is available.
Antelope derive their moisture by feeding at night and early morning (when plants regain moisture), by eating succulent plants (such as wild watermelons or wild cucumbers), and by remaining inactive during the heat of the day to conserve body moisture.
Kalahari lions appear to gain their moisture from the body fluids of their prey. Other common Kgalagadi animal species include wildebeest, zebra, kudu, red hartebeest, duiker, steenbok, and the predators, lion, cheetah, leopard, and both spotted and brown hyena.
Human occupation of the Kgalagadi goes as far back as the Early Stone age. Its Middle Stone age inhabitants, the San, developed survival strategies superbly adapted to – and in harmony with – their environment, masterfully extracting food resources from both the land and animals. Today, settlements, including cattle farms, dot many areas of the desert.
Five game reserves and national parks have been set aside in Botswana’s vast share of the Kgalagadi. Namely, The Central Kalahari game Reserve, Khutse game Reserve, Makgadikgadi pans game Reserve, Nxai Pan National Park, and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. All are remotely situated, separated by vast distances; and for many visitors, the sensation of unending space and pure isolation are the principle destinations.
Images credited to Botswana Tourism