The Kalahari Desert
The ‘cry of the Kalahari’ echoes around 20,000 miles square of Botswana. Black-maned lions and oryx are just two of the wildlife species found in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
Stunning sunrises and sunsets over the Kalahari, star-filled night skies, and seeing the famed black-maned lions of the Kalahari. We visited in green season with its beautiful flowers and grasses, the desert at its best and most lush.
On safari in Botswana’s Kalahari Desert, specifically the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), you will find wide open, dramatic desert scenery, more varied wildlife than you might expect such as zebras, springbok, brown hyenas and lions, and it is a place you can learn something of the indigenous tribes of the San Bushmen who until very recent times lived freely here. Some of the story of this desert was beautifully described in Mark and Delia Owens’ book, the Cry of the Kalahari which was set in Deception Valley.
This huge area of arid grasslands, low sand dunes, salt pans and acacia woodland is home to diverse predators and prey, but it’s a harsh place to survive, especially in the unforgiving dry season. The green season (December to March) is transformative, though, as the desert pulls on a temporary coat of lush green grass and seasonal waterholes fill attracting thousands of antelopes, with predators hard on their heels.
Almost any safari holiday in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana is going to be combined with visiting the Okavango Delta and other highlights of this amazing country, whether you choose a group mobile safari or a fly-in safari. We’re happy to tailor-make the best safari for your wishes and interests.
- Wildlife in the Kalahari: Being so arid, the desert does not support anything like the same wildlife populations as northern Botswana, however, especially in the green season, you could see a good diversity of animals and birds on your safari.
Predators found here include lions (including the famed black-maned lions), cheetahs, spotted hyenas and also rare brown hyenas, black-backed jackals, bat-eared foxes, honey badgers, and even a few leopards.
Other wildlife you could see includes: a good population of springbok, lots of oryx, plus wildebeest, eland, hartebeest, giraffes, kudu, zebras, mongooses…
Birdlife in CKGR includes ostriches, various bustard species, francolins and secretary birds amongst others. November to April are the better months for birdwatching in the Kalahari Desert.
- When to go to the Kalahari: Life is drawn to water, and so it is that the Kalahari comes to life after the rains. In Botswana the rains can start in November, so by December/January until they end in about March, the desert blooms and tempts wildlife with its tasty, lush new grasses and flowers.
You can, however, visit the Kalahari at any time of year to experience the dramatic landscape – just be aware of the temperature extremes you could come across (see our ‘When to Go’ page for Botswana).
- San Bushmen of the Kalahari: CKGR was originally established because it was the home of many San Bushmen, traditional hunter-gatherers indigenous to this area. It was their sanctuary. Sadly, in the late 90s and early 2000s the government began to resettle the San into outlying villages such as Ghanzi. It was made illegal for them to hunt (and therefore live) in the reserve.
This is obviously an extremely sad situation, however there are still a few San Bushmen who now work in the reserve (for lodges) and who share some aspects of their traditional lifestyle with interested travellers. It is a fascinating privilege to learn from these guides.
- Places to stay in the Kalahari: We offer some mobile safaris which include the Kalahari, and if you join one of these you’ll be staying in tents.
However, there is also a reasonable choice of lodges either inside the reserve -- including Kwando’s Tau Pan lodge and Wilderness Safaris’ Kalahari Plains – or on the outskirts, such as Ker & Downey’s Dinaka Safari Lodge or privately-owned Deception Valley Lodge.