SOME DESERTS OF THE WORLD
, arid plateau region, c.100,000 sq mi (259,000 sq km), in Botswana,
Namibia, and South Africa. The Kalahari, covered largely by reddish sand,
lies between the Orange and Zambezi rivers and is studded with dry lake
beds. Yearly rainfall varies from 5 in. (12.7 cm) in the southwest, where
there are active sand dunes, to 20 in. (50.8 cm) in the northeast. Grass
grows throughout the Kalahari in the rainy season, and some parts also
support low thorn scrub and forest. Grazing and a little agriculture are
possible in certain areas.
|Many game animals live in
the Kalahari. Its human inhabitants are mainly San,
who are nomadic hunters, and Khoikhoi,
who are hunters and farmers; Tswana and Herero herders have moved into the
area. The Kalahari has become a popular tourist destination; it is the
site of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
One of Africa's largest game reserves,
it is a sanctuary for the animals and birds of the Kalahari. The park
combines South Africa's Kalahari Gemsbok National Park.
|The Kalahari is one of
Africa's last wildlife paradises. Animals that live in the region include
brown hyenas, lions, meerkats, several species of antelope, and many types
of birds and reptiles. Vegetation in the Kalahari consists of dry
grassland and scrubby acacias. Grasses thrive in the Kalahari during the
summer rainy season. African people known as the San (or Bushmen) were the
first known human inhabitants of the Kalahari.
Their survival skills and adaptation to the harsh Kalahari wilderness have become legendary. Today, only a small number of the San follow their traditional way of life in the Kalahari. Modern civilization is threatening the natural resources of the Kalahari. Mineral companies have discovered large coal, copper, and nickel deposits in the region. In addition, one of the largest diamond mines in the world is located at Orapa in the Makgadikgadi, a depression of the northeastern Kalahari. The Kalahari Desert is also one of the most treacherous deserts in the world. While it does not look like a desert, it behaves like one. During the short rainy season it transforms into a great paradise of lush vegetation and a colorful and lively fauna. However, the moment the rains are gone the Kalahari becomes dry and moody. It can rain very heavily in one day, rain that produces floods that sweep everything while the next day can be as dry as ever.
|Above everything else,
Kalahari is a place of mystery, with legends and tales that go far into
the past when the great tribe of the Bushmen lived undisturbed and free.
Kalahari is Bushmen's last place to survive in a world that constrained
them to this last territory. The mystery of the Kalahari brings in another
aspect of the beauty of this desert; spotted with giant Baobabs, acacia
trees and tall grass. The desert is part of the huge sand basin that
reaches from the Orange River up to Angola, in the west to Namibia and in
the east to Zimbabwe.
The sand masses were created by the erosion of soft stone formations. The wind shaped the longish sand ridges, which are so typical of the landscape of the Kalahari. Only in recent geological history, 10 to 20,000 years ago, were the dunes stabilized through vegetation, so the area should actually be called a dry savannah. Unlike the dunes of the Nimbi Desert, those of the Kalahari are not wandering. The dominant vegetation: grasses, thorny shrubs and Acacia trees, can survive long drought periods of more than ten months every year. The remarkable nests of the weaver bird are frequently seen in the camel thorn and other acacia trees. These inconspicuous little birds, which resemble sparrows, live in huge communal nests with a diameter of up to two meters. At any given time, hundreds of lively little birds are breeding and feeding their youngsters in such a nesting colony.