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Monday, August 23, 2010

The Amazing Kalahari Desert

First time visitors to southern Africa seldom visit the Kalahari. They are typically more focused on Cape Town, the Winelands and a Safari in greater Kruger area. But the Kalahari is a spectacularly beautiful part of Africa with huge skies, few people and abundant wildlife.

The Kalahari is a semi-desert covering 900,000 Square kilometers (350,000 square miles) in the South West of Africa. It covers parts of South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. The desert is characterized by recent windblown red (iron) sands over white calcite deposited salts of thousands of millions of years ago and as with all deserts there is no surface water.

Amazingly large predators, antelope, birds and insects exist – all waiting for the annual rain which creates windows of survival or death. During August/September winter slowly regresses from the bone dry land and temperatures start to rise. This is when the small carnivores start their breeding activity.

A magnificent Black-maned Kalahari Lion photographed on my last trip to the Kalahari
More on the lions here

By the end of August the Sociable Weaver chicks are hatching and clambering for food in the large family nests, each nest can accommodate more than 100 families. As it is still too cold for reptiles such as snakes these chicks survive well, even when wind and dust storms blow over the trees and nests. By September the harvester ants can been seen collecting grass cuttings to take down into their mounds. The insect eaters are feathered and furred and ant bears have a time of plenty.

Unfortunately the antelope suffer their most at this time as feed value is almost nil, temperatures are rising and there is no available water, in light of this they lose weight and many die. This is when the predators and scavengers have their time of plenty.
The acacia trees start flowering – insects and animals utilize these flowers to their full extent. All is tinder dry and large clouds with lightning bolts occur. At this time fires are devastating to the animals and limited grass cover, often bird, insect and reptile homes in trees are burnt.

Short swift localized cloud bursts occur and the intensity of a sudden deluge can be devastating especially near river beds where the clay beds are impervious. The little creatures are drowned and the river floods the river bank areas with plant and debris being washed away. Water drips down from the trees and water may even flow in the river beds for a short while.

Millipedes and beetles emerge to take advantage of soft soil on the riverside. Trees and grasses burst into life providing the time of plenty for the antelope which are now calving. Insects appear by the millions and set about breeding. The rains are brief and short lived. Temperatures soar into November, December and January. The grasses and Tsama melon sustain life until the next rains……

Famous inhabitants of the Kalahari are the San or Bushmen people who have lived in the Kalahari for 20,000 years as hunter-gatherers. Today there are more luxurious options for accommodation. For example Tswalu Kalahari in South Africa.

You'll find more on this beautiful lodge on our website here

One last thing- the night sky has more stars than you can possibly imagine. Period!

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1 Comments:

Anonymous mona said...

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March 26, 2011 at 3:09 AM  

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