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The Kalahari covers around 80% of Botswana’s land area – it is the largest continuous area of sand on earth and touches nine countries!
Desert terrain often has the reputation of being barren land; however, here you will find there is actually a great diversity of plant and animal life. The flora and fauna of the area has learnt to adapt to these conditions and manages to flourish. Antelopes such as springbok, gemsbok and eland have adapted to such an extent that they can survive without water if necessary.
There are a number of game reserves and national parks that are located on the Botswana Kalahari, giving visitors the opportunity to see a variety of bird and animal life. Species such as wildebeest, zebra, kudu, red hartebeest, duiker, steenbok, lion, cheetah, leopard and hyena are widely found here.
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is the second largest wildlife reserve in the world covering an area of around 53,000km². During the rains the reserve boasts a variety of wildlife, however, at other times of year the animals tend to be more widely distributed and are often difficult to find. That said, driving through such a true wilderness area is a fantastic experience in its own right.
One of the oldest game reserves in Botswana, the Khutse Game Reserve is home to species such as giraffe, wildebeest, kudu, duiker, lion, leopard, cheetah, brown hyena and springbok and gemsbok. Wildlife tends to congregate around the pans in the reserve and around the artificial waterholes that help to supplement the water supply during drier periods.
There are a number of small villages surrounding the reserve where it is often possible to pick up a souvenir or two to remind you of your visit.
Known collectively as the Kgalagadi Villages, Hukuntsi, Tshane, Lokgwabe and Lehututu are the main stopping off point before entering into the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Hukuntsi is the main place to stock up on supplies before heading off on safari.
Botswana and South Africa signed a treaty in 1999 to create the first transfrontier peace park in Africa. The park officially opened in 2002 and with its absence of manmade barriers has provided a conservation area that is large enough to maintain examples of two ecological processes – the large scale migratory movements of wild ungulates and predation by large carnivores.
A visit to the small village of D’Kar is a great way to learn more about the San people as well as to stock up on souvenirs. Run by the D’Kar Trust, there are a number of ongoing projects in the village that are helping to provide the local villagers with alternative sources of income through activities such as fabric painting, screen printing, tanning and leatherwork, as well as arranging educational workshops on a wide variety of issues. There is a Cultural Centre as well as a small shop where you can pick up some amazing mementos of your time in Botswana.
© ecoTravel Africa 2011