Ultimate Guide to the Namibian Kalahari
Although Namibia may be synonymous with the towering red dunes of the Sossuvlei, the mighty Fish River Canyon, or the vast arid pans of Etosha National Park, the nation is also home to another remarkable landmark: the Kalahari Desert.
Characterized by golden grass plains and scarlet sands, this sprawling region is not actually a desert in the traditional sense because the area attracts too much rainfall. In fact, The Kalahari receives an average of about 8 inches of rain every year, earning it the description as a ‘fossil desert’.
Sprawling across an area of 930,000 km2, The Kalahari Desert is vast. The desert covers large parts of Botswana and the north-western region of South Africa, as well as parts of eastern and southern Namibia.
Over the last few decades, particularly since Namibia gained independence from South Africa in the 1990s, thousands of tourists have flocked to the Namibian Kalahari every year in order to enjoy a range of incredible activities, from hiking to game drives.
If you’re planning on booking a self-drive safari adventure, or a private guided tour of Namibia then a trip to the Kalahari should definitely form part of your itinerary. In this guide we give you the lowdown on everything the Kalahari has to offer, including details on the best time to visit and the best places to stay.
When is the best time to visit the Kalahari in Namibia?
The Kalahari Desert is an all-year-round destination and visitors are welcome 355 days a year. However, arguably the best time to visit is during the wet season, which traditionally tuns between November-April.
During the wet season, or green season, the daytime temperatures are more comfortable and he arid landscape transforms into a lush oasis for wildlife, with thousands of animal species migrating from the south to enjoy grazing on the grassy plains.
If viewing wildlife up close is high on your Namibia safari agenda then this is definitely the time for you. Hold you camera at the ready and be on the look out for wildebeest, giraffes and gemsbok, as well as cheetahs and the Kalahari’s famed black-maned lions.
Best Activities in the Namibian Kalahari
Over the centuries the Kalahari Desert has been home to bushman, or San people, a group of native-hunter gatherers with roots that stretch back over 20,000 years.
Although the community have faced hardships in modern times, the tribe is still going strong and intrigued visitors can even book a Bushman walk, an activity that enables participants to learn about the desert survival skills of the San people.
Journey into their lives and find out more about the amazing click language, or admire some Bushman rock art. If you’ve got the stomach for it you can even watch them act out their hunting techniques!
Arguably the biggest reason many visitors want to explore the Namibian Kalahari is to get up close and personal with some magnificent wildlife. The good news is that private guided tours of the Kalahari are easy to book, and the best safari operators will offer private tours as part of a wider Namibian safari itinerary package.
One of the most popular areas in the Namibian Kalahari to explore on a safari drive is the private Intu Afrika reserve. Hop in a 4x4 and you will be escorted be an expert guide as you the navigate the deep red dunes and inter-dune valleys that are covered in lush vegetation.
Giraffe, oryx, blue and black wildebeest, Burchell’s zebra, and springbok are just some of the wildlife species to look out for. The reserve also boasts a high density of bat-eared foxes and meerkats. Watching these pesky creatures foraging under the guard of ‘sentries’ is something not to be missed!
Quiver Tree Forest Exploration
Situated in the Kalahari, around 14 km north-east of the town of Keetmanshoop, lies the fascinating Quiver Tree Forest, an area famed for housing around 250 specimens of the quiver tree.
In reality, the quiver tree is not actually a tree, rather a plant of the genus aloe. However, their incredible shape and distinct branches are a true sight to behold. In fact, the Quiver Tree Forest is a real haven for photography enthusiasts, many of whom are drawn to the area in bid to take some magical shots; particularly near dusk when the shadows of the quiver trees extend for what seems like miles!
For history buffs, in centuries gone you’ll be interested to know that humans used these plants to craft arrow-quivers, and today they hold tremendous ecological value. The tree serves as important nesting site for huge numbers of sociable weavers. These incredible bird construct their nest amongst the branches where they can escape from predators and scorching temperatures.
Where to stay in the Namibian Kalahari
Just like other regions of Namibia, such as Etosha National Park, the Namibian Kalahari is home to an array of stylish lodges and cosy camps that offer visitors everything they need.
For privacy, seclusion, and all the amenities you could possibly need check out the accommodation options at Intu Afrika, which is one of the most popular resorts in the entire Namibian Kalahari area.
Intu Afrika boasts three separate lodges, each featuring their own kitchen, bathroom, and comfortable furnishings.
Zebra lodge boasts rooms that are nestled amongst old Acacia erioloba trees so you can truly feel at one with nature. There’s even a stylish swimming pool to-boot so you can cool off after a long day exploring the game reserve!
For added privacy you can even stay in one of ten rustic chalets that are dotted around the exclusive Camelthorn Lodge. Here guests can kick-back in style, with each chalet comprising of a luxury bedroom, sitting area and fully stocked bar nearby.
Budget conscious travellers also have plenty of options to choose from in the region, including Kalahari Farmhouse. The Farmhouse offers chalets that comprise of all the necessary amenities and there’s even a cosy fireplace, ideal for the cooler winter nights!
As well as a charming fireplace, Kalahari Farmhouse boasts a brilliant restaurant that serves a wide range of popular South African dishes, as well as European food. Before the sun sets each night you can also grab a drink at the bar and perch down in the well-landscaped gardens- what more could you ask for?!