Kalahari Desert: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about the Kalahari Desert.

  • The Kalahari Desert covers about 350,000 square miles in the southern part of Africa. It includes some of South Africa, Namibia and most of Botswana.

  • The name Kalahari comes from a local word meaning ‘waterless place’. However, because the sand retains water better than some other deserts, there is a variety of plant life.
  • The Kalahari is known as a semi-desert or savannah, as it receives some rainfall and is able to support more plants and animals than a conventional dry desert.

Kalahari Desert

  • In the 1965 film, Sands of the Kalahari a group of plane crash survivors try to survive in the desert. The Kalahari also features in the movies The Gods Must be Crazy and The Lion King.
  • Some of the world’s largest diamond mines can be found in the Kalahari Desert. The vast area is also a rich source of copper, nickel and coal and it is home to several large game reserves.
  • During summer, temperatures can reach over 100 degrees, while winter temperatures can reach freezing. Only one permanent river flows through the Kalahari, the Okavango.
  • The desert is home to many different species of birds, including the small weaver bird. The weaver bird makes huge nests from twigs and grass on the top of poles and trees.
  • Several of the world’s most dangerous big cats can be found in the Kalahari desert, including the cheetah, lion and leopard. The large antelope known as the Eland is also found here and can weigh almost 2,000 pounds.
  • One of the world’s oldest cultures, the San Bushmen, have lived in the desert for over 20,000 years. The primitive tribes still live as they have for centuries.
  • Thousands of years ago, the Kalahari Desert supported more plants and animals than it does today, and it had several very large lakes. As the lakes evaporated, they left large salt pans, or craters, which can still be seen today.

What next? Find out more desert facts by visiting our deserts resources page.

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