Southern Africa is home to two deserts. The Kalahari Desert and the Namib Desert.
The Kalahari is a large semi-arid sandy savannah extending 900,000 square kilometers (350,000 sq mi), covering much of Botswana and parts of Namibia. A semi-desert, with huge tracts of excellent grazing after good rains, the Kalahari supports more animals and plants than a true desert. There are small amounts of rainfall and the summer temperature is very high. The Kalahari is home to many migratory birds and animals.
The Namib is a coastal desert in Namibia in Southern Africa. The name Namib means “vast place” as it stretches for more than 2,000 kilometers (1,200 mi) along the Atlantic coast. Annual precipitation ranges from 2 millimeters (0.079 in) in the most arid regions to 200 millimeters (7.9 in) at the escarpment, making the Namib the only true desert in southern Africa. Having endured arid or semi –arid conditions for roughly 55–80 million years, the Namib may be the oldest desert in the world.
A desert safari is a perfect adventure for someone who has already experienced the game parks of Southern Africa and is looking for something different. The superb, remote and intimate lodges are placed in starkly beautiful places filled with desert adapted wildlife.
The Namib Desert area of Sossusvlei is where one can enjoy climbing the world’s largest red sand dunes, view wildlife that has adapted to the harsh desert, track black rhino on foot, explore the desert on a quad bike, interact with the fascinating Himba people and appreciate some of the oldest Bushman rock art sites in the world. As you can imagine, stargazing in the desert is magnificent. Other fabulous experiences are taking a coastal flight over the famed Skeleton coast or a flight over the desert in a hot air balloon.
Another unique desert experience is to be found in Damaraland, in north-west Namibia which is characterised by valleys and dry riverbeds that carve their way through deep gorges and ancient geological features. These rivers are ribbon-like oases that push through the most desolate of terrains and attract wildlife. This area boasts the geologically fascinating Twyfelfontein World Heritage Site and is home to the Nama, Damara, Riemvasmaaker and Herero people. Wildlife includes the famous desert-adapted elephant and black rhino.
A desert safari in Namibia can be combined with game viewing at the famous Etosha National Park in the North of the country. The capital city Windhoek is modern city with excellent accommodation, food variety, cultural sights and shopping. The African urban buzz gives it an edge not found anywhere else in Namibia. Swakopmund is a very popular coastal holiday town where one can enjoy surfing, fishing and a host of other adventure activities.
The Makgadikagadi Pans in the Kalahari in Botswana is another unique desert experience. This series of large salt pans are all that remain of a vast ancient super lake that dried up around 10,000 years ago. The Makgadikagadi may appear to be just arid and inhospitable, yet it is home to many desert adapted species, such as Aardvaark, Gemsbok, Springbok, Cheetah, Brown Hyena and of course, Lions. When the summer rains eventually appear, and the grasses sprout, one can witness large herds of Zebra and Wildebeest migrating into the area.
Makgadikgadi Pans activities include game drives and amazing star-gazing experiences. Quad-biking expeditions across the salt crust of the pans and meeting the Bushmen of Botswana, (also known as The San people) who have inhabited the Kalahari for thousands of years. They have adapted to life in this desolate landscape. A highlight of any Botswana safari is learning about their way of life. Let them teach you their strategies for survival.