The Kalahari Desert is a large arid to semi-arid sandy area in southwestern, Sub-Saharan Africa extending 362,500 sq. miles, covering much of Botswana and parts of Namibia and South Africa. It has huge tracts of excellent grazing after good rains.
The Kalahari Desert is the southernmost desert in Africa, and the geography is a portion of desert and a plateau. The Kalahari supports some animals and plants because most of it is not a true desert. There are small amounts of rainfall and the summer temperature is very high. It usually receives 3-7 ½ inches of rain per year. The surrounding Kalahari Basin covers over 2.5 million km² extending further into Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, and encroaching into parts of Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The only permanent river, the Okavango, flows into a delta in the northwest, forming marshes that are rich in wildlife. Ancient dry riverbeds -called omuramba- traverse the Central Northern reaches of the Kalahari and provide standing pools of water during the rainy season. Previously havens for wild animals from elephant to giraffe, and for predators such as lion and cheetah, the riverbeds are now mostly grazing spots, though leopard or cheetah can still be found.
The Kalahari Desert was once a much wetter place. The ancient Lake Makgadikgadi dominated the area, covering the Makgadikgadi Pan and other areas, until its final drainage some 10,000 years ago. It may have once covered as much as 80,000 km² and was approximately 30 meters deep.
The Kalahari has a number of game reserves -the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR, the world’s second largest protected area), Khutse Game Reserve and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Animals that live in the region include brown hyenas, lions, meerkats, giraffe, warthogs, jackals and several species of antelope (including the eland, gemsbok, springbok, hartebeest, steenbok, kudu, and duiker), and many species of bird and reptiles. Vegetation in the Kalahari consists mainly of grasses and acacias but there are over 400 identified plant species present (including the wild watermelon or Tsamma melon). Camel rides across the desert are also offered.