KALAHARI

Kalahari is a word that stirs the traveler’s imagination and emotions, and for good reason. It is a vast land op huge vistas, climatic extremes and fascinating adaptations to harsh conditions.

The huge Kalahari Desert spans seven different countries in Southern Africa and also occupies a corner of south-eastern Namibia. Although it is called a desert, the landscape is surprisingly well-vegetated and in springtime the undulating, sandy plains are covered in carpets of flowers and green grass. It is a region of incredible beauty and infinite vastness. The area includes interesting settlements like Gochas and Aranos. Lush, artesian springs around these villages attract a rich and varied birdlife.

 

Home to Southern Africa’s first inhabitants, the Bushmen, the Kalahari is full of their superb rock paintings that can be found in many caves and rock shelters all over southern Africa. They are synonymous with the Kalahari Desert. Many years ago, these hunter-gatherer people roamed the plains of the Southern Kalahari. Today, there is a small number of San people living near the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, but they have left behind unique attractions, such as the remains of permanent settlement on the farm Bitterputs in the Verneuk Pan near the town Kenhardt. In this way, like the Orange River, they bring life to the region in the form of many visitors interested in the origins of the San people.

The sand of the Kalahari Desert was created by the erosion of soft stone formations and then the wind shaped the sand. Later on, the dunes stabilised through vegetation and the area became a dry savannah. Today, the desert covers an area of 225,000 miles, making it the second largest desert in Africa behind Sahara. Because the desert receives more than 10 inches of rain a year it features vegetation including grasses, thorny shrubs and Acacia trees. It is also home to weaver birds, hyenas, lions, meerkats, antelopes and reptiles.
The Khomeni San (Bushmen) are Southern Africa's original inhabitants. Still today there are remnants roaming the plains of the Southern Kalahari.
Life in the Kalahari is not only enriched by the rare and strange plants and animal life - the fruit of the vine is the understated gem of the region. 10% of South Africa's vineyards are also to be found in the Southern Kalahari..
The Augrabies Falls National Park comprises dramatic landscapes. Its waterfall, the Khoi call "Akroerabis" meaning the "place of great noise" is more than 150 feet high and is one of the largest cataract-type falls in the world. Apart from the waterfall and 600 + feet deep gorge which stretches over 11 miles, the park boasts sweeping granite planes, pregnant domes and many interesting animals and plants.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Peace Park (formerly the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park), where row upon row of red sand dunes fade into infinity, and herds of antelope and predators such as lion, leopard and cheetah follow, the seasons, is situated between Namibia and Botswana, and is the biggest nature conservation area in Southern Africa covering in excess 0f 3 000 000 acres. It is a vast land of huge vistas, and given its sparse vegatation, it is easy to spot many different game species. Winding through the park are dusty white beds of two ancient rivers, the Auob and the Nossob.

From the earliest days, people have been attracted to the region because of the river running through it. These people were from local tribes such as San, Nama and Koranna, and included white travelers such as the great explorer Robert Gordon, the missionary Christiaan Schröder, and renegades from the Cape. Back then, the river was known as the Great River and Gariep, but was later changed to the Oranje (Orange) River after Robert Gordon decided to row to the middle of the river’s mouth and drink a toast to the DutchPrince of Oranje. The reverend Schröder built the first church at Olyfenhoutsdrift. With the onset of more settlers in the region, irrigation potential of the Orange was soon utilized and the first canals made their appearance ten years after a church was built.Again, the Reverend Schröder dug the first canal. Three years later the first water- driven mill was introduced to the region, further stimulating commercial activities. In this way, the Orange River, as the region’s only reliable of water source, gave even more life to the area.
It stimulated early development of farmlands as itswater was now spread far wider than the confines of its banks.
The history of the Southern Kalahari blends with the history of the people. Today, among the region’s historical attractions are San Rock engravings, Schröder’s and other old mission churches, his original home, the first water-driven mill, hand-built irrigation tunnels, an Egyptian-styled hydro power transformer station, waterwheels, a historical camel thorn tree under which the first town in the region was found, war graves and a date palm avenue.

This is where most herds of springbok, gemsbok and wildebeest congregate and where ever-present predators lurk. The riverbeds serve as roads in the park, and given the sparse vegetation, it is easy to spot many different game species, however small.
Nowhere else in South Africa is the build-up of a thunderstorm as beautiful and dramatic, as huge clouds race across the desert like armies of darkness.
The rest of the scenery is the quintessential Kalahari - rust-red sand dunes, short and tall bushman grass, camelthorn and shepherd's trees with plains of shining yellow 'devil's thorn' flowers in the rainy season.The park also rates as one of the best, sites for viewing raptors. It boasts the martial eagle, the largest raptor in Africa, the bateleur. Eagle, considered the acrobat of the skies, and Africa’s smallest raptor, the aptly named Pygmy falcon.
The sociable weaver, creator of gigantic nests weighing up to 300 kilograms, shares accommodation with the latter. Winter days are of clear, cloudless skies and nights of a billion shimmering stars, among them the unmistakable constellation of Scorpio.

Then, as the sun unlocks the new day, breathtaking sunrises daub the crests of the copper-colored dunes with brushstrokes of riotous colour. In the late afternoon, the sun sets the horizon on fire in an unforgettable extravaganza of light.

 

 

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