The Kalahari Desert

The vast expanse of semi-arid land known as the Kalahari Desert dates back some 500 million years. Its landscape echoes with sentiments of antiquity; the lapis lazuli skies and burnt red dunes inspire an authentic sense of adventure, and travellers embarking on a train tour of South Africa and its surrounding areas will marvel at this immense African desert.

Whether referred to by its San name of ‘Kgalagadi’ or the Afrikaans equivalent of ‘Dorsland’, the sentiment of its dry, parched landscape rings true. The sandy savannah extends across a collection of southern African countries, including most of Botswana, sections of Namibia and a bit of northern South Africa. At 900 000 square kilometres the ancient ‘fossil’ desert is renowned for its wide open spaces. Although the area receives little rainfall and is especially venerated for its sweltering hot summers, it is surprisingly adept at supporting a diverse plant life.

On the cultural front, the Kalahari Desert is well-known for being the home of the ancient San or Bushmen peoples. For thousands of years, impressive hunter-gatherer clans traversed the stoic dunes and endured the harsh climate. Today, many guided tours of the desert are available and are often conducted by San descendants who provide nuanced guides of the resilient region with insights into its many mysteries.

Apart from the palpable allure of the vast spaces and shimmering horizons, notable attractions of the area include the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and the Augrabies Falls National Park. The former is the first transfrontier park in Africa and offers incredible opportunities for game viewing, including the top Kalahari predators such as lions, leopards and cheetahs, as well as rumbling herds of antelope. At Augrabies Falls National Park, day tours are offered and viewing of its breath-taking waterfalls and idyllic moonscapes solicit a stopover for those enjoying a luxury train trip through this magnificent desert.