Though not technically a desert, the Kalahari sure looks like one: sun-baked scrub, scorched sands, bone-dry salt pans, lonely thorn trees and fossilised riverbeds. Stretching 900,000km² from South Africa’s extreme north-east into Namibia and Botswana, it’s also one of Earth’s last proper wildernesses, a place of big skies and horizon-less lands, a place far from anywhere. However, despite such stark geography, animals thrive here: blue wildebeest, meerkats, leopards, black-maned lions and hundreds of cheetahs all call the Kalahari home. And, with the desert so far off most major routes, you’ll have them all largely to yourself.
Within South Africa’s slice of the Kalahari, there are two main options for visitors. Atop the country is the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park – shared with Botswana, and the world's first-ever cross-border park. Along with basic rest camps, there are ‘six wilderness camps’ ranging in comfort – including one, !Xaus Lodge, staffed by the park’s historical occupants, the indigenous Bushmen. Each occupies a scenic spot and asks that guests bring their own supplies. Much more luxurious is the conservation-minded Tswalu Kalahari to the south. South Africa’s largest private game reserve now protects over 70 mammals within its spectacular grasslands and hills, and allows only 30 guests at a time.
Driving to the Kalahari is epic in itself, a long slog down dusty roads with gravel stretches. Tswalu is accessed off the R31 north of Kuruman; that goes onto the Kgalagadi, as does the R360 from Upington. If you come from Cape Town, the Riemvasmaak Conservancy Community’s canyons, strange rock formations and hot springs are well worth inspecting.
Best Time To Visit
The Kalahari has extreme desert temperatures. Rainfall in the region is only 50mm annually and usually arrives in dramatic but brief summer thunderstorms. Temperatures can top 40°C during summer days. While prone to chilly nights, winter is much easier here.
An intimate and remote setting with sensational suites in the middle of the Kalahari Desert.
The Best of South Africa Travel map displays the locations of the destinations and accommodation that we have selected and visited; for each item, hovering over or clicking the marker will display a short summary and photo of that place or hotel, and hotel pricing. Follow the links in the info box to the full page listing which has much more information.
Note that the online map offers both a satellite view (click satellite in the top right) and, for some locations, a street level view (Drag the person in the top left onto the map). These let you explore the country; and when you wish to explore in person, or if you have any questions about the places you see, give our staff a call, or request a quote. Our staff regularly visit the places and accommodation that we feature.
When you book a holiday with us we will provide full driving instructions for reaching your accommodation, where necessary; these can be used by yourself, or you could enjoy the luxury of a driver. Alternatively we will arrange private (car rather than coach) transfers for you; helicopter transfers are also possible for some destinations.
A wonderful 7 night break to South Africa
We have just come back from a wonderful 7 night break to South Africa. We were incredibly well looking after from the second we stepped off the plane, by a lovely representative of Best of South Africa Travel - who met us and escorted us through customs and immigration literally behind the pilots. It was very efficient, and we felt very ...