KalahariHeading east from Mariental, on the C20 towards Stampriet or on the C18 towards Gochas, one reaches the western margin of the Kalahari desert. The Kalahari is part of an expansive sand basin reaching from the Orange River to Angola, in the west into Namibia and in the east across Botswana to Zimbabwe, an area of more than 1,2 million square kilometres.
The enormous amounts of sand, intensely red-orange in colour, were created by erosion of softer rock formations. The wind has shaped the long sand ridges which are so characteristic for the Kalahari landscape.
Annual precititation in the Kalahari averages between 150 and 250 mm. In some years it gets as much as 500 mm of rain, but there are also years without any.
Only in the most recent history of the earth, some 10,000 to 20,000 years ago, the dunes were stabilised through the growth of plants, so that a dry savannah developed. The dunes don't shift like those of the Namib Desert. Grasses, thorny shrubs and acacia trees are dominant, because they can survive droughts of more than 10 months each year. In Camelthorns and other Acacia tress one often finds the striking nests of the weaverbirds. These plain little birds that look like sparrows, live in huge communal nests with a diametre of up to two metres. Usually hundreds of these lively birds breed together in such nesting colonies.
One gets the best impression of the landscape and ecology of the Kalahari in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Parks. This is one of the most beautiful nature and game parks in southern Africa, positioned in South Africa and in Botswana. The northern entrance to the park lies near Mata Mata (border post and restcamp), some 180 kilometres south of Gochas.
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Photo Top: Weaverbird nest in a Camelthorn tree. Left: Suricate, typical Kalahari dwellers.