A panoramic view of two oryx standing in the yellow grassland of the Kalahari.

Kalahari

overview
Namibia
Fanning out from Botswana and stretching from the Caprivi in the extreme north-east to the Orange River in the south, The Kalahari is a vast basin of semi-arid plains, dry savannah and moist woodland. Welcome to wide open spaces and ochre red sands.
A bushman on his haunches on a red sand dune of the Kalahari with bow in hand squinting into the sun.

In the southern Kalahari, attractions are few and very far between and that in itself is one of the major attractions of this endless land. Large camel-thorns and shepherd's trees dot the grassy plains and your field of vision may well cross a time zone with enormous skies and a chirrupy silence your only companions.

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The semi-arid plains and dunes support diverse and fascinating plants, birds and animals that have adapted to life in a virtually water-free world. The gemsbok can go for months on end without water and have special blood-cooling systems at the base of their brains. The camel thorn is a large and hardy acacia tree that thrives in sandy soils thanks to a taproot that can extend to three times the tree's height.

For an off-the-beaten-track detour, visit Brukkaros - an enormous volcano-like crater rising 600m above the surrounding planes and erstwhile home to a heliograph and a Smithsonian observatory. Both stations have been washed away by the sands of time but the clear night skies and endless desolation remain.

The quiver tree - so named after San hunters were observed using its branches to make quivers - is an endemic giant aloe and the quintessential tree of Namibia. The country's most impressive stand of these striking plants is in the Quiver Tree Forest outside Keetmanshoop. Near the forest is the Giants' Playground, an astonishing outcrop of balancing Basalt Rocks rising out of the level plains, and the Mesosaurus Fossil.

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