Green Kalahari – A Desert Oasis

When you mention the word ‘Kalahari’, most people will immediately picture a brazen, hot, desert-like place. And, if they were thinking of the Kalahari Desert, they wouldn’t be too far off. However, just because the majority of the area is a desert, does not mean that the Kalahari is devoid of life. On the contrary, it is teaming with it. What’s more, there is a Green belt near the Orange River which redefines how many people view the Kalahari. This ‘Green Kalahari’, is an exceptional place where only the strongest have survived to create a small desert oasis.

As you head towards the Kalahari, you will find that Upington is the principal town in the region. It serves as the gateway to many attractions and is the perfect starting point for any trip to the Kalahari. From here you will be able to explore the many wonders of the Green Kalahari, including the wine farms, a variety of abandoned San settlements and the ever-stunning Kalahari Gemsbok National Park. The San people (bushmen) are Southern Africa’s original inhabitants and at one stage their numbers stretched from the Kalahari all the way to the eastern coast of the country. They were gradually displaced by other indigenous tribes until a small number eventually came to settle in the Southern Kalahari. Today a small number of these intriguing people still live near the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park and they can be visited by anyone interested in their culture and way of life.

Despite the regions apparent lack of life, the strongly flowing river that runs through it attracted European settlers who used the waters to irrigate the land and make it fertile. Today you will find that 10% of the country’s wine is produced in the Green Kalahari – a fact that many find hard to believe until they see it for themselves. Most South Africans are surprised to learn that the Orange River was originally named the ‘Great River’ or the ‘Gariep’. Contrary to popular belief, the river did not get its name from its unusual colouring, but rather from Robert Gordon who made a toast to the Dutch Prince of Oranje (orange) in a boat on the river mouth. Today the history of the Kalahari is an odd mixture of San survival and European courage, thrown together with a raging river and a blistering dessert. This history is well worth exploring and is a testament to man’s will to survive in even the harshest conditions.

The Kalahari is a place of extremes and while it may seem almost dead in places, it is in fact teaming with life. Nowhere is this more true than in the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park where the red sand dunes fade into the horizon and wild animals roam freely. Antelope are stalked by lion, leopard and cheetah and the movement of the animals is dictated by the changing of the seasons. The park covers an amazing 960 000 hectares which makes it the biggest nature conservation area in the southern half of the continent. The borders between the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park and the Gemsbok Park in Botswana are lax, ensuring that the species of each area roam freely. Together these two parks form one of the most unspoilt ecosystems in the world – a must see for any nature lover. So wether you plan to go hiking, canoeing, mountain biking, bird watching, camping, sight seeing, camel riding or enjoy stimulating game drives, visit the Green Kalahari for an exceptional desert experience that simply cant be beaten.

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