10 things you didn’t know about the Kalahari desert

saan people kalahari desert

A desert that has been around since the formation of Africa sixty million years ago. Over 350,000 square miles stretching across three countries. Home to some of the world’s most prized wildlife and landscapes. The Kalahari is truly one of the world’s last great natural beauties.

But compared with many deserts that are just vast arid expanses of sand, abundant rainfall in the Kalahari has allowed for a thriving landscape. Despite it being labelled as the “waterless place” by past explorers, it is home to a variety of plant and animal life, making it a unique place.

There is much more to the Kalahari than meets the eye, and it is a place stepped in history as ancient as time itself. Here are 10 things you may not have known about this magnificent desert.

  1. The name Kalahari roughly translates as “large thirst” in Tswana, the language spoken by about 5 million people in southern Africa.


  1. It is now believed that the Kalahari Desert came into existence approximately 60 million years ago, not too far from the formation of the African continent itself.

  1. The San Bushmen (Saan) have lived in this desert for over 20,000 years, still living today as they did then. They are one of the world’s most well known indigenous hunter-gatherer cultures.

  1. The Kalahari Desert features as a racecourse in Mario Kart 64, a classic Nintendo video game.

  1. The Kalahari desert also features in various films including 1965 film Sands of the Kalahari, where several plane crash survivors attempt to survive in the harsh desert. The Lion King is also set in the Kalahari.

  1. Some of the world’s vastest diamond mines can be found in the Kalahari Desert, along with rich reserves of nickel, copper and coal.

  1. The magnificent desert is home to many of the world’s largest cats, including cheetahs, leopards and lions.

  1. The Taa language is spoken by fewer than 5,000 people in the desert. It is the language with more vowels and consonants than any other language.

  1. There were once plans for large-scale irrigation to make parts of the Kalahari suited for agriculture. However, these plans are yet to become a reality.

  1. In 1885, it was believed that the ruins of a city had been discovered after explorer Guillermo Farini published a book about some rock formations that had been found. The quest to find the Lost City of Kalahari ensued, although nothing was found and it was later believed that these were just natural rock formations.

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