Land of Drying Rivers
Kalahari Travel Journal

© View over Boteti River from Camp Meno-a-Kwena
The fascinating cycle of life of the Kalahari can be experienced in the valleys and dunes of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana, a place of ancient and haunting river beds.

Kalahari Rivers

The Kalahari Desert is the largest deposit of sand in the world and within this vast region are some of the most dramatic eco-systems on earth, including the central African rainforest and the indescribably beautiful Okavango Delta. Although these systems lie on the Kalahari Sand deposit, when one talks of the Kalahari many people immediately think of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana.The rivers of the Central Kalahari may not be as dramatic as the Congo or the Okavango but they do have their own charm, considering that they have been dry for hundreds of years.The Kalahari Basin was part of the great inland lake that covered much of the central region of southern Africa thousands of years ago and as the region began to dry up and rivers lost their source they quickly became the dry depressions that are evident in the Central Kalahari today.

Ancient Rivers of the Kalahari

Some of the valleys of the Central Kalahari are the remnants of these ancient rivers and today they provide for the wildlife that inhabits the vast reserve. Deception Valley, for example, still shows signs of the river that once flowed through. Careful study in some areas of the valley will reveal tiny pebbles that have not succumbed completely to erosion.In his book 'Kalahari, Life's Variety in Dune and Delta', Mike Main wrote 'Today no significant rivers rise on the Kalahari sand. Some rivers did once but nothing remains of them but broad, desolate valleys, empty of moisture. They are home to little more than desultory whirlwinds that pick their way between the distant banks on columns of swirling dust'.When looking out over one of these valleys in the Central Kalahari such as Deception or Okwa you can be forgiven for agreeing with the author's narrative, but after spending some time in studying these seemingly barren ancient river valleys a deep appreciation of the ecology and stark beauty will emerge.

Life's variety in the Kalahari

Wildlife can be seen throughout the year in the valleys of the Central Kalahari, in fact animals such as the Springbok gather in the open areas during the day as a survival technique as predators such as Lion and Cheetah prey predominantly on Springbok in the Kalahari.The smaller creatures such as Meerkats and Ground Squirrels are quite at home in the Central Kalahari and the ancient river beds provide the ideal habitat for them. It is in the rainy moths of summer though the ancient riverbeds come to life, as new grass grows and water lies on the surface. Wildlife is drawn to the paradise in great numbers.In fact it is to these valleys of plenty that almost half a million Wildebeest used to migrate to during the wet season, a migration that almost rivalled the great Serengeti wonder. With the erection of fences the Wildebeest migration no longer happens, instead thousands of antelope gather on the nutritious plains to feed and give birth.The Kalahari may well be known to some as the land of drying rivers, and this does portray a sense of desolation at times but within this seemingly stark environment is an ecosystem supporting a wide variety of fascinating species.
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