Southern Kalahari

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Lone cheetah gazes over its shoulder with yellow grasslands expanding around it as far as the eye can see in southern Kalahari, South Africa view larger image

The southern Kalahari, situated in South Africa’s Northern Cape province, is often known as the “green Kalahari” for its ability to support a broad diversity of plants and wildlife. This semi-arid grassland hosts rare species, such as Kalahari black-maned lions, roan and sable antelope, Hartmann’s mountain zebra, a good population of desert black rhino, cheetah, gemsbok and many more. Friendly meerkats are a highlight!

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Safari vehicle surrounded by nothing but African wilderness in the form of plains, grasslands, and mountains in southern Kalahari, South Africa view image gallery

The Safari Experience

Where the Kalahari Desert extends into northern South Africa, safari-goers will find one of Africa’s truly remote locations. The Korannaberg Mountains create a beautiful backdrop, offering shelter for wildlife and unique biodiversity. The key safari destination here is South Africa’s largest private game reserve, Tswalu, with nearly a quarter-million acres of protected land. Rust-colored desert landscapes give way to a green, 6-month summer tableau, with one of the most unique selections of animals in all of Africa, making a typical safari here not so typical at all. Activities range from morning, afternoon and night game drives, guided nature walks and hikes, horseback riding, stargazing and sleeping outside under the night sky. A safari here can be as luxurious or as down to earth as one desires.

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Group of several giraffes ambles across a safari road towards the sheltering trees in the southern Kalahari, South Africa view image gallery


Receiving more rain than the Central Kalahari, the Southern Kalahari sustains a wide variety of sought-after wildlife, as well as distinctly unique creatures. Large mammals such as the black-maned Kalahari lion and desert-adapted black rhino are resident to the area. Leopard are seen more rarely, due to the rocky mountain landscape, whereas cheetah are fairly easy to spot in the grasslands. Brown hyena are fairly common, and wild dog are occasionally seen. Many rarer species of antelope, which are less likely to be seen elsewhere in South Africa, are observed in this unique ecosystem – eland, sable and roan antelope, gemsbok, red hartebeest, tsessebe and Hartmann’s mountain zebra. The small mammals of this area are a special draw, particularly the chance to see such rarities as aardvark and pangolin. Small predators and carnivores abound, from silver and bat-eared foxes, lynx, and aardwolf to the charming meerkats, of which there are now two habituated colonies.

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Meerkat mother and her baby meerkat watch as a bee zooms next to them in the southern Kalahari Desert, South Africa view image gallery

How to Include the Southern Kalahari in Your Safari Itinerary

Recommended Number of Nights

Nature Travelers: 3-4 nights
Photographers: 4 nights
Families: 4 nights
Active Travelers: 3-4 nights

Other Regions to Include

The orange and green landscapes of the Southern Kalahari, with its unique biodiversity, is a perfect complement to the Kruger Park or Sabi Sand areas of northeast South Africa, lowveld areas that are more wooded and are great for seeing leopard, white rhino and elephant, which don’t occur in the Southern Kalahari. Cape Town is a great addition with marine wildlife, amazing flora, fine food and wine, and animal conservation projects such as Cheetah Outreach in the nearby Cape Winelands and Cape Coast regions. There are also exciting active experiences here that complement the active opportunities in the Southern Kalahari. Zululand can be a rewarding addition as well, with its varied biomes and diversity of fauna. For active travelers, Zululand also offers scuba diving, horseback riding, fishing and more.

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