Page 58 - Discover Botswana 23rd Edition 2023
P. 58

Unsurprisingly, the Kalahari hasn’t always been as we know it now. Over the centuries this area has been much wetter and likely also much drier than it is today. Let’s look at the Khutse area for example, its very name meaning “place where you can kneel down to drink”. A close look at its geology reveals ancient riverbeds and many pans, proof that indeed there was once lots of water flowing through these sandy soils. The same goes for the adjacent area that is now the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, which has similar, even bigger, fossil river valleys with their characteristic dunes dominating the landscape.
Historically, great rivers from the north fed into the prehistoric mega- lake Makgadikgadi, then pushed on down through the Kalahari sands, yet even today it is unclear precisely where that enormous volume of water actually came from...and where it went.
Changing weather patterns over time have altered the situation drastically, leaving behind the familiar picturesque dry salt pans and broad fossil river valleys. In fact, the word Kalahari is derived from the Setswana word Kgala, meaning ‘the great thirst’. The full English name
comes from Kgalagadi, meaning ‘a waterless place’.
In summer the Kalahari can be extremely hot, air temperatures
soaring to 45 degrees, and the surface of the sand a blistering 70 degrees! As a result, mushrooming black clouds frequently overwhelm the skies in the late afternoon, followed by terrifying lightning storms and torrential downpours. Beautiful full, double rainbows appear at the end of long hot days. This big sky country is a perfect stage for witnessing such iconic theatrical shows.
The outcome is miraculous; flooded riverbeds and pans fringed with fresh, sweet grass and delicate white lilies, bush bursting forth with new green life.
Despite all this, the fossil rivers no longer flow from the summer rains, they just collect and store the rainwater. This, combined with the clayish mineral rich soils they hold, draws in wildlife to drink and feed on the fresh green nutritional grasses and plants that issue from these nutritious soils. Now the ancient river valleys and pans of the Kalahari turn into dramatic venues for wildlife viewing.
However, drought conditions prevail most of the year in the Kalahari. In the dry season, the artificial waterholes are vital to the survival of the animals and birds that call this, often foreboding, place home.

   56   57   58   59   60