Ghanzi and the Kalahari Desert – 27 & 28 August

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September 27th 2012
Published: September 27th 2012
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Ghanzi and the Kalahari Desert – 27 & 28 August

We arrived in Ghanzi at 1.00pm ish to a nice, local village-like camp, near the San Bushmen village, 10 kms outside the town. To see another special features of our trip – and fulfilling another one of my childhood dream – seeing the Kalahari Bushmen who had a ‘clicking’ language (their tongue clicks as they talk), which I learned about in grade 7 and in history in 2nd year high school.

We set up our tents on the sand. The upgrade opportunity was a round thatched roof hut with no windows but 1 door. However, on walking around the camp, I came across some very new single room with on suite buildings – but we kept with our tent option. There was a camp kitchen which we didn’t need and a really interesting bar which had carvings of the San Men as well as ostrich eggs that they used as their water containers. There was no power but there was solar power for the showers and toilets.

When you went into the showers and toilets you had to put a chain across the doorway to indicate you were in there. There were 2 sections to each little cubical which were all lined up.

When we drove through Ghanzi we again noticed the standards of buildings were continuing to improve. Botswana has one of the strongest economies in Afgrica. Ghanzi is a town in the western part of the Republic of Botswana in southern Africa. There are about 10,000 people living in the town with another 900 nearby. It is the administrative center of Ghanzi District and is known as the "Capital of the Kalahari". Ghanzi District measures 117,910 square kilometres (29,140,000 acres) and is bordered by Ngamiland to the north, Central District to the east, and Kgalagadi and Kweneg Districts to the south. Its western border is shared with Namibia.

The first Afrikaner to settle in Ghanzi was Hendrik van Zyl, who set up a small hunting and trading enterprise in the area around 1870. However, the first substantial Boer migration into Ghanzi began around 1897-1898.

Ghanzi was also first a farm of someone. The place known today as Ghanzi, was first called Kamp. Kalahari Arms Hotel and the Barclays bank in Ghanzi are some of the first businesses established in Ghanzi

The district’s land surface mainly consists of gently undulating sandveld which lies between 1,100 and 1,230 meters above sea level. The Kalahari is the largest continuous stretch of sand in the world, covering some 2,500 km2. Karoo sediments, covered by younger basaltic lavas, underlie most of the Kalahari sands and about half of the country of Botswana. The sands of the Kalahari vary in depth from 5m to 200m.

The climate is semi-arid of the low-altitude, high-steppe variety with summer rainfall. Mean maximum daily temperatures are 33-45°C in January and around 22°C in July; mean minimum temperatures are 4 to -5°C in the winter months. The night temperature while we were there was very pleasant, not needing any more than a sheet for sleeping until the early hours of the morning.

The long-term mean annual rainfall is around 375mm although this can vary by up to 50%!y(MISSING)ear by year. Generally speaking, both the climate and the soils are unfavourable for arable farming. Small cultivation is spread over the district but is limited to subsistence crops of maize, sorghum, beans, peas, and melons.

An annual farm show in August attracts many people from all over southern Africa. It is also a great time where all the people in Ghanzi come together and celebrate. Actions are also held at the premises and BDF (Botswana Defense Force) usually comes to show their weaponry and stuff. We were 3 weeks too early for this.

There are lots of interesting things to see in Ghanzi, as it is a Bushmen town. Kuru has a small shop there, where a person is able to buy various handcrafted bushmen articles. There are a few sightseeing spots in Ghanzi-Lions, cheetahs and wild dogs can be seen in big spots made available to them at the main gate of TauTona. There is also a place called "Ghanzi gat". This is a hole that was made while the tar road was being made in Ghanzi, but while using dynamite to break the rock open, the people accidentally opened a water vein. This filled the 40m deep hole with water.

Soon after we set up camp and had lunch, we were met by a western-clothed San Bushman. Close behind him was a group of traditionally dressed San Bushmen (3 women and 4 men, including one of the village elders). They took us into the bush and taught us how they preserved and carried water (ostrich eggs), found food, used local plants for increasing and decreasing fertility in women. They also spoke in their very unique language. One of the girls went to each of us and asked our name and what country we were from. She then repeated what she heard VERY clearly and accurately imitating each of us. It was fantastic.

We learned the role of the elder and that one of the young men was studying to be a medicine man. Medicine men are the only ones of the village who can have up to 3 wives. All others had only 1 wife. We also learned that one of the girls was 23 yo with 3 children all ready and another of the girls had 8 children. She didn’t know how old she was. Apparently the population of traditional San Bushmen is increasing and more are staying in the village for the purpose of tourism.

We had dinner and then after nightfall, we attended a traditional dance put on by the Bushmen group. There were also 2 little toddlers with the group of 4 women and 4 men. Two big camp fires were the only source of light. It was great entertainment, including when they invited 2 of the members of the audience to be involved in their dance that was for the purpose of finding a marriage partner! Brad from our group (from Adelaide) was one of them. They had to copy the Bushmen. The whole thing lasted for about an hour.

The next morning we left at 7.00am to drive further through the Kalahari Desert.

The Kalahari Desert (Dorsland in Afrikaans) is a large semi-arid sandy savannah in Southern Africa extending 900,000 square kilometres, covering much of Botswana and parts of Namibia and South Africa. As semi-desert, with huge tracts of excellent grazing after good rains, the Kalahari supports more animals and plants than a true desert, such as the Namib Desert to the west. There are small amounts of rainfall and the summer temperature is very high. It usually receives 76–190 mm of rain per year. The surrounding Kalahari Basin covers over 2,500,000 square kilometres extending farther into Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, and encroaching into parts of Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The only permanent river, the Okovango, flows into a delta in the northwest, forming marshes that are rich in wildlife. Ancient dry riverbeds—called omuramba—traverse the Central Northern reaches of the Kalahari and provide standing pools of water during the rainy season.

The Bushmen have lived in the Kalahari for 20,000 years as hunter-gatherers and the first known human inhabitants of the Kalahari Desert. They hunt wild game with bows and arrows and gather edible plants, such as berries, melons and nuts, as well as insects. Bushmen rarely drink water; they get most of their water requirements from plant roots and desert melons found on or under the desert floor. They often store water in the blown-out shells of ostrich eggs. These Bushmen live in huts built from local materials—the frame is made of branches, and the roof is thatched with long grass. The Bantu-speaking Tswana, Kgalagadi, and Herero and a small number of European settlers also live in the Kalahari desert.

After leaving Ghanzi area on 28 August, we drove through an area that was covered with low vegetation, backed by a beautiful mountain range. It made interesting driving. We were heading for the Namibian border.

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