(4) Hunting The Kalahari

Updated: Jun 27, 2021

The Kalahari is a semi-desert area of about 360,000 square miles stretching for 1,000 miles over Southern Africa and morphing into the formidable Namib Desert in the west part of the country. The Kalahari's apparent inhospitable, hot geography when viewed from a distance is habitat to large numbers of predators, ungulates, reptiles and colourful birds.

The Kalahari overlaps the countries of South Africa, Botswana and Namibia as shown in the map.

The green areas on the map are the major national and private nature reserves in Southern Africa.

Driving West from Pretoria the countryside gradually changes from subtropical savannah, first to platinum bearing ridges and granite hills, then to flat country and miles and miles of corn fields - in fact in one stretch the traveller will for 100 miles drive on a road virtually straight and completely flat, all the time between corn fields - the tassels of which will block the view of the equally flat horison.

After the gold and uranium mining town of Carltonville we angle away from the row of hills to our left where the world’s deepest gold, uranium and palladium mines are dotted in a line. The deepest of these is called Western Deep Levels which has four stages of towers that lower their bins 4 km into the depths of the earth. That is more than 13,000 ft, meaning down to 9,000 ft below sea level from that elevation.

Next we pass the works where a big clay mine and tile factory exists to the right. This is mentioned because it is no ordinary tile factory and neither is the clay just ordinary clay: the pits are unique in the world - the only known location where the clay gets mined for the baked tiles that protected the Space Shuttle’s nose from cooking off on re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere.

Then a long, long straight road points to our overnight stop near the town of Hotazel, 500 miles from Pretoria.

The name of the town is real - and for a real good reason - it is unusually hot, even for the surrounding area's climate.

We stop at a diner at the edge of the sleepy town of Hotazel and get hit in the face by a winter midday temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit as we get out of the truck for a late lunch and some cold refreshment. While waiting for the food we admire a stone tub containing a cubic meter of polished semi-precious stones of uncountable types - from tiger's eye to amber - and bottles filled with layer upon layer of fine sand of ever differing shades from dark chocolate, to brown, to rusty red, to orange, to caramel, to yellow ochre, to grey, to pale grey, to pure white.

Then, to get to our overnight lodge we head towards a range of hills interspaced by white cliffs of calcite, dark grey bauxite, light grey manganite and walls of rusted red iron oxide - the home of manganese, iron ore, and calcium mines, and cement factories and aluminium smelting facilities.