Travel Guide: !Khamab Kalahari Reserve
The !Khamab Kalahari Reserve offers a unique wildlife spectacle as home to a vast array of large and small mammals, many of which are endangered, threatened or protected species.
The name !Khamab comes from the San word meaning Cape Fox, which is a small predator found in this region. !Khamab Kalahari Reserve is dedicated to conserving species like the Cape Fox and many more by providing 96,000 hectares of protected land. Here, the full spectrum of African flora and fauna can once again thrive with as little human intervention as possible.
Location and Wildlife
!Khamab Kalahari Reserve is located in north-western South Africa, within the part of the Savanna Biome called the Eastern Kalahari Bushveld Bioregion. It is situated along the Molopo River, which makes this land historically an important destination for drought-forced migration.
The Reserve occupies 960 km² and includes three different plant communities/animal habitats: grassland, woodland and shrubland. There is no natural perennial surface water in the reserve. !Khamab Kalahari Reserve is home to all of Africa’s largest predators, including lions, African wild dogs, cheetahs, leopards and hyenas. Other animals, such as zebras and blue wildebeests, would historically cross through these lands during the rainy season in migration towards areas with higher seasonal rainfall. Now, due to the construction of nine watering holes in !Khameb Kalahari Reserve, these animals are flourishing here year-round and make up an important source of food for the larger predators.
History of the !Khamab Reserve and the Land it Resides Upon
The !Khamab Reserve was founded in 1999 by joining together several communal livestock ranches. In the 1940s, humans began to establish permanent settlements in this region once technology provided access to underground water reservoirs, making it habitable year-round and conducive to harvesting crops. As agricultural activities grew, more and more fences were erected and soon domesticated animals such as goats and cattle became the dominant species. This phenomenon took place across the entire perimeter of the Kalahari basin. Natural migration across these plains was therefore restricted and animals were forced into the central Kalahari, to a very limited area of natural space. As a result, many species that once roamed these lands freely can now only be found in enclosed game reserves. !Khamab Kalahari Reserve is determined to maintain its vast area of land as a protected environment for these species to once again thrive.#
Since 2008, it has been enclosed by 243 kilometres of electric fence and populated with a wide variety of large mammal species including: giraffes, both white and black rhinos, kudos, gemsbok, red hartebeests, elands, plains zebras, springbok, warthogs, blue wildebeests, lions, leopards, African buffalo, cheetahs, wild dogs, black-backed jackals, brown hyaenas, and a variety of small mammals and reptiles. Birds such as vultures, eagles, falcons, owls, ostrich and the heaviest flying bird in the world: the kori bustard, also call !Khamab Reserve home.
!Khamab’s goal is not only to re-establish but to sustain the diverse population of herbivore and predator species that once dominated this land. Their methodology is research-based and revolves around fundamental conservation principles. In the process, the Reserve aims to remove all invasive plant and animal species, such as domesticated livestock. Similarly, any signs of previous farming practices or other forms of land development that have occurred in the past will be removed in order to restore the land to its purely natural state.
The lodge at !Khamab Kalahari Reserve is the one and only accommodation available, boasting a 5-star luxury setup for its guests, and a prime location looking over a watering hole.
Best time to travel
Average rainfall in !Khamab Kalahari Reserve is 333 mm/year, and the rainy season spans from December to May, although the first three months of the rainy season are significantly hotter than the last three. Temperatures generally peak in January at around 34°C.
The most comfortable time to travel is in South African winter (June, July and August) when temperatures are cool (0°C-20°C) and the climate is dry.
Uniqueness of !Khamab Kalahari Reserve
!Khamab Reserve is located in the south-eastern edge of the Kalahari Desert. No permanent water flow in this region of the Kalahari is evident for more than 12,000 years. Still, the Kalahari sets itself apart as a desert that receives more rainfall than most “true deserts”. The valleys and plains transform in the rainy season, as ephemeral riverways flow through natural depressions in the land and draw new life and activity. Ancient, dried-up riverbeds are visible across the Reserve.
Landscape of the !Khamab Kalahari Reserve
This region of the Kalahari is dotted with few trees and bushes as well as drought-tolerant grasses and shrubs. Although the flora in the Kalahari is not as abundant in species as in other areas across Southern Africa, many unique plants like the gemsbok cucumber and the tsamma melon have historically offered reprieve from periods of prolonged drought as a water and dietary staple for the early San people and local wildlife.
The Reserve is scattered with endorheic pans that fill with water for periods of the rainy season. When dried out, they are filled with short grasses and small shrubs, which is an important food source to short grass grazers like springboks and other ungulates….and you can be certain that their predators are never too far behind.
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