Africa is renowned for its diverse landscapes, and its deserts are no exception. From the world’s largest hot desert, the Sahara, to the barren, arid beauty of the Chalbi, Africa’s deserts are filled with unique flora and fauna that have adapted to survive in the harshest of climates. These deserts are also home to fascinating cultures, whose people have lived in these inhospitable lands for centuries. Whether you are interested in natural beauty, cultural heritage, or both, Africa’s deserts are a must-visit for anyone looking for an unforgettable adventure.
There are a few deserts in Africa worth visiting. Here are 5 of them in descending order.
1. Sahara Desert
The Sahara Desert is the largest hot desert in the world, spanning much of North Africa. It is a harsh and dangerous environment for humans, but it also offers some interesting wildlife and cultural history.
Unlike most other deserts, the Sahara isn’t completely dry, as it has many water sources. These include streams, wadis (ephemeral rivers), and underground aquifers. In some areas, it’s possible to find oases, and there are a few small towns or settlements.
There are also plenty of rocks, mountains, and sand dunes. The highest mountain is Mount Koussi in Chad, which rises to 11,204 feet (3,415 m).
Plants in the Sahara are usually quite sparse, except in a few oases and in the Nile River Valley. They can live on rainwater, though, and they have adapted to this extreme desert climate by growing long roots in order to reach the water. They are also able to sprout their seeds quickly after rain and may be able to produce new plants in a matter of days before the soil dries out again.
Animals in the Sahara are very diverse, and include Barbary sheep, oryx, anubis baboon, spotted hyena, and dama gazelle. They can be found living along the northern and southern margins, near oases, and in salt marshes.
The animals that inhabit the desert today are not the same as those that lived there millions of years ago. However, there are a few species of fox, addax, gazelle, and cheetah that still call it home.
The Sahara is home to the Tuareg, a semi-nomadic people who have roamed this desert for centuries. They are famous for their indigo blue veils and they mix ancient animistic beliefs with the Islamic faith.
2. Kalahari Desert
The Kalahari Desert is the second largest desert in Africa, trailing only behind the Sahara. It covers 360,000 square miles (932,000 square km) and lies across Botswana, eastern Namibia, and northern South Africa.
The desert is a featureless, gently undulating, sand-covered plain, with an average elevation of about 900 meters (3000 feet) above sea level. The only solid bedrock exposed in the Kalahari is in the low but vertical-walled hills, called kopjes, that rarely but conspicuously rise above the general surface.
Because it lacks a water table, the Kalahari is dry most of the year. However, in summer, when it receives more rain than usual, plants bloom and some flora grows.
Vegetation varies depending on climate, with open woodlands in the wetter central Kalahari and dense bushes in the drier north. In the north, elephants, zebras, giraffes, antelope, lions, cheetahs, and other animals live in large herds.
Several species of birds, including ostriches, kori bustards, falcons, hawks, owls, and secretary birds thrive in the Kalahari, as do reptiles such as poisonous Cape cobras and puff adders. The desert is a migratory destination for many species of birds.
It is a unique place with a rich culture and history that is worth exploring for anyone interested in the natural world. Visitors are able to see how the desert was first inhabited and how its people live today in remote villages of traditional single-roomed huts with thatched roofs.
Cattle grazing is an essential part of the local economy. It is carried out mainly on the outskirts of villages or at distances of up to 50 miles away, and wells and boreholes are owned by government councils, syndicates of cattle owners, or private individuals.
3. Chalbi Desert
The Chalbi Desert is one of the hottest and most arid places in Kenya and it used to be a lake that dried up millions of years ago. It is located east of Lake Turkana and is home to several nomadic communities like the Rendille, Dasanatch, Gabra, Turkana, and Gabbra.
The desert is covered with large sand dunes and oases that are often dotted with animals. It is also known for its panoramic volcanic hills that tower over it from afar, giving it a majestic and dramatic feel.
This is one of the most visited and loved safari destinations in Kenya. It is a fantastic place to explore and experience the unique culture of the locals that live there.
As with all the other Kenyan deserts, the best way to see it is on a 4×4 vehicle. There are a lot of different ways to explore the area, but surfing the sand dunes and basking by oases are two must-do activities.
The locals in the Chalbi Desert are very friendly and will provide you with excellent services. They will help you arrange your accommodation as well as give you a guide who will be there to ensure you have an unforgettable experience.
You can also visit the sand dunes and oases in a 4×4 vehicle, or even rent a scooter to get around on your own. It is recommended that you have a car with a high top so you can go up and down the sand dunes without worrying about the damage it may do to your vehicle.
The Chalbi Desert is a beautiful place to explore, but it can be dangerous for visitors with little experience in sand driving. It is best to book a 4×4 vehicle to avoid any hassle.
4. Namib Desert
The Namib Desert is the world’s oldest and driest desert. It has remained dry for 55-80 million years, preserving more endemic species than any other desert.
It’s also the most biologically diverse of all deserts, owing to its unusual climate and habitat. It includes a diverse range of large, shifting dunes and associated landforms such as inselbergs, pediplains, and playas.
These dunes were formed by a process called aeolian depositional processes, which involve wind-driven erosion of sediments that have been carried down the Orange River 3,000 kilometers (2,000 miles) to Namibia. The resulting sand sea is a remarkable example of the scenic, geomorphological, and ecological effects of wind-driven processes that interact with geology, biology, and evolution.
Despite its harsh environment, the Namib Desert is home to an extraordinary diversity of plants and animals. For instance, it’s home to the gemsbok, a long-horned antelope subspecies that can survive for days without water. Its unique adaptations enable it to dig underground waterholes and drink from them.
Other animals that can live in the Namib Desert include the cheetah, lion, and giraffe. All three species have adapted to the cold, arid conditions that exist in the desert. The giraffe, for instance, has thick fur that helps to keep its body warm, while the cheetah has a complex system of blood vessels and nasal passages that help cool its blood before it reaches its brain.
The desert is also home to a variety of small mammals, including the gemsbok and zebra, which have evolved specialized adaptations that allow them to survive in this harsh climate. Other small mammals, such as the ostrich, guinea pig, and jackal, have developed unique behaviors to survive in the desert.
5. Guban Desert
The Guban Desert, also known as the ‘burnt land’, is a narrow coastal desert that runs along the northwestern coast of Somaliland between Zeila and Berbera. It is a hot and dry desert with sandy seasonal watercourses that support sparse steppe vegetation.
This is a place where local clans raise their camels and goats, and they live on a variety of foods, including beans, corn, wheat, and millet. They are very hardy, and they can survive without water for months at a time.
In addition, the Guban Desert has a variety of unique animals, including giraffes and elephants. These animals are able to survive in extreme conditions, and they can even mate for life!
There are also hyenas, jackals, sand foxes, and mongooses, which are native to this desert. They are very opportunistic and can find food in a wide range of places, and they can be very dangerous for children.
Other animals found in the Guban Desert include sand leopards, cheetahs, and wild cats. These animals are nocturnal and live in small groups, but they can also be seen in the open.
Finally, the Guban Desert is a place where you can see some of Africa’s largest mammals, such as rhinoceros and lions. They can be very difficult to spot in the open, but you can sometimes see them in herds.
The Guban Desert is an incredible place to visit, but you should know that it is extremely hot and dry. It is best to go with a guide, or at least with someone who has experience in the region. You should also take a pair of good walking shoes. These are essential for the arid climate, and you should not plan on going barefoot!
In conclusion, Africa is a continent that is home to an incredible range of deserts, each of which offers its own unique and unforgettable experience. From the vast and harsh Sahara Desert to the unique and beautiful Kalahari Desert, and the stunning Chalbi Desert, there is something for everyone.
Whether you are interested in exploring the diverse wildlife, experiencing the rich culture of the local people, or simply basking in the beauty of these magnificent landscapes, a visit to one of these deserts is an experience that will stay with you for a lifetime. So pack your bags, put on your adventurer’s hat, and get ready for an adventure like no other in the deserts of Africa!