Often referred to as the Kokerboom Route, this small region within the Kalahari is easy to explore with short driving distances between all the best sights and many great places to stay. Here are seven reasons why the Green Kalahari is worth a visit:
It's like a lunar landscape with its harsh rocky mountains, wide plains of red Kalahari sands, desert-adapted plants and animals miraculously eke out a life.
2. Kokerboom trees
A very rare and unique plant, the Kokerboom (also known as the Quiver Tree), is a tree aloe which has the ability to store water in its stems and leaves. Confined to the Northern Cape and Namibia, this tree aloe is found growing mainly on the rocky habitat of the hills along the Orange River. Be sure to visit the local nursery which specialises in growing these endangered plants from seed.
DID YOU KNOW? San bushmen used to use the branches to make quivers for their poisoned arrows which is how it got it's colloquial name.
3. Augrabies Falls
Located in the Augrabies Falls National Park about 120 km west of Upington, the Augrabies Falls are the highest falls in South Africa and have carved a dramatic 19km gorge through granite rock, 160 meters deep.
Top tip: Book dinner at the restaurant at the Falls and you get access to the park after hours for the most beautiful sunset views.
4. Aardvarks and aardwolfe
Take a night drive through the Augrabies National Park to tick off animals you've never seen, or perhaps even heard of, such as the lesser-spotted genet, pangolin, Cape porcupine or, if you're lucky, leopard.
The Kalahari is best known in birding terms for its diversity and abundance of raptors. Your raptor spots can include: Bateleur, Red-necked and Pygmy Falcons, and Verreaux’s Eagle Owl. The Burchell’s Sandgrouse and Pink-Billed Lark are also local to the area.
6. Grapes and wine
In a twist of fate, South Africans don't see the grapes from this area - they're so sweet, they're exported straight to the best markets in Europe, where they hit the shelves first because they ripen earliest.
7. African Vineyard Guest House
African Vineyard Guest House is a relaxed, shaded, birded, watered and well-catered property that's worth travelling all this way for: just to spend a few idle days next to streams running through the gardens.
Words: James Delaney