The Kalahari Desert is a large arid to semi-arid sandy area in southern Africa extending to some 900,000 km² and covering much of Botswana, and parts of Namibia and South Africa. The surrounding Kalahari Basin covers over 2.5 million km² extending farther into Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, and encroaching into parts of Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The only permanent river, the Okavango, 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. Previously havens for wild animals from elephant to giraffe, and for predators such as lion and cheetah, the riverbeds are now mostly grazing spots, though leopard or cheetah can still be found.
The Kalahari has a number of game reserves - the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR, the world's second largest protected area), Khutse Game Reserve and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Animals that live in the region include brown hyenas, lions, meerkats, several species of antelope (including the oryx or gemsbok), and many species of bird and reptile. Vegetation in the Kalahari consists mainly of grasses and acacias but there are over 400 identified plant species present (including the wild watermelon or tsamma melon).