encounters with the animals in the Namib desert

Namibia: encounters with the animals of the Namib desert

Oryx © Radek – stock.adobe.com

Covering more than 80,000 km², the Namib is a coastal desert considered to be the oldest in the world. Located in the southwestern part of Namibia, it emits a sea of ​​sand dunes whose waves break on the rollers of the Atlantic Ocean. The weather rusted sand here. Of salaries white salt there. Sometimes a thin layer of fossil slag.

In these lands surrounded by an ocean made icy by the Benguela Current from Antarctica, rain rarely occurs. On the other hand, there are up to 200 days of fog per year. This beneficial dew has made it possible to acclimatize many animals to this dry environment.

A desert teeming with life: unbelievable, but true!

Plants of the Namib Desert

Plants of the Namib Desert

Welwitschia © Artush image stock.adobe.com

The half-dozen ephemeral rivers that make up namib desert welcomes from rare trees with particularly deep roots (acacias, oasis faidherbias, etc.), which elephants and giraffes feed on.

Also very popular among mammals, delicious swallowed by the tears of the coastal fog. The drier areas see the emergence of strange plants. that “nara” melon, saturated with water, delicacy of oryx that multiply the seeds in their dung.

More unique, the welwitschia is a plant endemic to Namibia that develops two single leaves in long bands, withered away from the stump. These plants can reach 1,500 years!

The small animals of the Namib desert

The small animals of the Namib desert

Gecko © ondrejprosicky – stock.adobe.com

The Namib ecosystem is home to a host of small animals. While climbing the dunes of Sossusvlei, one cannot ignore desert mealworm, little beetle that set the speed record for insects on the ground (4 km/h) to escape the heat of the sand, which would fry him on the spot. Cleverly, to hydrate it stands upside down and lets the mist droplets bead on its elytra, up to its mouth. This draining shell has also inspired paintings intended for facades and processes for collecting water in dry zones. Water elytra and liters of water.

Another cunning hydrologist, the webbed gecko causing the mist drops to condense on his large cold eyes, which he then flicks open with his long tongue. Its webbed skin prevents it from sinking into the sand and, strong in its sprinting abilities, it hunts down insects… before serving itself as food for some peringuey viper, mistress of camouflage in the sand!

Another small tenant in the Namib, the meroles anchietae engages in an amusing pas de deux thermoregulators: to protect itself from the hot sand, this choreographer lizard stands on two legs, then alternates with the other two and so on.

Other Namib Desert animals

Other Namib Desert animals

Wild horses © Mr – stock.adobe.com

South of the Namib there are about a hundred wild horses accustomed to Garub plain, particularly hostile. Deserters of the German colonial troops or survivors of a wrecked boat, their origin remains uncertain.

But the large native mammals are mainly found in the northern part of the Namib. In it brandberg massif or in the generally dry bed of the Uniab River, between palmwag and Skeleton Coast Park. A real fantasy about animals.

L’ostrich gossip about its status as the largest bird in the world. calm down, that one rhinocerosp ruminants on rare plants, such as zebra, while giraffe stretching its long neck towards the acacias.

That oryx, carved out for the desert, is equipped with a brain “conditioned” by a very specific network of blood vessels. that leopard, quite nocturnal, difficult to observe.

Elephants – Namibia © raphoto – stock.adobe.com

Compared to lion et al’elephant desert, after almost disappearing, they have regained the animal’s hair. In addition to more extended legs to avoid sinking into the sand, the pachyderm stands out for its burrowing qualities. Gifted with a dowser’s gift and reminiscent… of an elephant, he digs wells with his tusks and trunk to bring water up from the depths of dry rivers. The Namib lion has the special ability of hunting sea animals: sea lions, cormorants, even the remains of whales stranded on >skeleton coast. The meeting of two worlds!

No misunderstanding, we are here in the middle of nature, not in a zoo. The animals are observed under sometimes random conditions. Like the leopard that attacked a tourist through the window of his motorhome one night in 2018. But accidents are extremely rare.

We would rather remember these episodes that occur on a daily basis: a breakfast gently disturbed by an elephant appearing a few meters away, a curious young oryx coming to sniff the passenger compartment of the vehicle, the ostrich that must be hunted to preserve the picnic , or this other one that we race with on the track.

Animal road signs also bear witness to this abundance and diversity (oryx, zebra, elephant, giraffe, rhinoceros, etc.). And to get a closer look at these animals in their own juice, the lodges organize a safari by vehicle or even on foot: coming face to face with a rhinoceros is a guaranteed exciting sequence. Unique and magical encounters!

Fact sheet

To prepare your stay, see our Namibia online guide.

How to get there?

– By plane : no direct flights from France.

– Visa: is granted to the airport for a period of 90 days.

Where and how do you observe the animals?

– Garub plain (horses): water point 20 km from Aus, on the Lüderitz road (autonomous access and observation). Klein Aus Vista, lodge and campsite.

– Brandberg (elephants): the valley ofUgab River. White Lady Lodge safari (June-Dec only; 500 NAD/pers for ½ day) and camp.

– Palmwag (elephants, lions, rhinos…): upper valleyUniab River. Palmwag Lodge, safari (1,000-3,000 NAD/pers for half a day) and overnight.

– Skeleton Coast National Park (brown hyenas, elephants, lions…): mouth offUniab River. Camping, lodge (Torra bay or Terrace bay) and safari organized by the park.

Text: Fabrice Doumegue

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