Namibia’s enthralling desert landscapes may exude an unmerciful harshness, but they are rich in wildlife, managing to shelter populations of Africa’s most iconic safari animals.
- Desert-adapted elephants can often be found digging into seemingly dry riverbeds to extract water. And they are best spotted in Etosha National Park, the most famous of the country's eleven national parks.
- In the inhospitable Namib Desert, Terebrionid Beetles stand on their heads at the top of sand dunes on foggy mornings to catch settling fog as a source of water.
- The oryx is extremely tolerant of Namibia’s arid conditions and is found all over the countryside.
- The Kunene region has the largest number of free-roaming black rhino in the world – the only rhino living on communally and traditionally-owned land without conservation status.
- Along Namibia’s northern coastline, the Skeleton Coast National Park has one of the world’s biggest breeding colonies of Cape fur seals at the Cape Cross Seal Reserve.
What makes a safari to Namibia so unique?
Namibia is often referred to as a land of contrasts and its wildlife is no exception. Travel to Namibia and you will see a landscape that is pristine and remote. First impressions are usually of a hot and somewhat harsh landscape, but throughout your trip to Namibia you will be captivated by the special and extraordinary adaptations that the wildlife have made to these conditions.
Safari in Namibia
The Namib Desert is one of the world's oldest deserts and extends more than 2000 kilometres from Southern Angola along the Namibia Coast into western South Africa. It is believed that the desert came into existence about 80 million years ago, but its most recent change came about 5 million years ago, following the establishment of the cold Benguela Current. Winds blowing onto the landmass from this cold ocean current contain very little moisture which means that little or no rain falls in the coastal region of Namibia. These dry conditions mean that the wildlife living in the Namib Desert have specially adapted to living in the dry conditions. Moisture is of course critical for life, and plants such as the Nara and Spiky Love Grass utilize the fog that rolls in off the cold Benguela Current, which in turn provides sustenance for a host of wildlife species.
The Oryx controls its body temperature by passing its blood through a network of capillaries before it reaches the brain. The Bat Eared Fox’s large ears have a fine network of veins which serve a similar function, while the Ground Squirrel raises its bushy tail to act as a shady umbrella. Most comical of the wildlife, is arguably the Desert Lizards who appear to dance as they alternate feet off the hot desert sand – an effective way of keeping cool!
The largest tree in the Namib Desert, called the Camel Thorn, has very deep roots, enabling it to get water from below surface level. Its kidney-shaped pods are very nutritious and relished by Springbok and other herbivorous wildlife. The rough bark of the tree provides hiding places for skinks, geckos, scorpions, spiders and numerous insects. The branches of the Camel Thorn are home to many birds, including Sociable Weavers, Eagles and Vultures.
The leading wildlife destination in Namibia
If you want to see Namibia Wildlife in all its glory then you should definitely visit Etosha National Park. Proclaimed a game reserve in 1907 by Governor Fredrich Von Lindequist, the reserve is Namibia’s largest, and at a staggering 2.27 million hectares, one of the largest in Africa. The area is home to Africa’s Big Five as well as local species such as Black faced Impala and Damara Dik Dik.
Etosha has been interpreted as meaning ‘place of mirages’, ‘place of dry water, or ‘huge white area’ and even to this day much of the game viewing in the area is concentrated on Etosha Pan. Namibia Wildlife Resorts (the Namibian government run wildlife agency) have three lodges in the Etosha National Park, namely Okaukuejo, Namutoni and Halali. Okaukeujo is well known for its flood-lit waterhole where Black Rhino, Elephant and Lion often drink. There are a variety of private reserves adjacent to the Etosha National Park, such as Onguma Private Game Reserve and Ongava Private Game Reserve. The advantage of these reserves is that you can view wildlife at night, as well as on foot.
Damaraland & Kaokoland - North Western Namibia
From a wildlife perspective the area known as the Kaokoveld is important due to its relatively healthy population of Desert Black Rhino and Desert Elephant. The area is a true wilderness which has enabled the Desert Black Rhino to thrive. In 1960 there were an estimated 100,000 Black Rhino across Africa; today there are only about 2600, making them of critical significance. The Desert Elephant is not a separate species from the African Elephant (Loxodonta Africana) but they have adapted to the dry conditions of the Kaokoveld, and only need to drink every third or fourth day, and have learnt to be less wasteful when eating, by utilizing the leaves, shoots, bark, flowers, bulbs, tubers, roots, grass and sedges.
Atlantic Coast: Skeleton Coast and Swakopmund, Namibia
Compared to the wildlife species in the rest of Namibia, the Atlantic Coastline is truly unique.
Most notably arethe Cape Fur Seals which have a huge colony of 80,000 – 100,000 at Cape Cross near Swakopmund. This is only one of six breeding colonies of the species on the South Africa and Namibia Mainland and is visited by the bull seals when territories are demarcated and aggressively defended. For the first few months of their lives the seal pups are very vulnerable and attract Black Backed Jackal and Brown Hyenas that prey on the pups.
The Skeleton Coast is a very interesting National Park and is named after the many ships that ran aground here in the past. The waters around here are very nutrient rich and attract large numbers of fish such as Hake, Pilchard, Anchovy and Cape Horse Mackerel; this in turn attracts sea and shore birds that prey on them. Another wildlife species endemic to this part of Namibia is the Heaviside Dolphin a species limited to shallow waters in coastal areas. Interestingly the first scientific accurate description of this species was only published in 1988.
Caprivi Strip Namibia: Okavango and Chobe all rolled into one
The Caprivi is a very different part of Namibia, a verdant collection of woodlands and floodplains where rivers never run dry. It is a panhandle that joins Namibia to four countries, across an extraordinary convergence of rivers.
Wildlife here includes African Buffalo, Common Impala, Roan antelope, Red Lechwe, Puku, Tsessebe, Puku, Reedbuck and Elephant. It is the only place in Namibia where you can see Hippopotamus and Nile Crocodile. Birdlife here is prolific. Around the waterways and woodlands you can find over 400 species of bird.