LIVING DESERT ADVENTURES
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ABOUT THE NAMIB DESERT
The Namib Desert is often referred to as the oldest desert in the world. This ancient coastal Desert is approximately 2000km long and 160km wide and is home to a multitude of Endemic animal and plant species.
The name Namib is of Khoekhoegowab origin and means "vast place".
Covering an area of 31,274 sq. mi (81,000 sq. km), the Namib is a coastal desert, situated along the south-western coast of the African continent. The Namib crosses Angola, Namibia and South Africa. The Namib is characterized by red sand dunes on the Eastern inland boundary that can reach impressive heights of up to 300m. the coastal dunes on the Western side are characterized by golden yellow dunes.
The coastal Western side of the Namib Desert receives between 2mm and 20mm of rain per year, while the eastern inland Namib desert receives an average of between 85mm and 150mm of rain per year.While the coastal desert receives very little rain it does receive an almost daily inflow of fog.
It is the coastal fog that supports a large variety of specialized desert animals and plants which survive on this life giving source of moisture.
Temperatures along the coastal desert are mild to cool ranging between 9-20C. Inland temperatures can reach up to 50C with regular temperatures above 40C.
A huge variety of reptiles, birds, mammals, insects and plants have made the Namib Desert their home. Due to the unique habitat and climate, many of these animals are endemic and found in other place on earth.
Larger mammals such as Oryx have ways of surviving the heat of the desert by feeding at night when it is cooler and using a nasal radiator to keep its body cool during extreme temperatures in the day.
Some Insects have devised ways of collecting condensed fog on their back where no other source of water is available.
Some reptiles like the Namib dune gecko have webbed feet to create more traction when moving across the loose dune sand.
This unique desert displays hundreds of examples of fascinating adaptations to survive the harsh elements of the Namib Desert.
About 200 species of terrestrial mammals (14 of them are endemics) and 40 species of marine mammals are native to Namibia.
A variety of mammals have made the arid Namib their home and have developed unique strategies to survive in the Namib Desert.
Consider the desert elephants which have wider foot pads so that they can transverse the sandy barren desert landscapes in search of food and water.
Desert adapted lions can be found hunting seals along the skeleton coast, while the black backed jackal will lick condensed water from the fog ,off the stones during the early morning before lost through evaporation as the desert heats up.
The last of the free roaming black rhinos can be found roaming in the rocky Namib Desert of Damaraland eating euphorbia bushed that poisonous to most other creatures.
Consider the Golden mole burrowing through the dunes of the Namib in search of food
These are but a few examples of some unique mammals that can be found.
Reptiles being cold blooded are amonst the most well adapted creatures to survive the harsh conditions of the Namib Desert.
About 268 species of reptiles are recorded in Namibia of which 166 species belong to the lizard family and 86 species of snakes, many of these being endemic to the Namib Desert.
Shovel snouted lizards can be seen thermal dancing on the warm sand dunes to keep their feet cool and barking geckos sound like a orchestra by night.
Legless lizards such as fitsimmons skink leave beautiful zigzag patterns on the dunes while hunting for food by night.
The perinqueys adder, also known as a sidewinder leaves ladder like tracks as it negotiates the soft dune sand.
The Namib is a haven to animal lovers filled with spectacular reptiles of all shapes,sizes and colours.
More than 4500 species of plants have been described in Namibia, of which 800 are endemic species. Most of these can be found along the coastal Namib Desert where they thrive on humidity from the daily fog.
Species such as the endemic welwitschia plant can grow up to 2000 years old in one of the most barren places on earth.
The endemic !Nara bush can be found in dry ephemeral rivers where the water runs below the surface of the soil. Melons from the !Nara fruit have been a source of food for the indigenous Nama people for the past 600 years and still support these communities at present.
Over a 100 species of lichen have been discovered along the coastal Namib desert where they thrive on the moisture from the daily fog.
Hundreds of endemic succulents can be found along the southern Namib Desert where the winter rains occur.
The Namib Desert is filled with amazing desert plants that can survive extreme temperatures and low rain fall
Approximately 6331 species of insects have been recorded in Namibia till now with many more still getting added to the list, with more than 1500 species are endemic. Insects make up the base of the food chain for survival in the desert and some have amazing survival strategies
Consider the Toktokkie beetles which are a variety of species of beetles that belong to the large Tenebrionidae family, also known as Darkling beetle. Over 200 hundred species of them can be found in the Namib.
The fog basking beetle (Onymacris unguicularis) can be seen doing a head stand in the early morning fog in order to let condensed water run down it back and get channeled to its mouth.
The trench diggig beetle (Lepidochora discoidalis) escavates a special trench that allows water to collect on the edges of the trench. The beatle will return to the trench after a few hours to lick up the trapped water.
The Comicus dune cricket haf feet that resemble snow shes which give them extra traction when jumping on soft sand, in order to escape predators.
The Namib Desert is filled with wonderful exciting to observe creatures.