Experience the Little 5
Living Desert Adventures
This tour not only covers the little creatures of the Namib desert such as chameleons, snakes or lizards but also the geology, structure and formation of the desert. The final part of this tour also includes a scenic dune drive which is a combination of fun and adrenalin allowing you to feel, see and absorb the beauty of the sand dunes while being in the middle of it all.
Don’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity to experience the desert alive and close up.
Owner & Guide
Departure: From your overnight accommodation in Swakopmund, at 8:30 in the morning.
Duration: The tour lastsapproximately 4-5 hours.
Our journey begins in Swakopmund and leads us across the Swakop River towards the local dune belt between Walvis Bay and Swakopmund. This dune belt is about 30km long and 5km wide and supports an impressive wealth of fauna and flora.
We slowly drive along the foot of the dunes, taking precaution not to drive on the gravel plains and cause any unnecessary damage to the environment. The gravel plains are protected and home to nesting Damara Terns, which are endemic to this area. Driving along gravel plains leaves scars, which can take up to 100 years to recover. Conservation issues and the geological structure of the desert will be discussed in detail en route. Plenty of time is available for frequent stops to take photos of the dunes and the surrounding environment.
Your guide will stop continuously to look for tracks (known locally as reading the bushman paper), to determine which animals were active the night before and wherever possible will try to catch some of them to show you. Great care is taken in sharing knowledge with you on each desert animal, including emphasis on special adaptations and perfect design used for survival in the desert. Time and care is taken to ensure each animal is returned safely to its home.
We cross the dune belt from East to West in a 4x4 vehicle, lending opportunity to incredible views of the desert landscape and an adrenalin packed journey where experienced knowledge of sand driving is essential. Enjoy a tea and coffee break on top of the dunes overlooking spectacular scenery packed with emotion and beauty.
The Namib Desert
The Namib Desert is approximately 2000 km long, extending along the entire coastline of Namibia from northern South Africa into southern Angola. It is the oldest Desert in the World, dated between 2 and 40 million years of age.
The Namib is recognised as a desert because of its low rainfall and high evaporation rates.
Rainfall varies from 15mm a year along the western coast, to 100mm a year along the eastern boundary. Evaporation is around 3500mm per year. Two factors influence the Namib Desert, namely: cold ocean currents and high air-pressure zones.
Cold ocean currants: The cold Benguela current, which originates in the Antarctic, flows northwards towards the equator along the Namibian coast. The cold water cools the sea down and decreases evaporation from the surface, reducing atmospheric moisture that is available for rain.
High pressure zones: The majority of the worlds deserts are found north and south of the equator at latitudes approximately 30degree south (Namib and Kalahari) and 30degree north (Sahara). Air masses that have lost their moisture are moved to the poles by antitrade winds. As the air cools, it becomes heavier, and descends. The descending air becomes compressed which increases in temperature and creates a high-pressure zone. High pressure prevents moist air from flowing into these zones, thus suppressing rain.
The Namib Desert is unique, because it experiences fog along the western perimeter for more than half the year, which in turn supports an incredible amount of Fauna and Flora, of which a large percentage is endemic.
Life in the Desert
Our journey through the desert will be focused on trying to find all the life organisms featured below, by skilfully tracking and reading the signs of the wild.
NOTE – these are all wild creatures and on certain days, fewer are to be found. It’s not a zoo, therefore we cannot guarantee what will be found, but we will certainly do our best to show you all there is to see.
Life in the desert is concentrated on the dune slip face where 99% of all desert dwelling animals live, comprising mostly of reptiles and insects, of which a large percentage are endemic to this area. The windward side of the dune has a gradual slope of 14 degrees, while the leeward side of the dune has a slip face with a steeper gradient of 34 degrees. It’s along the slip face that wind blown detritus (seeds, plant material, dead insects) is found, and along with that the beginning of the food chain.
The Web-footed Gecko, more commonly known as a Palmatogecko, is nocturnal and endemic to the Namib Desert. This is a beautiful gecko with an elongated cylindrical body. Very interesting to note are the webbed feet, large blood shot eyes, a semi transparent body lined with luminous green side stripes, which all combine to give it a bizarre look. This gecko feeds on spiders and insects and gets its water from condensing fog along its body and supplementing the rest from the food it eats. Only one other gecko in Southern Africa has webbed feet, namely the Kaoko Web Footed-Gecko (Palmatogecko vanzyli).
The Namaqua Chameleon is one of 2 Chameleons found in Namibia and is by far the more aggressive of the two. When approached it opens its huge yellow mouth and makes a wild hissing sound to frighten enemies away. It is normally a dark black colour in the morning to absorb heat, and can be found turning a paler colour in the afternoon to radiate heat.
This Chameleon has an enormous appetite and will eat almost anything it can fit in its mouth, including beetles, crickets, lizards and even snakes. The tongue is as long as the body with a suction cup fitted at the end. When feeding the tongue is cast out, much like a fishing rod is used to cast out a line. A hard bone having a wishbone structure is used to cast out the tongue – truly amazing. It has a gland on its nose to get rid of excess salt, caused by living in a coastal location. Water is absorbed through what it eats, especially tenebrionid beetles, which generally have a high moisture content through fog absorption.
About 200 different kinds of Tenebrionid beetles, also known as Tok Tokkies, occur throughout Namibia. Onymacris unguicularis, in the picture opposite, is often referred to as the head standing or fog basking beetle. On foggy mornings this beetle can be found standing on its head with its back facing the wind driven fog, allowing the water to condense on its back and run down the front legs to its mouth. They can drink up to 40% of their body mass, which is the equivalent of a human drinking 25 litres of water. In reality, Tenebrionid beetles can be seen as mobile water bottles for predators.
What is this! A Snake? A Lizard?
No, something in between, a legless lizard called a burrowing Skink. FitzSimons Burrowing Skink is endemic to the Namib Desert and is a nocturnal forager. It lives beneath the sand and is not always easy to catch. It is sensitive to movement above the ground, which prompts it to burrow down into the sand as quick as a snake moves in the grass. The tail makes up almost half of its total length and it has no eyelids or ear openings. It feeds on insects such as termites, ants and small beetles.
This amazing little lizard, also known as a sand diving, shovel snouted or thermal dancing lizard, represents a miniature dinosaur, as the Latin name suggests – Aporosaura Anchietae. It can be seen racing along the dunes and diving head first into the sand at the first sign of danger. This lizard has smooth skin, a shovel snout and long toes on its hind feet, which are all used for efficient burrowing. Also known as the clown of the Namib due to its thermal dancing habits, it can be seen on hot days standing with alternating feet in the air, to avoid burning them. It eats ants and beetles and they derive most of their moisture from what they eat. When tired and confronted by a predator then it resorts to fighting and tries to bite.
The Cartwheeling spider, commonly known as the Dancing White Lady, displays a rather bizarre way of escaping from its predators, by forming itself into a wheel. The spider lives in a burrow, about a half a metre long, which is made of finely knitted sand grains. The burrow is made in the side of a dune which has an angle greater than 15 degrees, with a trapdoor made of sand and silk. The location is chosen to cause an avalanche of sand when a predator tries to dig it out. When its greatest predator, the pompilid wasp, does manage to dig it out, then the spider’s first means of defence is to throw itself on its side and start cartwheeling down the dune at 44 turns per second. This is the equivalent of 1.5 metres per second, and is faster than the wasp can fly. If this method of escape is not successful, then the spider reverts to a fighting stance, from which the name Dancing White Lady is derived.
The Peringueys Adder, better known as a Sidewinder, is a common resident of the Namib dunes. This small adder is famous for its ability to side wind swiftly across hot loose sand while keeping most of its body off the ground. It has a flat head with eyes on top to allow it to burrow into the ground while keeping its eyes above the sand. In this way, it can keep a watchful eye for prey, while using its tail skilfully like a worm, to lure unwary victims. It obtains water by allowing the fog to condense along its body and supplements the rest from what it eats. Sidewinders are mildly poisonous and are not to be touched.
Horned adders are less common in the dunes, but are found along the gravel plains and in rocky areas. Horned adders are more aggressive and slightly more venomous. Horned Adders can attain a larger size and should be left alone.
The dune cricket, which is nocturnal in nature, displays marvellous design with antennae 3 to 5 times the length of its body and has spikey projections on it’s feet.
Among the insects, the dune cricket, from the genus comicus, displays an extreme modification of feet for sand walking. Along the length of the hind feet in particular, there are a number of finger/leaf - like projections, from which stiff hairs protrude to form a structure which functions like a snowshoe. These highly specialised structures greatly increase the surface area of the feet, thus increasing the speed and ease with which the cricket can move over the sand. Considering they are prime prey for lizards, geckos and snakes, they do well to have a fast get away
Your Guide Chris
Chris will be your professional guide and they will lead you through this exciting educational desert tour. Chris has a passion for nature and many years experience in the tourism industry. He will see to all your needs and answer your questions to the best of their ability. Chris looks forward to sharing the secret treasures of the desert with you.
Your guide will take you on an action packed journey over the dunes displaying experienced 4x4 driving skills. Driving over the dunes in a responsible manner affords excellent landscapes, and great photographic opportunities. Come experience the sand lions of the Namib Desert - have fun climbing up the slip-face of a dune and hear how it roars while sliding back down.
On the route back, we take a short visit to a world war one horse graveyard (circa 1914). Here over 1600 horses and 800 mules were shot and buried, due to an outbreak of the animal disease Glandus. Shifting sands, moved by strong winds, open and close these graveyards at random, exposing the weathered bones.
|Living Desert Adventure||Rate 2018|
|01.11.17 - 31.10.18|
|Per Person (half day trip incl soft drinks)||N$ 700.00|
|Children under 12 years||N$ 350.00|
|The Rates are per person|
* Please Note: Rates are subject to change withour any prior notice should VAT be increased or any other government levies be introduced, including large fuel increases or similar unforseen expenses
Group Size: We take special care in giving our clients individual attention and therefore have a maximum group size of 16 people in 2 soecially modified Land Rovers. Special arrangements can be made for larger groups on request.