The Namib Living Desert Experience

“There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness in the proportion”.
This famous quote by Edgar Allan Poe reminds us that just because something isn’t what the majority of society would stereotypically deem picture-perfect, like a dry desert or a brown chameleon or a whitish bird, doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful.

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Dry dusty sand. Without a trace of moisture. Dry as a weathered bone.
These terms may be used to describe the Namib Desert (81 000 km2) but amazingly, this unique biome has creatures that have adapted to living in harsh conditions. Everyone here either needs to camouflage themselves or have the ability to fake their own deaths in order to have a meal or avoid being someone else’s meal! The little creatures that inhabit the Namib sand dunes are unique and strange but rather fascinating. One of our tour groups here at Nature Travel Namibia recently had the opportunity to discover some of these creatures on their safari.

The coastal desert environment in Namibia is characterized by paler sand dunes with traces of black shades of magnetite whereas the renowned and older Sossusvlei dunes are brick red in colour and rich in variants of iron oxide. Either way, these sand dunes are strikingly beautiful and offer great photographic opportunities. They also offer spectacular views from their tops, but this has to be earned the hard way, either on foot or by 4×4!
After walking up sand dunes in Sossusvlei and experiencing breathtaking views of the famous Deadvlei on the previous day, we made our way to the coastal town of Swakopmund. On the 3rd day of our recent Namibian Classic Safari, the Living Desert Experience Tour was on the menu. Everyone in the tour group was very excited at the prospect of this!

We were taken on the tour by passionate and experienced desert specialists who are desert conservationists as well.

Namib Sand Gecko
Our first interesting creature was the Namib Sand Gecko. This almost-translucent creature avoids the heat of the day in self-dug burrows and is active at night. Its colouring allows it to blend in seamlessly with the colours of the desert sand. Another adaptation is that it has webbed feet, which allow it to burrow in the sand or walk on top of the sand. It also has adhesive pads on the bottom of its feet which allow it to be an extremely good climber.
The Namaqua Chameleon was also nearby, standing still and very well camouflaged. It has the ability to change colour to aid in controlling temperature, becoming black in the cooler morning to absorb heat more efficiently, then a lighter grey color to reflect light during the heat of the day in the desert.

As we continued our desert drive, we spotted some special birds which are very pale in colour blending in with the surrounding white gravel plains. The Tractrac Chat is of the race albicans, almost white and much paler than their counterparts in South Africa. This lighter colour is also believed to aid in thermoregulation. The Gray’s Lark was also spotted from close range and it is one of the Namibian near endemics.

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We also had luck with snakes, and saw Peringuey’s Adder and Horned Adder. An ambush hunter, the Peringuey’s Adder buries itself just beneath the surface of the sand with only its eyes and the tip of its tail exposed. When prey moves by, it is seized and envenomated. The Horned Adder has phenomenal camouflage and its body blends into the environment perfectly.
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Before we returned to Swakopmund for lunch we had some entertainment from the Shovel-snouted Lizard. This guy’s ‘dance’ allows the lizard to travel across the sand dunes but without burning its feet before diving into the sand and disappearing! Also, it is the only member of its family to eat seeds, a very clever adaptation for a lizard living in an environment not particularly rich in insects.

In a nutshell, the desert is alive!
Join us on one of our Namibia tours for an unforgettable Living Desert Experience. Enquire at or go to to find out how we can customise the perfect Namibia trip for you.

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