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Namib-Naukluft

The Namib-Naukluft Park is one of the largest national parks in the world with four main conservation areas.

Diverse habitats include the gravel plains of the Namib Desert Park, the enormous dunefields of Sossusvlei, the secluded wetland known as Sandwich Harbour and the higher plateau of the Naukluft Park, the animals found here are often endemic and very hard to see; but worth it if by some chance you manage to.

Some of these can be found in the many flat expanses of rock and stone of the Namib, which are covered with thin tall grass and creeping yellow flowers after the rains. This vegetation attracts gemsbok, springbox and Hartmann’s mountain zebra. In the dry season animals such as the black-backed jackal, bat-eared and Cape foxes and aardwolf can be seen at night. Hyena can also be seen, including the reclusive brown hyena, whilst birds such as ostrich, secretary birds and Ludwig’s bustard can be seen during the days.

The dunefields are the traditional image of a desert, and the Namib Desert is old enough for endemic species to have evolved – so it’s not as bare and lifeless as many other deserts are. Some of the more stable dunes have grasses grown on them, and vegetable matter blown in on the wind collects at the bottom of the dunes where it is eaten by insects such as fish-moths, crickets and tenebrionid beetles. These are then eaten by spiders, geckos, lizards and chameleons, which provide food for sidewinder snakes. Rare species include the Grant’s golden moles, which eat any small beetles or larvae they catch, and the dune lark which is endemic to this region and is hardly ever seen outside the dune areas.

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If these dunefields capture your interest, similar examples can be seen along the Skeleton Coast.

The wetlands arise from the river valleys and pans, which are dry on the surface, but have permanent underground water which sustains trees and bushes such as the camelthorn, acacias and nara melon. These trees, along with others, make linear oases which sustain large numbers of insects and birds, as well as large mammals such as gemsbok, kudu and springbok. For nocturnal cats from leopard to caracal, these are the best places to look.

The mountains are normally of granite or limestone, and many are buried under the dunes whilst others stick out in expanses of gravel plains, earning themselves the name of inselburg, or ‘island-mountain’. These support their own flora and fauna, including acacia, ale and lithops (which are often called living rocks due to their pebble-like shape). Pools in the crevices that can form temporarily host small water creatures which lay eggs that can wait in suspended animation for years. Raptors are common here due to the open land, and lappet-faced vultures, greater kestrels and red-necked falcons are typical of the environment.

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