Wildlife of the Namibian deserts and more


Tony Leppard


This presentation was about a 3-week holiday in Namibia in 2007, which included a trip from Windhoek to the Fish River Canyon, then to Walvis Bay, the Etosha National Park and back to Windhoek.


Namibia is on the west coast of Africa between South Africa and Angola and to the west of Botswana.† Originally a German colony, it was transferred to South African control under a League of Nations mandate after the 1st World War and was administered by South Africa, though formally under UN trusteeship, after the 2nd World War.† It became independent in 1990.† It is probably the richest place in the world for diamonds.


With an area of almost 320,000 square miles and a population of 2.1 million, Namibia is one of the least densely populated countries in the world with 6.6 people per square mile.† Almost the whole country is desert, with the Kalahari Desert in the east, the Karroo in the south-east and the Namib Desert along the coast.† The cold Benguela current flowing north from Antarctica controls the climate and results in a lot of mist along the coast.† There is water around underground and it comes from Angola.†


The Fish River Canyon is as big as the Grand Canyon but not as well known.† 160km long and up to 27km wide, it reaches a depth of 550m.† Species seen included dassies or rock hyrax, mountain zebras, dassie rat and numerous birds Ė pigmy falcon, swallow-tailed bee-eaters, pale-winged blackbird, Orange River white-eye.


A stop-over at Solitaire Guest Farm offered the opportunity to see the orphan animals that have been rescued and are now cared for including Hartmannís mountain zebra, springbok and meerkats, as well as helmeted guinea fowl and bat-eared foxes.


Sossusvlei, or dead-end marsh, is a mud-pan in the southern part of the Namib Desert, created by a river that flows every 5 to 10 years but does not reach the ocean, draining away beneath the dunes of Sossusvlei.† It is full of red sand dunes, which contrast with the surrounding ground which is formed of yellow sand.† It is believed that the sand comes down the Fish River from the Kalahari, then is transported by the sea to the Namib coast and then blown inland.† Of particular note is the dead vlei (a seasonal shallow lake), which is blocked from water by the dunes and contains many dead trees, which are still perfectly preserved.† Species seen included pied crow, scaly-backed finch, dune lark, red-headed finches, dusky sunbirds and striped mouse.


Walvis Bay has greater and lesser flamingos and pelicans, with fur seals on the sandbanks and heavyside dolphins.† Bird island is a man-made island for the collection of guano and there are signs of defunct diamond mining activity and wrecks offshore.


Cape Cross on the Skeleton Coast has a large fur seal colony and lots of black-backed jackals, ostriches and a village of Himba and Herrero tribespeople.† Twyfelfontein has bushman rock carvings.


Etosha National Park surrounds the Etosha salt pan and is a haven for wildlife, with waterholes maintained by pumping from underground.† Mammals include Burchellís zebra, oryx, elephant, giraffe, black rhinoceros, black-backed jackal, lion, springbok, kudu, hartebeest, leopard, impala, dik dik and banded mongoose.† Birds includedcrimson-breasted shrike, hoopoe, glossy starling, common scimitarbill, korey bustard, lappet-faced vulture, great sparrow, sociable weavers, yellow-billed hornbill, namaqua sandgrouse, pellís fishing owl, pale chanting goshawk, lesser kestrel and red-billed francolin.