I’m sure most of you have heard about the famous coastal region in Namibia, where massive red sand dunes touches the Atlantic ocean. The Dorob National Park in the Namib Desert is home to the most unique little creatures that you would never have known about if you haven’t gone on Living Desert Adventures‘ Tour run by Christopher Nel. When I was the official trip photographer for Solimar International and Namibian Tourism Board‘s #GoBigNamibia adventure tour we had the wonderful opportunity to meet some of these desert creatures of the Namib.
The tour started early in the morning. Our group got pick up at our hotel in Swakopmund around 8am. We all got into one Land Rover truck and headed for the dunes. We made sure that our camera batteries were charged, cause the photo opportunities on this tour are endless!! I took both my wide angle lens and my telephoto lens with me as I had to able to take wide angle shots of the group, and I really wanted to make sure that I can zoom in CLOSE to the little creatures as well, like the Dancing White Lady Spider and the cute little Shovel-Snouted Lizard you’ll meet later.
Our group were joined but two other smaller groups, so before the tour started, Chris introduced us all to each other and we were explained how the day will progress from there on. First stop was just before we entered the dunes. Chris drew images on the sad explaining how the spiders, lizards and other little animals get their food from the desert. This Living Desert Tour is HIGHLY educational and so very interesting.
Have you ever thought to yourself:”Where do creatures that live in deserts get their food from?” Christ explained that the wind blows seeds (the muesli) from the oceans side, and that the fog (acting as the milk) blowing in from the ocean will provide them with the essentials they need to let them grow at the bottom of the dune, where they get stuck. This is the method in which the animals get the food they need.
Now that we knew what kind of food these cute animals eat, we were all very keen to see some of these, snakes and ‘goggas’ that Chris was bragging about. We all got into the Land Rovers again and we slowly drove along the 2 track roads leading deeper into the desert. As we were driving, Chris would spot movement in the sand, JUMP out and run up a dune like a mad man. Hahaha, there were a few times where Rachel had to pull up the handbrake as the 4×4 SLOWLY rolled backwards.
We had such a laugh. Chris is EXTREMELY enthusiastic and it is amazing to know there are people out there that just love what they do. It takes a VERY well-trained eye to spot the tracks or movement of these creatures. Anyways, once Chris caught whatever he ran after, he’d call us and we then had the chance to see what surprise he had for us in his hands.
First ‘gogga’ we saw was the Tok Tokkie.
Followed by the Shovel-Snouted Lizard.
This cute fella is endemic to the Namib Desert and moves by day (diurnal). Chris spotted him running up a dune. The only way that you will ever be able to see them is if you have someone like Christ to catch them. Should this lizard feel threatened, it will dive into the soft sand thus earning another common name “the sand diving lizard”. Have you ever seen a lizard on the Discovery Channel “dancing” on the sand, by lifting up 2 of his feet from the sand – well, this lizard does that too in order to stay cool and minimizing the heat transferred from the sand to the body, earning himself a third name as “the thermal dancing lizard”.
Chris used worms to lure the chameleon over so that we all can have a closer look. The Namaqua Chameleon is the oldest chameleon in the world, one of the fastest moving, and also the only chameleon in Africa that walks on sand. They can see in both directions at the same time, 180 degrees on each eye independently. Their basic color is black, but it’s color can change according to his mood. They need both eyes on the prey when catching it with their long tongue, which can reach the entire length of the body including the tail. I found this guy so interesting!
We left behind our new friend and continued with our educational tour. We drove deeper and deeper into the desert. And then… Chris jumped out of the car again…. ran up a dune, DOVE like the Shovel-Snouted Lizard and caught a “Fitzsimon’s Burrowing Skink”.
This is the Fitzsimon’s Burrowing Skink!!! A legless lizard.
The Fitzsimon’s Burrowing Skink is blind, and it hunts other insects by detecting their vibrations on the sand – how cool is that?? It’s skin is covered in a glossy wax, enabling it to slide and glide easily throw and in the sand. It spends most of it’s life under the sand, finding food.
Rachel Lang from Bush-bound Girl loved ever second of getting to know each little creature!! We all had a chance to hold this slippery little lizard for a few seconds.
EES (Eric Sell) is Namibia’s very own FAMOUS Kwaito Rapper star (living in Germany) who also joined our #GoBigNamibia tour – he was great entertainment to our group and here you can see him also having a turn at holding the Fitzsimon’s Burrowing Skink. Check out EES’ website to find out more about him.
Again we let the lizard go his own way in peace and we moved on to see what else the desert had in store for us.
Chris drove the Land Rover higher up onto a dune. We parked and he had us all walked a few meter; we stopped and he drew a big circle in the sad. We were told not to step inside this particular circle and he went off to find yet another VERY INTERESTING little creature….
Meet the Namib Dune Gecko also known as the Palmato Gecko.
I LOVED listening to Chris’ explanations about this gecko. When Chris put him on the sand before us, he made one individual stand in front of the sun to give this little guy some shade. If you look closely, you can see that his skin is almost transparent. Up close we were able to see it’s blood vessels under the skin. These gecko’s are nocturnal and have large fixed lens eyes without eyelids, which they keep clean by licking with long tongues. When they need water, they sometimes allow fog to condense on their large eyes and lick the drops of water off with their long tongues. They also come in a variety of colors and patterns. I wished I had a nice macro lens to really get close up shots of the Palmato Gecko. We said our goodbyes after taking a couple (or 20) photo’s and Chris then showed us how he puts the gecko back in a safe place, away from the sun.
What a sight!!!
The Dorob National Park (Dorob meaning “dry land”) was declared a national park on 1 December 2010. It is 1,600 kilometres (990 mi) in length. Who would have thought that this dry sandy area are home to so many wonderful creatures like we have seen so far….
The next animal that we found in the red dunes was…. can you guess wat this is????
Chris made us all come A BIT closer and asked us if we could see it. I KID YOU NOT, no one was able to even see what he saw. He used his SMALL point-and-shoot camera and took this picture on the MACRO setting. We were only THEN able to see what it was… a snake!!
Meet the Sidewinder Snake, also known as the Peringuey’s Adder. This adder is a sidewinder, meaning only 2 sections of the snake’s body touches the sand at once. It was absolutely amazing to see it move. It is also one of the smallest adders in the world, measuring up to 30cm. It has eyes on top of it’s head, so when it burrows itself into the sand, it can still keep an eye out on the outside world. They are front fanged and have a combination of Cytotoxic and Neurotoxic poison. They also give live birth (viviparous), something I was unaware a snake could do.
Last but not least: The Queen of the Desert (according to me); The Dancing White Lady Spider.
If threatened by enemies, the spider dives off the steep dunes and curls into a ball. It rolls down the dune at 44 roles per second, this is faster than any of its predators can run. INSANE, isn’t it?? The Cartwheeling Spider also has large fangs and can inflict a painful bite with mild venom, none of us wanted to get TOO close.
The final part of the tour includes a scenic dune drive, also conducted in an eco-sensitive way using dedicated paths and ensuring the area is minimally disturbed. Chris told us about all his conservation strategies on how he is planning on keeping the quad-bikes and 4 x 4’s from driving all over these AMAZING desert animals.
We had a chance to run up a dune and admire the STUNNING scenery below us:
We had an AMAZING day and I cannot thank Chris Nel enough for the unforgettable experience that he and his team gave us on the Living Desert Tour.
THANK YOU CHRIS!!!!!!! You were hilarious and SUPER fun!!!!!
The Living Desert Tour is all about education and sustainable tourism. Guides take great care to ensure that desert animals are returned unharmed to their environment, you can clearly see the love and passion these guides have for the desert and it’s inhabitants.
- Bring along sunglasses, a hat and sunscreen, it is a desert and it’s hot, you know, cause…it’s in the desert!
- Have a camera ready if you’re a keen photographer. This tour will allow you to take amazing photos of the “Little Five”.
- Remember that the tour is suitable for children too- the guides are especially good with getting younger kids involved and interested.
“Our Living Desert Tour is a unique 4×4 adventure which specializes in bringing the desert to life while sharing the awesome beauty of the Namib Desert with travelers from all over the world”. The eye-opening “Living Desert Tour” is such a fascinating experience because it reveals the Namib’s many hidden treasures to those who go on it.
Living Desert Adventures
+264 64 405 070
+264 81 127 5070
Click here for tours & rates
View my Photo Gallery of The Living Desert on my website: Lourika Reinders Photography (www.lourikareinders.com).
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