The Living Desert Adventure: The Namib's Hidden Lives


Visitors to Namibia’s coastal region often head to Swakopmund for its stunning dune coast which is flanked by the magnificent Atlantic Ocean. Here adventurers can experience the thrill of whizzing down a dune on a sand board or quad biking their way over the sandy peaks.

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The seemingly hostile and uninhabited Namib Desert

High adventure in an ancient desert

Swakopmund is known as the adventure capital of Namibia, whilst the aptly named Namib, meaning vast and empty, is known as one of the oldest deserts in the world. Just looking at the arid landscape, you would never think it was home to a teeming, dynamic ecosystem of specialized tiny animals and resilient flora and fauna. 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. 

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The ever enthusiastic and entertaining guide, Chris Nel from Living Desert Adventures

Started in 2005 by Chris Nel, Living Desert Adventures offers an educational day tour through the sand dune deserts of coastal Namibia. The trained guides enthusiastically introduce visitors to the resilient insects, arachnids and reptiles that call the Namib home.

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Can you spot what creature is lurking in the grains of sand?
(Photo courtesy of Chris Nel from Living Desert Adventures
)

What you can expect on the tour

The tour starts at 08:00 (with the guides collecting you from your place of residence) and lasts from 4 to 5 hours. Participants will be introduced to conservation practices in the area, the unique geological structure and a brief overview on how the desert was formed.

You will hear about the “muesli” and “milk” that gives life to the arid landscape’s residents, the “little 5” and all manner of other interesting facts. The informal, fun presentation style of the guides was a wonderful bonus.

The real gems of the tour of course are the tiny animals that the guides are able to coax out of hiding to introduce to the guests.  On your tour you will definitely be meeting a few of the deserts best known residents, so here are some crib notes on these wonderful creatures so you know what to expect.

 

The Namib Dune Gecko:

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Note the longer than usual legs to help with heat regulation.

This web-footed gecko is endemic to the area and, being nocturnal, can usually be found on the compacted wind side of a dune where it feeds at night.  It comes in a variety of colours, but its webbed feet, large fixed lens eyes and transparent skin give it a beautifully unique appearance. If you are lucky, you might even catch it cleaning its large eyes with its long tongue.

The Namaqua chameleon:

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A chameleon, on the prowl for lunch.

This large, squat champion of the desert is one of the fastest chameleons in the world.  It has an amazing colour range which goes from basic muted colours when it is angry or trying to attract heat, or brighter reflective colours when it is trying to reflect the sun in the heat of midday. The Namaqua chameleon, like other chameleons can also swivel its eyes in both directions at the same time.  

 

The Sidewinder or Peringuey’s adder:

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The small adder making its way across a dune.

If you are luck you may just catch sight of one of the smallest adder species in the world, known as the “Dune Adder”. It has eyes strategically placed on top of it’s head, which allow the snake to conceal itself under the sand whilst still surveying the surroundings for prey. If you pay close attention on your trip you should catch a glimpse of its distinctive side-winding tracks on some of the dunes.

Honourable mention should also go to the shovel snouted lizard, Fitzsimon’s burrowing skink, the Dancing White Lady Spider and the wide variety of Tok Tokkie Beetles.


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The Dancing White Lady Spider who mesmerized us cartwheeling and karate-like moves.

 

Some tips for the tour

  • Bring along sunglasses and a hat- it is the desert after all!

  • Have a camera ready if you’re a keen photographer. These tours are a great opportunity to capture some memorable “Little Five” photos.

  • Remember that the tour is suitable for children too- the guides are especially good with getting younger kids involved and interested.

   

The Importance of Ecosensitive Tours 

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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 and are undoubtedly sensitive to the delicate ecosystem of the Namib.

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. 

If you’re interested in doing the Living Desert Adventure, you can get all the info you need to make a booking from the contacts listed below. It should be noted that this a popular activity and you should book in advance if you want to avoid disappointment.

 

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Living Desert Adventures

www.livingdesertnamibia.com

+264 64 405 070

+264 81 127 5070

Click here for tours & rates

 

More on this topic

The Great Family Escape: Adventure in Namibia 

Bizarre Desert Plants of Namibia

The Namib Sand Sea: A UNESCO Heritage Site

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Welwitschia

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