Rhino’s, Elephants, Oryx and Lions, the masters of adaptation in the Namib Desert!

There is no doubt about it, Namibia, full of stark contrasts, endless blue skies, dramatic scenery and sand dunes that go on forever, is still one of the most breathtakingly beautiful countries in Africa, and one of the biggest!

If you have never been to this land of contrasts and heat, you can be forgiven for thinking that none of the largest mammals and carnivores could possibly have found their own ways of adapting to this unforgiving environment, but they have!

The majestically beautiful Oryx is one example of an animal that is highly adapted to this harsh terrain, surviving in an environment where most other antelope would quickly perish.  They have learned to retain enough water from their diet to survive, conserving enough water to withstand the extreme heat as well as a body temperature that can climb to 40 degrees, in order to cool the blood that flows to its brain! Sheer natural genius!

Oryx will rest in the shade of a tree during the hottest part of the day, or, if no tree is available, will turn their bodies so that most of their body surface faces away from the sun, in addition to this, their very clever colouring acts as a natural heat deflector.


Desert Rhino’s are lone rangers, with a horn that is slightly longer and thinner than the regular Namibian black rhino, which helps them to forage in this barren environment. They are also mostly nocturnal in order to avoid the excessively high daytime temperatures.  These Rhino’s are experts at crossing this massive desert area, and generally have home ranges of about 500 square km’s!

As loners, the only time you will find a desert Rhino that is not alone will be during the two and a half years a mother rhino will stay with her calf in order to teach her baby how to survive in these tough conditions!

If you are lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a desert black rhino against the rich red backdrops of the desert sands, it is an image you will carry for the rest of your life of sheer majesty!  Although becoming near extinct by the 1980’s, the hard work of organisations such as Save the Rhino Trust and others have helped to increase the population of these national treasures five times over!


The differences between the African Elephant and the Namibian Desert Elephant are obvious in the size of their feet, which are larger to make it easier for them to move with ease across the soft desert sand, after all, having to travel up to 200km’s to find water would be very difficult with dainty feet carrying such immense weight in soft sand!

Namibian desert elephants are also leaner and taller than the African Elephant due to their diet, with slightly longer trunks which allow them to dig down into the sand to find underground water.  While the elephants in Etosha drink up to 200 litres of water a day, the Namibian desert elephants in the north only drink water every three to four days, and because there are fewer plant species that could be a source of nourishment, the tusks of the Namibian desert elephant are more brittle.


Although genetically the same as the lions in Kenya, Namibian desert lions have adapted to survive conditions their African cousins never would!  They need very little water, absorbing most of it from the prey they consume, an incredible adaptation for the king of all animals!

Namibian desert lions live on a diet of Oryx, Wildebeest, Zebras, Giraffes and Ostriches, and when food is really scarce; they have been known to attack elephants. Desert lions will travel great distances in search of prey, and surprisingly for a hot climate, have thicker coats than their cousins in order to deal with the cold night temperatures.

Namibia has gained international recognition for its conservation efforts in every species once considered endangered, especially in this country’s arid areas.  When an intensive research project on desert lions in Namibia was started in 1998, there were just twenty desert lions in the entire area, today, that number is closer to 150!


These beautifully adapted lions, elephants, rhinos and Oryx are the more visible aspects of the wildlife that makes a Namibian adventure truly spectacular, but under all this harsh, barren land that stretches as far as the eye can see, there is another world of small animals and insects who are equal masters of adaptation, as above, so below the desert sands of Namibia!

Take a 21st century overland tour for a face to face encounter with these ancient magicians of the Namibian desert in luxury and comfort with Africa4us, and experience it all with passionate local guides who have lived these experiences for over seventeen years and can spot a desert lion through eyes that are as good as those of an eagle!

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Ber Ryan
January 23, 2020
How wonderful there are people like you who bring us these magnificent pictures and information of animals and landscapes--of places we certainly never see--Thank You so much

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