Namibia is home to a little more than 2 million citizens, making it the second least densely populated country in the world. Its climate can be described as arid and semi-arid with annual rainfall varying from 50mm in some areas of the Namib Desert to over 600mm in some areas of the Caprivi. Namibia’s economy is highly dependent on mining, agriculture and tourism.Namibia is home to some of the most beautiful national parks and nature reserves in the world, including the Etosha Pan, Waterberg Plateau Park, Fish River Canyon and the NamibRand Nature Reserve.
Since establishing independence in 1990, Namibia has made great strides to preserve its natural environment. In Namibia’s Vision 2030 statement, former President Sam Nujoma clearly outlined a national agenda seeking to preserve the natural environment of Namibia. However, socio-economic factors, unsustainable lifestyle habits and food insecurity make this national agenda quite a challenge. That is why NaDEET seeks to teach Namibians sustainable living methods through hands-on, practical training courses in sustainable cooking technology and water and energy saving methods. We want to see Namibia achieve its goal of macro-environmental sustainability while improving the citizens’ quality of life through fostering knowledge and know-how on how to to preserve their own environment.
The Namib Desert is considered to be one of the oldest deserts in the world. Its name originated from the Khoi-speaking people, meaning “vast place”. Stretching across the Atlantic sea coast, the Namib is scarred by some of the most massive sand dunes in the world. Geologists theorise that the Namib dune sand originated from the Drakensburg Mountains in South Africa where years of erosion have carried pieces of rock down tributaries of the mighty Orange River. They are then carried north by the Benguela Current and deposited on the Namibian coastline and transported inland by the strong “South-wester wind”. The Namib Sand Sea has recently been named a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The NamibRand Nature Reserve is the largest private nature reserve in southern Africa, stretching across more than 215,000 ha. It includes four distinct natural habitats: dunes and sandy plains, inselbergs and mountains, gravel plains and sand, and gravel plains interfaces. Formed in the 1980’s from old livestock farms, the reserve comprises several famous ecotourism companies, research facilities and its sole environmental education centre – NaDEET. The NRNR and NaDEET work closely together to preserve the natural beauty of the Namib Desert, as well as to provide researchers and prospective nature conservation students the opportunity to study its inhabitants. Watch the video to explore more interesting facts about NRNR!
The extreme arid conditions of the Namib Desert make its flora and fauna some of the most fascinating oddities in the world. Every creature and plant that has survived in the desert has done so with an incredible adaptation mechanism, whether it is the thermal dancing of the wedge-snouted lizard, the intense smell of the Smelly Shepherd’s Bush to attract pollinating flies or the transparent body and webbed feet of the Namib dune gecko. Many species in the Namib Desert are endemic, or only found in one specific area of the world.
Probably the most famous species in the Namib Desert is Grant’s Golden Mole, a small blind mammal that “swims” through tunnels underneath the sand for its favourite food—termites! The Golden Mole is also able to change its body temperature to be similar to its surrounding temperature in order to conserve energy. Anyone wishing to know more about the unique Fauna and Flora of the Namib Desert should consult our own It’s Time to Identify, available here.
Because the sky is so dark and the air is so clear, the NamibRand Nature Reserve (NRNR) offers one of the world’s best views of the night sky. The air is clear because it is so dry (water vapour absorbs light) and almost free of air pollution. The sky is dark because there is virtually no light pollution. On moonless nights with the naked eye thousands of individual stars can be seen, as can the Milky Way, the faint band of light whose source is the billions of distant stars that make up our galaxy. Also visible are the Magellanic Clouds and the seldom seen zodiacal light (pictured left), a pyramid shaped glow viewed best soon after sunset and before dawn . The zodiacal light is sunlight reflected off countless small dust particles orbiting in the inner solar system. At certain times of the year perhaps the most elusive object in the night sky, a faint brightening of the zodiacal light opposite the Sun called the gegenschein, can be observed.
Many areas of the world now see only a few stars at night because instead of being dark, their night sky glows. This is because of light pollution which occurs when artificial light is reflected back down to earth by minute particles of dust or liquid. Light pollution wastes energy, disturbs animals and ecosystems, is detrimental to astronomical observations, and causes humanity to lose a part of its heritage and culture. Many tourists visit Namibia with an interest in viewing the magnificent night sky so it is a valuable resource for the country. With increasing development there is a risk that the light pollution will ruin the night skies of Namibia unless they are protected.
NRNR with NaDEET Centre as its core educational institute has recently expanded its conservation role to include preserving the star-filled night time skies that shine above its dunes and mountains. These efforts in night sky conservation have earned the NRNR and NaDEET Gold Tier status as the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) has certified NRNR as Africa’s first International Dark Sky Reserve, only one of four around the world (IDA Press Release).
An "IDA “… is a public or private land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage and/or public enjoyment mission of a large peripheral area” (see www.darksky.org for more information).
NaDEET staff show visitors the wonders of the night sky both by naked eye and through a telescope. The threat light pollution poses and how to prevent it are also discussed. See the Protect Our Night Sky edition of the Bush Telegraph for more information.
To view the extraordinary Namibian night sky, see Under the Namibian Sky.