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30 Travel Namibia Essential Namibian8 Wait for it to rain q Every so often it rains in the Namib Naukluft. Sometimes years go by without a drop, then it might rain three times in one year. When it comes, the water temporarily transforms the park. Executive Director at the Gobabeb Training and Research Centre, Joh Henschel, works in the heart of the Namib. He describes the phenomenon of rain in the desert. " It begins with a sense of anticipation, in summer, that is a peculiar mixture of hope without expectation. Eyes scan the eastern escarpment for clouds, usually in vain. Distant rainfall changes the tune. Enormous clouds build up and hover temptingly above the ground. Insects buzz frantically and many birds flitter about; springbok disappear, heading to where the rain is already falling. However, the ground under our feet remains parched and cracked and somehow feels even drier than usual as our imagination plays games. Then the rain comes, slowly at first but the pattering raindrops are pure music and the fragrance of freshly- wetted ground is deeply pleasing. We feel like singing, but then shy away from that as the serene, calm desert suddenly explodes into gushes of torrential rain, followed by jets of wind and lashings of lightning. Streamlets flood, eroding, pooling and soaking into the thirsty earth. Insects are silenced, and springbok hunch their backs uncomfortably. The thrill continues when the rain is over. Sunrays burst out of thinning clouds, illuminating a new world of damp, dark earth. The springbok break out in graceful leaps of celebration, and our feelings follow them. In a few days the landscape blushes with green grass, fattening succulents, and lilies that pop out of the sand. Creatures erupt all over with a rush of tiny feet. Then, all too soon, the grass turns gold and the desert gradually ebbs to baldness. Rain becomes a distant memory. Knowing what rainfall means in the Namib makes you appreciate it all the more. If you look closely, the desert's parched landscape is vibrant with tenacious life that is remarkably adapted for waiting… for the next time it rains". n9 Take a wildlife safari p The Namib Naukluft's shifting sand dunes and gravel plains receive between 15 and 100mm of rain per year. Yet, remarkably, life has adapted to survive, evolving to form its own unique ecosystem. The cold Benguela current travelling from the Antarctic meets the onshore winds from the tropics, creating the condensation that is vital to sustain life in the Namib. Precious moisture comes from the fog moving in from the coast. Like pixies, creatures venture out at night when temperatures drop. Tracks seen in the crisp mornings may include dune- dwelling beetles, lizards, snakes, spiders and scorpions. Approximately two hundred species of tenebrionid beetles live in Namib sands. The fog- basking beetle derives moisture by condensing the Atlantic mist on its body, positioning itself so that water droplets run down into its mouth. The large dancing spider called the ' white lady of the Namib' lives in tunnels lined with spider silk under Then the rain comes, slowly at first but the pattering raindrops are pure music and the fragrance of freshly- wetted ground is deeply pleasing Beccyeccyeccy Mair

Travel Namibia 31n10 Experience history q Exactly one hundred years ago, diamonds were discovered in dunes south of Walvis Bay. A rush of prospectors headed for some of the Namib's most inhospitable areas, desperate to strike it rich. Few did and today the sand- blown remnants of their settlements still litter the national park, ghostly reminders of the hardships these pioneers were willing to endure. A 4WD trip to the coastal area between Meob and Conception Bay ( Diamond mining area No2) is a real privilege. The abandoned sieves and cartwheels are rapidly deteriorating and soon the Namib will shroud them completely in sand, forever burying the hopes they initially represented. n For more information go to www. uriadventures. com the honey sands. The golden mole swims through the sand surfacing at night to forage for insects. The shovel- snouted lizard has perfected a thermal dance to avoid its tail and feet spending too much time on the hot sand. And the translucent palmato gecko collects condensed fog droplets from its head with its long tongue. The larger animals have also learnt Namib survival skills. The springbok can be seen grazing in the morning when the dew decorates the hardy desert plants while the oryx catches breezes on the top of dunes, shallow veins in its nose cooling its blood like the radiator system of a car. Black- backed jackal, brown hyena and ostrich are also familiar with the desert wisdom and roam the hostile environment. Escaping the intense heat and withstanding extreme conditions, desert life emerges in the cool hours to sip the ocean mist, surviving against all odds. From the smallest of beetles to the proud oryx, life endures, magnificently.