The desert elephants of Namibia are not in fact a different species as many people believe; they are still loxodonta africana and most live in the northern reaches of Namibia but it is the way that they adapt to living in the harshest of conditions and environment that makes them so magnificent and special.
Namibian elephants live in the far northern sector of the country in the Kunene, Kavango, Zambezi and Oshikoto regions. These areas are mostly covered in sandy desert soils and rocky mountains, the western areas having very little rain and vegetation. Along the Zambezi Area (formerly Caprivi) there is much denser vegetation and water. This is a strip of land sandwiched between Angola and Botswana.
During your stay in one of the remote safari camps in this stunningly beautiful wilderness, you will search along riverbeds and known valleys where the elephants roam. Learn from our expert guides and researchers how these desert elephant adapt and manage to live on little vegetation and dig for water in a seemingly dry river bed. The lives of the desert elephant has been featured on the BBC’s ‘Planet Earth’ series alongside the Giraffe that also seem to survive well here.
Though the species is the same, desert elephants have evolved to have a smaller body mass and longer legs, coupled with larger feet – this is especially useful for walking across the vast sand dunes of the west. They walk between desert oases and live in much smaller groups than those living in the eastern areas of the country that are generally made up of 10-20 individuals.
Desert conditions mean that these elephants lessen the pressure on small but vital resources of water and limited plants and trees. They can go without water for several days but have to walk vast distances following traditional routes in order to find it. Your guide or researcher will explain how the matriarch of larger herds is the one who leads the family along time worn paths in search of water and food resources.
These memories are passed down through the ages. Elephants walk incredibly far and herds can cross geographical borders – those in the Zambezi Area often cross into Botswana’s Linyanti and Chobe parks then back over to Angola in the north. Elephant herds in Chobe cross to Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, then to Zambia and return back through Zambezi to Chobe.
Like many animal species around the world, elephants face modern day pressure within the environment in which they live, as the human population increases and the northern tribes’ herds of domesticated goats and sheep increase, this brings ever more demands and strain on the elephant population.
There is an increase in poaching globally, especially on Elephants and Rhino in Africa. Fortunately the message is getting across slowly and an increasing number of people are learning that they can benefit from more wildlife in the area that entices tourism and therefore brings benefits to their lives; however researchers and NGOS are still working very hard to educate and encourage a balance of understanding with nomadic tribes and farmers alike.
By Marcela Kunova - 20th April 2017
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