Namibia is often described as a land of great contrasts, a phrase that is often overused and misused.
There is nothing false about that of Namibia though. The dry, barren air of the Namib desert; breathing in, your tongue sticks to the top of your mouth and you can physically feel the sweat perspiring from your arms in the harsh Namibian sun. Compare that to the tropical marshlands of the Caprivi in the North; with the smell of moisture filling the thick, humid air, of which you may think you could eat your way through. Namibia should most definitely be considered a land of great contrasts.
What does this have to do with the animals in Namibia though?
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With just about each animal having to adapt to the potentially very harsh climates, the variety of animals in Namibia is quite extreme. Even in the seemingly barren desert, the landscape could be scattered with wildlife. Which makes the animals another aspect of Namibia’s greatness in contrasting offerings.
Animals in Namibia, What’s there to see?
Africa’s Big 5
Namibia is one of the few countries home to Africa’s Big 5. Namely, Elephant, Lion, Leopard, Cape Buffalo & Rhinoceros (both Black & White). The name Big 5 is to do with hunting these animals, they are the hardest to hunt because they sometimes fight back. Surprisingly, the Cape Buffalo is actually the more dangerous of the 5. They can be highly aggressive when wounded or have young nearby and can even attack in mobs… They are called black death for a reason!
If you’re going to shoot any of these animals, make sure it’s only through the lens of your camera!
Many are in danger of extinction, with many parks in Namibia participating in conservation measures to increase their numbers (as well as other endangered animals, like the African Wild Dog).
Due to poaching, posting images of Rhino’s on social media is largely forbidden. this is also one of the reasons why drones are banned in all of Namibia’s National Parks.
(If you’re looking to fly your drone and take breath-taking photos/videos of Namibia’s landscape, check out Erindi Private Game Reserve.)
Where to find the Big 5?
The best place to find Africa’s Big 5 is the largest park in Namibia, Etosha National Park.
Home to the Big 5, as well as many of Namibia’s other animals, any nature-viewing trip to Namibia, has to involve Etosha.
Whilst lions, elephants & buffalo can be fairly easy to find, Rhinos, especially the black Rhinoceros, are a little bit harder to find, and leopards also pose quite a challenge to find.
Pro tip: Don’t limit your scanning to the ground as Leopards often drag their prey into the trees, and they prefer to stay in mountainous areas.
Cape Fur Seals
Yes, seals! Although to be more specific, the Cape Fur Seal is actually a sea lion, with their noisy barking, large front flippers & small ear ‘flaps’.
‘True’ seals do not have external ears, Cape Fur Seals are named after their thick, soft pelt.
Where to find Cape Fur Seals?
Cape Cross Seal Colony, the largest breeding seal colony in Africa, is home to 80 000 – 100 000 Cape Fur Seals.
Found about 130km’s north of Swakopmund on the Atlantic coast, the sight of these animals is quite something, and the smell is something you cannot prepare for. 😉
The world’s fastest land animal, reaching speeds of up to 120 km/h.
Namibia is home to the largest population of Cheetah that is not restricted to parks. This causes some problems for farm owners, which treat these animals as invaders.
Conservation methods are being taken to protect these animals, most notably by the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Otjiwarongo & other wildlife reserves.
Where to find Cheetahs?
Cheetahs can be found the at Cheetah Conservation Fund in Otjiwarongo as well as many other wildlife sanctuaries. These animals are often taken off of farms as they can kill the farmers’ livestock. Injured Cheetahs are rehabilitated at these sanctuaries before being released back into the wild. You can find Cheetah in Etosha as well, with a bit of luck and determination that is. 😉
As cuddly and cute as they may seem, the hippopotamus is Africa’s most dangerous animal. Responsible for the most deaths caused by any animal.
Males can be very territorial and they will be very protective of their young. They can even capsize boats.
They have a unique appearance with their large round bodies and short, stout legs, which leaves you wondering why they’re named the ‘river horse’.
Where to find Hippos?
You’re not going to find any hippos in the Namib, or at least, you shouldn’t.
You will find them in the north though, in the rivers and on their banks, mostly in the Kavango and Caprivi regions.
Related: Erindi, an Etosha alternative?
Namib Desert Horses
These are probably the only wild desert horses in all of Africa. The exact origins of how these animals came to be here are unclear. Most believe they originated from a farm that produced horses for the defense forces in the area in the early 20th century and were released when the owner passed away, as well as a mix of the troops’ horses escaping during battle.
Whatever their origin is, their numbers can range between 70-180 horses. The numbers are on the lower side currently due to the harsher than usual climate lately as well as a group of hyenas moving into the area and preying on the young foals.
These horses are a unique sight, seeing these majestic creatures rolling in the sand and playing amongst the barren landscapes. With a viewing area for visitors, you may even come into contact with some of these feral horses.
Where to find the Namib Desert Horses?
These horses can be found at Aus, south in the Namib Desert. A must-see stop on your way to the Ghost Town Kolmanskop & Lüderitz.
Probably the animals you will notice the most in Namibia. Antelope and bucks are plentiful in the savannahs, and even the desert. The desert is one of the homes to the incredible Gemsbok (or Oryx) as seen on the Namibian Coat of Arms. The assortment of Antelope is quite remarkable, with Springbok, Sable, Waterbuck, Blue & Black Wildebeest, Hartebeest, Dik-Dik, Kudu & Eland, to name only a few found throughout Namibia.
These can range in size from very small, namely the Dik-Dik, to the largest antelope in Africa, Eland, which can weigh up to almost a ton.
Where to find Antelope in Namibia?
You’ll be able to find antelope almost throughout Namibia, with Gemsbok even occupying the desert & Dik-Dik’s occupying mountainous areas.
The best place to find the widest variety of antelope would be Etosha National Park.
Honey Badgers are hardly seen as they don’t need to visit watering holes. They like to feed on honey, giving them their name, and are ferocious fighters, known to attack animals much larger than themselves. If you are on the lookout for these rarely seen animals, look out for Southern Pale Chanting Goshawks. These often accompany the badgers when they hunt and scoop in on the beehives when the Badgers are finished.
Where to find Honey Badgers in Namibia?
As mentioned, they are quite difficult to come across in the wild, residing in savannah plains and small shrubs.
Etosha is a good place to have a look, with the Halali Rest-camp possibly still home to a rather famous and mischievous bin-raiding Honey Badger.
Vultures, Secretary birds, and Pel’s Fishing Owl
The bird species found in Namibia is quite extensive, but some of the noteworthy birds you can come across (or go looking for) would be;
Vultures, with their unique bare necks for stripping carcasses.
The Secretarybird, which seemingly resembles an eagle with the legs of a crane. These can have a wingspan of up to 2.2 meters and they use their long legs to stomp on their prey when hunting.
The Pel’s Fishing Owl, these giant owls can reach up to 63cm’s tall and as the name suggests, feed mostly on fish. Sometimes even hunting baby crocodiles.
Where to find them?
Vultures can be found throughout Namibia, circling over carcasses. They also act as a good signal that a big cat has made a kill.
Secretarybird’s call the Savannah plains home, and you’ll be able to find a large variety of Vultures and Secretarybird’s at Etosha National Park.
The Pel’s Fishing Owl is a little bit different, as they feed on fish, you’ll find them near rivers. With some luck, you could find one in the Caprivi region in the north.
Pangolin, Aardvark & Aardwolves
Pangolins are the only mammals with hard keratin scales on their bodies. They use this as armor when under attack and roll up into a ball when they feel threatened. These animals are under threat, along with their Asian relatives; Pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world.
Aardvarks are burrowing, nocturnal animals, which seemingly resemble a pig mixed with a kangaroo. The name comes from Afrikaans, meaning ‘Earth Pig’.
Like the Aardvark, Aardwolves get their name from Afrikaans (and Dutch), meaning ‘Earth Wolf’. They have a closer resemblance to foxes, however, and are also nocturnal animals, spending the majority of the day in their burrows.
All of these animals eat termites and other small insects.
Where to find Pangolin, Aardvarks & Aardwolves?
Due to their nocturnal behaviors, these animals are hard to find in the wild. Erindi Private Game Reserve does have conservation programs in place for these animals and could be the best place to see them in person.
Snakes & Scorpions
Much like South Africa, Namibia is home to a large variety of snakes & scorpions. Ranging from highly venomous snakes, like the Black Mamba or Puff Adder, to completely harmless snakes, like the Mole Snake.
Where to find Snakes & Scorpions?
This is more of a precaution, snakes are found throughout Namibia. Be cautious in high grass and rocky areas. These are especially favored by Puff Adders that rely on their camouflage in order to catch their prey. You should also be cautious when looking under beds and chairs, as scorpions can sometimes make their way into houses and they prefer these shaded, dark areas.
Along the coast of Namibia, you can come across dolphins. You could probably also swim with them if you have a wetsuit and don’t mind the ice-cold waters of the Atlantic. I would recommend a cruise though instead.
Where to find Dolphins in Namibia?
This one you’re not going to find at Etosha National Park… or anywhere on the Namibian mainland, I hope.
Head to Walvis Bay’s Mola Mola Tours for a cruise with the dolphins. You’ll probably also come up close with a few seals and possibly even pelicans. Make sure to plan a short trip to Walvis Bay whilst visiting Swakopmund. Check out the other attractions around Swakopmund with our Swakopmund guide here.
Other Animals in Namibia
These are most certainly not the only animals that call Namibia home, with meercats, zebra, giraffe, ostrich, crocodiles, turtles, frogs, caracals, serval, hyenas, jackals, porcupines, etc. all making this wonderful country their home.
Did we miss any major additions? Let us know below in the comments. 😊
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David & Maike