The border fence between Kulala Nature Reserve and NamibRand Nature Reserve in Namibia, near the famous Sossusvlei dunes, will soon no longer exist, a huge benefit for the desert wildlife and the ecology of the area. Visit Sossusvlei and the NamibRand Nature Reserve on our Best of Namibia flying safari.
Wilderness Safaris Namibia and the NamibRand Nature Reserve signed an agreement this month to open their common boundary fences to allow more freedom of movement for animals such as gemsbok and springbok across a larger conservation landscape. For animal populations to prosper in arid ecosystems such as the Namib, large open areas are necessary for seasonal movements in response to rainfall.
Sossusvlei itself means ‘the gathering place of water’ in the local Nama language, and, odd as it may seem, in good years seasonal rains in the foothills of the Naukluft and Tsaris Mountains succeed in reaching the vleis, creating temporary lakes that mirror the sand dunes surrounding them. The vleis have evocative names such as Hidden Vlei and Dead Vlei, while the dunes rise up to 300 metres above the valley floor with razor-sharp edges that stand out against the blue sky. The seemingly uniform red-gold sands that stretch wave-like to the horizon have led to another name: the Sand Sea.
Desert-adapted wildlife such as springbok and gemsbok (oryx) are the larger animals that live here. Smaller mammals such as bat-eared fox, black-backed jackal and the elusive aardwolf can be seen on night drives. Kulala is also home to a variety of birds like the aptly named Dune Lark, whose entire population is completely restricted to these red sands. Other good birds in the area include Gray’s Lark, Sociable Weaver and Pririt Batis. At night the screeching calls of Barn Owl could be heard around camp.
Despite the lack of vegetation and low rainfall, a surprisingly diverse array of insects, reptiles and rodents make their home here – surviving thanks in part to the coastal fog that creeps up off the sea each dawn and penetrates up to 50km inland. The dunes nearest the coast are most mobile and no vegetation grows on them. Rainfall at the coast can average dramatically less than 50mm a year, and even further inland it measures only a paltry 50-100mm annually.
The fence will be removed in strategic areas along its length, resulting in the ecological merging of the 91,429-acre Kulala Nature Reserve with the NamibRand Nature Reserve that, at 425,515-acres, is now one of the largest private conservation areas in southern Africa.