When one thinks of Namibia, images of the rugged desert scenery with heat waves rising from the ground and oddly shaped Quiver trees jotted along the horizon come to mind. Namibia has a harsh and inhospitable climate but is breath-taking in its beauty and harshness.
And yet, living in this harsh landscape one finds population of Lions that not only survive in this water-scarce environment but flourish in it.
Today there are only between 100 - 130 of these magnificent African cats living in the whole of the Kunene Region. Physiologically adapted over centuries, the Lions' bodies are able to go for incredibly long stretches of time without water and they are able to traverse over far stretches of desert landscape in search of food.
Occurring mostly outside the protected areas of the Kunene Region, the desert adapted Lions have become an important tourism draw-card for the region with many visitors on safaritravelling to the area specially to view the Lions. Studies have found that these Lions live mostly in the northern edges of the Namib Desert; whose name means 'place of no people' in the local Khoikhoi people's language.
Surviving by hunting and feeding on Gemsbok, Ostriches and occasionally Seals, the Lions breed rapidly when conditions are right and spread quickly and easily into new suitable habitats.
Sadly the Lions often clash with local farmers when they roam outside of their natural area in search of food and prey on domestic livestock.
These farmers are forced to bear the cost of living with the Lions without always receiving the benefits of the eco-tourism and the conflict of interest has led to the need for increased conservation efforts in the region to help protect the Lions.
Most of the Lions in the region have now been fitted with radio collars, allowing conservationists to GPS track their movements and whereabouts.
Today eco-conscious travellers can embark on a guided safari to view these carefully adapted desert dwelling Lions. A desert Lion safari is an unforgettable and fascinating experience that allows visitors to learn more about these carefully adapted animals and how they survive in this harsh climate.
Joining Dr Philip (Flip) Stander, a conservationist that has been working with the desert adapted carnivores for over 12 years through his Desert Lion Project; the safaris are a hands-on experience ideally suited for those travellers who want to make a difference in the world.
Desert Lion safari tours usually last between 8 - 10 days. The tours start in Swakopmund, and visitors can fly in to the area landing at the small local airport in Walvis Bay. Visitors join Dr Stander during his research and the safari experience is not formalised with a specific itinerary. Instead visitors get to spend time with Dr Stander as he studies and learns about these majestic creatures.
by Katie Edge