The Power of Small Things



Anton Kruger


An African safari is synonymous with searching for big game. Most of the activities at traditional safari lodges are focused on “ticking” off the so-called Big Five of Africa (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino). These large African mammals were known to be the five most dangerous and difficult to hunt. Luckily the expression has taken on a gentler form in recent years, referring to seeing rather than hunting them. While big game is often the star attraction of a traditional game drive, there is another fascinating world of wildlife that is often overlooked.




Although the Kulala Wilderness Reserve is famous for its easy access to the famous dunes of Sossusvlei, another activity that comes highly recommended is a nature drive. Out here, game viewing takes on a different form. The focus shifts to appreciating the smaller, often overlooked wildlife, as well as the striking scenery and flora.


I recently spent three nights at Kulala Desert Lodge. Believe me, learning about the wildlife that calls the Namib home, is truly fascinating. As I am sitting in my office, reflecting on the experience, I wish I could replace the sounds of vehicles hooting with the melodious call of the endemic dune lark.




Spending time during your safari on the reserve will open your eyes to smaller wildlife and their intricate ecosystems.


The Namib Desert comes alive when you have a closer look! Make your way to a dune in the early morning and admire all the intricate tracks you’ll see: tracks of many critters and slithery creatures – sidewinder adders, Namaqua chameleons, Grant’s golden mole (that doesn’t have eyes!), dune larks, all sorts of geckos (including the web-footed gecko, which licks its eyes to keep them hydrated), beetles… and then species like dune ants and white lady spiders that call this harsh environment their home. Larger mammals include gemsbok, springbok and even the elusive brown hyena.


When you move to the mountains on the eastern side of the concession, you will be able to add Hartmann’s mountain zebra and the beautiful little horned adder to your list as well!


After dinner, ask your guide to take you on a scorpion walk. Scorpions reflect UV light and with a special UV torch, they are surprisingly easy to find. With a bit of luck, you could even find a barking gecko – you’ll certainly hear them serenading the night skies!




The golden rule is: where there is water there is life... so how does wildlife thrive in the Namib Desert?



It is due to the cold Benguela current bringing icy water from the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. The moisture on the surface is then cooled down, which forms dew, and then fog. The prevailing south-westerly wind blows this fog into the desert (the coastal town of Swakopmund has around 300 days with morning fog per year) providing the moisture critical for sustaining the wildlife. Isn’t that fascinating!


Robert Breault once wrote: 

"Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realise they were the big things. "


That is true on safari as well. By looking at the small creatures, you will experience the bigger scheme of things on a tremendously deep level. When you look at all the life on the dunes of the Namib, you automatically ask yourself: how on earth do they survive? Immediately you are taken to the bigger picture, understanding the ecosystem in context, and can appreciate not only bigger animals but the wonder of all life.


That is an example of the power of small things! I challenge you to experience it for yourself – and be ready to be fascinated...

Written and Photographed by Anton Kruger

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