Hoanib Skeleton Coast

5 Desert-Adapted Animals at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp

Our Collective


Tenneil Zondagh


In a broad, dry valley that looks toward the seldom-flowing Hoanib River lies Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, its flowing rooftops and award-winning eco-friendly design a natural extension of the ancient landscape. In this land of rugged mountains, gravel plains and rolling dunefields, regular encounters with a surprising array of large, charismatic, desert-adapted wildlife are the norm, from elephants, lions and giraffes, to gemsbok, springbok and even brown hyaenas. The camp’s position allows access to the legendary Skeleton Coast, with its stark shores and captivating seal colonies, along with views of secret oases, magnificent dunes and unexpected yet thriving life.

A research centre in camp is home base to many researchers in the area, and offers guests a sneak peek into the lives of some of the most remarkable desert-adapted animals from the experts themselves. Dr Philip Stander is a famed desert-adapted lion expert and when he is not in the field tracking and documenting these amazing felines, he can be found in camp, catching his breath. Don’t miss the opportunity to watch “Vanishing Kings”, an award-winning documentary about Dr Stander’s work.

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Desert-Adapted Lions

The value of the unique desert lions to tourism, in the Kunene Region in particular, and to the Namibian tourism industry in general, is of great significance. However, for the long-term conservation of desert lions to succeed, there is a need to monitor their population ecology and to address human-lion conflicts.

Dr Stander’s long-term study therefore aims to learn more about this unique lion population and assist local communities with encounters whenever and wherever they occur. This knowledge will help in the successful conservation of the species, to the benefit of both the tourism industry and the local communities, which inevitably bear the cost of living with these predators.

Learn more about this conservation project and Dr Stander here.

Desert-Adapted Elephants

Desert-adapted elephants are not a distinct species of elephant, but are African bush elephants that have made their homes in the Namib and Sahara deserts of Africa, and consequently, exhibit small adaptations to the extreme temperatures and terrain.

Around Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, these elephants spend most of their time in the dry riverbeds where big ana and camelthorn trees grow, providing an invaluable food source for the herbivores. These desert-adapted elephants travel the most extended distances of any other elephant population, by far. One of the most substantial home ranges ever recorded was of an elephant bull’s, covering 10 738 km2.

Desert-Adapted Brown Hyaenas

Brown hyaenas are primarily found in the Kalahari and Namib deserts, where there is less competition for territory and food. They are usually on the move after darkness has fallen, which adds to their elusiveness. The name strandwolf was coined on Namibia’s Skeleton Coast where they scavenge for dead seals along the shoreline. If you are fortunate enough to spot one, make sure you take a really good look, because sightings of these inscrutable carnivores are never guaranteed, making the work of camp-based researcher Emsie Verwey vitally important. When in camp, Emsie is always more than happy to share her knowledge of these animals with any interested guests.

Gemsbok (Oryx)

This powerful, handsome animal (Oryx gazella) – a southern race of the East African oryx (Oryx beisa) – is synonymous with the desert. A gemsbok cresting a red sand dune is one of the region’s iconic wildlife spectacles, and a tick on every photographers “click” list. Adaptations that make this antelope so remarkable include being able to survive months without water, and the ability of its fur to change colour (from dark to light grey) to adapt to the heat of the daytime desert and the cold of the night.

Rüppell’s Korhaan

The Rüppell’s korhaan is one of 14 near-endemic Namibian avian species (the dune lark is the only true Namibian endemic, and can be seen at the dunes in Sossusvlei). This attractive bird is so classified due to its limited regional range along the sandy, gravel plains of the Namib Desert. Named after a German explorer and naturalist, they are usually observed on their own or in small family groups. The Rüppell’s korhaan is a large bird (50 – 58 cm), with the females having less bold markings and lacking the black moustachial stripe.

Let’s plan your next journey


When we say we’re there every step of the way, we mean it, literally. From planning the perfect circuit, to private inter-camp transfers on Wilderness Air, and easing you through Customs. We’re with you on the ground, at your side, 24-7, from start to finish. Ready to take the road less travelled? Contact our Travel Designers to plan an unforgettable journey.