Namibia is very much a country of contrasts and includes some of the world’s most spectacular wilderness areas and breath-taking scenery. Its western regions form the famous hyper-arid Namib Desert, which is provided with moisture in the form of fog from the Benguela upwelling. This desert is home to a range of extraordinary arid-adapted plants and animals, including the peculiar Welwitschia (inset picture), which is intermediate between cone-bearing and flowering plants and is probably pollinated by the Diptera family Mythicomyiidae. Namibia then becomes increasing wetter moving north-eastwards, with the Kavango and Zambezi Regions being wet and subtropical. The northern sections of the barren Namibian coastline, known as the Skeleton Coast, is home to large Cape fur seal colonies and desert elephants and in north-central Namibia the famous Etosha National Park offers some of the most impressive game viewing in the whole of southern Africa, including Africa’s Big Five. On the edge of the Namib Desert lies the imposing inselberg of the Brandberg Massif (inset picture), a massive volcanic ring complex, which has acted as a refugium for paleogenic elements in the Diptera fauna, including living fossils of Africa’s only known examples of the family Atelestidae.
The only permanently flowing rivers in Namibia occur at its northern and southern borders, but the country is characterised by the westerly-flowing ephemeral rivers and their catchments, which act as linear oases. The Great Escarpment, known as the Khomas Hochland for part of its length, forms a prominent feature of the Namibian landscape and along with the Succulent Karoo Biome of southern Namibia, comprises Namibia’s two endemicity hotspots.
Although a large country (823,680 km2), Namibia’s population is only 2.113 million (2011 census). Despite this, Namibia is rich culturally, with cultural groups including the San Bushmen, Damara, Germans, Herero, Kavango, Nama, Ovahimba, Ovambo, Rehoboth basters and Zambezians, with the official language being English. These groups have their own traditional dress and customs.
Central Namibia will be hot and dry at the end of November, but there are still ample opportunities to undertake fieldwork, especially in the north-east of the country.