Harsh and unforgiving landscapes can yield the most remarkable range of reptiles, birds and mammals

Although a number of safari lodges are located within very dry, arid game reserves, these areas are teem with wildlife that have learnt to adapt and survive in harsh conditions. What may seem like a desolate and forbidding landscape, seemingly devoid of life, upon closer inspection contains some of the world’s richest desert flora.These dry and desert-like landscapes are also a photographer’s dream, and when the rains do come, the areas are transformed into a magical paradise. 

Makgadikgadi Pans National Park

The Makgadikgadi covers an area of 12 000 square kilometers. It is part of the Kalahari Basin and is one of the largest salt pans in the world.The Makgadikgadi is in fact a series of pans, the largest of which are Sowa and Ntwetwe, both of which are surrounded by a myriad of smaller pans. In the wet season, this reserve can offer good wildlife-viewing, particularly when large herds of zebra and wildebeest begin their westward migration to the Boteti region. Other species include gemsbok, eland and red hartebeest, as well as kudu, bushbuck, duiker, giraffe, springbok, steenbok, and even elephant. Look out for the accompanying predators, as well as the rare brown hyena.

Central Kalahari Game Reserve 

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is the largest, most remotely situated reserve in Southern Africa, and the second largest wildlife reserve in the world. Waist-high golden grasses seem to stretch as far as the eye can see, broken only by dwarfed trees and scrub bushes. Wide and empty pans appear in between stretches of flat earth and at night the stars hypnotize you with their brilliance over the vast endless spaces. Searching for wildlife, guests can observe anything from the boisterous honey badger to large herds of springbok and gemsbok, high densities of large and small predators, and great birdlife.

The Namib Desert

The Namib Desert in Namibia features ancient white salt pans dotted with the remains of age old-trees against a backdrop of red sand dunes. It is a dream destination for landscape photographers. The Namib is home to a multitude of unusual plants and wildlife adapted to life in this harsh climate. A notable specie is the bizarre Welwitschia mirabilis plant. The Sossusvlei is the gateway to the Namib, and atop many people’s bucket lists is the experience of watching a sunrise from the top of the towering sand dunes. Feel the desert sand beneath your toes or just snap away at the endless photo opportunities.

AI-AIS RICHTERSVELD TRANSFONTIER PARK

Parts of this harsh environment prove to contain some of the world’s richest desert flora. The reserve is home to small rock gardens, perfectly designed by nature, clinging precariously to cliff faces. Small succulents  sit against a backdrop of surreal rock formations, living on the moisture brought by the early morning fog rolling in from the cold Atlantic Ocean. The landscape boasts rugged kloofs and high mountains that divulge the fact that you are now in the vast mountain desert that is the Ai-Ais Richtersveld National Park, an area managed jointly by the local Nama people and the South African National Parks.

AUGRABIES FALLS NATIONAL PARK

Picturesque names such as Moon Rock, Ararat and Echo Corner are descriptive of this rocky region. Klipspringer and kokerboom (quiver trees) stand in stark silhouette against the African sky, silent sentinels in a strangely unique environment, where only those that are able to adapt ultimately survive. Nearly 70 different species of grass, shrubs, herbs and trees can be found in Augrabies Falls National Park. Nocturnal life in Augrabies Falls is abundant, especially during the warm summer months, and many animals take the opportunity to wander and feed during the cooler nights.