Meet the “Little Five” Safari Creatures of Namibia

Meet the “Little Five” Safari Creatures of Namibia

The primary goal of many safari goers is to see the Big Five African game: leopards, African elephants, Cape buffalos, rhinos and lions.

As rewarding as it is to watch these animals in the wild, you’ll miss out if they’re the only things you look for. Previously on this blog, I’ve written about the rewards of exploring plants, birds, and small creatures such as the Little Five of sub-Saharan Africa.

Namibia’s Skeleton Coast has such a unique desert ecosystem that locals have developed a list of their own Little Five, beautifully photographed in a recent article for Africa Geographic. They include four reptiles and one arachnid: a snake called Peringuey’s adder, the dancing white lady spider, the Namaqua chameleon, the Palmato gecko, and the shovel-snouted lizard.

Read on to find out more about these marvelous creatures!

Palmato Gecko (Palmatogecko), photographed by Simon's Images and distributed under a Creative Commons license.
Palmato Gecko (Palmatogecko), photographed by Simon’s Images and distributed under a Creative Commons license.

Palmato gecko have no eyelids, so they keep their eyes moist they lick their eyeballs. Their webbed feet help them scurry over the sand without sinking. During the day, they often hide in the sand to stay cool.


Namibian Sidewinder (Bitis peringueyi), photographed by Jay Iwasaki and distributed under a Creative Commons license.
Peringuey’s adder (Bitis peringueyi), photographed by Jay Iwasaki and distributed under a Creative Commons license.

Peringuey’s adder travels over the sand in sideways, curving motions — hence it’s also known as the sidewinding adder. Although venomous, its bite is not fatal to humans. To hunt, it buries itself in the sand with only its eyes and the tip of its tail showing. It may use its tail to attract prey, who may confuse its wiggling form for an insect.


Dancing White Lady Spider (Leucorchestris arenicola), photographed by Willem van de Kerkhof and distributed under a Creative Commons license.
Dancing White Lady Spider (Leucorchestris arenicola), photographed by Willem van de Kerkhof and distributed under a Creative Commons license.

Dancing white lady spiders communicate with each other by tapping their feet, sending vibrations through the sand. The males can travel as much as one mile a night in search for a mate.


Namaqua chameleon (Chamaeleo namaquensis), photographed by JB Dodane and distributed under a Creative Commons license.
Namaqua chameleon (Chamaeleo namaquensis), photographed by JB Dodane and distributed under a Creative Commons license.

Although the Namaqua chameleon can change color, it is usually gray or brown with a pale belly to reflect heat from the hot sand (this helps the chameleon keep cool) and dark patches along the spine. If one side faces the sun and the other is in shade, the side facing the sun is light colored and the shadowed side darker. It shows the colorful inside of its mouth to scare off predators.


Shovel snouted lizard (Zeros anchietae), photographed by Chrissy J and distributed under a Creative Commons license.
Shovel snouted lizard (Zeros anchietae), photographed by Chrissy J and distributed under a Creative Commons license.

Shovel-snouted lizards can tolerate temperatures as high as 111°F. To keep cool as they run over hot sand, they lift their tail and feet in a way that makes it look like they are dancing.


Want to see Namibia’s incredible wildlife in person? Contact Ujuzi for more information.