For years the mystery of Namibia’s fairy circles has confounded scientists. These dusty patches of bare earth surrounded by tall grasses are dispersed evenly over vast tracks of desert and when seen from above they give the Namib landscape a decidedly polka dot appearance.
Exploring the beautiful desolation of the NamibRand Nature Reserve from above and watching the grandeur, colour and spaciousness of the fairy circle prairies pass beneath you is one of those that will be etched in your mind forever.
Explanations on what cause the fairy circles, which vary in size from 3m to 20m in diameter have ranged from the mundane to the supernatural and include theories ranging from alien invasion and meteorites, to plant toxins, radioactivity and zebra dust baths. In the oral myths of the Himba and the ancient tribes of San Bushmen, they ascribe the presence of these bare patches to divine intervention and that they these sand circles are in fact footprints of the Gods.
But for the most part, speculation has vacillated between two areas of thought; the first being termites consuming surrounding vegetation and the second being ecological self-organisation where various species of vegetation cooperate to make the most of soil nutrients and moisture in this hyper arid environment.
After prolonged studies it is now being suggested that instead of an either-or scenario it could in fact be a combination of the two, a unifying theoretical explanation. Termites consume the vegetation, which then facilitates the accumulation of water beneath the bare patch which allows perennial grasses to make the most of the increased moisture.
If this unique phenomenon intrigues you as much as they do us; then the best way to experience the vastness of the fairy circle prairies is from the seat of a light aircraft or the basket of a hot air balloon.
On the ground, one sure way to let these desert discs cast their spell of enchantment over you is to pick your very own fairy circle for a private dinner in the NamibRand…it doesn’t get more magical than that.
Add to the experience by adopting a fairy circle for yourself or as a gift for a loved one with the NamibRand Foundation. All proceeds go directly to conservation. Upon adoption, a numbered clay disc will be placed in your circle and you will receive a certificate with the exact GPS coordinates of your circle. www.namibrand.com
To experience the vast prairies of fairy circles from above on our specialised aerial safaris and photographic workshops please visit www.aerialafrica.com
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Flying thousands of hours in their specially modified aircraft, aerial photographers Jay and Jan Roode have spent more than a decade photographing some of the most remote and spectacular wilderness areas of Southern Africa from above.
The continent of Africa has always held an irresistible allure and fascination for them and they seem content only when free to roam the
skies, capturing awe inspiring images of the
natural wonders of the region from above.