The Karas Region boasts some of the most breathtaking and unique natural wonders on the planet. It is home to the Namib (the world’s oldest desert) the Fish River Canyon (the world’s second largest); one of the richest marine coastlines, and some of the rarest and most fascinating plant and animal species – from the elusive Strandwolf (Brown Hyena), to the startling Halfmens (Half-man) trees.
Land of four deserts
Caught between two duelling meteorological zones (one, feeding moisture down from the north and the other, pushing it back) Karas, like much of Namibia is essentially a land of deserts. These desert systems include: the Southern Dune Namib, unvegetated sand with some of the highest dunes in the world; the semi-arid Nama Karoo, extending from Windhoek through the Karas Region into South Africa; the Southern Kalahari, arid grass and thorn savannah in the north of the region; and the Succulent Karoo, a coastal belt extending across the south western border, home to unique water-storing plants and classified as the world’s most biologically diverse desert area.
Unique conservation reserves
Today, some 14% of Namibia falls into formal national preserves such as the well-known Namib-Naukluft and /Ai-/Ais Fish River Canyon parks, but a growing appreciation of the rarity and fragility of her natural treasures and the leading part they have to play in the economic prosperity of the region, have recently seen ecological projects of international importance set in motion to extend Namibia’s conserved territory even further.
These include the recent declaration of the /Ai-/Ais Richterveld Transfrontier Park, a continuous preserve across the eco-rich borders of South Africa and Namibia; the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park on the region’s western border, and a proposed new national park that will cover 26 000 km² of the pristine wilderness in the once ‘forbidden’ Sperrgebiet – a project which, when linked to other coastal preserves in Namibia and South Africa could see this region part of one of the most ecologically protected coastlines in the world.
World class eco-tourism
Pristine wilderness does not necessarily translate to a viable economic miracle. Aside from the concerted efforts of regional and national government, the real impetus behind the region’s blossoming eco-tourism phenomenon has been a highly proactive private sector, which over the past decade has put many of the region’s natural showpieces on the global eco-tourism map.
Unique private sector developments such as the Gondwana Cañon Park, just east of the Fish River Canyon already set benchmarks for progressive, sustainable and responsible eco tourism business in the region. Aside from a world-class hospitality infrastructure, they have also helped return original animal species decimated in last century to the area, restored a landscape ravaged by stock overgrazing to former health, revived interest in local Nama culture and heritage, and absorbed Karas citizens into tourism-linked jobs, skills transfer and environmental education.