Many people hope to see “The Big Five” on an African safari: the elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion, and leopard. Lesser-known but no less fascinating are the smaller creatures of the continent: the beetles, snakes, spiders, chameleons, and geckos whose small size comes in handy in the desert landscape.

In Namibia’s Dorob National Park, I set out with a tour group to find these diminutive desert dwellers. Conditions were extremely windy, sand blowing into our faces and around our feet, wiping away any traces of wildlife that would have otherwise been useful to track. My hopes for any wildlife sightings were low.

Then our tour guide dug his hands into a small mound in the sand. Impossibly, it seemed, they returned with this adorable Namib dune gecko (Pachydactylus rangei).

Despite being excavated from its burrow, the gecko stood cooperatively on the sand. With its wide, webbed feet like snow shoes and its nearly translucent skin, it was perfectly suited for life in the Namib Desert—and for happy tourists’ pictures.


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