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The Tsondab River

Rivers of Namibia

South of Solitaire, is the relatively unknown Tsondab River. It comes as no surprise to learn that it seldom rains along the lower reaches of this river, and as with its more famous counterpart, The Tsauchab River, each has its own end vlei or pan, Sossusvlei obviously being the most famous.

But despite its lack of rain, large camelthorn and umbrella-thorn trees grow along the Tsondab's meandering banks. Near the entrance to the vlei, gigantic ana trees and a few wild fig trees manage to survive, because of their deep, penetrating roots. Growing on islands in the river, are ringwood trees and leafless worm bush, as well as alien wild tobacco trees, that spring up in large numbers after a flood.

Seasonal rain falling in the Naukluft and Remhoogte Mountains, periodically cause the water to flow to the end of the vlei, where large areas are covered by ganna hummocks. It is here that a barrier of dunes stops the floodwaters, but not the magic of the vlei. On the eastern side, Tsondab sandstone form striking red cliffs. This rock unit is called the Tsondab Sandstone Formation and contains a rich record of life, as it is vital in interpreting the age of the Tsondab Sandstone, accurately estimated to be between 17-18 million years old.

Ostrich, gemsbok, springbok, steenbok feed and shelter in the river, with predators such as spotted hyena and black-backed jackals also finding a habitat to survive in.

To the north, pans on the plain accumulate more water than normal when it rains, sustaining a few hardy trees and shrubs. Growing along a short watercourse are wild ebony, umbrella-thorn, with the occasional mustard bush and phantom trees growing in profusion on the plains and storing water in their succulent stems.

The Tsondab River and plains are an important breeding area for lappet-faced vultures, greater kestrels, red-necked falcons and even martial eagles. In the river, African hoopoes and common scimitarbills are often spotted with spotted eagles and barn owls, breeding in hollows of the masses of riverbanks.

Rivers of Namibia

  • Tsondab River: Desert Dunes
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