In a thin stretch that traverses the vast Namib desert lies hundreds upon hundreds of fairy circles. Small rings of overgrown grass tufts circulating red Namibian sand; in which nothing grows.
Since humans have inhabited this area the mystery and tale of how the fairy circles came to be have intrigued many any inquisitive mind. There is theory upon theory from Euphorbia plants that poisoned the ground, to termites that live deep in the sand, some locals believe that they are the footprints of the Gods, and then of course there are the stories of aliens coming to earth and the fairies that linked hands, and round they danced and danced and danced…
The most convincing theory is probably one of the termites, who instead of having an above-ground mound as one would imagine, they lie deep beneath the sand and have constructed a careful waterway system within the sand. This particular area has minimal rain and a slight sea fog that results in a unique set of environmental circumstances and a termite adaption that only occurs in one place in the world – the Namib.
Simply put, the theory is that the termites use the plants’ roots as food and create burrows in the barren sand to act as water highways – thus forming the fairy circles as we know them. New circles are continually being created – their interior scrub disappearing sporadically until there is nothing left. The circles can last for about 50 years, and then they are gone again, replaced by the grassy plains of the Namib – almost as if they never existed in the first place.
Ask the Namibian people about the legend of the fairy circles, and they will each give you their own opinion, but one thing resonates from person to person – the mystery is part of the fun. Perhaps we will never know the true legend behind the fairy circles of Namibia…
To comment on this story please DOWNLOAD OUR APP. See details below.
HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF AFRICA GEOGRAPHIC:
- Download our APP (mobile phone and desktop) to receive significant benefits including the best prices at Africa's top lodges, ready-made safari packages and networking with others like you. Find out more here.
- Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to enjoy more stories like this. Subscribe here.
- Travel with us. Travel in Africa is about knowing when and where to go, and with whom. A few weeks too early / late and a few kilometres off course and you could miss the greatest show on Earth. And wouldn’t that be a pity? Search for your ideal safari here, or contact an Africa Geographic safari consultant to plan your dream vacation.