During my recent trip to Namibia, as we entered the edge of the Namib Desert our very able guide, Elvis Hghumutina from Ultimate Safaris in Windhoek, pointed out some odd, circular areas of soil, interspersed with the yellow-gold vegetation. He said, “Those are fairy circles.” He went on to explain that no one really knew where they came from, but they were found in a band that runs North-South roughly parallel to, and from 60 to 90 kilometers inland from the coast. They are found from Angola in the North through Namibia to South Africa. The fairy circles are approximately 9 feet in diameter to 30 feet in diameter.
There have been many theories about the origin of the fairy circles, but there is still no generally accepted explanation for their existence. The theories range from some form of termite infestation to Meenoplidea bugs to meteor showers to euphorbia poisoning. The oral myths of the Himba people suggest that the fairy circles were caused by the gods and spirits.
Seen from the ground, the fairy circles look interesting, but were not remarkable (see photograph above). It was on our flight from Sesriem to Windhoek in a small 5-seat Cessna that I realized how incredible and prevelant the fairy circles were. As seen in the photographs below, the fairy circles were everywhere!
When I returned home I Googled “fairy circles” and learned little more than our guide told us. Of course, an enterprising initiative enables you to “adopt-a-fairy-circle,” with the proceeds going to the NamibRand Conservation Foundation.
I had heard of crop circles, but not fairy circles!