6 Reasons for Namibia’s Unexplained Fairy Circles

fairy circle close up

Close up of a fairy circle, grass surrounding an area of barren land. Photo credit Stephan Getzin

Most of the Namib desert is dry, barren and lifeless. The occasional rain shower will bring with it a few days of intense colour as the dormant plants grow rapidly. The most striking plant in the Namib is the Welwitschia, which grows only two leaves that tear and split through the life of the plant.

But along an 1800km strip of land in the Namib are unexplained circles of barren land surrounded by lush grass. These are the “fairy circles” and can be anything from around 2m to 15m in diameter and are completely barren inside the ring of grass. The circles even have a lifespan – they appear, grow and die, living up to 75 years. So far, they have defied any scientific explanation, but that hasn’t stopped the theories coming in.


The myths – gods and dragons

The myth surrounding the fairy circles passed down by the Himba people is that the circles were created by gods or spirits. Some say that they are footprints of the gods, others day that a dragon lives in the sand and that the poisonous breath kills the vegetation.



One theory put forward was that termites caused the circles in order to create a better habitat. First feeding on the roots of plants and killing them, the termites create an area where water can pool below the sand because there is no vegetation to absorb the moisture. This keeps the termites happy, but the excess water helps the ring of grass to grow.



The Damara Granite of the Namibian desert often contains Uranium and Potassium 40. If the sand in the area was formed from the Damara Granite, it could be radioactive! This would cause three distinct radioactive zones which create a vegetation pattern seen in the fairy circles – a lethal zone where nothing grows, an effects zone where some vegetation grows and a no effects zone where there is no radioactive effect. Each circle could, according to this theory, be a mini radioactive area.


Cannibalistic grass

Resource competition between different species of vegetation is thought to be a cause of crop circles and in grassy landscapes, barren spots can occur when different types of grasses compete for water and nutrients under-ground. Could the grass actually be eating itself to cause the Fairy Circles?


Allelopath – the theory of the toxic plants

The Melkbos or Damara milk-bush plant is considered the most toxic plant in Namibia. The milky latex from the plant is said to be able to kill animals and humans. The plant is often used to poison watering holes in order to catch game that have drunk the poisened water. The melkbos is a possible contender for the fairy circles, with the theory being that the residue left by a dead melbos plant creates an area in which no other plants can grow.


Gas – the scientists’ dragon

Could gas leakage be causing the circles? Scientist collected soil samples from the fairy circles and found that seeds planted in the samples didn’t last very long. Chemical analysis led scientists to believe that natural gas leaking underground could be creating the formations by killing off plants in circular patches. Maybe there really is something to that dragon theory.


fairy cicrles

Fairy circles form part of the dramatic landscape of the Namibian desert. Photo credit: Stephan Getzin

Sitting cross legged – Sukhasana, the Easy Pose



Easy pose or Sukhasana is a great pose to start your practice in. After all, what could be easier than to sit cross-legged – we all know how to do that!

You’ll probably need a bolster or yoga block to sit on. If you don’t have one, fold a thick blanket several times so it is comfortable to sit on.

Start with your legs stretched in front of you, keep the spine long. This is, of course, Dandasana or Seated Staff pose which is the perfect place to start moving in to Sukhasana. Now cross your legs, first bending one knee then the other and placing each foot under the opposite knee.

Keep some space between the feet and the pelvis so that looking at your legs, you see a sort of triangle. Keep the feet relaxed.
Let the spine lengthen. Feeling the head balanced nicely as if suspended on thread.

Soften the neck and keep the gaze forward and relaxed.

The hands can rest in your lap, on your thighs or knees.

To do the “other side” in Sukhasana, simply cross your legs the other way. You will find one way feels more natural than the other, and that’s fine.

Be aware that it is easy to slouch or slump forward in Sukhasana, so keep the chest open and roll the shoulders back.

Smartphones are perfectly designed to disrupt sleep

no phone

security phone for phone charging separation anxiety

The mobile phone is possibly one of the most important tools we’ve ever developed, allowing us almost ubiquitous access to information and communication. And oddly, it’s also one of the most harmful, keeping us up late into the night working, answering emails, texts or just playing on social media.

Because they keep us mentally engaged late into the evening, they make it hard to detach from work so we can relax and fall asleep.

We are the first generation to have these marvellous devices and we need to start carefully teaching the next generation to use the technology responsibly. Since so many of us are sleep deprived anyway, the best advice really is to leave the phones alone at least an hour before bedtime. And keep them switched off while we sleep. The Blue light that smartphones emit is particularly bad for our sleep because it hinders melatonin production which is essential for a good night’s sleep.

Switching off can leave us feeling anxious though, especially since we’ve become so reliant on technology (so much so that noPhone wants to make a fake phone for those who have phone separation anxiety while their phone charges). There’s even a phobia about being out of mobile phone contact – nomophobia.

Instead, try something soothing like a little yoga or even makko-ho exercises before bed instead of posting another status update. You’ll sleep better for it.

Sponsoring children in third world countries


Earthquake damage in Jacmel

If you’ve ever wondered about whether sponsoring a child through organisations like World Vision or Compassion does any good, here’s an interesting article about one man who “>sponsored a child in Haiti for many years and eventually visited on a mission to see if his money made any difference.

part of me thinks, I gave $5,000—how do they not have a decent house? Did they never get the money?

The article is rather poignant, painting a depressing picture of a poverty stricken island paradise where the nicest house is owned by the pastor. For me, it captures beautifully the sense of guilt we can feel in the west, coupled with wanting our charity to have some measurable effect. The reality, though, is that putting in place an infrastructure to create any lasting effect is a slow moving process that probably never delivers the kind of instant posetive feedback we crave.

Yoga Joes – Kickstarter project to get the army men doing yoga

Little plastic army men doing yoga? You bet. Introducing the Yoga Joes – a set of six yoga poses done by little army guys dressed like they are in World War II. The little yoga fellows are designed by Dan Abramson who created the Brogamats (remember the originality of a yoga mat that looks like a quiver of arrows).

Creating the Yoga Joes is not easy. Dan went from melting pre-existing arm men and attempting to mold them to the right shapes into learning 3D scanning through to 3D modeling to Kickstarter, which is where we are now. Dan needs your help to get Yoga Joes into production, go support him!