A n almost-forgotten hamlet on the north-south and east-west crossroads between the Maltahöhe–Rosh Pinah and Keetmanshoop–Lüderitz routes has reinvented itself. Most people usually pass Aus or just drive in briefly to fill up with fuel.
However, apart from refuelling, having refreshments and perhaps staying at one of the accommodation establishments, there are more reasons to stop at Aus, as it offers much of interest. The settlement has several historical buildings and traces of crucial historical events, including the remains of the prisoner-of-war camp where over 1 500 German prisoners were kept after the surrender of the German forces in 1915. Aus is also a starting point for viewing the well-known wild horses of Garub and a trading centre for the karakul farmers of the surroundings.
Aus is not only at the crossroads of major transport routes, but also at the meeting point of three main ecological biomes – the Succulent Karoo, Nama Karoo and Dune Namib. In terms of natural assets this makes Aus one of the most diverse places in Namibia. Over 500 plant species have been recorded in the environs, representing nearly one fifth of Namibia’s entire flora. Some species are restricted to the granite koppies around Aus, and grow nowhere else but here. The sporadic occurrence of winter and summer rains, and diverse landforms including granite koppies, sand-and-gravel plains, and rivers, contribute to this extraordinary natural diversity. As an outpost of the Succulent Karoo biome, the area yields flower displays that rival those of Namaqualand a few weeks after significant rains. These could occur almost any time of the year due to the transitional nature of the Aus environs between the two major climatic regimes in Southern Africa. Good times to visit these environs to view the plant life are from May to June and from August to September.
Aus is also a rewarding spot for birding. Namib endemics such as the Namib dune lark can be seen here, as well as a variety of other larks, raptors and shrikes, in addition to the regular inhabitants of the marginal desert areas, such as Ludwig’s bustard, Rüppel’s korhaan and Namaqua sandgrouse.
Namib Dune Lark. Photo ©Pompie Burger
A few weeks after significant rains the area yields flower displays that rival those of Namaqualand. Photo ©Paul van Schalkwyk
The wild horses of Garub. Photo ©Ron Swilling