Did you know?
The Orange River roars down the Augrabies Falls,
a 56-metre drop into a granite canyon.
The most colourful, charismatic, macho lizards in South Africa live in constant danger of slipping off the edge of their world at Augrabies Falls National Park, down the smooth rocks beside the spectacular waterfall and into the tumultuous waters below. These lizards combine the strutty confidence of Chuck Norris with the dazzling colours of a Mardi Gras festival.
Once you have gazed your fill at the Augrabies Falls at the national park of the same name, look around at the rocks from the safety of the boardwalk. You can hardly miss the Augrabies flat lizards. On warm days they are visible at all the view points.
Often you’ll see them in small groups, the colourful males preening in the open and occasionally picking a fight with equally techni-colour rival males.
They gaudier the lizard, the more dominant a male he is, and the more likely to be aggressive towards a would-be rival. Before launching at one another, they seem to run through a checklist. How indigo is your throat? How orange are your flanks? How cadmium yellow are your arms?
The females (and young males) are far less noticeable. They’re an elegant coffee brown with neat creamy stripes down their backs.
The Augrabies flat lizards are more correctly called Broadley’s flat lizards, or Platysaurus broadleyi. They are endemic to South Africa, and in fact only occur in the remote and arid area between Augrabies and an area called Pella, to the west of Augrabies.
Like many lizard species, the Augrabies kind eat insects, gratifyingly focusing most of their appetite on irritating little black flies.
But they are also terribly fond of Namaqua figs. As soon as they detect that these indigenous figs have ripened because of the noisy attention of birds, the lizards race over the hot rocks to get at them.
They might seem aggressive towards each other, but at nightfall, they all cuddle in a tangle, sleeping in rocky crevasses and cracks.
The Augrabies Falls National Park showcases stark desert landscapes, enormous whale-backed rocks and quiver trees through which flows the Orange – South Africa’s largest river.