The world's largest indoor desert, the Desert Dome, located under the world's largest glazed geodesic dome, has become a landmark for the city of Omaha. The Desert Dome features plant and animal life from three deserts around the world: the Namib Desert of southern Africa, the Red Center of Australia and the Sonoran Desert of the southwest United States. The Desert Dome contains 84,000 square feet on two levels (42,000 square feet on each level). Located beneath the Desert Dome exhibit is the Kingdoms of the Night, the world's largest nocturnal exhibit.
The Three Deserts
The three deserts of the Desert Dome are divided by central mountain, a 55-foot-tall mountain in the middle of the Desert Dome. Surrounding Central Mountain are a variety of unique desert plants including succulents, palms, mesquite trees, grasses, herbs, shrubs and the endangered Welwitshcia, found only in the Namibian deserts. The Namib Desert of southern Africa is the world's oldest and most biologically diverse desert.
The Namib Desert portion of the Desert Dome features a 30-foot tall sand dune containing 300 tons of red sand that came from a mine site near Phoenix, Arizona. Climbing among cliffs are klipspringers and meerkats. Within the Desert Caves live 21 reptile species from Africa and Australia, including venomous snakes such as death adders, a cape cobra and the inland taipan (the world's most venomous land snake).
The Red Center of Australia is one of the world's most unique isolated deserts. In the Desert Dome, rock wallabies live on the Australian side of Ayers Rock or Uluru. Ayers Rock is an Australian landmark and the world's largest monolithic rock. Wave Rock, a showpiece of the desert, is an overhang of colorful granite caused by water carrying dissolved minerals like iron.
The Sonoran Desert, located in the southwest United States and northwest Mexico, is the world's second most biologically diverse desert. While the ocelots look on, peccaries wallow in the desert dirt of the Sonoran portion of the Desert Dome. Guests will wind past bobcats, entering Rattlesnake Canyon where they will encounter the world’s largest indoor rattlesnake exhibit. Among the flat, prickly pear cactus and the tall endangered Saguaro cactus forest live quail. In Rattlesnake Canyon, there are 14 species of reptiles and amphibians and among them, rattlesnakes.
Desert Dome Sun Room
As you exit the Desert Dome, there is a special room designed to showcase newly hatched or young reptiles and amphibians. This area also houses some of the reptile related conservation and research projects taking place at the Zoo. Each window and skylight allows the young reptiles access to beneficial ultraviolet rays from the sun.