The Namib Desert – Stark Beauty

January 15, 2015 Updated: January 15, 2015

The Namib Desert is commonly referred to as the world’s oldest desert as it has been around for about 43 million years. The desert is a large expanse of moving gravel plains and dunes of all shapes and sizes that span along the entire coastline. The most dominant type of dune are linear dunes, followed by crescent shaped dunes which are more common along the coast and clusters of star shaped dunes prevailing more in the Sossusvlei area in the eastern part of Namibia. The entire western part of Namibia is comprised of the desert which flows beyond the borders of Namibia into southern Angola and also to the northern Cape Province of South Africa. 

There is evidence of humans living in the desert through time extending way back into the early stone age era. However, the most documented mark of human’s existence can still be seen in the various rock paintings, stone circles, tools and pottery that have been discovered over the many years. The most popular and well known rock paintings can be found at Brandberg and Twyfelfontein. The Topnaar are a well known clan that reside in the Namib.

Part of the desert, towards the centre, incorporates the Namib Naukluft Park, which is the largest park in Namibia and also the third largest in Africa. The park these days, is a combination of the Namib Desert Park and the Naukluft Mountain Zebra Park as well as sections of the Diamond Area. The combination of all these areas adds up to about 50 000 square kilometres. The Naukluft Mountain area was initially created as a sanctuary for the Hartmann’s mountain zebra.

Other critters that can also be found in the desert area include reptiles such as lizards and geckos, the sand snake, the side-winding adder, scorpions, spiders, fish-moths as well as beetles. Birds such as the Herero chat, Karoo lark, Karoo scrub robin, cinnamon-breasted warbler, honeyguide, pearl-spotted owlet, rockrunner, black-backed canary and Monteiro’s hornbill can be found toward the southern limits of Damaraland and the northern areas of the Karoo.

The Sossusvlei area of the desert is an always popular option, the dunes are gorgeous and are a tourist magnet, other attractions of interest in this area include the Hidden Vlei and Dead Vlei. The Namib Desert part of the Namib-Naukluft Park include the Swakop and Kuiseb River Canyons.

It takes a lot for any kind of vegetation to survive in the harsh climate of the desert and the wild flowers that sprout in the desert can be defined as growing in the southern Namib, the central Namib and the northern Namib. The southern Namib is characterized by winter rainfall and succulent plants fall into the northernmost extension of the Succulent Karoo biome of southern Africa, from the Orange River to the coastal town of Luderitz. The central Namib is an area confined by the Atlantic ocean in the west and the escarpment in the east, in between the Kuiseb River and  the Huab River.  The southern Namib is home to over 600 species of plants, the central Namib is home to about 400 species and the northern Namib has approximately 1000 species of plants. Possibly the most popular and well known plants in the Namib Desert are the !nara plant and the Welwitschia Mirablilis.

Rainfall in the desert is erratic to say the least and it can only fall in the desert when warm, moist air is blown onto the eastern side of the African subcontinent by south-east trade winds. It is very seasonal and coincides with weak South Atlantic cyclone activity.

Popular tourist destinations in the Namib Desert include the NamibRand Nature Reserve, the coastal town of Luderitz, the ghost town of Kolmaskop, Africa’s largest canyon Fish River Canyon, the Cape fur seal colony at Cape Cross, the Orange River and the Skeleton Coast.

Accommodation related to the Namib Desert include the Agama River Camp which is about 45km of Sesriem, Betesda Rest Camp, Desert Camp which is very close to the entrance of the Namib Naukluft Park, Desert Homestead, Hoodia Desert Lodge which is located about 22km from the Sesriem gate to the Namib-Naukluft Park, Kulala Desert lodge which has a private entrance to the dunes at Sossusvlei, Le Mirage Desert Lodge & Spa, Little Kulala, Little Sossus Lodge, Moon Mountain Lodge, Namib Desert lodge which is next to the fossil dune cliffs, Namib Dune Camp, Namib Naukluft Lodge, Sesriem Campsite, Soft Adventure Camp, Sossus Dune Lodge, Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Sossusvlei Lodge and many more.

Flamingo march in Namib desert via Shutterstock*
Flamingo march in Namib desert via Shutterstock*

A popular activity that visitors can partake in are scenic flights, this enables them to view the splendour of the desert in a shorter period of time and from a unique vantage point.

Copyright © 2014 by My Destination. This article was written by Kaz Mwangala and originally published at My Destination Namibia

*Image of Sunlit Namibian desert via Shutterstock

*Image of Flamingo march in Namib desert via Shutterstock