Endless expanses! At first glance one could believe that in such a hostile natural landscape neither anything nor anyone can exist, let alone survive. For this reason, the Namib was translated as “Empty Place” or “Place where nothing is”.
The Namib Desert is one of the oldest and largest deserts. Lying between a high inland plateau and the Atlantic Ocean, the Namib Desert extends along the coast of Namibia. Merging with the Kaokoveld Desert into Angola in the north and south with the Karoo Desert in South Africa.
The Namib has been dry for at least 55 million years, and possibly as many as 80 million. While it may not be the world’s largest desert, it is almost certainly the oldest. Parts of the Namib rival South America’s Atacama Desert as the driest place on Earth. Nevertheless, some plants and animals have managed to settle here over millions of years. Though tthey withstand the unfavourable, but at least very constant, conditions. So, it is not surprising that there are very special and globally unique forms of life in the Namib Desert. The famous desert plant Welwitschia Mirabilis grows here.
Part of the desert, towards the centre, incorporates the Namib Naukluft Park. This is the largest park in Namibia and also the third largest in Africa. These days it 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. In 2013, a large part of the desert became a Unesco World Heritage site under the name of ‘Namib Sand & Sea’.
Sossusvlei is possibly Namibia’s most spectacular and best-known attraction. Characterised by the large red dunes that surround it, Sossusvlei is a large, white, salt and claypan. A great destination all year round. The dunes in this area are some of the highest in the world. Therefore it provides photographic enthusiasts with wonderful images in the beautiful morning and evening light. Sossusvlei literally translates to “dead-endmarsh”. It is the place where the dunes come together preventing the Tsauchab River to flow any further, some 60km east of the Atlantic Ocean. However, due to the dry conditions in the Namib Desert the River seldom flows this far and the pan remains bone-dry most years.
Close to Sossusvlei, you find Deadvlei. A clay pan characterised by dark, dead camel thorn trees contrasted against the white pan floor. The pan formed when the Tsauchab River flooded and the abundance of water allowed camel thorn trees to grow. However, the climate changed and the sand dunes encroached on the pan, blocking the river from reaching the area. The trees are approximately 900 years old, however they have not decomposed due to the dry climate.
Deadvlei is at least1km walk from the parking lot so be sure to take drinking water with you.After exploring all that Sossusvlei and Deadvlei have to offer, drive to the Sesriem Canyon,located approximately 4.5km from the entrance gate of the Namib-Naukluft National Park. The Tsauchab River has shaped the Canyon over millions of years and it is one of the few places in the area that holds water all year round. The early Afrikaans explorers in the region named the canyon after the fact that they had to use six (“ses”) leather straps (“riem”) tied together to create a rope long enough to lower buckets into the canyon below, in order to fetch water.