The Namib Desert - Abbey Travel, Ireland

The Namib Desert


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Welcome to The Namib Desert

The Namib Desert

The Namib Desert is the oldest and most arid desert region in the world, having been around for more than 80 million years. In the Nama language, 'Namib' means 'vast', a description perfectly suited to the miles of barren landscape stretching endlessly along Namibia's Atlantic coastline.

The northern Namib is called the Skeleton Coast, an intensely mysterious, inhospitable area of treacherous rocks and sand banks, dry gravel plains and isolated, flat-topped mountains. The bleak wilderness is especially eerie when blanketed in the thick coastal fog that is brought about by the collision of cold sea air with the searing heat of the harsh interior. Sailors washed ashore from shipwrecks over the centuries soon became the skeletons that the coastline was named after, having no chance of survival in the pitiless wastes of the Namib Desert. Its appeal lies in the untouched quality, the colours and changing moods of the vast landscape, and the incredible adaptations to the desert habitat of its flora and fauna.

The southern Namib forms part of the Namib-Naukluft Park, one of Africa's most interesting and diverse nature reserves, including Sandwich Lagoon, an important wetland area for migratory birds, as well as canyons, rivers, and the Naukluft mountain massif, home to many species of animal, particularly the Hartmann's mountain zebra. This section of the Namib Desert is characterised by an endless sea of orange sand dunes, and the famous Sossusvlei dunes, the highest in the world.

Emerging from the desert stretch, and situated along the coast, is the charming little seaside resort of Swakopmund with its distinctly German character and old world charm, making a great base for any holiday in the Namib Desert.

Information & Facts

English is the official language, but many people also speak Afrikaans and German. There are also several indigenous languages spoken, mainly in the rural areas.

The official currency is the Namibian Dollar (NAD) divided into 100 cents. Its value is equal to the South African Rand, which is also accepted as legal currency in Namibia. Major credit cards are accepted. Travellers cheques and foreign currency can be exchanged at any bank or bureau de change, though cash is more expensive to exchange than travellers cheques. ATMs are available in larger towns only.

One of Namibia's highlights is the clay pans of Sossusvlei, in the Namib Desert, enclosed by magnificent ochre sand dunes. The Sossusvlei dunes are among the highest in the world, reaching more than 960 feet (300m), and are a wondrous sight of endless rolling shapes and sharp wind-sculpted crests. Although they have been developed over a period of millions of years, their forms are constantly changing, rising and falling at the mercy of the wind. A climb to the top of one of these 'hills' is well worth the effort, especially at sunrise or sunset, when the view of shifting sand, stretching as far as the eye can see, is an ethereal landscape of shapes and colours. The most impressive pan is Dead Vlei, a vast hollow depression of dry cracked mud scattered with ancient camel-thorn trees. The colours and contrasts here are a photographer's delight. The pans (vleis) are only ever filled with water after heavy rainfall, which happens only every couple of years, but the solid clay layers hold the water for a long time, providing a habitat for countless water birds and a drinking hole for animals. The beautiful black and white Oryx (a large, spiral-horned antelope) is occasionally spotted in the meagre shade of the thorn trees, lizards leave their tiny trails on the pristine mounds of sand, and the black 'tok tokkie' beetle is commonly seen stumbling over the sun-baked jigsaw puzzle pieces of the red clay surface. The area is also home to ostriches and springbok.

Visitors should note that the sand dunes of Sossusvlei are located roughly 37 miles (60km) from the Sesriem Gate, which is the entrance to the park. The drive from the gate takes about an hour.

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