Namibia – deserts, dunes and safaris

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Namibia, a country in southwest Africa, is distinguished by the Namib Desert along its Atlantic Ocean coast. The country is home to diverse wildlife, including a significant cheetah population. The capital, Windhoek, and coastal town Swakopmund contain German colonial-era buildings such as Windhoek’s Christuskirche, built in 1907. In the north, Etosha National Park’s salt pan draws game including rhinos and giraffes.

One of the things Namibia is famous for is its cheetahs and black rhino populations. The cheetah is considered a vulnerable species, but Namibia is fighting back. Namibia holds the most significant cheetah population in the world.

The landscape of the Namib Desert features gravel plains, shifting sand dunes, and scattered mountains. The sand dunes of the Namib can reach a height of 1,000 feet (300 meters), making them some of the tallest sand dunes in the world. The Namib gets almost no rain. Along the coast, however, there is often dense fog.

Namibia’s extreme landscapes are a big part of why the country is so unique. From the sand seas of the Namib, where you’ll find the tallest dunes in the world, to the awe-inspiring Fish River Canyon, Namibia is home to some of Africa’s most spectacular natural sights.

Sossusvlei are the largest sand dunes of the world. One of the oldest and most pristine and magnificently rugged landscapes on earth, the mind-blowing beauty of the Namib Desert has to be seen to be believed. This is mother nature’s masterpiece.
Just setting foot on what is hailed the world’s oldest living desert is a bucket list item in itself. Formed a mind-boggling 55 million years ago, the mighty Namib Desert is, in fact, the oldest desert on the planet. Its wild, rugged splendor remains unchanged after all this time. It is the land that time forgot … a place where time stands still and timeless, captivating beauty surrounds you at all times.
The sand dunes in the Sossusvlei area are known as ‘star dunes’ due to the shape formed when the wind approaches from all directions. As a result, the dunes hardly move.
The color of the sand changes across the desert. Closer to the sea in the west, the sand appears whiter, whereas moving inland the sand becomes pinker in color.
The Namib Desert boasts some of the world’s highest sand dunes, some of them reaching nearly 400 meters in height. Surrounded by countless dunes of differing heights, you really can take your pick, however, most people flock to the world-famous Big Daddy and Dune 45.
Deadvlei is a white clay pan located near the more famous salt pan of Sossusvlei, inside the Namib-Naukluft Park in Namibia.
Also written DeadVlei or Dead Vlei, its name means “dead marsh”. The pan also is referred to as “Dooie Vlei” which is the Afrikaans name.
The trees are estimated to be approximately 900 years old, however they have not decomposed due to the dry climate. Deadvlei is a paradise for photographers as the contrast between the pitch-black trees and bleached-white pans, and the rusty-red dunes and deep blue sky make for incredible images.
The Namib Desert with its unique weather patterns and landscapes, is a geological wonder that provides a unique habitat for a large variety of endemic animal and plant species.
Some unique desert species includes Palmato gecko, Sidewinding adder, Shovel snouted lizard and Namaqua Chameleon.
The Namib-Naukluft Park, being the largest national park on African soil with almost five million hectares, proves that not all deserts are deserts. Red-gold dunes are in contrast with grey-black gravel plains and the white salt pans that the game loves so much. Deep gorges carve up the wide-open plains, and rugged mountain peaks tower high above them.
This endless place, seemingly without life – during the day at the mercy of the scorching sun, and at night freezing under the cold wafts of mist, which float inland from the Atlantic, mystically illuminated by a frosty distant moon – it is almost a miracle to find life above and below this deserts hostile surface. Here, plants and animals survive due to the wind, humidity and fog.
The hot winds form the highest sand dunes in the world, true sand mountains, ranging from the eroded riverbed of the Tsauchab along to the mystical place called The Sossusvlei.
In the wonderful world of the Sossusvlei, dunes of up to over 300 m high are stretched across the landscape, with sharp contours and smooth sand surfaces looking like majestic, towering Alpine peaks amongst a shimmering pearl ribbon of clay pans.
Quiver trees are a unique and quintessential part of this seemingly inhospitable landscape in southern Namibia and northern South Africa. These giants reach heights of 10 meters (33 feet) and can live up to 350 years.
As a desert species, the Quiver Tree has well adapted to its environment through water-storing succulent leaves and shallow root systems that can quickly absorb water following rare rainfall events and even when condensed ocean fog drips from their own branches and leaves.
These trees were used by indigenous bushman people to make quivers for their arrows and the Quiver Tree forest has been proclaimed a Namibian National Monument.
Etosha National Park is unique in Africa. The park’s main characteristic is a salt pan so large it can be seen from space. Yet there is abundant wildlife that congregates around the waterholes, giving you almost guaranteed game sightings. At the same time Etosha National Park is one of the most accessible game reserves in Namibia and Southern Africa.
The Etosha pan is undoubtedly, massive. It is the most distinctive feature of the park and can even be seen from space. It is believed that it was formed over 100 million years ago and is 130 km’s long and up to 50 km’s wide in certain places. This means that the pan covers almost a quarter of the entire park!

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