Namib Naukluft National Park


We are not going to try and describe the Namibi-Naukluft because it cannot be described in words and therefore we have tried to state a few short bullet points

Immeasurable space without people – night gazing into crystal clear skies full of falling stars and satellites – an endless rippling desert – that ‘picture postcard perfect’ oryx standing by an expansive endless desert – imbibing the sheer power of the largest and brightest coloured sand dunes in the world at Sossuslvei – walking to Dead Vlei and the white cracked arena on which stand the ghost of long-dead trees – creatures of the desert, those sweet little frightening head-standing beetles and barking geckos – water birds of Sandwich Harbour – Heightened introspection – self awareness and perspective on the meanings of life – photography where a bad picture is almost impossible. Need we say more?

At almost 19,305 square miles (50,000 km²) it is the largest conservation area in Namibia and we daresay one of the largest in the world. Parts of this park resemble a lunar landscape while other places rise with the purple-hued rocky mountains of the Naukluft Mountain massif. Just as tall but far more impressive are the razor sharp ridges of the stunning orange sand dunes of Sossusvlei. To see a leopard straddle these dunes is the ultimate dream of wildlifers the world over. The estuarine lagoon at Sandwich Harbour, a wetland protected from the ferocious Atlantic Ocean and from casual visitors is more than a mere exhilarating experience.

Water from sea mists that roll far inland give the desert its life. Animals, insects and plants have adapted to live in this inhospitable eco-biosphere. No visit to Namibia is complete without walking the Namib-Naukluft Park. The solitude here is immeasurable, and ones place here in the great scheme of life takes on a curious insignificance.

Geologists suspect that this is the oldest desert known to man. They claim that the older the dune the brighter the colour from slow iron oxidisation and a trillion tiny fragments of garnets. These dunes actually refract spectacular colours with the changing light and turn from burnt orange through reds to deepest mauve.

The oryx is master of the infinite desert. It can survive with a body temperature as high as 113°F (45°C) solely as it manages to cool blood to the brain by passing it through the nostrils first. Springbok like the oryx also survive for long periods without water. Spotted hyenas inhabit the Namib Naukluft Park but are rarely seen, while black-backed jackals are more visible.

Birdlife has no parallel here. The Sandwich Lagoon is an essential wetland which attracts in the region of 200,000 birds to the lagoon and mudflats. Flamingoes constitute the largest percentage of water birds here. The lagoon also supports several endangered species such as chestnutbanded plover, white pelican and blacknecked grebe.

On the rare occasions when it rains, the desert responds amazingly quickly, producing a miracle of yellow flowers, green leaves and sprouting grasses. Ephemeral (short lived) plants appear as if by magic and replenish the seed bank for next year. Rainy Season: rain usually falls in late summer from February to April, but an 8 year study showed that most showers in the southern Namibia occurred in the months of December, March and April with an average rainfall of 63mm per annum. However, rainfall is erratic and unpredictable and the high summer temperatures cause fast evaporation. As a result the Namib is classified by international standards as ‘hyper-arid’. From November through to March the daytime temperatures rarely peak below 95°F (35°C) or drop lower than 59°F (15°C) at night. From April to October daytime temperatures range between a very pleasant 77°F (25°C) to 95°F (35°C), with June, July and August recording the lowest night-time temperatures around 41°F (5°C).

Facts

  • Sandwich Lagoon is only accessible with a permit and is difficult to get to
  • Sossuslvei lies within a national park which is closed from dusk till dawn so there is no off-road or night driving
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