The famous Namib Desert is first and foremost a story of records: the second largest desert in Africa after the Sahara, it is considered the second oldest desert on the planet (see first for some) after that of the Atacama in Chile. And it is in Namib that we find the highest dunes in the world … Welcome to a world where sand is king!
The Namib Desert is a coastal hot desert, located in southwestern Namibia. Considered the oldest desert in the world (with the Atacama), it is estimated that arid or semi-arid conditions have been present for at least 55 million years.
The Namib desert stretches over a strip of 2,000 km² long and 100 km² wide. It is bordered by the Orange River to the south and Angola to the north. It is a coastal desert, its dunes plunge into the Atlantic Ocean with a vertical drop of 800 m. The desert is crossed by several rivers, almost always drained, wadis. The Kuiseb River stretches for 300 km and is a hilly and sandy sea where the dunes stretch as far as the eye can see. The Namib has the highest dunes in the world, those of Sossusvlei can reach 300 m high.
Characteristics of Namib
The desert is crossed by several rivers, gorges and canyons (including Sesriem and Kuiseb), almost always dry, the wadis. The Kuiseb River stretches for 300 km and is a hilly and sandy sea where the dunes stretch as far as the eye can see.
The Namib has the highest dunes in the world, those of Sossusvlei can reach 300 m high. The colors of the dunes, especially at sunset and sunrise, the harmony of places and especially their uniqueness make it a must for those who want to discover Namibia. The red sand probably came from the Kalahari 3 to 5 million years ago. Carried by the Orange River to the sea, it was carried north by the current of Benguela, then deposited on the coast. Over time, the Namib dunes were sculpted by the wind, creating strange and complex silhouettes. This seemingly arid landscape is the site of a complex living ecosystem due to the humidity due to the precious mists coming from the Atlantic.
Southern Namib is a real diamond mine. The city of Kolmanskop, now a ghost town, was the setting, at the beginning of the 20th century, of a rush to the diamonds.
The Skeleton Coast, north of the Namib, has been named because of the whale bones that adorn the coast, as well as shipwrecks reminiscent of the danger of the ocean current. The Namib-Naukluft National Park provides access to the canyons and dunes of Dead Vlei, a white bowl of clay surrounded by dunes from which you can see dead trees, petrified by the sun, remnants of a bygone era, the one where the water flowed.
Wildlife and Flora of the Namib Desert
Welwitschia mirabilis is an amazing plant. It is a dwarf tree, endemic to this desert. Every 100 years, he makes two long leaves of 2 to 3 m and ribbon-shaped. These leaves absorb tiny particles of water from early mists. At the same time, a main root dives up to 10 m deep to fetch the groundwater table. The welwitschia can live up to 2000 years.
Tsamma melons, sources of life, rest on the desert soil, in the middle of a tangle of dried up stems. These wild plants are very close to the cultivated species of the squash family.
The golden mole of Namibia (Eremitalpa granti) is an insectivore digger who lives only in the Namib desert. Its large claws are adapted to burrowing in the sand. During the day, she rests 50 cm deep and goes out at night in search of lizards.
Namib-Naukluft Park, about 50,000 square kilometers, is in southern Namib. This park forms a vast ocean of sand that unfolds a series of massive and mobile dunes as far as the eye can see. South of the Flats, the plains are crossed by the Kuiseb River and other rivers that flow on average only once or twice per century. After the rain, a carpet of grass appears as if by magic, attracting herds of springboks or gemsboks. The many snakes, insects and lizards of Namib are fascinating in the way they have adapted to the harshness of desert life. Dunes and plains shelter host creatures that can not be found anywhere else.
The viper of Peringuey (Bitis peringuey) has eyes located at the top of the head. This allows him to bury himself in the sand while watching his future prey. It also has the distinction of moving laterally on the hot sand. To find water, this snake presses its body against the ground, at night, to let its condensate on its scales cool night dew.
Another strange inhabitant of these dunes, the big spider, known as the “white lady” (Leucorchestris sp.) Who, to escape quickly, simply picks up her legs under her and, like a barrel, rolls along. a dune.
Most wild Namib species feed not on rains or local vegetation, but on fresh Atlantic sea spray. The pools of water that sometimes form attract large mammals. Gemsboks, springboks and zebras of Hartmann, who migrate over large areas benefit from the miracle of water.
In these vast expanses, there are still Namibian wild horses that are the descendants of animals imported by German colonial troops almost a century ago.