Fast Facts

  • Location: On the west coast of Namibia bordering the Atlantic Ocean
  • Best Time to Visit: April to November
  • Preferred timings: Morning and evening
  • How to reach: By car from Swakopmund; alternatively by car from Windhoek
  • Nearest Railway Station: Swakopmund
  • Nearest International Airport: Windhoek Hosea Kutako International Airport
  • Time required for sightseeing: 3 days

It looks like a canvas of a divine and quirky artist, and like all paintings, it is silent. The Namib Desert according to Mal Wolfe, director of Greatest Places, is absolutely silent and the only sound heard is that of deep deafening silence. What is even more astounding is the existence of life in this arid expanse of 80,000 square kilometers. Endless stretches of orange sand dunes stand like mysterious creations from the hands of some even more mysterious creator. Rugged canyons, desert plains, towering dunes, and beaches strewn with brightly colored pebbles constitute this exotic desert destination. You have to see to believe that a desert can be so colorful even in the harshest climatic conditions. Its myriad hues are only matched by the prism-like iridescence of the diamonds that it contains. The Namib Desert has the world’s largest wealth of diamonds.

Namib, the world’s oldest desert stretches along the Atlantic Ocean for about 1200 km. Giant red sand dunes often 1000 feet high sloping towards the ocean make an awesome sight. A stable climate over an extended period of time has given rise to a biosphere typical of its conditions. Plants and animals have adapted themselves marvelously to survive in these harsh conditions. Though rainfall is limited to a maximum of three inches annually, animals and plants absorb water from the fog created over the Atlantic Ocean and extending inland to the Skeleton Coast. Incidentally, the coastal belt of the Namib Desert with the Atlantic Ocean is renowned as ‘the Skeleton Coast’.

You would be surprised to see Welwitschia, supposedly the oldest plant species, with its amazing adaptations. It has crowns measuring three feet is diameter and leaves stretching up to sox feet. The leaves curl on the ground and assume strange shapes. According to Charles Darwin, welwitschia is considered the ‘platypus of the plant kingdom’. Dollar plant, pencil plant, shrubs, mustard, and camelthorn are the other flora thriving here.

The animals are equally fascinating. You would be thrilled to see the shovel-nosed lizard that ‘dances’ on the hot sand dunes by lifting its limbs by turn. In Namibia Namib Desert you would also discover the web-footed gecko with a translucent body and blood-red eyes. It leaves leaf-like prints on the sand surface. The lizard and gecko are preys of the adder, hunting spiders, and dancing white lady spiders. The gecko with its body held high with its slender legs, and the adder with its sideways motion are both astounding. All these animals absorb moisture from the fog. The tenebrionid beetle adopts a head-down posture to allow moisture from the fog to trickle to its mouth. ‘Lepidochora discoidalis’ beetle digs trenches to trap fog moisture.

Birds and mammals are also similarly attractive. The black-backed jackal licks condensed fog from stone surfaces. Brown hyenas stay at the Skeleton Coast and feed on fish and large carcasses. Grant’s golden mole and Setzer’s hairy-footed gerbil are rodents that come out in the night time. If you are a bird watcher then watch out for lappet-faced vulture, Gray’s lark, and dune lark.

Meet members of the Himba tribe who are as colorful as the desert landscape. To protect themselves from the intense heat they smear their bodies with ochre mud mixed with animal fat which makes them chocolate brown in appearance. They drape themselves in goatskin and adorn with jewelry made from leather, shells, and metal.

Take time to visit the great salt pans in Etosha National Park east of Skeleton Coast. In January you would certainly come across a herd of flamingos, or desert elephants. At the Skeleton Coast, it is thrilling to slide down sand dunes which change appearance as the day progresses. Go for a balloon ride over the sand dunes to view the magnificence of these dunes. Spend at least one night in tents under the twinkling stars. Very rarely would you get the opportunity of seeing a clearer night sky? You would be greatly surprised to note that many couples spend their honeymoon in the Namib Desert and Etosha National Park.

Related Links : Find out the unworldly views of the Namib Desert in this wonderful slideshow.

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