Namibia desert

The vast place - the Namib desert

Old Namib...the vast land.

In my opinion one of the most fascinating places on earth, the Namib Desert, Namibia’s second World Heritage Site is the oldest coastal desert in the world.

Its origin dates back ca. 80 million years ago and its rusty red dunes testify its age.

Very interesting from both a geological and

biological point of view, talking about the great Namib Desert, which extends from Angola to the Orange River and beyond, from the Great Escarpment in the east to the western Atlantic Ocean, is like retracing the history of Namibia.

From North to South the desert often changes face: to the north the barcane dunes, which move due to the strong winds that sweep that part of Namibia, but to the north there is also the fog that forms due to the meeting of the cold Benguela current and the hot desert air. Here is the famous Skeleton Coast,  known by travellers from all over the world as a place where once the big ships and vessels were shipwrecked in shallow waters, and fog. Not only ships, but also whales often find death by being stranded here. However owing to treacherous sub currents and frequent fogs actually the entire Namibian coastline is regarded as the Skeleton Coast...

Going further down south towards Swakopmund the desert is rocky, stony ... flat and immense ... a place where only the lichens survive and where the sea lions are the masters along the coast.

After passing the ephemeral Kuiseb River, which comes down in full flood only once every ten to 15 years, 60 km further inland you reach to the red sandy or dune desert, stretching deep into the south, offering incredible landscapes.

Here are the great red dunes, among the most spectacular in the world, the oldest in this desert, red due to the oxidation of the iron contained in the sand. Sossusvlei, Dead Vlei and dunes 40, 45, Big Daddy, with 305 meters the highest in the area, and Big Mama the second highest, are a must for anyone travelling to Namibia.

Going closer to the coast and south of Swakopmund, towards Sandwich Harbour, the dunes, here of much younger origin, cleansed by the perennial coastal fogs, become clearer and more whitish. Endless dunes reach as far south as Luderitz and beyond, down to the far south of Namibia, Dunes in continuous growth, thanks to the sands that constantly arrive here from the mouth of the Orange River, carried north by the wind and currents.

But the Namib is an anomalous desert, it is a living desert! Indeed, as I said in the beginning, it is a paradise for biologists. Here the fog creates life. The live spending fog condenses on the leaves of the plants that survive here, or on the elytra of the tenebronid beetle, the Tok Tokkie that drinks the condensed drops trickling down from its back. Plants like Welwitschia Mirabilis can survive for millennia. The oldest living plant is over 2000 years old!

Large antelopes such as the oryx manage to survive with little to no water for many months and thanks to an adaptation to the harsh conditions of the desert: they have developed an admirable cooling system in the head, to be able to cool the blood temperature, which, when entering the brain, never exceeds 40 °! And there is an abundance of ostriches, foxes, small antelopes, snakes and birds, such as the Dune Lark, endemic to the Namib.

At good last ... Namib means “vast place”, and Namibia derives its name from this unique desert.