10 reasons to put the Namib Desert on your bucket list
The Namib Desert is considered the oldest in the world, at 50 million years old. It’s hard to find words to describe the rugged beauty of this place: thousands of miles of sand and copper dunes, plains of silvery grass and mountains that turn purple at dusk that stretch across Namibia. , reaching the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
It is one of Africa’s treasures and a place you must visit before you die.
That’s why you should put it at the top of your travel list.
1. The Namib Desert is one of the most beautiful places in the world for ballooning. You rise at dawn as the sun hits the horizon and turns the vast landscape from blue-gray to golden, and you rise above the dunes, surprising gemsbok and zebra. Seeing the desert from the air is the best way to admire its magnificence.
2. If you think desserts are boring, think again. Deserts are not barren and lifeless. The Namib, in particular, has thousands of species of flora and fauna that have adapted in fascinating ways to living in a harsh climate. Take a tour with a guide who will introduce you to a fantastic micro-world of sand, insects, reptiles, birds and plants.
3. Sossusvlei is the most famous part of the Namib Desert, but Deadvlei, a few miles away, is much more photogenic. It’s a dry clay pot with cracked puzzle pieces of earth and dead trees thought to be thousands of years old, blackened by the harsh sun. It is not found anywhere else in the world.
4. The Namib Desert has some of the tallest sand dunes in the world (they reach up to 400 meters) which means great views and great sandboards. The best place for sandboarding is in the dune sea near Swakopmund – expect lots of fun, lots of face drops, and sand eating.
5. The roads along the edge of Namib-Naukluft National Park are among the most scenic in Africa. You might be driving for hours without seeing another car on apricot-colored dirt roads bordered by mountains and sand dunes – you couldn’t ask for a better destination for your road trip.
6. The sky over the southern Namib Desert is one of the darkest in the world, which means it is one of the best places on the planet for stargazing. Camp under a blanket of light bites and watch shooting stars ply the Milky Way.
7. To really get away from it all, you can explore the Namib on foot by doing a slackpacking trail with Tok Tokkie Trails (http://www.toktokkietrails.com/), where you spend days hiking in the dunes, discovering the desert and sleeping nights in outdoor camps under the stars.
8. The Namib is home to desert elephants, which roam Damaraland and Kaokoland in northern Namibia. They are not a different species from the African savanna elephants, but they have adapted remarkably to survive in the desert. The only other place in the world where desert elephants are found is in Mali, so it’s a rare find to see these ellies.
9. Even if you don’t like plants, it’s hard not to be fascinated by the unusual welwitschia, a desert plant that can live up to 2000 years and is only found in the Namib. This odd-looking plant produces only two strip-shaped leaves in its lifetime, which split into many leaf strips due to the wind.
10. Desert trips can be deeply spiritual. There is something unmistakably magical about being in a place, like the Namib Desert, which has not changed much in millions of years, surrounded by thousands of miles of sand and without human habitation. It forces you to confront the insignificance of your existence in the face of the great power of nature, which, oddly enough, is more comforting than distressing. If you ever feel like you need to escape the stress of city life, the Namib is the place you should come.
To learn more about the spiritual significance of the Namib Desert, read my article on Negotiating the Edge of Existence.
Sarah Duff is a freelance travel writer and photographer and editor-in-chief of Peregrine, an online travel magazine dedicated to the “why” of travel.