Namibia was about as alien a place as we visited on our year-long 23-country journey around the world from June 2014 to June 2015. The country is huge, with very few services outside the main town of Windhoek. The driving distances to get from destination to destination are intimidating, especially since gas stations are non-existent for hundreds of miles. If you plan to drive, you have to carry your own gas. In reality, the best and most efficient way to get around is by bush plane, as there are no airports outside of Windhoek that can accommodate large commercial jets.
The main attraction to Namibia is the "red desert" around Sossusvlei and the wildlife to be found in Namib-Naukluft National Park and Etosha National Park. Our itinerary took us to the red desert and Namib-Naukluft.
The Namib-Naukluft National Park
encompasses part of the Namib Desert
(considered the world's oldest desert) and the Naukluft
mountain range. With an overall area 19,216 square miles, the Namib-Naukluft is the largest game park in Africa and the fourth largest in the world. The most well-known area of the park is Sossusvlei
, which is the main visitor attraction in Namibia, and Deadvlei, an ancient clay pan with ghost trees that create a stark and other-worldly landscape.
A surprising collection of creatures survives in the hyper-arid region, including snakes
, unusual insects
. More moisture comes in as a fog
off the Atlantic Ocean
than falls as rain, with the average 106 millimeters of rainfall per year concentrated in the months of February and April.
The winds that bring in the fog are also responsible for creating the park’s towering ancient sand dunes
, whose burnt orange color is a sign of their age. The orange color develops over time as iron
in the sand is oxidized
, like rusty metal; the older the dune, the brighter the color.
These dunes are the tallest in the world, in places rising more than almost 1000 feet above the desert floor. The dunes taper off near the coast, and lagoons
, and mudflats
located along the shore attract hundreds of thousands of birds.
You should have seen the look of wonder on the faces of my three children as they took turns using a magnet to extract the iron oxide filings out of the red sand, leaving only refined sand, almost like sifting baking flour. It was a great science experiment led by our expert native guide, Wilhelm.
And you should have seen the look on my face when I went out to take some photographs early one morning at dawn and encountered a very feisty poisonous scorpion blocking my path on the sandy trail I was on. The little fella reared up on its hind legs and snapped its forward pinchers together menacingly at me. It was clear that it was not backing down. So I did. I went around and left him in peace. It was the first of two close encounters I was to have with scorpions on our journey. The other was in Costa Rica, which I'll tell you about when I post photos from that country.
‘Namib’ means open space and the Namib Desert gave its name to form Namibia – “land of open spaces”. The park has some of the most unusual wildlife and nature reserves in the world, and covers an area larger than Switzerland
(41,285 km2), roughly the size of the US states New Hampshire
© Stuart L Gordon Photography