NAMIB NAUKLUFT / NAMIB DESERT

Namibia gained its name from the Namib Desert, the word “Namib” meaning “vast place” in the indigenous Nama language. Proven to be the world’s oldest desert (approximately 55 million years), the Namib stretches along the entire coast of Namibia to form one of the most spectacular and species-rich deserts in the world. Survival of these living organisms (ranging from the smallest insect to the mighty Desert adapted Elephant) is ensured by the blanket of moisture-supplying fog that engulfs the coastal desert regions in the early morning hours. Many of the living organisms found in the Namib Desert are endemic and specially adapted to the extremely dry climate, the most well-known species being represented by the Welwitschia mirabilis plant, the endemic Dune Lark, the Golden Mole and last but not least the desert adapted elephant. Some other unique living organisms found only in the Namib desert are the only white ant on earth as well as the black desert scorpion.

The Welwitschia Plains

Friedrich Martin Joseph Welwitsch (1806 – 1872) was the distinguished figure destined to bring to the attention of the world one of the most extraordinary curiosities of all living organisms. This plant would arouse more interest and produce more surprises than any of the other 375’000 species known to man. It seems to bear kinship only with a prehistoric flora known today as fossil remains. Yet somehow it still survives….an anachronism…. a relic of flora long past… a LIVING fossil!! No less unique is the phenomenon of the Welwitschia’s habitat. It occurs in isolated colonies confined to the Namib Desert, generally within a narrow 100 km-wide coastal belt and nowhere else in the world. Individual Welwitschia plants are estimated to be upwards of 2,500 years old, have crowns of more than 3 feet (1 m) in diameter, and leaves that stretch up to 6 feet (2 m) long. With leaves that curl into fantastic shapes along the ground, this plant is considered to be the longest-living member of the desert plant kingdom.

Moonlandscape

Moonladscape: This desolate and forbidding valley of conical and dome shaped hills near Swakopmund is reminiscent of an actual lunar landscape, resembling the lifeless surface of the mars itself. The Moonlandscape represents the leftover of an ancient, enormous mountain range. During more severe weather patterns, the valleys of the mountain range as well as the mountain range itself has been chafed, chiseled and gouged by wind and the waters of what is nowadays known as the Swakop River. Known as “badland topography” (or gamadoelas), the crumbling granite surface hardly supports any plant life and is best viewed in the late afternoon to enjoy terrific light and shadow contrasts and cooler temperatures.