Vast, untamed, and amazing
In truth, it’s difficult to miss the Namib Desert on a trip to Namibia. This vast playground of sand dunes encompasses some 81 000 km² of Namibia’s Atlantic coastline.
It sweeps southwards from the Carunjamba River in Angola to the Olifants River in South Africa. Inland, it stretches for up to 200km to meet the Central Plateau and incorporates many of the country’s most interesting sites and attractions.
Keep reading to discover all the reasons why you should visit the Namib Desert.
Lap Up Stunning Scenery
Photographers and nature lovers never tire of the Namib’s ever-shifting sands and staggering variety. From towering ochre dunes to desolate moon-like landscapes, the Namib is awash with remarkable sights. You can admire these from the air, on foot, by vehicle or from the back of a camel or horse.
By day, these features glow with rich golden and ochre hues while the night-time brings a dazzling display of countless stars.
Whether you enjoy admiring grand spectacles or the minutiae of nature, the Namib will delight you with unexpected photographic opportunities at every turn.
Experience Some of the World’s Extremes
All deserts are extreme, and the Namib ticks all the regular boxes and more. Summer daytime temperatures can soar to well over 40° C, while the chilly nights bring lows of below freezing at times.
A trip here is a must for those who like to experience the world’s most outstanding features. This place of superlatives boasts several record-breaking credentials, like:
- It is the world’s most ancient desert
- The only coastal desert in the world with extensive dune fields influenced by fog
- Uniquely comprises materials from thousands of kilometres away
- The sand sea includes most known types of dune systems
- Home to animals with adaptations found nowhere else
Moreover, Namibia boasts some of the best light conditions for photography, so you’re guaranteed to get some unforgettable snapshots while you’re there.
Play Among the Sands
Swakopmund is a seaside town located on the Atlantic edge of the Namib Desert. It’s renowned as one of the best adventure playgrounds on earth.
From your accommodation in Swakopmund, you can venture out on guided tours into the desert, to see amazing creatures, ghost towns, birds, and seals, or set off to enjoy exciting activities like:
- Quad biking
- Dolphin and whale cruises
- Deep sea fishing
- Sky diving
- Camel rides
- Horse riding
- Fat biking
- Scenic flights
- Kite surfing
If you prefer more sedate activities, there are a wealth of historic tours available around town and plenty of excellent seafood eateries, jovial pubs, and international restaurants to choose from.
Explore Fascinating Sites
Almost the entire Namib Desert consists of spaces dedicated to conservation, and it includes numerous amazing places to visit across its length and breadth.
- The Skeleton Coast with its numerous shipwrecks
- Sandwich Harbour, a RAMSAR wetland birding site
- Historic Walvis Bay and Swakopmund
- The Namib Naukluft National Park
- Kolmanskop ghost town
See Unique Fauna and Flora
When it comes to plant and animal life, the Namib Desert is almost otherworldly in its riches.
Here you may encounter highly specialized life forms that occur nowhere else on earth.
Thanks to the protected status and inhospitable climate of this desert, these desert-adapted species can thrive undisturbed as they have for centuries.
All in, there are over 3 500 species of plants found in this area.
One of the amazing specimens you could see here is the welwitschia, which can survive for thousands of years rooted in the dry terrain of the Namib. This unusual-looking plant has just two leaves which never stop growing, making them the longest-lived leaves of all plants.
Another oddball of the plant kingdom is the quiver tree, found in the south close to the South African border. These plants shed their branches during times of scarcity, which allows them to survive for as long as 200 years.
Parts of the desert are also home to a great diversity of succulents that store water in their spongy stems, roots, and leaves.
Other amazing creatures subsist here on little more than the moisture they can glean from the fog that rolls in almost daily from the sea.
Web-footed geckos survive by licking condensed fog from their eyes and escape the cruel heat of the day by burrowing deep into the sands thanks to their wide, flat feet.
An adaptation of a different kind belongs to the golden wheel spider which has learned to curl itself into a ball to escape predators by rolling down the dunes at incredible speeds. That way it doesn’t burn its feet while hot-footing it down the slopes either.
This huntsman spider is most often preyed upon by the pompilid wasp which can detect a spider’s burrow from miles away and remove up to 10 litres of sand to reach its quarry.
Then there are the larger, more famous animals that survive against all odds in the Namib Desert.
These include lions, elephants, rhinos, and leopards that have learned to manage their food and water intake so they can exist where no large animal should venture.
You can catch up with these rare animals on guided tours and tracking adventures with registered safari providers. More common arid-adapted species include Hartmann’s zebra, oryx, and ostriches as well as smaller nocturnal creatures like aardvark.
Start Planning Your Trip to Visit the Namib Desert
Are you excited to explore Namibia’s most famous landmark? It’s easy to extend your explorations of Namibia to include desert activities.
Browse our travel blog to discover more information about things to do and see when you visit the Namib Desert and how best to include them in your itinerary.
Please Note: The details shared herein were correct at the time of publishing. However, with time some of this information may change. We recommend confirming information with suppliers prior to making final travel arrangements. If you do happen to find an issue with any information we’ve shared here, please feel free to contact us so that we can make the relevant changes.