Situated on the west coast of Namibia, beautiful, orange-duned Namib-Naukluft National Park is home to the Namib, considered by many to be the world’s most ancient desert. Established in 1907, vast, 50,000 km² (19,000 mile²) Namib-Naukluft is the largest conservation park in Africa. Its wetlands couch bird-wealthy marine sanctuary Sandwich Harbour, and its deserts boast the magnificent sand dunes of Sossusvlei, the haunting, clay-bed-based forest of Dead Vlei, the Naukluft mountain range and several cutting canyons.
Not to be missed are spectacular Sossusvlei’s haunting, rust-colored dunes—among the world’s tallest and most spectacular--and its leafless forest of dead, sun-scorched camel thorn trees. Fog blown in off the Atlantic Ocean accounts for most of the desert’s moisture and the winds that blow it for the dunes’ oxidized hue. Jackal, hyena, raptors, snakes, scorpions and myriad other tough beasts, birds, reptiles and insects have adapted to living in the region’s desert, and lichens, succulents and grasses contribute to the park’s botanical abundance. Large mammals protected in this park include Hartmann’s mountain zebra, giraffe, gemsbok, springbok, leopard and cheetah.
While much of the park is not accessible, visitors to this wondrous place can plan to slide down sand dunes, embark on rugged hikes, photograph, 4x4, stargaze and camp (the park’s only in-house accommodations are basic campsites). The dunes’ colors are finest at sunrise and sunset.
Most consider April to October the best months to visit, followed by the dry winter months of July to September. High summer temperatures mean that hiking is only permitted between March and October, and the park receives 106 mm (4.1 inches) of rainfall each year, generally in February and April. Sandwich Harbour does not allow camping and is open to visitors—4x4 vehicles only—before and after dark. No angling is allowed between the end of January and mid-April.