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Namib-Naukluft National Park reviews

14 reviews

“The Namib-Naukluft is home to some of the world's most beautiful and unusual scenery.” - Morgan

Breath-taking desert-scapes in Namib-Naukluft

Views: 198 Visited: Jan 2017 Reviewed: Aug 02, 2018

The Namib desert is up there with the world’s most beautiful landscapes. It’s home to towering red dunes, craggy mountains, huge skies, iconic vistas and a surprising array of hardy wildlife. The Namib-Naukluft National Park is huge, sprawling over 50,000 square kilometres. Luckily, parts of it are surprisingly accessible.

We visited in January during a weeklong circuit through central Namibia. Our first stop was in the Naukluft Mountain Zebra Park for a night at Naukluft campsite, nestled between the mountains. This is a stunning place for a stopover on the way between Namibia’s capital, Windhoek, and Sesriem, the main gateway into the Namib. At Naukluft, the Waterkloof Trail is well worth exploring. It follows the river past several rock pools, interesting vegetation, and imposing cliffs. Watch out for baboons at the camp. We dutifully followed the receptionist’s advice and waited until sunset to set up camp. Even so, we had a large male baboon come right up to our truck and steal a bag of potatoes while we stood around, helpless to stop him.

On the two-hour drive from Naukluft to Sesriem, the Namib desert reveals itself. We camped at the Sesreim campsite situated just inside the border of the national park. This is the main base from which to explore the park’s most famous sites including Deadvlei, Sossusvlei, Dune 45, and Sesriem Canyon. The campsite is very pleasant with a good amount of spacing between sites, trees for shade, a pool, and a convenient shop and restaurant. At night in camp, be careful of scorpions. Scorpions glow under ultraviolet light, so consider taking a UV flashlight to be able to check your surroundings.

From the campsite, it’s a good idea to get up before sunrise to get into the heart of the park for the best light and coolest atmosphere. There is a single, 60-kilometer-long tar road heading straight into the park. There are a few pull-offs along the road for various hiking routes and famous landmarks. But, head all the way to the end of the road for the park’s most awe-inspiring scenes—Deadvlei and Sossusvlei.

The trick here is that the last few kilometres of the road require a 4x4. The paved road gives way to deep sand, and we saw many stuck 4x4s. Remember to let down the tire pressure to travel more easily over the sand and engage the locking hubs if the vehicle requires. Make sure to keep up momentum over the deepest areas of loose sand to avoid getting bogged down. If you do get stuck, gently roll backwards and forwards rather than spinning tires at top speed.

Visiting Deadvlei, where the skeletons of dead trees stand guard eerily over cracked white clay and towering red dunes, requires a 20-minute walk from the parking area. The trail isn’t well marked, but it should be possible to follow the previous hikers’ footprints through the loose sand. If you’re the first to arrive in the morning after a windy night, head out in a line perpendicular to the parking lot. Make sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen and sturdy shoes. Big Daddy is a dune towering high over Deadvlei. Many people climb it for sunrise or sunset.
Nearby Sossusvlei is also worth a stop. It’s a large pan that very occasionally fills with water. Like Deadvlei, it’s surrounded by towering dunes, and it’s fun (but hard work!) to climb one for an amazingly expansive view of dune fields that seem to go on forever.

In January, conditions were very warm, so hiking the dunes at noon was a sweaty affair. A good midday activity is to head back to camp at Sesriem for a visit to Sesriem Canyon. Here, the steep walls provide some shade for the canyon floor below. Afterwards, you can cool off in the pool. Nearby Elim Dune is a good spot to watch the sunset.

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