Namib is word of Nama origin and spelling on earlier maps includes “Naarip”, “Naanip” and “Nariep”. The current spelling is said to mean ‘a large desert plain’.
It is believed that the Namib was probably semi-arid for about the last 80 million years with true desert conditions prevailing for the last 15 to 20 million years.
The Namib is a long, narrow desert stretching along the west coast of southern Africa, from the Olifants River in South Africa to the Carunjamba River in Angola – a distance of about 2000 km. It varies in width from 100 to 150 km and lies below and west of the pre-Namib escarpment along the Atlantic coast. It is a hyper-arid part of Africa with a mean annual rainfall of less than 100mm per annum. The rainfall is lowest at the coast (about 8 mm annually) increasing gradually eastward to the escarpment.
The Namib is only 1/30 th of the size of the Sahara, but has mountains, huge dunes or ‘sand seas’, extensive gravel plains and salt pans along the coast. Fog from the cold Benguela current, which moves from south to north up the west coast of Africa, is carried inland by the prevailing winds.It usually extends about 50 km inland along the entire length of the Namib, but occasionally fog patches occur up to 100 km inland. The fog forms nightly for about four months of the year and many plants and animals in the mist belt are dependent on this source of moisture for their survival.
Typically desert, the temperatures drops sharply during the night, but the days are usually quite pleasant to warm.
Areas typically visited on a Namib safari:
- Sossusvlei, Deadsvlei and Hiddenvlei (an area with spectacular dune scenery)
- The great gravel plains with their ancient Welwitchia plants
- Sandwich Harbour with its dunes and birdlife
- Swakopmund (Namibia’s main holiday town)
- The Cape fur seal colony at Cape Cross
The Namib safari is unique; unlike anything else in southern Africa. The desert scenery is awesome and the photographic opportunities extraordinary. For many of those who have discovered the Namib, it is “…..the most beautiful place on earth”.
Accommodation is provided in lodges, guest houses and hotels.