Set amidst the undulating, deep-orange sands of the ancient Namib Desert, the Namib-Naukluft National Park is the largest game park in Africa comprising a striking mix of landscapes, from expansive gravel plains, to gargantuan sand dunes, inselburgs, and mountain plains. One of the most accessible desert regions on earth, the park is an excellent self-drive destination. Views from the gravel roads are superb, and there’s a great range of accommodation from self-catering camps to luxury lodges.
Sossusvlei is the main highlight, with its astonishingly high sand dunes cascading down to the Atlantic Ocean shores. Those prepared to make the strenuous climb to the top of this ‘great dune sea’ will be rewarded with phenomenal views across the rippled, sun-baked sands. Nearby, the cracked white earth of the Dead Vlei salt pan, with its 500 year-old petrified trees dotting the path where a river once flowed, is a surreal and haunting sight. The Sesriem Canyon, shaped over millions of years by the Tsauchab River, is another ‘must see’ destination. One of the few places in the National Park to hold water year-round, the canyon can either be a frog-ridden and semi-stagnant pool, or an enticingly cool place to swim, depending on the time of year. In the park’s south west, the Namibrand Nature Reserve is an expansive and beautiful private desert area with smaller dunes and beautiful grasses, known for its exclusive lodges, superb walking trails, and some of the best guiding in Namibia. Last but not least, there’s a good range of easy to challenging hiking trails in the Naukluft Mountains, with semi-bare mountainsides to explore, along with stark plateaus interspersed with verdant ravines, and a wide variety of unusual plants and trees.
To make the most of the Namib-Naukluft National Park, it’s important to wind down the pace and soak up the scene. With patience and time, it’s possible to witness unique desert-adapted wildlife, from the crickets, beetles and lizards of the dune grasses, to occasional sightings of oryx, mountain zebra, kudu and hyena, to wonderful birdlife including parrots, eagles, buzzards, falcons and ostrich. Star gazing under the super-clear night skies is a real delight, and any adventure in this captivating region, characterised by space and silence, will prove that a visit to Namibia is as much about the landscape itself as the wildlife which inhabits it.