The Namib & Costal Region
The Namib-Naukluft Park, covering over 49 768 km is not only the largest nature conservation area in Namibia, but it is rated as the fourth largest in the world, as well as being the most unusual. Landscapes range from an impressive mountain massif to desert plains and high dunes, from deep gorges to an estuarine lagoon.
Namib area. For the connoisseur of scenery, atmosphere and the unusual, there is nothing quite like the Namib. It has an essence of timelessness, and, depending on the time of day there is a shift of moods, a play of light and shadow, giving desert landscapes entirely new tints and textures. The Welwitschia Nature Drive ranges from vast plains where herds of oryx, springbok and zebra roam, to the eerie landscape of the badlands, known as the "valley of the moon" in the Swakop River valley. Also in the valley is the small oasis of Goanikontes, its vivid green vegetation in startling contrast to the harsh desert landscape.
Examples of that hardy survivor of the desert, the Welwitschia mirabilis, can be seen along this route. One very large specimen which is specially protected is estimated to be 1 500 years old. Because the Namib-Naukluft Park is managed as a wilderness area, there are no large rest camps. Camping sites in the Namib area are Kuiseb Bridge, Mirabib, Homeb, Kriess-se-rus, Vogelfederberg, Bloedkoppie, Groot Tinkas and Ganab.
Situated north-west of Maltahöhe on the road to the coastal town of Swakopmund, this area includes the mountainous escarpment as well as the edge of the Namib desert. It is a sanctuary for mountain zebra and other species of game. The camping site is a shady spot next to a perennial mountain stream. There are day hikes in the area, as well as a more arduous round trip of 120 km which takes 8 days to complete. Several guest farms and rest camps in the area cater for the tourist.
West of the Naukluft Mountains, the Tsauchab River disappears dramatically down a steep gorge in the plain. Pools of water on its gravelly bed in an otherwise arid region, attracts many birds and animals. The camping site is shaded by large camelthorn trees.
This is a dune wonderland, with towering dunes up to 300 m high surrounding a huge, driedup pan. Dunes extend as far as the eye can see and their rich tints vary from pale apricot to vivid reds and oranges. During a good rainy season the Tsauchab River flows into the pan which creates a haven for water birds. Even during the dry season, oryx, springbok and ostriches can be seen feeding off the sparse vegetation along the water courses. There are no camping facilities and this area is open to day visitors only.
Namibia's seaside resort on the west coast is a place of singular charm, and resembles a small Bavarian village nestling between the desert and the sea. It has a restful and relaxing atmosphere with promenades, palm trees and beautifully tended public gardens. The particular attraction of the town lies in the fact that one can enjoy the wild beauty of the desert and the sea and yet be within easy reach of the solid comfort of Swakopmund's hotels, pensions and restaurants.
The source of Swakopmund's continental atmosphere is the graceful art nouveau building. Eleven of these charming old buildings are national monuments.
There is plenty to see and do. Tour operators offer tours featuring the unique landscapes of the Namib. There is sheltered bathing at Palm Beach, the town has an Olympic-sized, heated indoor swimming pool, and a grassed golf course in a desert setting. The tannery, which manufacturers the well known kudu leather shoes, can be visited, as well as the local brewery which produces some of Namibia's fine beers. The Swakopmund Museum captures the colourful past and also highlights the desert flora and fauna, as well as the marine life, of the area. Accommodation is available in hotels, bungalows and a caravan park, as well as comfortable pensions.
Near Sandwich Harbour, 42 km south of the port of Walvis Bay, this large, reed-lined marine lagoon is home to many coastal and freshwater birds. It is also a major breeding ground for numerous species of fish. Accessible only in four wheel drive vehicles, no overnight camping is allowed.
There is excellent rock and surf fishing along the stretch of beach which extends northwards. This area, a 200 km by 25 km strop along the beach from Swakopmund to Ugab River is known as the * National West Coast Tourist Recreation Area. Favorite angling and camping spots are Mile 4, Mile 14, Mile 72, Mile 108 and Jakkalsputz. Henties Bay, a resort village named after Major Hentie van der Merwe who started recreational fishing there in 1929, still attracts keen fishermen from far and wide. The town has one hotel, bungalows, holiday flats and a golf course. The * Cape Cross Seal Reserve is situated north of Henties Bay. Here a prodigious number of Cape Fur seals flourish in the cold waters of the Benguela Current. Along the coast are numerous islets and isolated parts of the shore which they use as nurseries for their young. This area is also of historical significance as the Portuguese navigator, Diogo Cao, planted a cross at this point in the year 1486.