Namib – Southern West Africa – Luderitz
.There is something hauntingly beautiful about the cold ocean washing at the shores of a hot, dry desert, its dunes a frozen parody of the waves... even somewhat ironic!
The Namib-Naukluft National Park consist of such a desert, and lies along the interminably bleak, fog-haunted coast of Namibia, stretching north from Luderitz to Walvis Bay..... and can be conveniently divided into five sections, none of them the same... all unique and splendidly beautiful.
Sesriem and Sossusvlei
This is desert as the romantically minded person pictures it.... seas of sand across undulating soaring dunes.... from the camp at Sesriem, a hot although easy drive takes us into the Sesriem Canyon, where settlers found water and we find welcome coolness..... mountainous dunes, which are among the world’s highest are the main feature of the surrounding vistas at Sossusvlei.
Rivers of sand at Sossusvlei.... the magnificent red dunes of Sossusvlei twist upwards like a series of petrified rivers, dark on one side, sunlit on the other.... reaching heights of 385 metres. These dunes are among the highest in the world and strongly resemble those of the Sahara Desert.
They are known as parabolic or cyclic dunes, and are caused by wind blowing from several directions simultaneously. They occur at the point where the Tsauchab River finally dies away in a series of pans in the desert.
Composed largely of quartz sands, the dunes twist in five or six directions and are all arrayed in a fiery palette of gold, ivory and maroon colours that has everyone reaching for a camera.
The clayey vlei is a shady spot occasionally with water, where 500 year old camelthorn trees provide welcome shade for a stop. Strong winds buffet the vlei from time to time, causing the sand-dune crests to burst into smokiness as writhing blasts curl up the windward side, then break over the crest in an eerie explosion of gusting sand.
In 1986 the Tsauchab came down in flood, the first time in 10 years, attracting flamingo’s, springbok, gemsbok and aquatic birds.
Sesriem Canyon, 55 km Northeast or upstream of Sossusvlei is where the Tsauchab River disappears into a narrow gorge eroded into the rock and sand over centuries. This gorge - up to 30 m deep - is a narrow as 1.75 m in parts and stretches for 1.5 km.
The name Sesriem comes from the six ox-hide thongs (rieme) which the thirsty trekkers tied together to raise a bucket of water from the deep canyon.
Here are steep and spectacular cliffs in a reserve that was originally created to save Hartmann’s mountain zebra. Streams flow far below the surface, sometimes rising to form cooling streams, crystal pools amid rocks sculpted by more abundant and more ferocious water untold millennia ago. Bird life is abundant for the enthusiast with a spillover of species from Namaqualand that lies just to the south.
The Northern Section
This lies between the Kuiseb and Swakop rivers, and features rocky plains bisected by the valley of the Swakop River. On these plains you’ll see the occasional column of granite called inselberg (island mountain) rising above the thirsty land. In times of rain, the plains are covered by grass, and herds of springbok, zebra and gemsbok come to feast in a land of plenty.
This, the most northerly section of the park, is a short way from Swakopmund, along a route where numbered beacons mark points of special interest, ranging from lichen fields to rocky moonscapes, and from a dyke of intrusive dolerite to the place where South African soldiers camped during the First World War, in the conquest of what was then a German colony. There are ancient mining-workings and, of course, the welwitschia itself.
Bird migrants know Sandwich as a hospitable and refreshing stopover on their long journey between hemispheres. Here is water - much of it salty in the large lagoon, but there is also the mud flats, and springs of fresh water that form a chain of pools lined in sheltering reeds. The birds in countless numbers, and of many species, add splashes of colour and swirls of movement to some of Namibia’s finest scenery.
Church spires soar above the surrounding desert sands as you approach Luderitz, with its lovely little fishing harbour, steep streets and colourful colonial German mansions.
Its hinterland is somewhat ravaged by the diamond diggings of the forbidden Sperrgebiet, but the town itself slopes down to choppy aquamarine waters and a narrow fjord, perfect for the crayfish boats that bob in the wind.
‘Enter with God’ ....the carved door on Goerke House reads.... this hilltop diamond palace, with its pale blue exterior, dragon gargoyles and red, multi-peaked roof, testifies to the solid wealth of Luderitz a century ago, when fortunes were made in nearby Kolmanskop.
Goerke House was built in 1909 and now serves as a museum, sometimes doubling as accommodation for VIP guests visiting the area. An extension of the museum is the floating diamond boat in the harbour. Ever since Bartolomeu Dias planted a cross in 1487 on the long finger of land that holds back the Atlantic gales, whalers, guano collectors, seaman and adventurers have sheltered in the bay.
A monument on Shark Island, which is now linked to the mainland, tells the fascinating story of Adolf Luderitz who, in 1881, paid the local chieftan, Joseph Frederichs, 10 000 Reichmarks and 260 rifles for the harbour.
A boat trip around the peninsula’s many hideaway coves will have energetic, graceful dolphins racing ahead of you at the bow, and there is an African penguin colony on Halifax Island to visit.
But the essence of Luderitz is discovered while walking the narrow up-and-down streets of the old town where double-storey colonial houses huddle in their past glory.
The best way to see Luderitz is on foot and we organise tours to the local Karkul carpet-weaving factory or the oyster farm.
Tour operators and 4x4 Adventures and their parties meet in Luderitz, camp is set up and we get to know each other while supper is prepared. Please make a note that Namibia time is one hour ahead of South African time.
After an enjoyable breakfast, we fill our vehicles with petrol/dieasel and ensure that everyone has an adequate water supply. The tour group gathers for a briefing before leaving on the tar road which we follow for 35 km, then we take a turn onto a gravel road. After a few kilometres we stop to deflate our tyres and then drive into the desert. Our 170 km 4x4 desert route traverses sand that is thick and warm which is sometimes challenging to drive, with dunes that get bigger and bigger... however, time is allowed to ‘play’ and have 4x4 fun on the sand dunes, before returning to camp for relaxation and supper, sharing in the days adventure.
After a good breakfast to start the day, we visit a popular local ‘drinking hole’ and sea tides permitting, take a drive along the beach. Along the route are old mining towns that have been partly covered by sand that we can stop to explore. From there, we follow a route to include large sand dunes, allowing 4x4 adventures to pit their skills and their vehicles against these ‘massive’ sometimes subtly difficult dunes... testing driving skills, sharing 4x4 techniques and having fun all part of the adventure. If time allows, there is an additional 4x4 route we can follow across rocky terrain.... ensuring we return to camp before sunset.
After enjoying breakfast we break-up camp to return home in the concrete jungle.
You Will Need
4x4 Vehicle, Camping equipment and your own beverages. If it is a cross border 4x4 tour then you will also need: passports for all in your party, ID documents, drivers license, insurance consent letter, bank consent letter, third party insurance (for most countries), and if needed - malaria tablets. Please also consult with your General Practitioner and advise them of the country you will be visiting, and follow the necessary malaria precautions and take all necessary medications. Please note that each country has different malaria precautions, some require you have the injections and others that you take the tablets etc.View Our Tours
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