Namib Desert and the Journey to South Africa

August 17-28, 2013

Sunset over Sesriem and the Naukluft Mountains At the edge of the vast Namib sand dunes.



Leaving the coast just south of Swakopmund, we hit the gravel roads that will take us hundreds of kilometers across the lonely emptiness of the Namib Desert and the Naukluft Mountains. This is the Namib-Naukluft National Park, the largest game park in Africa. We will only see a tiny corner of this immense region, but it sure doesn't feel that way. Bumping along in 'Silversbok' for many hours, we are listening to some good audiobooks on the stereo, and praying that these somewhat thin-treaded tires remain fully inflated. The first night we stay at a wild site, sleeping under a granite overhang near the top of a hill surrounded by a sea of desert.

A few days camping in the Naukluft mountains, we finally are able to get out and hike! The kudu are wary and scamper up to the ridge line before stopping to watch us from a safe distance. Three species of weaver birds weave grasses into beautiful, delicate objects d'art.





We're up at 4:30 am, a couple hours before sunrise, granola, coffee(!), and then we join the line, headlights shining into the darkness, with all the other sand pilgrims. The gate opens at 5:30, and the convoy rushes along the region's only paved road 65km to the Sossuslvei, a dry cracked pan surrounded by towering red sand dunes. The goal: Be there (or be square) for the sunrise and the low-angle orange rays illuminating the red sand. Yes. it is worth it!


At dusk, a group of bat-eared foxes is digging for dung beetles and other insects on the sandy, wind-swept plains, using their enormous ears (5" long!) to find their prey. A pesky pied crow harasses this guy, cawing incessantly. The fox cowers from his razor-sharp bill, then the group scampers off. Cool!






A Quiver tree (Kokerboom) forest, just outside Keetmanshoop. These weird trees are a type of aloe, with succulent rosettes elevated twenty feet above the desert, where it is a wee bit cooler. They grow only in the arid Namib region -- rainfall totals just a couple of inches a year -- and live 350 years. The native San people hollowed out branches and used them as quivers for their arrows, thus the name.




Oh yeah, more rock dassies! Mark is a happy camper.



Goegap nature reserve in the Northern Cape, South Africa. Here in Namaqualand, the Succulent Karoo - a biodiversity hotspot, boasts the richest succulent flora on earth and contains over 4000 plant species. It happens to be in full bloom!