The south of Namibia is dry a land of wide-open spaces and solitude, bordered in the west by the Atlantic Ocean as well as the spectacular Namib Naukluft Park.
This area is worth one entire trip on its own, as it offers so many unique attractions and phenomena, ranging from ghost towns, to historical buildings, quiver tree forests and canyons, not to forget the highest dunes in the world.
The town of Luderitz was built amongst rocky outcrops on the southern Namibian coast and owes its existence to the discovery of diamonds in 1908. It has become a sought-after tourist attraction and holiday resort with its German colonial buildings, the mining ghost towns of Kolmanskop, Elizabeth Bay and Pomona, who seemed to have survived time and the elements.
The Sossusvlei clay pan, which was formed when shifting sand dunes of the Namib smothered the course of the Tsauchab River, is one of the main attractions of the southern region. The dunes are at their most breathtaking in the early morning and their formations and colour variations are a scenic haven for photographers.
The rugged Naukluft mountains are home to many Hartmann’s mountain zebra, as well as klipspringer, gemsbok, ostrich, springbok and kudu. This area offers various hiking trails, either on foot or by 4×4.
Sesriem is a 30 m deep canyon or gorge of about 1 km in length which lies at the entrance to Sossusvlei. Its rock pools fill up with water after good rains and serve as wonderful, refreshing dip pools to hikers.
The spectacular Fish River Canyon is one of the largest canyons in the world, reaching a depth of about 550 111. The adjoining Ai-Ais National Park and Richtersveld National Park on the South African side have been designated a transfrontier conservation area, separated by the Orange River which forms the natural boundary between the two countries.
Around Keetmanshoop a forest of quiver trees has pride of place and just north of Mariental the Hardap Dam, which is Namibia’s largest dam, offers a resort and water sports such as water skiing, body boarding and the like.
The longest river in Namibia, the Fish, flows for more than 800 kilometres from its source in the Naukluft Mountains to its confluence with the Orange River, 110 kilometres east of the Atlantic Ocean. Over millennia it has carved one of the world’s greatest canyons, a 550-metre-deep chasm that twists for 160 kilometres through eroded cliffs of ancient sandstone, shale and lava deposited almost two bi 11 ion years ago.
Quiver Tree Forest
There are few iconic images that beat the quiver tree or kokerboom, Aloe dichotoma, its stylised shape giving it a prehistoric appearance, especially when etched against the deep colours of a Namibian sunset.
Garub and the Desert Horses
For almost a 100 years the renowned desert horses of the Namib have been roaming free between Luderitz and Aus, centring around Garub, a water point that lies about 100 kilometres east of Luderitz and is maintained by the nature conservation authorities. In times of extended drought, supplementary feed has been put out at Garub to save them from starvation. It is here that the desert horses can be observed and photographed as they come to drink.
About 35 kilometres north of Maltahiihe on the farm Sandhof is an enormous salt pan extending over an area of a thousand hectares. The pan is normally bone dry and few people would think of visiting it other than to drive across it at speed to see how fast their vehicles can go.
About four kilometres from the Sesriem entry to Sossusvlei, the meandering Tsauchab River disappears into a narrow gorge, the Sesriem Canyon, eroded over centuries by floodwaters deep into the layers of schist and gravel deposited there millions of years ago. The gorge is up to 30 metres deep, varies in width from one to two and a half metres at the top, widening towards the bottom, and is approximately one and a half kilometres in length, becoming shallower and wider as it approaches the dunes.
Second only to the Etosha National Park, Sossusvlei is one of Namibia’s top tourism draw cards. The attraction is its monumental dunes with their magnificent colours, ranging from ivory, yellow-gold and ochre to rose, maroon and deep brick-red, paling and deepening as the day progresses, making the area a visual feast for artists and photographers.
Set aside as a ‘Forbidden Area’ a hundred years ago by the German government following the discovery of the first diamond by the railway worker Zacharias Lewala at Kolmanskop in 1908, the Sperrgebiet Namitional Park is set to become yet another gem in Namibia’s portfolio of parks. Once it is proclaimed it will do much to bolster the economy of southern Namibia, particularly in the towns of rash Oi nah and Luderitz.
There are few places in Namibia that captivate the imagination more than the crumbling scattering of buildings that can be seen from the road 10 kilometres inland from Luderitz, all the more so because the former diamond-mining settlement is gradually becoming engulfed by the ever-shifting sands of the Namib Desert. At one time the focal point of the diamond industry in Namibia, it was deserted in 1956 following the discovery of richer diamond fields further south, and the establishment of Oranjemund as the central hub of the diamond-mining industry.
Garas Park is situated 21 kilometres north of Keetmanshoop on the Bl, just a little off the beaten track, but very well signposted…
It is a serene,timeless space filled with Quiver trees and aloes, ancient rock formations and man-made sculptures. Next time you are in the area, do yourself a favour and stop. Have a cup of tea and a toasted cheese sandwich. The owner, Marian, has run the camp for over 21 years and there are lots of stories to be told. It is a perfect camping stopover with clean ablution facilities and unusual shower systems.
Luderitz – Place Out of Time
Few other towns in Namibia convey the same sense of being in a time warp than the quaint harbour town of Luderitz on the southern Namibian coast. With its undeniable old-world charm and fast-developing tourism infrastructure it has become a sought-after holiday resort. Typified by the German-colonial architectural style, the buildings with their gables, winding stairwells, bay and bow windows, turrets and verandas cling to the rugged black rocks facing the deep-blue Atlantic waters where fishing boats ply their trade.
There is plenty of interest for bird-watchers and nature lovers in the Luderitz surroundings. The shallow lagoon is frequented by flamingos, cormorants and seagulls, and while sailing in the bay, seals and dolphins can be seen playing in the water. The colourful Bushman’s candle and unusual species of dwarf succulents grow in the area, including lithops.