The great pyramids at Giza, EgyptElephants crossing the Zambezi river in Mana Pools National Park world heritage site, ZimbabweThe great mosque in the Old Towns of Djenne world heritage site, MaliBlack and white ruffed lemur, Rainforests of the Atsinanana world heritage site, Madagascar

Namib Sand Sea - Namibia

Website Category:  Deserts

Area:          30,777 km2
Inscribed:  2013
Criteria:     (vii) natural beauty, (viii) geological, (ix) ecological process, (x) biodiversity

Location and Values:  The Namib Sand Sea lies at the heart of the Namib, a coastal fog desert on Africa’s South Atlantic coast in Namibia.  It is a vast area of spectacular sand dunes, featuring two super-imposed systems – an ancient (semi-consolidated) one below, with an active one above.  Remarkably, the sand itself originates thousands of kilometres away in the headwaters of southern Africa’s major rivers, from where it has been transported by the forces of erosion and river flow into the ocean, then picked up and brought back onshore by strong ocean currents.  Once onshore it is blown by the wind and piled up in a spectacular diversity of formations, determined at each location by the interaction of onshore and offshore winds as well as the influence of inflowing seasonal rivers and occasional flood events.  The world heritage site – one of the biggest in Africa – falls within the Namib-Naukluft Park, where access is very limited as there are few roads in the vicinity.

The Namib is an extremely dry desert, but it supports a remarkable diversity of unique plants and animals that have evolved special adaptations to enable them to live in this extraordinarily hostile environment.  In particular, many species have developed ways of trapping the atmospheric water that comes ashore as fog, so they can survive without rain.  And they have evolved special ways of living in the ever-changing dunes, ‘swimming’ and ‘diving’ into the sub-surface sand to escape the scorching heat and the risk of predation.

Slideshow of the Namib Sand Sea:   

The slideshow begins in one of the most spectacular parts of the Namib, at Sossusvlei.  This is a visitor ‘hotspot’, attracting more visitors than any other area, and with good reason. The dune formations on either side of the (usually) dry riverbed here are particularly tall and spectacular.  Access is relatively easy on a tarmac road and there are a range of accommodation options nearby.  One of the most photographed sites in this area is Dead Vlei, where the gaunt skeletons of camel-thorn trees that grew here 900 years ago stand in a white-clay pan, surrounded by tall red dunes.   The slideshow continues with views of the eastern (coastal) part of the site where there are some important coastal wetlands at Sandwich Bay (a designated RAMSAR site).  Some of the most remarkable desert-adapted species of animals and plants are shown, including a sidewinding adder, fog-collecting beetle, desert-adapted oryx antelope, chameleon and web-footed Palmatogecko.  One of the most important desert plants, as a food source for members of the indigenous Topnaar community, is the thorny !Nara melon.  The slideshow is completed with a series of aerial photographs showing the range of dune formations and geological features in some of the less accessible parts of the world heritage site


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Google Earth View
:  To view satellite imagery of the Namib Sand Sea on Google Earth, click here.  This opens a new window, so when you are finished, just close the Google Earth page and you will be straight back here to continue browsing.  The images of this part of Africa are exceptionally good allowing you to get a very good overall impression of the area and the remarkable diversity of dune formations.  The window opens at Sossusvlei and features a high resolution image of Dead Vlei and its surrounding dunes.

Links to other places in the Deserts category:  Air & Tenere  I  Tassili N’Ajjer  I   Lakes of Ounianga

Links:  Google Earth | UNEP-WCMC Site Description | Official UNESCO Site Details | Birdlife IBA



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