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From south to north, from the Orange River on the border with South Africa to the Kunene River on the border with Angola, the oldest desert on the planet is over 55 million years old, the largest in Africa and the fourth largest in the world. With a width of between 80 and 200 km, it extends 2000 km along the west side of the country, parallel to the Atlantic coast and its natural limit is marked a vast mountain range. Its 80000 square km no doubt justify its name which means "enormous" in the Nama language.
In the south of the Namib Desert is the Naukluft National Park, which with an extension of 50000 square km is the largest in Africa. It has sporadic rains and low temperatures in winter. It shelters the Naukluft mountain range, a narrow ravine with peaks of up to 2000 m height molded by rain giving rise to steep cliffs and reservoirs, many of them underground.
96 km from the entrance to the park is the Sossusvlei Valley, more than 300 km long and 140 km wide. "Vlei" means marsh and is referred to as a "tray or pan of salt", in reference to the dry salt that covers the valley floor, which is surrounded by impressive sand dunes. These giant dunes of fine sand owe their striking red color to the land of the Kalahari that drags the Orange River into the sea mixing it with its iron particles, returned to the coast by the underwater current Benguela and the wind that blows inland. The iron in the sand is oxidized, so the older the dune, the brighter its color.
In constant movement by the wind, with its explosive colors that go from other to red and the constant lights and shadows resulting from the positioning of the sun throughout the day, this place gives a landscape is a real magnet for lovers of photography. Flying over the area in a hot air balloon or plane is an unforgettable activity that is offered to tourists. 2 km from Sossusvlei is Deadvlei, an area of the reserve where there are several "vleis" or dried lagoons with a cracked layer of white clay in the bottom, the result of evaporation and which are surrounded by the red dunes characteristic of the Namib. Above those stand blackened trees with ghostly postures, some up to 900 years old, mummified by dehydration and whose lack of moisture prevents their decomposition.
This place represents one of the most famous images of the country. The Sesriem Canyon, 1500 meters long and 50 meters high and excavated by the erosion of the Tsauchab River, and is another desert area included in the park that enjoys water all year round, being the refuge of many animals in the hottest hours of the day. Its name means "six belts", referring to the number of belts that had to be tied the first explorers to collect the water from the bottom with a bucket. Within the park, 42 km south of Walvis Bay is the port of Sandwich, where there is a lagoon considered a bird watching sanctuary, being home to some 50000 birds in summer and 20,000 in winter, including spectacular flocks of flamingos.
Curious species live in the adverse ecosystem of the Namib, some endemics such as the toktokkie beetle, the shovel-nosed lizard, Grant's golden mole that has no eyes and the Welwitschia mirabilis, a thick-stemmed plant with two leaves that can live up to two thousand years. You can also see mountain zebras, oryx, gazelles, antelopes, elephants, ostriches, jackals, hyenas, wild horses, lions and giraffes.
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