Namibia

Join this Expedition to explore the barren reaches of the Namib Desert in Namibia, Africa.

This story was created for the Google Expeditions project by ePublishing Partners and AirPano, now available on Google Arts & Culture

Sand dunes rippled in the Namib Desert of Namibia.NASA

This strangely beautiful landscape is ruled by sun, wind, and water—though you won’t find much of the latter on this trek! Explore these panoramas to enjoy the landscapes of Namibia!

The Namib Desert

Namibia is a country in southwestern Africa, and both the Kalahari and Namib deserts extend through it.  Right now, you’re surrounded by the Namib, the world’s oldest desert.

Namib means “vast place,” and it’s a fitting name, given that this desert stretches roughly 2,000 kilometers along the Atlantic coast.

The dunes you see here are in Namib-Naukluft National Park, home to the southern section of the Naukluft Mountain range and a good portion of the Namib.

The Clay Pan

These dunes are part of Sossusvlei, a vast area in the southern portion of the Namib Desert. The word Sossusvlei means “dead-end marsh,” and it’s fitting. The Tsauchab River drains into this area, and stays put until it evaporates.

Powerful Winds

Powerful winds are seemingly constant here, blowing sand into dunes of ever-changing shapes and patterns. But some of the dunes here are so large, they’ve remained mostly unchanged over the years.

Blowing Mists

The strong desert wind doesn’t only change the shape of the landscape. You can see white mist being blown over the dunes. This mist comes from the ocean and can get so thick that you might mistake it for clouds.

The Sossusvlei Dunes

Spread out as far as the eye can are the sand dunes of Sossusvlei. The sand here ranges in color from beige to light orange to red. You’ve probably noticed that there are no signs of human life.

However, there are a few settlements in the central and northern regions of the Namib Desert.

The Red Dunes

You’ll notice that most of these dunes are a deep orange-red color. That’s because they’re inland, away from the ocean. These dunes are some of the world’s largest, spanning up to 32 kilometers and soaring up to 240 meters. 

The Salt Hollows

Notice the white patches on the ground. These may look like snow, but they’re actually salt hollows. Salt hollows, or pans, are created when pools of water evaporate, and leave behind salts and other minerals on the earth’s surface.

Dune 45

Dune 45 lies along the road that links Sossusvlei and the Sesriem Gate, one of the Namib’s few settlements. It stands over 170 meters tall and contains sands that are 5 million years old!

The Deadvlei

As you look at the never-ending desert around you, you may be surprised to know that a long time ago, this area was a green oasis, home to acacia trees and vast pools of water.

As the climate changed, the pools dried up, the acacia trees died, and the Deadvlei clay pan was formed. Deadvlei means “dead marsh,” and it’s surrounded by the world’s tallest sand dunes, including one is so large it has been named “Big Daddy.”

Enjoying the Dunes

On the horizon, you’ll see a brightly colored hot air balloon. People from all over the world come here to photograph the landscape, marvel at the salt hollows, or walk the dunes that are close to the roadways. 

Water Patterns

Squiggly patterns run along both sides of a long, thin salt hollow, made not by rain, but by waters that overflowed from the Kuiseb and Orange Rivers. The patterns remained long after the water evaporated.

Salt Hollows

After the water flows into low areas between the dunes, where it remains until it evaporates. That may take up to a whole year! The minerals and salts left behind leave a dry, cracked white coating.

Big Daddy

Check out the massive dune rising up from a large salt hollow. This is “Big Daddy.” The name surely fits: this 325-meter-high dune is the tallest in the area. While the strong desert winds may alter the actual height over time, Big Daddy remains the tallest dune around.

Perhaps not surprisingly, another giant dune located close to Big Daddy is known as . . . Big Mama!

Large Salt Hollow

The large salt hollow you see in the valley of Big Daddy was formed over time, as water collected and evaporated, leaving salt behind. Look closely and you’ll see water patterns along the edges of the hollow. 

Dead Acacia Trees

At the far end of Big Daddy’s salt hollow, you’ll see tiny black lines. They’re acacia trees, which thrived back when the area was a watery oasis. As the climate changed, the trees dried into charred remains.

An Eerie Scene

These once green acacia trees stand out like blackened skeletons against the pink dunes and white pan. Surrounded by some of the tallest dunes in the world, the Dead Vlei may look to you as though it were on another planet.

In fact, the scene is so striking and eerie that scenes for several films have been shot here, including The CellThe Fall, and the Indian blockbuster Ghajini.

Desiccated Trees

Scientists believe these trees died sometime between 1340-1430 A.D.  The trees have blackened from the intense sun. They are not petrified, but desiccated—completely dried out—and as a result, they don’t decompose. 

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