Desert Landscapes of Namibia. Stretching 1,200 miles in length, but averaging a width of about 70 miles, the Namib Desert in Namibia is considered the world’s oldest desert and is also home to the highest sand dunes in the world, towering to about 300 meters. The desert has been arid for at least 55 million years and covers more than 102,248 square miles (270,000 square kilometers) of the southwestern edge of the African continent.
The most important climatic feature of the Namib Desert is its sparse and highly unpredictable annual rainfall. Although the rainfall is limited to only .2 to 3 inches (5 to 76 mm) per year, thick fog from the Atlantic often blankets the dunes to create enough moisture for many species to survive. The eastern part, the Inner Namib, supports large numbers of antelope and other ungulates. The shore area has a dense population of marine birds, including flamingos, pelicans, and penguins. The seemingly endless ocean of sand, gravel plains, and riverbeds are home to an assortment of species specially adapted to this hot and dry environment. Occasionally, one would spot a beetle build trenches to tap fog or a black-backed jackal lick condensed fog off stones, but on a windless day, all one can hear is a deep, deafening silence and a refreshing breeze. One of the most famous inhabitants of the Namib Desert is the welwitschia plant. With two wide undulating leaves, some believe that the plant absorbs water from fog. Yet it is often found along riverbeds, where it absorbs water with long lateral roots. The monotypic Welwitschia mirabilis, is one of the most remarkable plants in the world, and is endemic to the Namib Desert and to the Kaokoveld Desert ecoregion to the north. At least 20 species are regarded as nearly endemic to the ecoregion. A trip to this area is a remarkably out of this world surreal experience but most visitors revel in its strangeness, not to mention the feelings of stillness and quiet desert solitude that it evokes, but it is the world-famous Sossusvlei sand dunes that attract the most attention. Although much of the sensitive Namib ecoregion is protected, one of the main threats lies in current land use practices. Most of this region falls within the Sperrgebeit famous for its diamonds