In the Nama language, Namib means vast, and this is an understatement. The Namib Naukluft Park is the largest conservation area in Namibia and one of the largest in the world, at almost 19,305 square miles (50,000 km²).
Parts of this park resemble a lunar landscape while other places rise with the purple-hued rocky mountains of the Naukluft Mountain massif.
Just as tall and certainly as impressive are the stunning orange sand dunes of Sossusvlei, blown into razor sharp ridges and peaks by the wind.
Apart from infrequent rains, the flora and fauna of the interior relies on a regular mist that rolls up to 62miles (100km) inland.
All creatures make use of this life-giving moisture and the head-standing beetle has come up with a unique adaptation. As the fog descends it tilts forward and droplets of moisture run down grooves in its body to its mouth.
The Anchieta’s dune lizard has an interesting way of coping with the scorching sand, and does a kind of thermoregulatory dance putting only two feet down at a time and hopping from one pair of legs to the other, using the tail as a stabiliser.
Snakes are common in the Namib, but few of the 20 species are ever seen. At sunset you may hear the staccato clicking call of some elusive bird, but this is in fact the nightly call of a male barking gecko.
There are mammals here too and the impressive black and taupe, spiralled-horned oryx is master of the vast shadeless wilderness. With the conformation of a stocky pony, he is the thoroughbred of the desert with unique adaptations enabling him to live in this harsh environment.
The oryx can survive with a body temperature as high as 113°F (45°C) (which is usually lethal), because the animal cools blood to the brain by passing it through the nostrils first.
Springbok are also able to survive for long periods without water, as long as they can find food with a moisture content of no less than 10%.
Jackals eat almost anything including rats and mice, birds, insects, reptiles, fruits and berries and therefore survive well in almost any terrain.
The Sandwich Lagoon is an important wetland of pristine beauty, which attracts in the region of 200,000 birds to the lagoon and mudflats.
Flamingoes constitute the largest percentage of water birds here, who usually fly inland to breed during the rainy season.
The lagoon also supports several endangered Red Data species such as chestnutbanded plover, white pelican and blacknecked grebe.
On the rare occasions when it rains, the desert responds amazingly quickly, producing a miracle of yellow flowers, green leaves and sprouting grasses.
Rainy Season: rain usually falls in late summer from February to April, but an 8 year study showed that most showers in the southern Namibia (Sossusvlei area), occurred in the months of December, March and April with an average rainfall of 63mm per annum. However, rainfall is erratic and unpredictable and the high summer temperatures cause fast evaporation. As a result the Namib is classified by international standards as ‘hyper-arid’.
Temperatures: From November through to March the daytime temperatures rarely peak below 95°F (35°C) or drop lower than 59°F (15°C) at night. From April to October daytime temperatures range between a very pleasant 77°F (25°C) to 95°F (35°C), with June, July and August recording the lowest night-time temperatures around 41°F (5°C).