The Namib is a coastal desert in southern Africa occupies an area of 80,950 km² stretching for more than 2,000 kilometres along the Atlantic coasts of Angola, Namibia, and South Africa, extending southward from the Carunjamba River in Angola, through Namibia and to the Olifants River in Western Cape, South Africa.
The Namib’s northernmost portion, which extends 450 kilometres from the Angola-Namibia border, is known as Moçâmedes Desert, while its southern portion approaches the neighboring Kalahari Desert. From the Atlantic coast eastward, the Namib gradually ascends in elevation, reaching up to 200 kilometres inland to the foot of the Great Escarpment. To the north, the desert leads into the Kaokoveld; the dividing line between these two regions is roughly at the latitude of the city of Walvis Bay, and it consists in a narrow strip of land (about 50 km wide) that is the driest place in Southern Africa. To the south, the Namib borders on the South African Karoo semi-desert.
Annual precipitation ranges from 2 millimetres in the most arid regions to 200 millimetres at the escarpment, making the Namib the only true desert in southern Africa.
The desert geology consists of sand seas near the coast, while gravel plains and scattered mountain outcrops occur further inland. The sand dunes, some of which are 300 metres high and span 32 kilometres long, are the second largest in the world after the Badain Jaran Desert dunes in China. Temperatures along the coast are stable and generally range between 9–20 °C (48–68 °F) annually, while temperatures further inland are variable—summer daytime temperatures can exceed 45 °C (113 °F) while nights can be freezing. Fogs that originate offshore from the collision of the cold Benguela Current and warm air from the Hadley Cell create a fog belt that frequently envelopes parts of the desert. Coastal regions can experience more than 180 days of thick fog a year. While this has proved a major hazard to ships—more than a thousand wrecks litter the Skeleton Coast—it is a vital source of moisture for desert life.
Although the outer Namib is largely barren of vegetation, lichens and succulents are found in coastal areas, while grasses, shrubs, and ephemeral plants thrive near the escarpment. A few types of trees are also able to survive the extremely arid climate.Gemsboks (Oryx gazella) are the biggest antelopes found in the Namib
Flora and Fauna
A number of unusual species of plants and animals are found in this desert, many of which are endemic and highly adapted to the specific climate of the area. One of the most well-known endemic plants of the Namib is the bizarre Welwitschia mirabilis; a shrub-like plant, it grows two long strap-shaped leaves continuously throughout its lifetime.
The Namib fauna mostly comprises arthropods and other small animals that can live on little water, although larger animals inhabit the northern regions. Near the coast, the cold ocean water is rich in fishery resources and supports populations of brown fur seals and shorebirds, which serve as prey for the Skeleton Coast’s lions.
But a few species of bigger animals are also found, including antelopes and gazelles (such as oryxes and springboks), ostrichs, and in some areas even desert elephants. A number of endemic darkling beetles species- such as the Namib Desert beetle- have bumpy elytrons with a pattern of hydrophilic bumps and hydrophobic troughs. These cause humidity from the morning fogs to condensate into droplets, which roll down the beetle’s back to its mouth; they are collectively known as “fog beetles”. Another beetle, the Lepidochora discoidalis, builds “water-capturing” webs. Black-backed jackals lick humidity from stones. Gemsboks (also known as Oryxes) can raise the temperature of their bodies to 40 °C in the hottest hours of the day. The desert is also home to meerkats and several species of lizards.
Namib-Naukluft National Park
The Namib-Naukluft National Park, which extends over a large part of the Namib Desert, the largest game park in Africa supports populations of African Bush Elephants, Mountain Zebras, and other large mammals.
The prominent attraction is the famous Sossusvlei area, where high orange sand dunes surround vivid white salt pans, creating a fascinating landscape.
The Namib Desert is an important location for the mining of tungsten, salt and diamonds.