The Namib Desert is Africa’s second largest desert. The desert occupies an area of around 31,200 square miles, stretching about 1,000 miles along the Atlantic Ocean coast of Namibia. The area is considered to be one of the oldest deserts in the world, having endured arid or semi-arid conditions for at least 55 million years. It has less than 0.4 inches of rain annually and is almost completely barren.
The interaction between the water-laden air coming from the sea via southerly winds, some of the strongest of any coastal desert, and the dry air of the desert causes immense fogs and strong currents, causing sailors to lose their way. The Skeleton Coast, further north, is notorious as the site of many shipwrecks. Some of these wrecked ships can be found as much as 30 miles inland, as the desert slowly moves westwards into the sea, reclaiming land over a period of many years.
A number of unusual species of plants and animals are found only in this desert. One of these is Welwitschia mirabilis, one of the most unusual species. Welwitschia is a shrub-like plant, but grows just two long strap-shaped leaves continuously throughout its lifetime. These leaves may be several meters long, gnarled and twisted from the desert winds. The taproot of the plant develops into a flat, concave disc in age. Welwitschia is notable for its survival in the extremely arid conditions in the Namib, sometimes deriving moisture from the coastal sea fogs.
Towering dunes rise dramatically above the surrounding plains where excursions in 4×4 vehicles to the magnificent dunes allow visitors to take in the unique desert scenery with its unusual animals and plants. Hot air ballooning over the desert allow visitors to see the vastness of this desert.
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