Namibia’s largest conservation area occupies much of the western side of Namibia between the coastal towns of Walvis Bay and Lüderitz. The park contains some of the country’s most iconic attractions: towering sand dunes at Sossusvlei, the imposing canyon at Sesriem, forgotten shipwrecks and ghost towns along the icy Atlantic coast, stark inselbergs and mountain ranges, and lichen-encrusted gravel plains.
Evidence of Stone Age life in the Kuiseb River dates back 200,000 years. Other archaeological finds indicate that the area was used by semi-nomadic communities when rain provided enough grazing for animals. The Topnaar people still live along the Kuiseb River inside the park and were guaranteed rights of residence by Queen Victoria more than a century ago.
The park was proclaimed in 1907 as Game Reserve No 3 by German Governor Friedrich von Lindequist initially as a buffer zone to restrict English sovereignty to Walvis Bay. It was enlarged when the Naukluft section was created to serve as a sanctuary for Hartmann's mountain zebra, which are endemic to Namibia. The most significant change in boundaries occurred in 1986 when the old Diamond Area No 2 and a portion of Diamond Area No 1 were incorporated into the park.
Much research on the desert environment has been conducted in the Namib-Naukluft Park, due to the establishment of the Gobabeb Training and Research Centre on the banks of the Kuiseb River.
In recent years, the discovery of uranium has resulted in the issuing of exclusive prospecting licences in most of the western part of the park north of the Kuiseb River, while the Langer Heinrich Uranium Mine has been established within the park.
Location: Inland from the coast between Walvis Bay and Lüderitz
Natural features: Sand dunes, Sesriem Canyon, gravel plains, Naukluft Mountains and inselbergs in the north, ephemeral rivers.
Vegetation: Namib Desert, Succulent Karoo and Nama Karoo biomes. Vegetation types: Southern Desert, Central Desert, Desert/Dwarf Shrub Transition, Central-Western Escarpment and Inselbergs, Succulent Steppe, Dwarf Shrub Savannah. Welwitschia (Welwitschia mirabilis), camel-thorn (Acacia erioloba), shepherd’s tree (Boscia albitrunca), lichens and Commiphora spp.
Wildlife: Gemsbok, Hartmann’s zebra, black rhino, giraffe, springbok, brown hyaena, leopard, baboon. The 348 bird species recorded include lappet-faced vulture, Ludwig’s bustard, Rüppell’s korhaan, dune lark, Herero chat and African black oystercatcher.
Tourism: Walking trails, 4x4 routes, photography, bird-watching, star-gazing, angling. Sesriem Camp: Campsite with kiosk, bar and swimming pool. Sossus Dune Lodge: desert chalets, honeymoon suites. Restaurant, bar, swimming pool. Sossusvlei sunset drives. Guided nature drives, stargazing and walks to the Sesriem Canyon. Naukluft Campsite: Campsites, 4x4 trail, hiking trails, nature walks, bird-watching. Central Namib: fifty-two campsites. Day trips to Sandwich Harbour, a freshwater lagoon south of Walvis Bay.