The Namib Desert Park was proclaimed in 1907 as Game Reserve number 3 by German Governor Friedrich von Lindequist– initially as a buffer zone to restrict English sovereignty to Walvis Bay. The Naukluft section was created to serve as a sanctuary for Hartmann zebra, which are endemic to Namibia. The amalgamation of these two parks with state land was proclaimed as the Namib-Naukluft Park in 1979. The most significant change in boundaries occurred in 1986 when the old Diamond Area number 2 and a portion of Diamond Area number 1 were incorporated into the park.
Namibia’s largest conservation area 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 to 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.
In the park, Sandwich Harbour thrived as a harbour and guano collection station, while several settlements were established along the coast after the discovery of diamonds in 1908.
Shipwrecks to be found along the coast include the Otavi at Spencer Bay, the Eduard Bohlen at Conception and the Eagle at Sandwich Harbour.
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 a number of uranium mines have been established within the park.
As one of the oldest National Parks in Namibia, a celebration was held in 2008 to mark the 101st birthday of the park.
Park size: 49 768 km²
Proclamation: Namib-Naukluft Park in 1979 (amalgamation of the Naukluft Mountain Zebra Park, 1968, the Namib Desert Park, 1907, and state land)
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: Oryx, Hartmann zebra, 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, photographic, bird-watching, star-gazing, angling.
Sesriem Camp: Camp site with kiosk, bar and swimming pool.
Sossus Dune Lodge: desert chalets, honeymoon suites. Restaurant, bar and swimming pool. Sossusvlei sunset drives. Guided nature drives, stargazing and walks to the Sesriem Canyon.
Naukluft Campsite: Campsites, 4x4 trail, hiking trails, nature walks and bird-watching.
Central Namib: Fifty-two campsites. Day trips to Sandwich Harbour (Permits are required for Camping).