Namib-Naukluft National Park Budget Travel


Uninhabited open spaces, silence, solitude, stark pans and seas of sand - Namib-Naukluft encompasses mesmerizing desert lands.

The vast Namib-Naukluft is a place of rugged mountains, endless gravel covered plains, deep gorges and tall red-orange dunes. One of Namibia's top travel destinations, the Namib-Naukluft National Park, is home to a surprising variety of unusual plant and animal species.

Namib-Naukluft - one of the world's hugest game parks

The Namib-Naukluft National Park is a massive protected area covering 49 768 km² (19 216 mi²) of desolate Namib Desert and Naukluft Mountains, in central-west Namibia. The park consists of the southern Namib Desert and Sandwich Harbour up to the coast, and the Naukluft Mountains and the Sossusvlei area, including Sesriem, reaching into central Namibia.

The Namib-Naukluft Park is roughly the size of Germany, about the size of the US states of New Hampshire and Vermont together, and twice the size of Kruger Park in South Africa. This is Namibia's largest game park and one of Africa's biggest. Several private nature reserves located along the borders of the Namib-Naukluft National Park further expand the total area of protected land in this stunning part of Namibia.

Highlights of the Namib-Naukluft National Park - Namibia's most versatile desert reserve

Attractions in the Namib Naukluft National Park include:

  • The Namib Desert - arguably the oldest desert in the world
  • Sossusvlei Dunes - some of the world's tallest sand dunes encircling a salt pan
  • Sesriem Canyon - a narrow gorge eroded by the Tsauchab River over millions of years
  • Dune 45 - the picture-perfect sand dune, an iconic landmark standing 170 meter tall
  • Dead Vlei - a pan of white clay, dotted with skeletal acacia trees 500 to 600 years old
  • Welwitschia Plains - moon-like landscapes with the Namib's endemic Welwitschia plants
  • Sandwich Harbour - a lagoon and birding haven where tall dunes meet Atlantic Ocean
  • Naukluft Mountains - jagged massifs with deep ravines carved into the rocky mountains
  • Kuiseb Canyon - an arid and rocky gorge 20 meters wide and 200 meters deep

This sparsely populated national park incorporates swathes of the Namib Desert, hosting one of the lowest human population densities on earth.

Sossusvlei Dunes - Big Daddy, Dune 45 & Dune 7

Sossusvlei is the quintessential Namibian desert setting, its flaming orange dunes synonymous with Namibia. The Sossusvlei Dunes are the top attraction in the Namib-Naukluft Park, which in itself is one of the main highlights of desertous Namibia. Sossusvlei is a dry salt pan surrounded by high dunes, creating a surreal landscape of contrasts. Nearby is another, less-visited salt pan called Hiddenvlei and petrified dunes are also found in the Sossusvlei area.

Big Daddy is the tallest of the ancient dunes found in the Sossusvlei area, offering spectacular sweeping views for those prepared to take on the challenging climb. For a less daunting climb, the best-known Dune 45 also offers beautiful views over the dunes and pans. The sands of these towering dunes are millions of years old, having shifted in the wind that has reshaped them slowly over time. The ultimate, Dune 7, also found in the Namib Desert near the Tsauchab River is one of the highest dunes in the world.

Namib-Naukluft Wildlife, Birds, Plants & Terrain

The Namib Naukluft National Park is home to a rich variety of endemic, rare and strange creatures, from reptiles and birds to insects and mammals. There are all kinds of rodents and reptiles like geckos, lizards, snakes and chameleons, along with aardwolf, dassies, fog beetles and other desert-adapted creatures. Desert-adapted species include the Hartmann’s mountain zebra and numerous antelope species, such as the desert oryx (gemsbok), kudu, klipspringer, duiker and steenbok. Then there are the elusive predators - leopard, black-backed jackals, hyenas, bat-eared foxes, African wild cats and caracal, or desert lynx. 

The Namib-Naukluft is also home to over 200 species of birds - a diverse array for such a seemingly barren area. Ostriches and raptors, including eagles, buzzards, goshawks and falcons, are commonly sighted. Gray’s lark is an endemic species found here, and a variety of migrant species visit the vleis (shallow lakes) after the rare rains.

The Namib-Naukluft hosts various succulents, euphorbias, aloes and acacia trees, as well as dry grasses and distinctive-looking quivertrees. You can also see weird-looking Welwitschia shrubs that survive on moisture from fog coming off the sea, with some of the oldest specimens estimated at over 1 500 years old. The mists coming off the ocean provide this arid region with more water than the erratic rainfall, which averages about 106 mm a year. The dunes stretch all the way to the coastline with the moisture turning the windswept sands ever more red, pink and orange over the centuries as the dunes age. The park also incorporates semi-desert areas of the deeply incised Naukluft Mountains and flat gravel plains punctuated by inselbergs and rocky outcrops.

Top Things to Do in Namib Naukluft

Hike up the sand dunes, Dune 45 and Big Daddy or Big Mamma, at sunrise. Take a hot air balloon ride over the desert to admire the size and beauty of this harsh desert region. Go on a guided desert walk to Sossusvlei and Deadvlei, or walk along the floor of Sesriem Canyon. Sit back and gaze at the glittering night sky. Explore the desert in a 4x4 keeping a look out for animals and birds. 

History of Namib-Naukluft National Park

This massive national park has grown gradually since 1907, as more areas have been incorporated and national parks combined.

First a reserve was formed between the Swakop and Kuiseb rivers in the north, then Sandwich Harbour along the coast and other areas were added to create the Namib Desert Park. In 1979 the Namib Desert Park expanded to include the area around Sossusvlei and Sesriem. This larger protected area was then combined with the Naukluft Mountain Zebra Park to create the Namib-Naukluft National Park.


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