THE WILD BEAUTY OF NAMIBIA
The scenery in Namibia is marked by rugged and stark
beauty. Time and nature have created extreme and diverse landscapes in this part of southwest
Africa. Inland from the desolate Atlantic coast are sights that include the surreal dunes of the
Namib Desert and the vast salt pan and surrounding bush of the wildlife-rich Etosha National Park
Dunescapes of the Namib Desert
The vast Namib Desert in western Namibia is one of the
oldest and driest deserts on Earth. It includes a sand sea reputed to contain the most
picturesque dunes in the world. The highest dunes are set around ephemeral clay pans at
Sossusvlei. Over time, the Namib
dunes have been sculpted by the wind into bizarre and complex shapes.
More than nature's abstract art.
This apparently barren and arid landscape is home to a complex ecosystem supported by precious
moisture gleaned from fogs that roll in from the Atlantic.
ETOSHA: The 'Place of Dry
Tricks of geology can have dramatic
effects on a landscape. Etosha in northern Namibia is a parched wilderness left behind after a
river changed course in the distant past. The fate of an immense lake was sealed and its
waters eventually dried to leave an expansive pan that now bakes in the hot sun. But in this
land of extremes, the barren landscape of Etosha is surrounded by an Eden where rains and
underground springs allow vegetation and wildlife to flourish.
A land of mirages
The vast pan that lies at the heart of the Etosha
National Park in Namibia is a place of limitless horizons. This dusty depression is a stark,
flat wilderness of sun-baked clay and minerals that covers over 6000 square kilometers. The
name Etosha is derived from the native Ovambo language, and has been translated as 'Place of Dry
Water' or 'Great White Place'.
Gemsbok on the parched Etosha
pan - the vestige of an ancient lake
In a dramatic contrast, the dry Etosha
pan is surrounded by bush and grasslands. Thirsty animals are lured to water holes fed by
precious underground springs.
Giraffes gather at a water
the sun sets on a hot day at Etosha
Experiences of early
travelers to the wildlife-rich Etosha area were typified by the comment of an American trader in
1876. He famously wrote "all the menageries in the world turned loose would not
compare to the sight I saw that day." Hunting was to take a heavy toll on animals
before the German colonial administration established a game reserve early in the 20th century.