It might be a mirage or a ghost ship. Laid down on the sand, where the desert meets the ocean, is a cargo boat that ended up on Namibia’s shore a few years ago. It has started its long desintegration by oxidation, like hundreds of others along the atlantic coast. Half immersed, or eaten by sand, run-aground shipwrecks lie strewn along the Namibian coastline.
This region is charmingly called ‘Skeleton Coast’ (it is, in fact, a National Park since 1971), but it wasn’t originally named for its shipwrecks, but for the whale and seal bones that once littered the shore as a result of the whaling industry. The Bushmen called it ‘The land God made in anger’ while portugueses sailors one referred to it as ‘The Gates of Hell’.
Unless you are cut out for adventure and decide to join an expedition, the northern part of Skeleton Coast is very difficult to access and can only be visited by plane.
Further South, in the Damaraland, you can go through the desert with a four-wheel-drive vehicle to discover the fascinating wildlife.
In this country of extremes, strangeness is also in animal life. At first there are safaris. They take on a new dimension in this region because all the animals we are used to seeing in the bush live here in the desert: elephants, black rhino, lions, cheetah, giraffe, brown hyena, etc.
Besides these mammals, there are also all these curious beings that need to be approached gently. Small, camoflauged, furtive; yet they are incredibly captivating!
For example, take a look at the Palmato Gecko, the endemic gecko of theNamib Desert: with its cute face, pastel colors and habit to lick its eyes with its long tongue in order to keep them moist (they have no eyelids), they are adorable. Or the Namaqua Chameleon, who certainly hasn’t got the nicest physique, but possesses very interesting characteristics: they are lightning fast with extraordinary mobile eyes, skin that changes its color according to mood or temperature, and a tongue that reaches a length of up 30 centimetres !
Anyway ! This is just an overview of the peculiar fauna living in this land. But to find and approach them, you’ll need a guide.
Definitely the land of strangeness, Damaraland also houses a very rare plant: the Welwitschia Mirabilis, with remarkable longevity and constitution. It lives for up to 600 years on average but 2000 year-old specimens have been found. Concerning its appearance and its impressive size (the biggest Welwitschia is 1,40 metre in height and 4 metres diameter), it hides a disconcerting simplicity: it only possesses two leaves which grow constantly, making it look like a giant squid.
Finally, when we talk about Damaraland, we can’t forget to mention the Spitzkoppe, the huge rock standing in the middle of the desert which offers an ashtonishing landscape.
The 700 million year-old group of bald granite peaks with a highest outcrop of 1784 metres, extends as far as the eye can see. The list of uncommon and weird things you can find in Namibia doesn’t stop there. This is just an introduction for curious people. From there, it is time for you to discover this country and its hidden treasures by yourselves. We’ll be delighted to create a peculiar adventure for you.
By Muriel Romero