15 Amazing Facts About The Namib Desert

Did you know that one of the most famous deserts in the world completely borders the Atlantic Ocean?

In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of facts about the Namib Desert, one of the most fascinating deserts in the world!

1. It covers a vast area along the Atlantic Ocean

The Namib Desert is located in the southwestern part of Africa and runs for over 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, which makes it a true coastal desert.

It has a maximum width of just 200 kilometers (120 miles) and covers a total area of 81,000 square kilometers (31,000 square miles).

The name of the desert was derived from the “Khoekhoe language,” also known as “Hottentot,” and translates to “vast place.

facts about the Namib desert
The Atlantic Ocean and the Namib Desert / Source

2. It’s located in 3 different countries in southern Africa

As it runs over 2,000 kilometers along the coast, it’s located on the territory of 3 different countries in southern Africa. These are:

  • Angola
  • Namibia
  • South Africa

The northern part of the Namib Desert is known as the Moçâmedes Desert and covers an area of about 450 kilometers (280 miles) along the Angola-Namibia border.

Namid desert from space
The Namib Desert from space / Wiki Commons

3. The Namid is bounded by two great rivers

Knowing where the Namib Desert starts and where it ends is pretty simple because it’s bounded by two natural barriers. In the north, it runs south from the Carunjamba River in Angola.

In the south, it’s bounded by the Olifants River in Western Cape, South Africa. In the south, it also nearly borders another famous desert, the Kalahari Desert.

4. It gradually rises in height away from the ocean

Near the coast, the landscape is defined by sand seas, a relatively flat area that is covered in sand and can best be described as a “dune field.”

As the desert runs inland to the east, the landscape changes as the elevation increases. Here the landscape is defined by gravel plains and outcrops of mountain ranges near the Great Escarpment, the steep slopes of the Southern African plateau.

Namib desert facts
The landscape of the desert / Source

5. It’s one of the driest places on the planet

One of the most fascinating facts about the Namib Desert is that some areas of it are among the driest places on the planet.

The driest places only receive about 2 millimeters (0.079 in) of annual precipitation, while the “wetter” places receive 200 millimeters (7.9 in).

Because of the lack of sufficient precipitation, the Namid Desert is considered to be the only true desert in all of southern Africa!

Namib desert driest
The Namib Desert has some of the driest areas in the world / Source

6. It might as well be the oldest desert on the planet

It’s not exactly known how old the Namib Desert really is, but it has certainly endured both arid and semi-arid periods for a period between 55 and 80 million years.

With this in mind, it means that it might as well be both the driest and oldest desert in the world. Only the Atacama Desert in South America might be arider and older than the Namib Desert.

This is a pretty amazing desert, don’t you think?!

Namid desert from the air
Aerial view of the desert / Robur.q / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en

7. It contains the second-largest dunes on the planet

Another prominent feature of the Namib Desert is its massive dunes. These can stand up to 300 meters (980 feet) tall and be up to 32 kilometers (20 miles) long.

This means that it nearly holds the record of the largest dunes in the world because only the dunes of the Badain Jaran Desert in China are larger.

Tall dune in the Namib Desert
Sand dune in the desert / Source

8. The inland temperatures fluctuate immensely

Along the coastline, the Atlantic Ocean ensures that the temperatures remain relatively stable. In this area of the desert, the annual temperature ranges between 9 and 20 °C (48 and 68 °F).

Further inland, the temperatures really start fluctuating immensely all year round. These can range from anywhere between 45 °C (113 °F) in the daytime and freezing at night!

Desolate landscape of the Namib Desert
The desolate landscape / Thomas Schoch / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

9. The coastal area is one of the foggiest places on the planet

Another one of the fascinating facts about the Namib Desert is that it’s considered to be one of the foggiest places in the world. Some areas along the coast are covered in thick fog for up to 180 days every year.

The reason these fogs are formed is because of the collision between the relatively cold Benguela Current, which comes from over the Atlantic Ocean, and the extremely hot Hadley Cell, a tropical current coming from inland.

The benefit of this fog is that it provides moisture for fauna and flora in the desert!

Naid Desert Fog / Matthias Bruhin / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en

10. The Skeleton Coast is covered with over 1000 shipwrecks

The downside of the fog covering the Namib Desert and parts of the Atlantic Ocean is that it’s extremely dangerous for ships as they are completely blinded. This has resulted in numerous shipwrecks, some of them which can still be seen along the coast.

Some of these shipwrecks are now located up to 50 meters (164 feet) inland as well because the desert is slowly moving into the sea.

The coast of the Namib Desert has been referred to as “The Land God Made in Anger” by the Bushmen who used to live in the area and as “The Gates of Hell” by Portuguese sailors.

Shipwreck in the Namib Desert
Sipreck in the desert / Hp.Baumeler / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en

11. It’s home to one of the weirdest plants on the planet

Even though life in these harsh conditions is rare, some plants grow in the desolate landscape of the Namib Desert. One of these can even be considered as one of the weirdest plants in the world!

One of these plants is the “Welwitschia mirabilis,” mostly referred to as just the Welwitschia, a shrub-like plant that only grows in this part of the world which is bent and twisted from the harsh desert winds.

This plant can survive by extracting moisture from the thick fog of the desert and is sometimes described as a “living fossil.”

Welwitschia in Namib Desert
Welwitschia in the desert / Thomas Schoch / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

12. Few animals can survive in the harsh conditions of the Namib

Near the coast, hardly any animal can survive due to the extremely harsh conditions. All that lives there are some arthropods and other small animals that don’t require a large amount of water to survive.

One specific creature called the Namib Desert beetle has even adapted to the conditions of the desert by also extracting moisture from the fog. The collection of beetles with this capability are generally referred to as “fog beetles.”

Further inland, we can find more animals and even large creatures such as gemsboks, springboks, ostriches, and in some parts even desert elephants.

Gemsbok in the Namib Desert
Gemsbok in the desert / Thomas Schoch / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

13. Some people managed to survive in the desert, but not anymore

So do people live in the Namib Desert? Not since the 20th century!

Before that, some tribes were living in the desert commonly referred to as “bushmen,” but these have all moved away, making it one of the least populated areas in the world.

The only human activity in the desert at the moment are some ranches in the southern area, and some Herero People who raise livestock in it, but that’s about it.

Mountains in the Namib Desert
Mountains in the desert / Harald Süpfle / CC-BY-SA-2.5

14. It has one of the most fascinating natural tourist attractions in the world

While the harsh conditions in the desert make it virtually impossible to permanently live there, the desert is world-famous for being one of the most amazing natural phenomenons on the planet!

These are called “Sossusvlei,” a salt and clay pan surrounded by large red dunes. Many of these are located in the Namib-Naukluft National Park, a national park in Namibia that covers large parts of the Namib Desert.

The landscape around a Sossusvlei area is simply mesmerizing!

Sossusvlei areas
Sossusvlei areas / Olga Ernst & Hp.Baumeler / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en

15. The Namib proved to be the perfect setting for a dystopian action movie

One of the coolest facts about the Namid Desert is that it was the setting of a movie called “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015), the 4th installment of the famous Australian post-apocalyptic movies.

Let’s be honest, they couldn’t have chosen a better setting to film this movie, right?

Sosusvlei are mad max fury road
Sosusvlei area / Diego Delso / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en