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Namib Desert

Dune 7, Highest sand dune in the world, Namib Desert, Namibia

The Namib Desert is a large desert in the south western corner of Namibia. The name "Namib" is Nama for "enormous" and indeed the desert occupies an area of around 50,000kmē). The area is considered to be the oldest desert in the world, having endured arid or semi-arid conditions for at least 80 million years. [1]

Although the desert is largely unpopulated and inaccessible, there are year-round settlements at Sossusvlei, close to a huge group of sand dunes, which at 300 metres high are by far the tallest sand dunes in the world. Access is via light aircraft from Windhoek (the capital of Namibia, about 300 miles east of the centre of the desert), or Swakopmund and Walvis Bay at the north end of the desert.

The desert meets with the sea on its western flank. This coastline, and that further north, the Skeleton Coast, are the home of many shipwrecks. The interaction between the water-laden air coming from the sea and dry air of the desert causes immense fogs and strong currents, causing sailors to lose their way. Some of these ships can be found as much as 50 metres inland as the desert slowly extends into the sea over the period of many years.

A number of unusual species of plants and animals are found only in this desert.