Namib-Naukluft Park in Namibia
First proclaimed in 1907 and progressively enlarged over the years until it reached its present size in 1986, the Namib-Naukluft Park is the largest nature reserve in Africa, covering an area more than twice the size of Wales. Geographically, the park is divided into four distinct areas of which three are covered here: the gravel plains of the central Namib between the Swakop and Kuiseb rivers, known as the Namib Section; the mountainous knuckle of land stretching inland south of Solitaire to just west of Büllsport, known as the Naukluft Park; and the towering sand dunes south of the Kuiseb River, which we label here simply as Sossusvlei. The fourth area, the seemingly endless sand sea south towards Lüderitz known as the Sperrgebiet ('Forbidden Zone'), has for many decades been declared out of bounds to tourists due to the presence of diamonds and the fragility of the ecosystem. These days this is changing, however, and the Sperrgebiet has recently been declared a national park.
This truly remarkable area attracts geographers, ecologists, hikers and tourists. On the larger scale, flights and balloon trips over the mountains and dunes in light aircraft provide breathtaking views of the magnificent natural formations. At the opposite extreme, researchers analyze and hikers enjoy a glimpse of the fascinating variety of life that survives in the inhospitable sand and heat.