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The Namib-Naukluft Park is Namibia's largest nature reserve, about 50.000 sqkms in size. It includes a 100 to 150 km broad belt of land stretching along the coastline from the Swakop valley in the north to the road B4 to Luederitz in the south. Most parts of this enormous area are not accessible to visitors. One can only visit a small stretch north of the Kuiseb river, the Naukluft Mountains and the Sossusvlei in the central Namib dune fields.
The northern part between Swakop and Kuiseb is called the Namib Section. From Swakopmund, one can drive through the park on the C28. The C14 also leads from Walvis Bay through the Namib Naukluft Park and provides stunning vistas, landscapes with huge mountain massifs and gravel plains covered in desert ink. After passing the sandy riverbed of the Kuiseb, you exit the park.
Jutting out into the desert are the impressive Naukluft Mountains. Whilst the high plateaux and mountainsides tend to be rocky and sparsely vegetated, the ravines and valleys are verdant. This area receives few visitors but is peaceful, beautiful and ideal for serious hiking
An hour’s drive northeast of Sesriem, the main escarpment juts out into the desert forming a range known as the Naukluft Mountains. In 1968 these were protected within the Naukluft Mountain Zebra Park, to conserve a rare breeding population of Hartmann’s mountain zebra. Shortly afterwards, land was bought to the west of the mountains and added to the park, forming a corridor linking these mountains into the Namib National Park. This allowed oryx, zebra and other game to migrate between the two, and in 1979 the parks were formally combined into the Namib-Naukluft National Park.
The uniqueness of the area stems from its geology as much as its geographical position. Separated from the rest of the highlands by steep, spectacular cliffs, the Naukluft Mountains form a plateau.
Underneath this, to a height of about 1,100m, is mostly granite. Above this base are alternating layers of dolomites and shales, with extensive deposits of dark limestone, rising to about 1,995m. Over the millennia, rainwater has gradually cut into this massif, dissolving the rock and forming steep kloofs, or ravines, and a network of watercourses and reservoirs – many of which are subterranean. The name Naukluft, which means ‘narrow ravine’, is apt for the landscape.
Where these waters surface, in the deeper valleys, there are crystal-clear springs and pools – ideal for cooling dips. Often these are decorated by impressive formations of smooth tufa – limestone that has been re-deposited by the water over waterfalls.
Receiving occasional heavy rainstorms in summer that feed its network of springs and streams in its deeper kloofs, the Naukluft supports a surprisingly varied flora and fauna. Its high plateau and mountainsides tend to be rocky with poor, if any, soil. Here are distinctive euphorbia, acacia, commiphora and aloe plants (including quivertrees – which are found in a dense stand in Quivertree Gorge). Most are low, slow-growing species, adapted to conserving water during the dry season. The variations of slope and situation result in many different niches suiting a wide variety of different species
The Naukluft section of the park was created to serve as a sanctuary for Hartmann’s mountain zebra. With its massive and varied rock formations this area is a complete contrast to that of theNamib Desert..