During the day, the mercury in the Namib desert often sits above 40 degrees Celsius, and the sand is too hot to stand on with bare feet. But once the sun nears the horizon, humans (and other creatures) are able to brave one of Earth’s most extreme environments.
Here are our top six things to do in the Namib as the sun goes down:
During the day, there are some places in the Namib which resemble the surface of the Sun. “Welwitschia Wash” an ancient gully home to one of the Namib’s most remarkable plants, the Welwitschia, is best seen when the sun is low on the horizon. Some of these plants are hundreds of years old, and were seedlings during the Middle Ages.
It is difficult to time a trek up Sunset Dune perfectly, but it is better to get a bit tanned than miss one of the Namib’s remarkable sunsets. Depending on your level of fitness, set aside 40 minutes to hike up the dunes that curve behind the Gobabeb Research and Training Centre. It gives a 360 degree vantage point of the Namib.
A remarkable feature of scorpions is that their exoskeletons fluoresce. Once the sun is far below the horizon and the stars are out, it is a good time to go scorpion hunting. There are many scorpions on the trees along the Kuiseb ephemeral river than run (when there is water) behind the Gobabeb station. The scorpions are often nestled against the bark on tree trunks. All you need is a UV torch and patience.
The Namib is very sparsely populated, with hundreds of kilometres empty of humans. While this is problematic if your car breaks down on one of its dirt roads, it means that the Namib has some of the world’s most remarkable night skies. This photo was taken with a smartphone camera, on a 30-second exposure, and a tripod.
A Namib sunset is only trumped by its sunrise. It is possible to drive into the heart of the Mirabeb rock formation and walk up onto these giant outcropping. Unlike sunset, the air at dawn is fresh, and the rocks remember the cold of the night. Mirabeb was the site of the opening scene of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, and there is no other person or human settlement. You feel like the only person at the the beginning of the world.
Most of the small creatures in the Namib are active at night. Each morning on the dunes, there is a murder mystery: which creature was here, what happened, and -- importantly -- who ate who?