Six things to do in the Namib desert when the sun goes down

Business Insider SA

Photo: Sarah Wild
  • During the day, the Namib desert sand is too hot to stand on with bare feet, the mercury often sits above 40 degrees Celsius.
  • Once the sun nears the horizon, one of the Earth’s most extreme environments springs to life.
  • Here are our top six things to do in the Namib as the sun goes down.

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:

1. Visit the valley where 600-year-old plants grow. 

See plants that are older than the Middle ages. Photo Sarah Wild

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.

2. Hike up Sunset Dune for spectacular views.

Photo: Don Cowan

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.

3. Hunt for glow-in-the-dark scorpions.

Photo: Sarah Wild

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.

4. Sit back and spot the Milky Way. 

Photo: Sarah Wild

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.

5. Witness the beginning of the world at sunrise. 

Photo: Sarah Wild

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.

6. See who passed by your bed overnight.

Photo: Don Cowan
Photo: Don Cowan

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?

Read: We visited a remote research station in the Namib. This is what we found

Receive a single WhatsApp message every morning with all our latest news: Sign up here.

See also:

Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo