The best ways to explore the Namib Desert

It’s impossible to be prepared for the Namib Desert. This epic landscape is a one off. An incredible feat of Mother Nature only summed up in superlatives. The dunes here are the tallest in the world, towering to over 1000 feet in parts - less dunes, more mountains of burnt red sand. It’s also the world’s oldest desert. At least 55 million years of dry weather have meant that many of the resident animals and plants can be found only here – from desert horses to lizards, although you’ll find elephants and lions as well.

Incredibly, claims of the tallest dunes and oldest sand are just a warm up act. The blockbuster attraction is the Skeleton Coast. Here the dunes come crashing into the Atlantic on Namibia’s treacherous coastline, and the sand is littered with the skeletons of whales, seals and ships that came to grief on the rocks. There is nowhere else like it on earth.

Below we’ve picked out the best ways to see the Namib Desert. You can see it all on our discover Namibia small lodge tour.

From the basket of a hot air balloon

There is no better way to spy on the Namib Desert than from the sky. It’s only from here that you will see why Namib translates to the ‘vast place’. Local firm Namib Sky will float you several hundred feet into the morning sky to watch the sun rise from behind the dunes and enjoy unbroken vistas across the sands. It’s a unique view over a unique landscape, and to ease the pain of leaving all that behind you’ll enjoy a glass of champagne and a fresh buffet breakfast when you come back down to earth. 

From behind the wheel of a quad bike

If sitting around in a hot air balloon sounds like too little action in the middle of such an adventurous landscape, strap yourself in to a quad bike. You’ll be able to travel to parts of the desert that 4x4s and land rovers can’t conquer and there are few thrills to equal tipping over the top of these mountainous dunes.  Try Desert Explorers for tours that cater to those looking to travel at a gentle pace and those who want to pull a few wheelies. 

From the inside of an observatory

Wherever you are in the Namib Desert you’ll find a grandstand view of the stars. With almost no cloud cover and even less light pollution you’ll see more lights twinkling in the Namib Desert night sky than you ever have before. The best seats in the house can be found at the Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, where they not only have their own observatory but their own astronomer as well. Spend the evening being introduced to all the constellations you can’t see back home.  

From the seat of a Cessna

It’s back to the air for our final adventure. The Namib Desert is huge – roughly the size of Belgium – and has dozens of different landscapes to explore. The best chance you have to see the most of the desert is with a plane ride. The plane safaris at Sossusvlei Lodge don’t come cheap, but they will take out over the mountainous dunes to get fantastic snaps of the dramatic coastline and spot shipwrecks on the Skeleton Coast.  The small Cessna plane is ideal for getting intimate views of the desert. 

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