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Geographical travel: this month we climb to the mysterious summit of Venezuela's Mount Roraima--the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World--talk to the founder of responsible walking-tour company ATG Oxford, and take a tour of the past, present and future of adventure travel.

SOSSUSVLEI, NAMIB DESERT, NAMIBIA

In the middle of the Namib Desert, antelope graze beneath the towering bulk of a huge sand dune. Having endured arid and semi-arid conditions for tire past 80 million years or so, this narrow strip of land in Namibia on southern Africa's west coast is one of the world's oldest deserts. Like South America's Atacama, its rival for the title, the Namib has been maintained more recently by an icy ocean current--in this case the Benguela, which originates in Antarctica and condenses moisture before it can be blown ashore.

Extending 2,000 kilometres from north to south and no more than 200 from west to east, the Namib is, perhaps, most famous for its 'dune sea', so calked because its form and extent change constantly with the wind. In fact, it's home to a variety of landscapes and habitats: rocky outcrops and mountains, gravel plains and dry pans, and dry riverbeds, where oasis-like strips of green are sustained by underground rivers. Given the lack of surface moisture, the desert supports a surprising diversity of wildlife, from fish-moths and tenebrionid beetles in the dunes to gemsbuk, kudu and springbok, which feed on the lush vegetation along the riverbeds. Several species are endemic, including the dune lark and 25 types of reptile.

Today, the Namib is protected by the S0,000-square-kilometre Namib-Naukluft National Park. Visitors can take advantage of a range of camps and lodges and a network of 4x4 and walking tracks to experience the dunes, canyons and wildlife of this spectacular park. Sossusvlei, an ephemeral pan surrounded by towering red dunes, is a particularly popular destination.

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Title Annotation:Namib Desert, Namibia
Publication:Geographical
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:6NAMI
Date:Jan 1, 2004
Words:270
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