Where the hot desert sand meets the cold Benguela current is a place of extraordinary and breath taking splendour. There are few places left on the planet where one can experience such vast stretches of undeveloped wilderness.
Both the desert sands and the Benguela Current have abundant life, the desert as a result of the life giving fog and the Benguela due to the upwelling “cells” and longshore drift. The Succulent Karoo biome of the southern Namib Desert has more diversity than any other desert in the world.
The waters of the Namibian coast support some of the greatest concentrations of marine life found in the world. This high level of biological productivity is the result of seasonable south to southeast winds which induce upwelling making available an abundant supply of nutrients in the upper layers.
These nutrients together with sunlight promote blooms of phytoplankton, rich resources of zooplankton and an abundance of pelagic fish such as pilchard, anchovy and juvenile horse mackerel. These fish shoals in turn provide food for large populations of higher predators such as sharks, seals, cetaceans and seabirds.
The rich coastal ecosystems are extremely fragile and can easily be disturbed by human activities. The coastal region has been relatively inaccessible to date, and there have been few opportunities for use of coastal land and resources by residents of coastal regions. As a result, Namibia has an exceptionally low, and geographically very concentrated, coastal population compared to other countries.
However, increasing human pressures over the past several years highlight the urgent need for sound coastal planning and management to ensure sustainable and optimal use of coastal areas and their resources in the future.
The Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem (BCLME) is one of the world's most productive marine environments, not only in terms of fishery resources but also mineral deposits. It is one of the four major coastal upwelling ecosystems in the world which lie at the eastern boundaries of the oceans. Its distinctive bathymetry, hydrography, chemistry and trophodynamics combine to make it one of the most productive ocean areas in the world.The Benguela Current forms the eastern boundary of the south Atlantic intercontinental gyre. It sweeps northwards within 150km of the west coast, bringing cold Antarctic water into warmer subtropical regions. It flows in a northwesterly direction along the west coast of southern Africa and the seabed.
North of Walvis Bay the current flow moves offshore away from the coast. A southward undercurrent reportedly flows at deeper levels on the continental slope and also nearer the coast at depths greater than 30 metres. The speed of the Benguela Current varies between 10 and 30 cm per second depending on the location off the coast, wind velocity and direction, and the time of year.
During the upwelling process, surface water is transported in an offshore direction by a combination of the effects of the prevailing equator-ward winds and the rotation of the earth (Coriolis force). This results in the movement of deeper cooler-oxygen rich bottom water into the upper layers at the coast.The rate and intensity of upwelling fluctuates with seasonal variations in wind patterns. Bottom topography and the sea-ward extent of the continental shelf also influence the upwelling process with high energy areas found where the shelf is narrowest and the wind the strongest. The most intense and important upwelling region off the Namibian coast is located in the south near Lüderitz. There are smaller less intense upwelling cells at Cape Fria, Pelgrave Point and Conception Bay. Typical surface temperatures and salinity values in coastal upwelling areas such as off Lüderitz range from 11 to 14 °C and 34.8 to 35.2 parts per thousand respectively.
The marine environment off Namibia and the dynamics of the Benguela Current are controlled by seasonal changes in the south Atlantic high-pressure system. Southerly winds which blow off Namibia through-out the year are strongest in winter and spring. In the Lüderitz area, these winds are strongest in spring and summer, whereas at Cape Fria, they tend to be most intense in spring and autumn. Hot, dry “berg winds” (mountain winds from the east or the north east in autumn and winter) also influence the marine environment by suppressing local upwelling and occasionally transporting large quantities of dust and sand far out to sea. In summer and autumn, the southerly winds relax off central and northern Namibia and upwelling becomes weak. The warm and more saline Angolan Current moves south and mixes with the cooler water of the Benguela Current leading to stable stratified conditions over the continental shelf. The surface water temperatures rise to between 17 and 22 C and salinities are usually within the range of 35.5 to 35.9 parts per thousand. These frontal areas where the two currents mix have high plankton production and are important spawning and nursery grounds for pelagic fish.
Not only is the Benguela at a critical location in terms of the global climate system, but its marine and coastal environments are also potentially extremely vulnerable to any future climate change or increasing variability in climate - with obvious consequences for long-term sustainable management of the coast and marine resources.
Extract from Namibia Environment Volume 1, article page 51-55 “Namibia's Marine Environment” by Mick O'Toole and BCLME website: http://www.bclme.org.na
"The Namib Desert Coast" is a 25 minute documentary film about the Namibian coast produced for the Ministry of Environment and Tourism - Namibian Coast Conservation and Management (NACOMA) project by Francois Odendaal Productions (2009).
Home to animals that swim in the sand, plants that grow for thousands of years, and such environmental extremes that, at times, fish walk out of the water, Namibia’s coast is a fascinating place, rich in history and biodiversity. It is worth exploring, learning more about, and certainly worth protecting. Stretching some 1570 kms from the border with South Africa in the south to the border with Angola in the north, our coast is also home to human settlements and industries such as mining, fishing and tourism that contribute significantly to the nation’s economy. Increasing human pressures over the past years highlight the urgent need for sound coastal planning and management to ensure sustainable and optimal use of coastal areas and their resources for future generations. Now is the time for all Namibians and visitors to rally together to conserve and use wisely our unique coastal and marine environment. This film presents the beauty, diversity and resources of our coastal environment and encourages us to be COASTODIANS, caring for our coast, caring for our future.
Part 1: Introduction to the Namibian coastal areas
Part 2: Coastal natural processes and biodiversity
Part 3: Activities, threats and potentials on the Namibian coast and way forward
Namibia’s coast is entirely embedded in the Namib Desert extending around some 1570 km from South Africa to Angola. The hyper-arid Namibian coastal ecosystem is home to a significant and unique array of biological and ecological diversity, including uniquely adapted plants and animals, rich estuarine fauna and a high diversity of migratory shore and seabirds. In particular, Namibia’s coastal zones are considered as refuge for a number of endangered species.There are few sheltered bays on the coast. Most of Namibia’s shore is sandy beach (54%) or mixed sand and rock (28%). Rocky shores constitute only 16% of the total length. Coastal plains comprise dune fields, lichen encrusted gravel plains and scattered salt pans. Vegetated dune-hummock areas are common near the coast. Several ephemeral westward flowing rivers drain the hinterland and dissect the coastal landscape. Perennial wetlands, some of them supporting significant waterfowl populations, are supported within the lower reaches of these rivers in an otherwise barren desert landscape. Along the Skeleton Coast, extensive dune fields may block the flow of some rivers for several years, resulting in the formation of spectacular ephemeral ponds.
Several wetlands provide important feeding grounds to a large number of migratory shore and seabirds, such as the Kunene River Mouth, Cape Cross Lagoons, Mile 4 Saltworks, Walvis Bay Wetlands, Sandwich Harbour, Lüderitz Lagoon, coastal municipal sewerage works, the Orange River Mouth, and important coastal seabird breeding islands including Mercury, Ichaboe and Possession Island.The coastal areas fall within a series of contiguous protected areas, namely the Skeleton Coast Park, the Dorob National Park, the Namib-Naukluft Park and the Sperrgebiet National Park, formerly a mining concession completely off-limits to the public and accessible to only a few scientists. The only portion of the coast with no protection status are the municipal areas of Walvis Bay, Swakopmund, Henties Bay and Wlotzkasbaken Village in the Erongo Region; and Oranjemund and Ludertiz in the Karas Region. The coastline of Namibia is, in fact, part of a continuum of protected areas that stretches from Southern Angola into Namaqualand in South Africa.
Kunene River Mouth
The Kunene River is one of only two perennial rivers in Namibia which reach the Atlantic Ocean. Its mouth therefore provides a valuable habitat throughout the year for a large variety of animals. The formation of sandbars from the northern and southern shores leaves a very narrow river mouth, which is only widened after extremely high floods.
The wetland that forma inside the sandbar is important from an ecological and biodiversity perspective because it is a transition zone for flora and fauna, has populations of turtles and is important for the migration of sea and shorebirds. The mouth is never completely closed and tidal influence is seen 4 km upstream. During high tide, the river water is dammed back and a lagoon roughly 2 km x 1 km forms inland of the sandbars. The lagoon water is up to 10°C warmer than the sea, and satellite imagery reveals a plume of warm, nutrient-rich water extending 100 km into the Atlantic Ocean. The Kunene mouth is also frequented by a number of reptiles and fish which depend on permanent aquatic habitats. Reptiles include Nile Crocodile Crocodylus Niloticus, Nile Monitor Varanus Niloticus, Nile Soft-shelled Terrapin Trionyx Triunguis, African Rock Python Python Sebae and the Green Turtle Chelonia Midas.
Cape Fria is a place of numerous shipwreck remains scattered about on the shore and extensive salt pans. It is also Namibia’s northern most breeding colony for the Cape Fur Seal, a mainland colony of up to 100,000 seals.
The geology and massif in the area is important in that Agate Mountain is the eroded throat of a carbonotite volcano.
There are excellent examples of fenitisation of country rocks, forming part of the biggest pyroclastic eruptions in the geological records worldwide (11000 cubic kilometres, 100 klilometres in diameter).
In 2005, Cape Fria was identified to be the location of Namibia's third harbour. Until now, no progress was made but the project is still pending.
The Hoanib River mouth has a permanent wetland that provides refuge for migratory and resident birds. It is the northern most recorded breeding area for the African Black Oystercatcher, a globally threatened species.
The Hoanib River has a catchment of 11,000km² and the only Namibian ephemeral river with an extensive floodplain of 90 km² capable of forming extensive wetlands near the coast. Permanent wetlands known as the Oasis and Auses nestled in dune areas which come close to the sea support abundant vegetation, elephant and other large herbivores being regular visitors. Rich avifauna including breeding populations of ducks, geese, heron, grebes and cormorants make use of these wetlands.
Ugab River Mouth
Wetlands at the Ugab mouth, the five fingered delta of the Uniab and to a lesser extent the Huab, Hoaruseb and Khumib mouth are particularly extensive and support a large and diverse avifauna which is somewhat unexpected in a desert region which averages about 10 mm of rain annually.
Cape Cross Lagoons and Cape Fur Seal Colony
Cape Cross is about 130 km north of Swakopmund along the desert coastline of Namibia. It was one of the first landfalls of European explorers in southern Africa; Bartholomew Diaz erected a cross here. It consists of a rocky promontory, to the south of which is a series of lagoons, which have a total area of about 5000 ha. The sandy barrier between the lagoons and the ocean consists of sediments brought down by the Orange River, and swept north by the actions of the Benguela Long shore drift. The lagoons are maintained by seepage of seawater, and by waves overtopping the barrier during spring high tides.
Cape Cross has a large Cape Fur Seal Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus population, numbering about 150 000 animals. It is on the mainland, so unlike island-based seal colonies, it is not space-limited.
Entrepeneurs have developed a simple but effective way of producing guano at the Cape Cross lagoons. Three wooden platforms with a total area of 68 000 ha were erected in the 1950s to provide a breeding and roosting site for Cape Cormorants. About 30 000 pairs of cormorants currently breed on the platforms; in 1974, an aerial survey estimated 900 000 cormorants. Guano is still collected on the platforms, even though guano scraping has largely stopped on most of the offshore islands.
Omaruru River Mouth and Henties Bay
Because the river has been dammed some 45 kilometres from the mouth since 1992, the lower reaches of the Omaruru no longer support healthy fauna and flora populations. The Omdel Dam and infiltration pans together with the Kuiseb River delta boreholes supply the central coast with water for human consumption.
About 70km north of Swakopmund and 60 km south of the Cape Cross seal colony, there is the small town of Henties Bay. It is a small resident community(around 3000 residents) but most of the houses are holiday homes, with many anglers basing themselves here. Henties Bay is a popular holiday resort in particular for anglers.
Lichens are a unique and highly vulnerable vegetation feature of coastal habitats in Namibia. They occur in rather high diversity on rocky outcrops and hills near the coast, and or gravel plains. Slow growing and nourished by moisture from fog, lichens are important as pioneer plants colonizing bare desert habitats, which in turn provide ecological niches for subsequent fauna and flora. Lichens provide an important food source for beetles and a range of animals from gerbils to springbok. Lichen acids play a role in mineral weathering. They also prevent wind and water erosion by binding the soil together. In several coastal areas lichen fields are already significantly damaged by human activities.
There are over 150 lichen species in the central Namib and two of the largest lichen fields on the planet are situated east of Cape Cross and Wlotskas Baken. Global lichenologists regard the lichen fields of the central Namib as one of the wonders of the world. Human activity especially irresponsible off-road driving activity, mining, road development and water pipelines have lead to large tracts of destructed lichen areas.
Swakopmund and Swakop River Mouth
Swakopmund is the premier holiday resort in Namibia. During the summer holidays and long weekends thousands of Namibians flock to the coast. This migration happens for a couple of reasons, Swakopmund has a real holiday feel and everyone wants to be there, and during the December holidays the cool Namibian coast offers relief from the intense heat of the interior. It is also a holiday place highly appreciated by South Africans.
Wetlands are a scarce resource in the Namib Desert and the Swakop lagoon is one of two in the central Namib. This wetland, covering a total area of about 400 m², is fed by the ephemeral Swakop River, and rejuvenated by infrequent floods and fresh water seepage originating from inland rains and through inundation of sea water over the beach into the wetland. The mouth is not often open to the sea. The wetland form part of an important bird area, one of 21 in Namibia, known as 30 kilometers of beach between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay.
This dynamic system creates a mosaic of habitats with variable salinity levels, making it attractive to a diversity of plants and birds as well as small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrate animals. Various grasses, shrubs, herbs and other desert-adapted salt marsh plants support these forms of life. On the northern bank, the indigenous reeds (Phragmites) provide food, shelter and nesting sites for many kinds of birds and other small animals.
Over 85 bird species have been recorded in the vicinity of the Swakop lagoon, including 30 species that breed in the greater area. The lagoon and adjoining coast are an important breeding area for the internationally important Damara Tern, which uses the area as a nursery for its chicks. Other Red Data Book species that use the wetland include Greater Flamingo, Lesser Flamingo, White Pelican, Black-necked Grebe and Chestnut-banded Plover, while Bank Cormorant, Crowned Cormorant, Cape Gannet, African Penguin and African Black Oystercatcher make use of the adjacent coastal and oceanic habitats. The wetland also serves as an important sheltered roosting site for birds during high tides when the rocks are inaccessible or during high winds.
Dune belt and coastline between Swakopmund and Walvis
The 30 km section of coastline from Swakopmund to Walvis Bay is designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA). The area has up to 770 birds per kilometre of rocky shore which is the highest linear count of birds anywhere in Southern Africa. The importance of this coastline for birds is largely due to the high productivity especially on the rocky shores and the sheltering effect of the Pelican Point Peninsula. Onshore winds blow upwelled nutrients into the sheltered bay area allowing them to settle and establish a complex food web.
The rare, breeding endemic Damara Tern (Sterna balaenarum) has various breeding sites in sandy, near-shore areas along the Namibian Coast but the most important breeding area on our planet is on the coastline between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, in three colonies, namely Swakopmund, Caution Reef and Dolphin Beach. The Swakopmund colony has been completely fenced off to protect it from off-road driving, as with the Caution Reef colony west and east of the main road, the Dolphin Beach colony is likely to become extinct shortly due to proposed housing developments. The Damara Tern is a breeding endemic to Southern Africa, and Namibia is home to about 98% of the world’s population of this species. It has a Red Data Book Conservation Status and is rated as “extinction possible” its breeding areas are therefore of vital global conservation concern.
Damara Terns breed in loosely connected colonies which are sometimes located up to eight kilometers inland so as to avoid beach patrolling predators such as brown hyena and black-backed jackal. During the breeding season, these birds are easily seen on the gravel plains and salt pans where they nest well apart from each other in small scattered colonies. Latest global population estimates for breeding pairs are between 1001 to 2685.
Bird Island (the wooden platform stands in the sea about 9 km north of Walvis Bay), also called the Guano Platform, is the only place on the Namibian coast where Great White Pelicans breed regularly. Cape Cormorants, White-breasted Cormorants, and Crowned Cormorants also breed and roost on this productive platform.
Walvis Bay Lagoon
Walvis Bay is the largest bay on the entire coast and it is also the most important from a commercial perspective as the harbour of Walvis Bay is the primary fishing and commercial harbour in the country.
The Walvis Bay wetlands are extensive and include the Walvis Bay Lagoon in the south, the second lagoon as well as the wetlands in the western part of the bay stretching northwards to Pelican point. The estimated total area for these wetlands is 35 to 40 km². With Sandwich Harbour, Walvis Bay is the most important coastal wetland in Southern Africa.
Regular bird counts at the Walvis bay wetlands have shown that numbers of wetlands birds vary from 37 000 to 79 000 individuals, peaking at about 150,000. These figures comprise about 50 percent intra-African migrants and 45 percent Palaearctic migrants, the remainder being resident breeding species. Significant numbers of several red data bird species occur: about 50 percent of the world population of the Chestnut-banded Plover, 60 percent of the southern African sub-continental population of Lesser Flamingos and 38 percent of the region’s Greater Flamingos.
Wedged between the sea and the Namib Dunes, Sandwich Harbour is one of Southern Africa’s richest and most unique wetlands for migratory and resident birds. Not associated with a river, it is an area of water that is protected from the open ocean by a sand barrier where potable water seeping from underground aquifers sustains the freshwater vegetation at the base of the dunes. The lagoon fills with water filtered through the dune field from the Kuiseb which has a purifying effect and reduces salinity. South of the freshwater wetlands are the extensive mudflats of Sandwich Harbour.
In the past, Sandwich Harbour was much more extensive and offered a very good anchorage to shipping. Today it is comprised of two portions: the northern part is an extensive wetland (5km x 300 m) consisting of salt marsh and intertidal mud flats, this area is extensively vegetated. The southern portion is much larger at 40km² and consists of tidal mudflats. There is seepage of fresh water onto the beach in the northern portion. Sandwich Harbour is a proclaimed Ramsar site because of its biotic richness including 36 species of fish, migrant sea and shore birds and red data birds.
Sandwich Harbour is one of southern Africa’s most important coastal wetlands for migratory and resident birds. In 2006, the area supported about 179 000 sea and shore birds. The majority of these birds belong to five species: Common/Arctic Terns. Curlew Sandpipers, Little Stints, Sanderlings, Lesser and Greater Flamingos. The density of waders recorded at low tide was 7 791 birds/km2, one of the highest densities recorded anywhere in the world. At least one Namibian red data species occurs in significant numbers; the Chestnut-banded Plover. Eight other Namibian red data species were recorded, including the Damara Tern, an African red data species. Since 1991, mean counts have been lower (60 000 birds), probably because of the natural changes at Sandwich Harbour.
Spencer Bay is situated 140 kms North of Lüderitz and is not easily accessible. The best views of Spencer Bay are from the air.
Rocky outcrops at Spencer Bay present a magnificent contrast against the dunes. Seals, birds, jackal and brown hyena are the only inhabitants.
In Spencer Bay, there is the wreck of the Otavi lying in a rock surrounded enclave. The Otavi Shipwreck is a ghostly reminder of the craft which beached there in 1945 with a cargo of guano. A colony of seals lazes around in the area of the wreck.
In the Spencer Bay, there is the small island of Mercury, 1.5 km offshore. Despite its small size, Mercury Island currently supports the largest breeding colony of African Penguins in Namibia, numbering roughly 10 700 adult individuals (2006). Mercury island also supports the largest Bank Cormorant colony in Namibia with 1 900 adult individuals (2006). Other seabirds breed on this island include Cape Cormorants, a few Crowned Cormorant and small colonies of Cape Gannets (1 410 adult individuals in 2006). Owing to its sensitivity and limited accommodation, Mercury Island cannot be visited by tourists.
Greater Lüderitz Bay consists of a number of bays, islands and a lagoon. The shoreline is predominantly rocky, and the Lüderitz peninsula, excluding the islands, supports roughly 14 000 shorebirds. Southern Namibia is extremely arid, and rainfall around Lüderitz Bay averages 17 mm per year, making this one of the driest areas in Namibia.
The three harbour basins, with a total surface area of about 10 km², consist of Robert Harbour, a bay surrounded by the town of Lüderitz, where most commercial port activities take place, as well as Lüderitz Lagoon and Shearwater Bay, which provide sheltered anchorage. The harbour is one of only two in the country and therefore particularly important for the fishing, mining and cargo industries.
Seal and Penguin islands are situated at the entrance of Robert Harbour near the northern end of Lüderitz Bay. A number of seabird species breed there, including the endangered Bank Cormorant, as well as other cormorant species, African Black Oystercatchers, Swift Terns and Kelp Gulls. A third island, Shark Island, was joined to the mainland during the 20th century and since the harbour was extended in 1999 to incorporate parts of Shark Island, breeding by Swift Terns and Hartlaub’s Gulls there has ceased.
Lüderitz Lagoon is situated west of the town of Lüderitz and has a surface area of about 9.4 km² and an average depth of less than 5 m. Its southern end terminates in a mudflat with associated salt marsh vegetation. This is the only natural coastal wetland between the Orange River mouth which forms the border between Namibia and South Africa and Sandwich Harbour Lagoon in central Namibia. It therefore constitutes an important “stepping stone” roosting and foraging habitat for a range of resident and migratory wetland- and shorebirds which include flamingos, oystercatchers, turnstones, whimbrels, curlews, avocets, godwits, sanderlings and a variety of plovers. A large sandy bay, Shearwater Bay, with a surface area of 5 square kilometres, is framed by Lüderitz Lagoon and Angra Point to the east, and by Dias Point to the west. Halifax Island is found just south of Diaz Point and is famous for the only increasing breeding colony of African Penguins.
The 16 Namibian offshore islands, islets and rocks are situated close to the shore along Namibia’s southern coast. They are small (mostly less than 10 ha, except for Seal, Penguin and Possession islands, which range in size between 35 and 90 ha), non- or sparsely vegetated rocky outcrops, which support a wealth of intertidal and subtidal plant and animal species. They and the surrounding waters also provide unique breeding, nursery and foraging site for fish, rock lobster, seabirds and marine mammals including breeding grounds for Southern Right whales and Heaviside's dolphin. Their importance to seabird populations lies in their geographical position in the highly productive Benguela upwelling system, and in their inaccessibility to mammalian predators. The abundance of fish in these waters attracts hundreds of thousands of piscivorous seabirds to the area. Oceanographic and seabird monitoring data collected at some of the islands constitutes important ecosystem indicators and contribute an integral link to Namibia’s environmental monitoring activities and state of the ecosystem reports.
Important coastal seabird breeding islands include Mercury, Ichaboe, Halifax and Possession Islands. Together they support 96% of the Namibian population of the endangered African Penguin Spheniscus Demersus, the entire Namibian breeding population of Cape Gannets Morus Capensis and nearly one quarter of the global breeding population of Crowned Cormorants Phalacrocorax Coronatus. In addition, 80% of the global population of the endangered Bank Cormorant Phalacrocorax Neglectusbreeds on Mercury and Ichaboe Islands.
Because of their importance as seabird breeding sites, Mercury, Ichaboe and Possession islands, as well as the Lüderitz Bay islands and Halifax island have been identified as globally Important Bird Areas (IBAs).
The first Namibian Marine Protected Area is the Namibian Island Marine Protected Area (NIMPA) a 'buffer zone' including the 16 Southern Namibian Islands and several coastal biodiversity hot spots. For more information about the Namibian Marine Protected Areas, consult the section Key Activities - Marine Protected Area of this website.
For more information about certain islands, consult the following web pages:
Diamond Area No.1 in the Sperrgebiet
In 1908 after the first diamond was found, the German colonial government declared almost 5% of Namibia "forbidden area" (the "Sperrgebiet" in German). Today, the biggest single operation is Mining Area No.1 north of Oranjemund. Namdeb have mined a strip of coastline some 110km long by 3km wide. Seawalls were built to push back the sea around 150-200 m in order to expose the sea-bottom and mine it. The former interdidal area, some 110 km long by 300 m wide, together with all its biodiversity, has been removed and sterile bedrock is all that remains. Un-maintained seawalls have in some areas allowed the ocean to reclaim this area and it is expected that biodiversity will be restored through natural processes. However, the scale of operations in Mining Area No.1 has been so huge for so long that significant rehabilitation is out of question as the capital for rehabilitation has not been set aside or accumulated. Restoration at this stage can only be superficial. As a mining concession, the Diamond Area No.1 has been off-limits to the public and scientists for most of the last century.
The Sperrgebiet is set to become the gem of Namibia’s protected areas as the result of a recent decision by the country’s cabinet to proclaim the region as a national park. The Sperrgebiet, covers some 26,000 square kilometers of dunes and mountains that seem stark but shelter numerous biodiversity gems. The few scientific assessments carried out to date discovered 776 plant species, including 234 unique to the area.
The area boasts the highest levels of biodiversity in Namibia, including a high concentration of unique plants, amphibians and reptiles as well as wild populations of gemsbok, springbok and carnivores such as brown hyena. As such, the area has been identified as a priority area for conservation in the Succulent Karoo Ecosystem Plan (SKEP), a 20-year strategy that now guides conservation action in this globally important hotspot.
The town of Oranjemund, is located in the Diamond Area No1 near the coast about 8 km north of the mouth of the Orange River. Oranjemund was established in 1936 by the diamond companies to accommodate the mining workers and has been closed to general public until now. With the declaration of the Sperrgebiet National Park, it is also planned to open Oranjemund and give to this town the status of the Namibian Local Authority.
One of the landmarks on the Namibian coast is the sea-arch Bogenfels. It is a natural rock formation (hence the name, which means "Elbow rock"). The main formation is a 55 metres high rock arch close to the coast.
It is not easily accessible, due to the terrain and its location within the restricted diamond mining area, but there are official guided tours. Bogenfels arch is situated around 100 kms south of Lüderitz.
Orange River Mouth
The Orange River has its origins in Lesotho and drains a large portion of South Africa. Though the Orange river is perennial, its mouth closes due to sand bar formation. The Orange River Mouth supports 64 wetland species and is the sixth richest coastal wetland in southern Africa in terms of bird abundance. Of these, 14 are listed in the Red Data list of Namibia and/or South Africa and more than 1% of the global population of the three species endemic to south-western Africa, the Cape Cormorant, Damara Tern and Hartlaub’s gull, occur here. In addition, 41 reptile species as well as 16 amphibian species and the Namaqua barble Barbus hospes, endemic to the lower Orange River, occur here.
The Orange River mouth is a proclaimed Ramsar site due to its importance to migrating shore and seabirds.
The Namibian coast is an important tourism destination mainly because of its angling and dune off-road driving opportunities. Unsustainable tourist and holiday maker be...
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