The engine puttered and the propellers came to life. The engine growl reminded me a bit of the lawn mower I used to push during my college summers. But this afternoon was going to be a bit more exciting then pushing a mower in the suburbs. I was strapped in behind the pilot in the second row. I was in a Cessna 210, an aircraft with a 36-foot wingspan that holds 5 passengers, with one sitting in the co-pilot’s seat. I was about to embark on a two-hour sightseeing flight over the Namibian coast. My flight was going to cover nearly 400 miles of Namibian highlights. Scenic Flight Namib Desert.
Namibia’s coast stretches nearly 1000 miles, and in fact nearly the entire coast is covered by the Namib-Skeleton Coast National Park. This Park is larger than the entire country of Portugal! And Namib translates to “vast place”, a very accurate description. The Namib-Skeleton Coast National Park is considered the oldest desert, dating back possibly 80 million years. The Namib Desert is an incredibly beautiful and fantastical place. The desert is a vast desert sea with some of the tallest dunes in the world, topping at over 1000 feet. Truly humongous. The colors are vivid and varying, the hues ranging from pink to orange to red. It is a surreal and beautiful sight.
Viewing this boundless panorama from a plane is a true bucket list experience. I departed from Swakopmund, an old German town, plopped down in the desert, sitting on the Atlantic Ocean. Namibia is a former colony of Germany and many vestiges of Germany’s occupation can still be viewed today. After a quick briefing, I climbed into the Cessna at the Swakopmund Municipal Aerodrome. The plane huffed down the runway and within moments the desert was readily in view.
The plane pointed south as we headed south, with the Atlantic Ocean on the right. Within moments, I was staring down at the desert. The first “stop” was the Kuiseb Canyon. On one side are the barren rocks of the canyon and on the other, the sand dunes of the Namib Desert. A valley rested below, with a thick smattering of verdant trees and shrubs.
We flew over Tsondabvlei, offering more incredible desert scenes.
Sossusvlei is a well-known area on the tourist track, known for its immense sand dunes in dazzling colors. It is also home to the surreal Deadvlei, a clay pan full of dead multi-century old trees. Vlei in the local language translates as marsh. After our visit here, we headed north and began to trace the coast.
I then spotted a grouping of tents and structures. This was an abandoned camp for diamond mining. Talk about incredibly remote.
We then spotted the Eduard Bohlen, a ship that was wrecked in 1909 in dense fog. The Skeleton Coast is well known for its thick fog which can cover the coast for over 180 days a year. This fog provides life sustaining support to the desert life. The result of this fog is over 1000 ship wrecks litter the coast. Portuguese sailors referred to this area as the “Gates of Hell”. The Eduard Bohlen looked eerie, mostly covered in the desert sands and over 1000 feet from the ocean.
We traced the Atlantic Ocean, as I watched the waves crash against the desert.
Namibia also has a tradition of salt mining. We passed over a pastel-colored salt works as we traced the coast.
And finally, our flight came to an end as we touched back down Swakopmund. I had spent over two hours touring this immense and beautiful area.
Scenic Flight Namib Desert