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Namibia Physical Features


The Namib desert dominates the west of the country, the Kalahari basin the east with highland plateau in between. The three run side by side for almost the entire length of the country. Plains occupy about 60% of Namibia, mountains 19% and dunes cover 14% of the land area.

The Namib is a coastal desert consisting of sand, seas, gravel plains and bare rock. Between the coastal towns of Walvis Bay and Luderitz, the Great Sand Sea is nearly the size of Israel, Kuwait and Lebanon combined. It is filled with dunes and virtually impenetrable, except along its fringes.

Although the highest mountain in Namibia, the Brandberg, is located in the inner Namib, mountains and hills are mostly found in the highlands, the only part of the country that is predominantly rock. Mountain chains in the southern half of Namibia form the Great Escarpment and these rise like a wall from the desert floor to the interior plateau.

The Kalahari is, for the most part, flat and sandy with fossil rivers and salt or clay pans that are usually dry. The largest pan in the country, Etosha, is classified as a saline desert.

In contrast, the north-eastern regions of the Namibian Kalahari contain 3 out of only 5 rivers in the entire country that flow all year. The Zambezi, Okavango and Kwando, together with their branches the Linyanti and Chobe, represent the largest concentration of freshwater wetlands in Namibia.

They all form international borders, as do the Kunene and Orange, the other two perennial rivers. None of them originates inside Namibia. All rivers within the country are ephemeral and that includes the longest, the 600 kilometre Fish river. Rivers flow only after strong rains in their catchment areas, not necessarily along their entire length and not for long. Normally they are dry.

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