The oldest desert in the world is in Angola. Along the southern coast, the Namib Desert, the oldest in the world, has one of the greatest tourist potential in the country, the fauna and flora of its surroundings or the centuries-old traditions of the people who still depend on it. However, there is still a lot of work to do.
Every year it takes “a few hundred” tourists, students or researchers to know the area. Many more could be, if it were possible even from the legal point of view of the activity, as it is on the other side of the border, where there are thousands of tourists in the same desert.
The Namib Desert is divided into a zone of dunes and mobile sands, with around 200,000 hectares, without water and any kind of conditions for cattle or agriculture. It is also here that cemeteries are easily found among the dunes or buildings of colonial times, abandoned and covered by sand.
In the surrounding area, which occupies one-third of the entire province of Namibe, despite the dryness and aridity some agriculture and pastoralism are possible, activities carried out by the local ancestral tribes. In the middle are the national park – which is being rehabilitated with accommodation, roads, water supply and other basic support structures under international programs – unique species and the dream of empowering the desert for tourism.
It only has conditions for tourism [dune zone] when possible. Because these dunes are inside the Iona National Park and according to the regulations it is not possible to develop private activities.
The official argues that guided tours of the desert center can be one of Angola’s major tourism posters and above all self-sustaining. But for this, it is necessary to review the legislation in order to open some areas, to reserve an area to develop tourist activities, and with these revenues help preserve the park.
This is a very special place and very different from everything in Angola. There is a very specific fauna in the desert and there are also animals that are only found here, like the meerkat, the desert zebra or the oryx.
The culture of the Namibian desert tribes, with habits and ways of living or dress still practically ancestral, and totally dependent on pastoralism, is another reason that explains the tourist potential. The most representative tribe of the Namibe are the Mucubai, who have very curious habits. They are pastoralists, but now they are already embracing agriculture, because they were four years of drought. Agriculture is fixing them and they are no longer so dependent on nomadism.