by Peter Bridgeford
About 10 to 20 million years ago, the sands of the initial Namib Desert accumulated in deposits, in places over 200 metres thick. These sands have consolidated to form sandstone and underlie the mobile dunes of the present Namib. Known as Tsondab sandstone, these Tertiary-age deposits are exposed in various places from the Kuiseb to the Orange rivers, such as in the Namib-Naukluft Park at Tsondabvlei, near Sesriem on the way to Sossusvlei, and north of Elim Dune.
The farms Dieprivier and Escourt, north of Sesriem, are known for their high cliffs of Tsondab sandstone. Erosion over the aeons has formed spectacular canyons and precipitous cliffs in this reddish-brown sandstone. Near Solitaire, on the Tsondab Valley Scenic Reserve, these deposits are especially attractive and easily accessed.
Tsondab Valley Scenic Reserve, situated in the vicinity of the Naukluft Mountains, Sesriem and Sossusvlei, is eight kilometres north of the bustling metropolis of Solitaire. While many campsites are used to overnight while travelling from one scenic destination to another, Tsondab Valley is a destination in its own right. Stay two or three nights to savour the essence of the Namib. Taste, hear, touch and smell the desert. The three campsites are built on the edge of a plateau of rocky conglomerate, affording a spectacular view across the grass-covered valley to the dunes.
As there have been no cattle or sheep on the property for over 15 years, the vegetation has recovered and the veld is in a good condition. Camel-thorn trees line a shallow watercourse and beyond, on the dunes, is a scattering of more trees. The darker coloured underlying Tsondab sandstone is exposed and the canyons formed by erosion beckon invitingly. The Red Canyon, in places over 40 metres deep, is about two kilometres long. The many hollows in the walls of the canyons are ideal nesting sites for spotted eagle-owls, mountain wheatears, familiar chats and speckled pigeons.
Caves formed on the edge of the conglomerate layer of rocks have been used to accommodate the ablution facilities. While enjoying a hot shower in your cave, you have a panoramic view across the valley to the dunes. During the hot summer months, campers can also use the swimming pool close to the luxury bungalows. After a lazy day at the pool, you can be really decadent and have your dinner in the dining room if arranged with the owners beforehand. Sunrise and sunset drives take you onto the grass-covered dunes dotted with camel-thorn trees. Keep a lookout for the large nests of lappet-faced vultures on the tops of the trees.
Tsondab Valley Scenic Reserve is on the C14 from Walvis Bay to Solitaire, close to the latter. The eye-catching entrance gate is at the junction of the C14 and the D1275 from Spreetshoogte. For a reservation phone Hans or Kristin Schreiber at ++264 (0)61 68 1030 or ++264 (0)81 128 3266, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is another delightful campsite on Solitaire Guest Farm, six kilometres north of Solitaire, to the east of the main road, the C14. This is not to be confused with the campsite next to the shop and petrol station.
Solitaire Guest Farm and Campsite is built at the base of the mountains, with a view of the distant Naukluft Mountains across the grassy plains. The two sites each have their own ablution facilities and thatch-roofed shelter to provide shade against the hot desert sun. The smaller campsite is ideal for people who want to be far from the ‘madding crowd’. Campers can use the swimming pool and have meals in the dining room. Sunset drives across the farm are offered and at times large herds of gemsbok, springbok and even mountain zebra are encountered. You can visit Sesriem and Sossusvlei or the hiking trails of the Namib-Naukluft Park, using this campsite as a base.
Reservations can be made directly with the young owners, Walter and Simone Swarts, at Tel ++264 (0)62 68 2033 or e-mail: email@example.com.
This article was made possible by Cymot Namibia
This article appeared in the June/July ‘10 edition of Travel News Namibia.