From giant rock arches, meteor craters, and fossil and archaeological sites to Africa’s most important shipwreck discovery and some of the most pristine and wild landscapes on the planet, the newly proclaimed Sperrgebiet National Park (SNP) is a jewel in Namibia’s protected area network. Closed to the public following the discovery of a diamond at Kolmanskop near Lüderitz by the railway worker, Zacharias Lewala, in 1908, large parts of the Sperrgebiet were left undisturbed for nearly a century. Although this was done to protect the mineral wealth of the area, it also contributed to safeguarding the Succulent Karoo ecosystem, which has the highest diversity of succulent flora globally.

Some 1,050 plant species are known to occur in the SNP, nearly 25 percent of the entire flora of Namibia on less than three percent of the land area of the country.  This led to the listing of the Succulent Karoo as one of the world’s top 34 biodiversity hotspots.

The Sperrgebiet is one of a ‘new era’ of protected areas, proclaimed to protect biodiversity while contributing to the local and national economy through tourism development and concessions.

Proclaimed Sperrgebiet National Park in 2008, this 22 000 km² park has natural features mainly Sandy shores along the coast in the south and rocky headlands and inlets in the north. At least 17 ‘islands’ occur off the coast adjoining the SNP. Sandy and gravel inland plains, sand dunes, mountain ranges, inselbergs, and the Orange River valley.

Dominant Vegetation in the area includes Succulent Karoo, Namib Desert, and Savannah biomes and the Vegetation types are Succulent Steppe, Southern Desert, and Riverine Woodland. Quiver tree (Aloe dichotoma), many-stemmed quiver tree (Aloe ramosissima), vygies (Mesembryanthemum sp), Hoodia, and Euphorbia spp. Sweet-thorn (Acacia karoo), and camel-thorn (Acacia erioloba) along riverbeds.

The Wildlife in the area includes Brown hyena, gemsbok, springbok, South African fur seal, grey rhebok, Heaviside’s dolphin, and southern right whale. Almost 60 wetland birds along the Orange River and 120 terrestrial bird species were recorded. African Penguin, Cape Gannet, Bank Cormorant, Purple Heron, Lappet-faced Vulture, Karoo Korhaan, Ludwig’s Bustard, Cape Francolin. Almost 100 reptile species; 16 frog species and a great number of insects and other invertebrates, probably 90 percent or more of the invertebrates found in the park have not been described by science.

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