Amazing Pictures Show Life Inside One Of Earth's Oldest Deserts

Explore the creative sanctuary and unrivalled mystery of the Namibian Desert.

For photographer Thomas Peschak, whose job it is to capture images of the unique and the unexplored, the concept of adventure can almost become routine. Yet Namibia is a destination that he considers unrivalled in its mystery. He calls it “Planet Namibia” and says is the closest he might get to space travel.

Peschak is no stranger to this harsh climate. The vast desert landscape is his self-described “creative sanctuary,” and he’s travelled there 16 times in the last 20 years. “It is a place I hold dear to me."

With eyes the size of pinheads, the side-winding adder is impossible to spot to the untrained eye. Shy, but extremely venomous, it masters the art of camouflage.
PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS PESCHAK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

The dunes are flanked by a green hue indicating ephemeral grass growth after rain: a truly special event in these parts.
PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS PESCHAK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

A white lady spider appears to “dance” on the sand as a way to defend itself from predators or fellow competitors hunting prey. Male white lady spiders will often traverse the desert at night.
PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS PESCHAK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Something as subtle as a sand storm is a reminder that landscapes are not static. They are in a constant state of becoming.
PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS PESCHAK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

The Namib-Naukluft Park in Namibia is full of bizarre and beautiful creatures. A peculiar and charismatic character, the Namaqua chameleon, seen here sloughing its skin.
PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS PESCHAK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

The harsh Atlantic winds off the coast of Namibia reshape the landscape every minute.
PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS PESCHAK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

“Tok Tokkies”, also known as Tenebrinoid beetles are farmers of the fog. With so little moisture in the Namib, animals have mastered adaptations in order to thrive in desert conditions.
PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS PESCHAK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

The saltpans in Walvis Bay, Namibia provide approximately 90% of the salt supply to South Africa. The kinds of algae and zooplankton growing in the pans determine the variety of colours seen here.
PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS PESCHAK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

The oldest desert in the world meets up with the Atlantic Ocean at the Lange Wand, or “long wall” in Namibia. This same coastline was glued to the east coast of South America over 500 million years ago. Some of the dunes along this stretch are 150 meters (492 ft) high.
PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS PESCHAK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

A great white pelican lunges for fish scraps just off the coast of Walvis Bay, Namibia. This species often congregates around harbours and fishing boats.
PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS PESCHAK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

An African penguin takes centre stage atop a cliff on Mercury, an uninhabited island off the coast of Namibia. Mercury Island is a designated IBA (Important Bird Area).
PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS PESCHAK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

African penguins forage near their rookeries on Namibian islands such as Mercury when raising chicks.
PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS PESCHAK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

The oldest desert in the world meets up with the frigid Atlantic Ocean at Sandwich Harbour in Namibia.
PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS PESCHAK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

A Heaviside’s dolphin casually inspects the boat just off the Diamond coast in Namibia.
PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS PESCHAK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

An African penguin goes in search of fish. This species is found along the coasts of Namibia and South Africa.
PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS PESCHAK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Keeping pace with the boat, a Heaviside’s dolphin curiously bobs and weaves off the coast of Luderitz, Namibia.
PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS PESCHAK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

A black-backed jackal nonchalantly trots through a mass of sea lions on the skeleton coast in Namibia. During the pupping season, many are born, but not all survive into adulthood.
PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS PESCHAK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Cape Cross seal colony along Namibia’s skeleton coast is the largest breeding colony of Cape fur seals in the world with over 200,000 seals.
PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS PESCHAK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

A black-backed jackal yawns along Namibia’s skeleton coast near Cape Cross’ healthy population of fur seals.
PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS PESCHAK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Young meerkats are sometimes collected in the desert and then sold as pets by the roadside. Meerkats do not do well in captivity and this meerkat sanctuary is a halfway house for former pets.
PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS PESCHAK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Meerkats, a type of mongoose, has a varied diet including fruit, insects and even birds. This particular meerkat is snacking on an antlion that was drawn to the light the night before.
PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS PESCHAK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

It’s hard to believe that this furry, little rock hyrax, known as a dassie is a distant cousin to the elephant.
PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS PESCHAK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

A female Welwitschia plant sits alone in the Namib desert. Like a bizarre creature from another planet, the Welwitschia is one of the longest-living plants.
PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS PESCHAK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

The Namib Sun lichen is one of the most colourful and drought-resistant species in Namibia. Research implies that a lichen is actually a relationship between a fungus and an algae.
PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS PESCHAK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Namibia is a country characterised by it’s vast open spaces. Bigger than the state of Texas it is home to only 2.5 million people.
PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS PESCHAK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Peschak has technically lived in South Africa for over two decades, yet admits that most of his time has been spent internationally, much of it underwater. Namibia is his way to reconnect with the continent that he calls home, and a place he visits to find a playfulness in his craft, away from the regimented nature of assignment work.

Road tripping around Namibia is never much of a production for Peschak – he's just looking forward to whatever it is he will see on the way. “It’s much more off the cuff…it’s much more street photography,” he says. You just have to allow yourself to be surprised.

Peschak describes the country as a kaleidoscope of life, where its unique inhabitants have had 55 million years to adapt to the environment of the harsh, ancient Namib desert which is one of the oldest in existence.

The cold waves of the Atlantic ocean provide a vital source of life for Namibian wildlife. The coastal desert can go years without ever seeing a drop of rain. Banks of fog begin to form on the shore, and overnight they drift into the desert where they deposit water droplets on every grain of sand.

Peschak has spent weeks driving along this coast and through the deserts of Namibia, purposefully getting lost and losing himself in the process. He says in a world that continues to become more sanitised and constructive, Namibia is a wild expanse where Peschak says you can explore and feel like you’re the only person on the planet. “That doesn’t happen very often anymore."

Header Image: Measuring only 20-25 cm (8-10 in), the side-winding adder or Peringuey's adder prepares to side-wind up a dune in Namibia’s Namib-Naukluft Park. PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS PESCHAK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

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