Photo Credits: Namibia Tourism Board
Situated on Africa’s remote southwest coast, largely cut off from the rest of the continent by deserts and the sea, Namibia may not be as well-known as its neighbours like South Africa and Botswana, but its got epic sand dunes, historic German towns, expansive hinterlands, pristine coastline and even safari.
A vast country, Namibia’s arid deserts (the Namib and Kalahari) are fringed by the dry Central Plateau, rugged scrublands and even tropical forests.
National Parks abound in the country, showcasing each of its distinctive landscapes – the most popular of which are Etosha National Park (a safari destination covering a multitude of environs) and Namib-Naukluft National Park (famed for its petrified desertscape).
Even with its very low population density, one of Namibia’s most fascinating aspects is its mix of tribes, including the San bushmen and the Himba (an ancient group of semi-nomads), the women of which use otjize (a mixture of ochre and butter fat) in their uniquely-braided hairs and on their bodies.
This is complemented by the country’s rich, if recent, history of German colonialism reflected in its architecture, towns and even food, with German names appearing on menus and streets. Namibia’s colonial-era relics range from Art Nouveau and German Imperial architecture and castles in towns like Lüderitz and Windhoek, to the ghostly relics of Kolmanskop, a once booming but now abandoned mining town is that being swallowed by the Namib Desert.
Getting There & Around
Namibia is one of Africa’s most stable, safe and easily-travelled destinations. While many sensitive ecological areas – like Skeleton Coast and various national parks – have highly controlled entry requirements, it’s possible to arrive in Windhoek, rent a 4WD and largely self-explore vast tracts of the country.
What to Eat or Drink
Namibian cuisine is a mix of indigenous African and imported German recipes, covering everything from stews and porridge to cured game meat like biltong (dried jerky) and boerewors (local sausage). Famous local lagers include Hansa and Windhoek.
Where to Stay
Some of Namibia’s best experiences include camping on 4WD safaris, or uniquely situated bush lodges, such as Duwisib Guest Farm, which sits next to remote Duwisib Castle. You can also stay at a historic castle like Hotel Heinitzburg.
Many of Namibia’s various tribal groups put a lot of effort into their hair and clothing, including impressive hats and jewelry. And many do expect to be paid for taking their picture.
At one time, diamonds were so plentiful along Namibia’s coast, that early miners didn’t dig them up, but simply collected them by hand off the ground. The government then moved in, and declared the Sperrgebiet area a prohibited zone, which kept out settlers and has preserved local wildlife in pristine condition to this day.
The vast Namib-Naukluft National Park is home to numerous huge saltpans (or ‘vlei’ meaning ‘desert lakes’) and towering sand dunes (some over 300m tall), forming a rugged, arid landscape.
The largest of which is the forbidding Sossusvlei, and the most photographed being Deadvlei, with its ancient, petrified trees and ever-shifting sand dunes.
Stretching hundreds of kilometres along Namibia’s desolate Atlantic shoreline, the stunning but desolate Skeleton Coast was not a place early seafarers would have chosen to visit. Here, the entire coast is cloaked in thick fog, which together with huge pounding surf, has led to hundreds of shipwrecks over the centuries – hence the ‘Skeletons’.
Now, the area makes a haunting, and uninhabited destination, with experienced 4WD operators running overland tours and fly-in safaris into one of Africa’s most remote corners, taking in historic wrecks and the unique local wildlife.
Etosha National Park
Located in the inland plateau, Etosha National Park is Namibia’s most famous safari destination, covering a diverse area of bush, desert, woodlands and the Etosha Pan, a vast salt flat that’s home to elephants, flamingos, big cats, ostrich and rare black rhinos.