When I was younger and we lived in Zimbabwe, we took a road trip that to Namibia that I have never forgotten and will probably never forget, even though I probably couldn’t have been older than six at the time… I remember the country was beautiful.
Even at such a young age I was filled with awe at the huge dunes, and beautiful scenic atmosphere around us. This was a country that held secrets and mysteries that could not be comprehended fully at so tender an age. It could only be described as indescribable.
Now in case you didn’t know, Namibia, a country in southwest Africa, is distinguished by the Namib Desert along the Atlantic Ocean coast. The country is home to diverse wildlife, including a significant cheetah population. The capital, Windhoek, and coastal town Swakopmund contain German colonial-era buildings such as Windhoek’s Christuskirche, built in 1907.
Etosha National Park
One of the most incredible things you will see is located in the north. There Etosha National Park, one of Africa’s largest game reserves, and claimed as Namibia’s first conservation centre is located. Etosha is home to Africa’s tallest elephants, the endangered black rhino, and 91 other species of mammal. During the dry season, tens of thousands of animals converge to drink at the waterholes – elephant, giraffe, rhino and lion, possibly leopard, cheetah and much more. Luckily, the park was designed to make viewing such game easy. Good roads, signposts and plenty of lookouts make Etosha perfect for self-drive tours, and the three rest camps of Okaukuejo, Halali and Namutoni offer many choices when it comes to lodging. You’ll also find restaurants, stores and other services in the vicinity. This God-given land is a breath-taking must see attraction.
Sossusvlei means ‘the gathering place of water” though seldom will you find water here. Instead you’ll find the highest sand dunes in the world and perhaps Namibia’s most outstanding scenic attraction. This dune landscape can be described as one of the most beautiful and breath-taking in the world. Painted in colours of gold, red, brown and white its beauty is an allure to every visitor leaving footprints in its sands. Some of the highest dunes in the world envelop the pan as well as the mysteriously stunning Deadvlei. As one of the most photographed areas in the world the Sossusvlei will claim a spot in your soul.
The Skeleton Coast derives its macabre name from the skeletons of thousands of ships, whale bones and seal bones that litter the desert along this treacherous coastline. The haunting beauty of the northern shoreline of Namibia is not to be missed. Although seemingly endless and hostile, the park hosts incredibly adapted fauna and flora who flourish here. With inland fresh water springs and a rich geology, the Skeleton Coast hides an unbelievable collection of natural wealth. A more popular activity here apart from enjoying the eye-popping scenery, is shore based sea fishing.
Swakopmund is Namibia’s playground, a holiday destination for tourists and locals alike looking to escape the heat of the interior and to have a little adventure. The city itself resembles a small German town and manages to create a feeling of timelessness with its palm-lined streets, seaside promenades, restaurants, cafes, art galleries and museums. And while there’s plenty to do within city limits, the real action happens in the desert surrounding Swakopmund.
Half way between Namibia’s top two attractions, Swakopmund is the natural base from which to explore the Skeleton Coast mentioned above. Quad-biking, sand-boarding, sand-skiing, parasailing and dozens of other guided adrenaline inducing activities are available by reservation from many of the adventure companies operating in the area. At Walvis Bay, visitors can join a dolphin cruise or explore the lagoon on a kayak tour. Even with all this excitement Swakopmund serves as a good break during a busy vacation. Relax and have fun in a place well suited for both.
Fish River Canyon
The Fish River Canyon is the second largest natural gorge in the world and the largest in Africa. Set in a harsh, stony plain dotted with drought resistant succulents, such as the distinctive quiver tree or kokerboom, the canyon is a spectacular natural phenomenon. Whichever way you measure it, the Fish River Canyon is enormous. Poised on the edge your view is of a vast flat land incised by rivers flowing for millennia. Beyond being a great place to take amazing photographs, the Fish River Canyon has become a popular hiking destination. The most popular trail, the aptly named Fish River Hiking Trail, is a 4-day, 86 km expedition open from May to September requiring a doctor’s approval to participate. There are no hotels or places to get food or water along the way, so it is definitely not for the faint at heart. Accommodation is in tents or in the open air. The hike offers spectacular views and common sightings of baboons, klipspringers and hyraxes. At the end of the hike, the fabulous Ai- Ai-Ais hot springs resort awaits to ease your throbbing feet.
The Caprivi Strip
The wet and lushly green Caprivi Strip is in stark contrast to the rest of Namibia. With curving river systems, wetlands and an abundance of wildlife and bird species, the Caprivi also features cultural richness. It protrudes from the rest of the country like a finger, owns a very unique history and shares borders with 4 other countries – Angola, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. This area is filled with wildlife and ideal for a water based safari since several major rivers flow in this region, this area is home to the Zambezi, Okavango, Chobe and Linyanti rivers. It’s also a big birding destination, with over four hundred species flying around. On massive perennial rivers and dense floodplains, the safari lodges in the Caprivi offer an experience of the African bush you’ve probably pictured in your mind since watching The Lion King. You won’t be disappointed. The scenery, wildlife, birdlife, tranquillity and luxury of the safari lodges are every bit as amazing as the more expensive destinations further south.
Home to the hilarious movie, “God’s Must Be Crazy”, this dessert is a created masterpiece. Red sand dunes, swaying bleached-blonde grass and endless blue skies: the Kalahari is for escapists. The world’s largest continuous stretch of sand, the Kalahari Desert isn’t even technically desert at all. Thanks to a modest measure of rainfall the landscape is well vegetated with a variety of trees, shrubs, camelthorn, red ebony and other acacias. In springtime the plains are covered in blankets of flowers and grass while the summer rains bring a fair share of greenery. This physical beauty only enhances the real, true allure of the Kalahari – the liberating silence and solitude found in so much open space. Visitors describe their visit as an almost spiritual experience and emotionally enriching.
If you get a tour guide you might even have the opportunity to visit with the San Bushmen. Tour operators will respectfully make such introductions with the tribe where you can learn about their traditions, origins and knowledge of living in the bushveld. In some cases you can still listen to their unique use of their gorgeous ‘click’ language.
Lüderitz is located along the coast in southern Namibia and is probably the most unique town in Namibia. Lüderitz is a colourful fishing harbour town with many interesting early 20th century German Art Nouveau buildings. The nearby world renowned Kolmanskop Ghost Diamond Town allows you the opportunity to see and experience what life was once like in this harsh desert landscape. Lüderitz is also famous for its delicious fresh seafood; lobster, oyster and the much sought after abalone (Cape Perlemoen).
From the colourful fishing harbour and its small waterfront complex, there are daily marine cruises to see Dias Cross, outlying islands with Namibia’s largest colony of African Penguins (Halifax Island), Heaviside Dolphins, Cape Fur Seals (Seal Island) and sometimes whales. Desert adventure activities are available including; 4×4 Guided and 4×4 self-drive tours into the vast Namib Naukluft Park to the north and the Tsau //Khaeb (Sperrgebiet National Park) to the south. The Tsau / Khaeb covers a large area of 26000km2 and contains over 2300 endemic succulents – the world’s top region for succulents found nowhere else.
The landscape is Namibia’s defining natural asset. People use all sorts of words to describe it: vast, endless, magnificent, and unimaginable, among others. Good words as far as words go, but they don’t really do Namibia’s top attractions justice. There simply is no frame of reference, nothing that comes close to seeing the sunset at Sossusvlei, spending the day playing at Swakopmund or visiting the Himba in Damaraland. You have to experience it yourself. If you want to read more on experiences you can explore check out these articles by My Destination, Victoriafalls24.com, Go Africa, and Namibia Tours and Safaris.
Kenyans get a 90 day free pass into Namibia without a visa.
There are few direct flights to Namibia and most people have a stop-over in OR Tambo International Airport (JNB) Johannesburg, South Africa. Some of the main airlines flying to Johannesburg have add-on connections. This often includes an overnight in Johannesburg. Namibia’s main airport is Hosea Kutako International Airport (WDH) located 40km/25mi east of Windhoek, the capital. Onwards travel is either by small aircraft or car. Because of excellent roads and safety in Namibia, many people choose the self-drive option.