Previously known as South West Africa, Namibia used to be a German settlement. Since World War I it came under the administration of South Africa, but the German heritage is still very evident in the architecture traditions and dress of the Herrero tribe’s womenfolk. This tribe still copy the dress of the 19th century German missionaries’ wives.
Namibia is a land of rich natural resources and overflows with diamonds, uranium, copper, silver, tin and other minerals.
Etosha National Park is a 22 000-square kilometre area of wilderness set around a salt pan. It is one of Africa’s best safari destinations, especially in the dry winter months of May to October when the animals congregate around the waterholes. Simply wait for herds of zebra, springbok and elephants to arrive along with lion and the occasional rhino. The three camps inside the park have their own waterholes too. If you’re camping at one of them you don’t even need to go for game drives, just sit and watch the wildlife on your doorstep!
The landscapes of Namib Desert
The Namib Desert stretches across much of Namibia and provides some of the country’s most spectacular scenery. This desert is renowned for its giant red sanded dunes. Known to be some of the highest dunes in Africa, making it both the oldest and most beautiful desert in the world. You can climb the dunes at Sossusvlei and ride down on sand boards at Swakopmund.
The best way to take in the epic scenery of the Namib is by doing a hot air balloon ride at dawn, which allows you to watch the sunrise above a desert wonderland. Take in the scenery of Oceanic vistas of undulating terracotta sand dunes, set against rugged mountains. The Namib is also home to desert animals such as oryx and springbok
Layers of history at Kolmanskop
Located in the southwest corner of Namibia, Kolmanskop was once a prosperous diamond mining town. However it was abandoned a few decades ago and was thereafter reclaimed by the desert. Half of the ghost town is submerged in sand, while the other half crumbles away year by year. Walking around the ruins is one of Namibia’s most eerie and photogenic experiences.
The otherworldly beauty of Deadvlei
In the Namib-Naukluft National Park, Deadvlei is one of Namibia’s most visited places. Deadvlei was once covered in water and trees but when the water dried up, the trees died too leaving blackened skeletons among the cracked puzzle pieces of the dry pan. Surrounded by huge dunes, Deadvlei looks impossibly cinematic.
Hiking the Fish River Canyon
In southern Namibia lies the Fish River Canyon. Africa’s largest canyon at 500 meters deep and 27 kilometers wide. The best way to experience the canyon is to do the challenging Fish River Canyon hike, a seven-day and 90-kilometer long trek that covers half the length of the canyon. Taking in some spectacular landscapes and unbeatable camping spots under the stars.
The desert-adapted animals of Damaraland
Namibia is famous for its desert-adapted elephants and rhino, which can be found in the north west of the country. Damaraland is where they roam freely in this unofficially designated wilderness area of rugged mountains and cliffs rising up from the desert. Desert elephants cover a vast territory in search of water, so tracking them down is part of the experience and the thrill of finding them on game drives beats easy sightings of elephants on your usual safari. Desert rhinos also have vast ranges and aren’t easy to find. Luckily you can track them on foot with a guide from the ‘Save the Rhino organisation’ which has been working to protect these animals for the last 30 years.
4x4ing the Skeleton Coast
Much of the the Skeleton Coast, a 500-kilometre stretch of dune-swept coastline in northern Namibia, is largely uninhabited and inaccessible. Part of the southern section is open, but only to 4x4s. Going on a 4×4 adventure in this desolate but beautiful part of Namibia rewards you with epic dune drives, eerie shipwrecks and ancient river canyons. Colonies of Cape fur seal and sightings of dolphins and whales in the Atlantic Ocean add to the appeal.
Water-based safari in the Zambezi Region
A narrow strip of land wedged between Angola and Botswana, the Zambezi Region offers a totally different safari experience to the rest of Namibia. This region was formerly known as the Caprivi Strip. It’s rivers and lush vegetation support animals such as hippos, crocodiles and buffaloes. For a unique safari experience you can spot these animals among others such as lion, elephant and kudu from small river boats. Alternatively gliding on a mokoro or traditional dug out canoe is just as peaceful and beautiful.
Road tripping through vast uninhabited landscapes
Namibia is one of the best countries in Africa for road tripping, see mind-blowing desert and mountain scenery. The areas has amazing campsites in remote locations and countless diverse attractions to see along the way. Although many roads are gravel, they are in excellent condition and ensure an enjoyable adventure.
Apart from game viewing and hiking, Namibia has a whole host of exciting outdoors activities to get your adrenaline pumping. You could go sandboarding down the world’s tallest dunes or see the vast desert landscapes from the air on a skydive or para-glide in Swakopmund. Or rather go rock climbing on the Spitzkoppe and Brandberg Massif mountains or even cave diving in the Dragon’s Breath Cave. Try kite surfing with southwesterly winds at Walvis Bay or raft the rapids of the Kunene River in the north. Must Read our Thrilling Activities to do in Namibia.
Wildlife Highlights on a Namibia Safari
Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park is the country’s flagship park and offers terrific game viewing opportunities. The landscape of bush and grasslands provide a home for 114 mammal species and 340 bird species. The dry winter months are ideal when animals congregate around waterholes, making them incredibly easy to spot. Four of the Big Five (elephant, rhino, leopard and lion) are in the park. If you are lucky you may catch sight of a cheetah. In addition expect to see giraffe and herds of zebra, blue wildebeest and springbok. Black-faced impala and the damara dik-dik are special antelopes of Etosha.
Namibia is largely a desert country, so many of its animals adapted to survive the harsh dry climate. These include oryx, springbok, meerkat, ostrich and bat-eared fox as well as the desert-adapted elephants and rhino.
A strong contrast to the white terrain is when the flamingos flock to the salt pan’s edge creating a pink hue. It is also known as ‘place of dry water’ because the pan is usually very dry, occasionally filling with water for brief periods in the summer. During this time it attracts pelicans and flamingos.
The Namib-Naukluft National Park
The National Park is bordered by the Namib Desert in the west and the Kalahari Desert in the east. This expansive wilderness is bigger than Germany, reaching the size of around 49,768 square kilometers. Thereby making it the biggest game park in all of Africa and the fourth biggest in the world.
It includes Sossusvlei, Sesriem, the Welwitschia Trail, Sandwich Harbour, the Naukluft Mountains and the Kuiseb Canyon. The Naukluft Mountains are located in the northeast of Sesriem, where the primary slope juts out into the desert. These mountains were guarded within the Park in 1968 in order to protect a rare breeding concentration of Hartmann’s mountain zebra. Briefly following this, land was purchased to the west of the mountains and was joined to the reserve. Thereby creating a corridor that links the mountains to the Park. This permitted oryx, zebra and other wildlife to migrate between the two regions and in 1979 the reserves were eventually combined to form the Namib-Naukluft National Park.
An astonishing assortment of animals inhabit this arid area. Here you will see hyena, gemsbok, jackal, snakes, geckos and intriguing insects such as the Namib desert beetle. The beetle is unique as it collects water on its back. Along with plenty of kudu, klipspringer, duiker, steenbok, leopard, baboon, black-backed jackal, bat-eared fox, African wild cat, caracal and aardwolf. Naukluft’s steep escarpments are the nesting lands for numerous cliff-breeding bird species, including majestic Black eagles.
The rain falls between the months of February and April in this region. A wind that brings the fog and rain is also responsible for forming the Park’s massive sand dunes. Sossusvlei’s dunes are among the highest in the world, rising to heights of over 400 meters high.
Located in the northwest of the country and is home to free-roaming desert elephant and desert rhino. Desert elephants which are found only in northern Namibia and Mali. They are not a distinct species, but rather African elephants that have adapted to surviving in desert conditions. Similarly desert rhinos are adapted from black rhinos. One exceptional wildlife highlight of Namibia is being able to track these desert rhinos on foot with a guide.
Skeleton Coast National Park
The Skeleton Coast National Park stretches along Namibia’s largely uninhabited desolate coastline. Here you’ll find large colonies of Cape fur seals which are preyed on by brown hyenas. On a boat trip from Walvis Bay you may be able to see Namibia’s marine mammals including whales and dolphins.
Formerly known as the Caprivi Strip, the far north eastern part of Namibia offers a different wildlife experience to the rest of Namibia due to its rivers and water sources. This is where you can see hippo and crocodile and it’s one of few places in the country where buffalo occur.
There’s a herd of between 90 and 150 wild horses in the southwest of Namibia near Aus. No one knows the exact origin of the horses, but it’s thought that they were part of German breeding programs and released from farms during World War I. While not your usual safari animal, the herd is famous enough to become a tourist attraction. Usually spotted from the road between Aus and Lüderitz.
The Fish River Canyon
The mighty Fish River Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world, leaving you breathless as you take in all its glory. Several mammals, reptiles, insects and fish live in the natural pools of this unusual habitat.
Destinations within Namibia
The Namib Desert
Stretching for more than 2000 kilometres along the Atlantic Coastline from South Africa to Angola.
Sossusvlei is a salt and clay pan amid towering red dunes in the southern part of the Namib desert, which is part of the Namib-Naukluft National Park. Rust-red dunes mark this territory by rising 300 metres above the valley floor, a spectacular sight to see.
The capital and largest city of the Republic of Namibia, Windhoek is the social and economic hub of the country. It is a vibrant city with much to see and do. Many African safaris begin here, so make sure to spend some time exploring the city before you head off into the desert.
Most Budget Namibia tours visit Swakopmund, a quaint Bavarian town offering a variety of adventure activities. Situated on the Atlantic coastline it is a popular holiday destination offering wonderful beaches and superb seafood.
There are plenty of action-packed activities for adrenalin junkies such as skydiving, hot-air ballooning, paragliding over the dunes, quad biking and sandboarding. However, there are also leisurely safari drives and quaint fishing spots. The town also has an interesting museum to visit along with the national Aquarium as well as shops and restaurants. Alternatively take a boat cruise and visit the dolphins and seal colonies offshore.
The Spitzkoppe is very popular with rock climbers all over the world due to their granite peaks, with the highest outcrop being 1784 meters above the desert floor. The peaks are for seasoned rock climbers, but despite this there are many conquests of these rocky outcrops.
On the Skeleton Coast you can visit the many shipwrecks that scatter the shores and have given this eerie place its nickname of ‘the land God made in anger’. When sailors were washed ashore here, they had no chance of survival. To add to this, there’s a misty fog that hangs in the air for most of the year. You can see clay castles, experience the salt pans or hike the dunes. Even view the rock engravings and go on desert walks and drives or take a flight over the coast.
The Caprivi is a narrow strip of land north-east of Namibia and has considerably more rain than the rest of Namibia, hence the Okavango and the Kwando rivers. This changes the landscape and vegetation slightly resulting in extensive floodplains, floating papyrus swamps and lush riverine forest.
Damaraland has a dramatic landscape of red-hued mountains, enormous granite koppies (hills) and wide, open, sandy plains. It lies south of Etosha National Park and north of Swakopmund. Some of the highlights are the bushman paintings in Twyfelfontein, and learning more about the way they used to live off of the land.
When is the Best Time for Namibia Safari Tours?
The most popular time to visit is Mid December to Mid January,late April to early June or late Aug to Mid-Sept. The resort areas are at their busiest during these times. In May to Oct it is the dry winter season with warm sunny days while nights are cold often falling below freezing temperatures.
From Dec to March the Namib-Naukluft Park and Etosha National Park are extremely hot. Because of this, the Fish River Canyon is closed to the public between December and April. Flooding also occurs at this time, making the roads impassable.
How to get to Namibia (Airports)
Hosea Kutako International Airport is located 45 minutes east of Windhoek and is the main entry point for air traffic. There are a number of international flights into Namibia from from Frankfurt, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Victoria Falls and Maun to the international airport. The airport is serviced by British Airways, South African Airways and Lufthansa who all operate flights to Namibia.
Other domestic airports included: Eros, Keetmanshoop, Oranjemund, Ondangwa, Oshakati, Grootfontein, Mpacha, Runud, Walvis Bay and Luderitz Airports. Eros Airport is located just outside of Windhoek and has daily flights to Sossusvlei, Swakopmund and Etosha.
Facts on Namibia
Full name: Republic of Namibia
Capital city: Windhoek
Area: 825,418 sq km; 318,694 sq miles
Time Zone: GMT/UTC +1 ()
Daylight Saving Start: 1st Sunday in September
Daylight Saving End: 1st Sunday in April
Languages: English (official); Afrikaans (official); Herero (other); German (other); OshiKwanyama (other); Nama (other)
Religion: Christian (80-90%); Native religions (10-20%)