5 great reasons to visit Namibia

Until very recently, Namibia was a fairly unknown entity to most of the rest of the world. With a total population of just over two million dispersed across a country four times the size of Britain and largely consisting of arid desert and Africa’s most inhospitable coastline, it is perhaps not hard to see why this might have been the case. But in an ever more urbanized world, Namibia’s wildness has increasingly become its trump card and helped cement the country’s place near the summit of every credible list of top places to visit in 2014.

You would struggle to find more striking natural landscapes or bigger, clearer skies anywhere in Africa, while the country’s abundant wildlife, sterling conservation efforts and fascinating cultural heritage all continue to defy both the difficult climate and the challenges posed by the modern world. Combined with good roads and infrastructure almost throughout and a wide array of exclusive lodges and camps, Namibia is a dream destination for an unforgettable luxury self-drive escape. Here are five highlights to fire the thirst for adventure.

1. Sossusvlei

The majestic dunes around the Sossusvlei salt and clay pan in the Namib-Naukluft National Park are among the most photographed sights in all of Africa, if not the world. The rich, burnt orange hue and beautiful and ever-changing natural curvature of the dunes is particularly striking when seen in contrast to the harsh grey-white of the pans below, and the blackened and brittle dead acacia trees that are dotted across the former oasis of Deadvlei. At sunrise and sunset, the softer light and faster movement of the sun causes the dunes’ colours to constantly change. This incredible and other-worldly place is an absolute must for all visitors to Namibia.

Sossusvlei

2. Etosha

When an American trader by the name of Mckiernan passed through the vast area that now comprises Etosha National Park in 1876, he remarked that “all the menageries of the world turned loose” could not compare to the sheer abundance of wildlife that he saw around him. And for all the threats posed by hunting, droughts and border wars during the 138 years since Mckiernan’s time, his statement remains true today. Home to almost all of Africa’s favourite fauna, Etosha is also one of the best places on the continent to view the endangered and notoriously elusive black rhino. Stunning vistas across the shimmering green and white expanse of the Etosha Pan’s moon-like surface and floodlit watering holes for night-time wildlife spotting make this a truly unique safari destination. For unrivalled exclusivity within the park, choose the luxurious Dolomite Camp in the quieter and greener western section.

Etosha

3. Kolmanskop

On the fringes of the aptly-named Skeleton Coast, you will come across the eerie ghost town of Kolmanskop, once a booming mining town in the early decades of the twentieth century after large numbers of diamonds were found in the area. When the diamonds began to dry up and larger deposits were found elsewhere after the Second World War, the inhabitants of Kolmanskop vanished as quickly as they had arrived and the town was gradually reclaimed by the desert. Many of the buildings, which include a bowling alley and casino, are now half-swallowed by the sand, but you can still see the remnants of the furniture and belongings that the settlers left behind.

Kolmanskop

4. Swakopmund

The coastal town of Swakopmund is Namibia’s top beach resort. The waterfront promenades are lined with palms, there is a wide range of good accommodation within stumbling distance of the beach, the nightlife is buzzing and there are a plethora of art galleries and quality restaurants. But perhaps above all, Swakopmund has become a Mecca for adrenaline junkies. The area surrounding the town known as the West Coast Recreational Area offers a range of outdoor activities including sandboarding, quad biking, dune carting, parachuting, skydiving and hot air ballooning to name but a few. There can be few better places in the world to fling yourself out of a plane, with the desert stretching to the horizon on one side and nothing but the Atlantic Ocean on the other.

Swakopmund

5. Kaokoland

Even by Namibian standards, this is a particularly wild and unpopulated region of the country, with a population density of only one person to every two kilometres. The rugged and unspoilt mountains and valleys so characteristic of Kaokoland are not only home to the rare desert dwelling elephant as well as a large percentage of Namibia’s black rhino and giraffe population, but are also the heartland of the semi-nomadic Himba tribe, who are feted for their elaborate copper jewelry, their statuesque beauty and the custom of the women to plait their hair and cover their bodies with deep red ochre until their skin has a naturally reddish hue. Many of this region’s secluded lodges and camps will offer visits to nearby Himba settlements, a truly rare treat.

Kaokoland

Images #4 and #5: Shutterstock

Comments (4)

  1. Hi Christopher,

    I recall watching many nature shows as a child featuring the life and death struggles of the animals in Etosha National Park. I can hear the narrator’s voice in my head as I see all of the Big 5 and other fauna cruising around the planes. I’ve always dreamed of visiting Namibia, and Etosha, specifically.

    Wonderful write up.

    I recently met a Namibian tour guide online and have learned so much more about the country outside of Etosha.

    The dry environment, the warm people and the overall climate of the country fascinates me.

    A definite add to my list of places to visit.

    Thanks so much.

    I’ll tweet this in a bit.

    Signing off from Fiji.

    Ryan

  2. Thanks for the comment and kind words, Ryan.

    I’ve been lucky enough to have visited Namibia a couple of times in recent years and have spent about a month there in total, seeing quite a lot of the country during that time.

    I can tell you that I have been to quite a few countries in Southern, East and Central Africa, but that Namibia stands out above the rest.

    To be honest, a ‘Top 5’ style post can never do justice to everything that Namibia has to offer. A truly special place.

    Thanks again for the interest all the way from Fiji.

    Cheers,

    Chris

  3. Great write up on the area. A friend went there last year on a photography trip and what she brought back was just mesmerizing. Looks like you might have been to many of the same places Christopher. It looks truly special and so different.

  4. Namibia has been on my list for while now. The photographs I have seen of it are spectacular. I’ve not read that much though about the people living there. A visit to a Himba settlement would indeed be a treat but I hope they never get overrun by tourists.

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