Namibia is a country that defies African stereotypes. One of the continent’s relatively unknown gems, it hides its attractions in seemingly empty and desolate spaces. The landscape is still breathtaking, but it is its harshness that appeals. The sea of dunes, rocky canyons, barren coast and salt pans suggest that little could survive here, but extraordinary creatures and people have adapted to exist comfortably. Lose yourself amidst the wild spaces to appreciate the scale and drama of this magnificent country.
What to see
Etosha National Park
One of Africa’s great wildlife parks, centred on the vast Etosha Pan, a huge salty hollow that supports Lion, elephant, zebra and more, who all gather against a ghostly white backdrop.
Eerie landscape of dew-drenched dunes and billowing fog, so named because of the number of wrecks littered along its length.
Fish River Canyon
One of the world’s largest canyons, this dramatic cleft has a vertical depth of half a kilometre and represents some of the best trekking in Namibia.
Sand dunes stretch as far as you can see in this vast sandy region of the country. The most impressive is Sossusvlei. Walk them, bike them or surf down them to appreciate the scale of these dunes and the desert they are set in. Alternatively ride out on horse back to Sesriem canyon.
An arid basalt region where petrified forests and strange monoliths hide an abundance of ancient rock carvings and Africa’s Matterhorn, Spitzkoppe, rises from the plains.
A narrow strip of land favoured by birdwatchers who take to traditional wooden dugouts in order to spot fish eagles and bee eaters.
Top experiences / sites of particular interest
Once a diamond mining town and now an abandoned monument to the industry, largely covered in sand.
Off the southwest coast stands this island, once the setting for a concentration camp holding Nama and Herero peoples from 1904-1908. Stay at Luderitz campsite for the full chilling experience.
When to go
Weather & Seasons: The long coast tends to be cool and damp but rain free for much of the year, although it is frequently shrouded in fog. Away from the coast, the weather is warm and dry during winter (June to September), and slightly cooler and wetter during summer, (November to April), but only a little. January and February are the hottest months, when temperatures can exceed 40˚C.
Important Dates and Festivals: For the best game viewing visit from May to October. Independence Day is celebrated across the country on 21 March whilst Swakopmund reveals its German influence when it hosts an annual Octoberfest beer festival.
Getting there / around
Flights: There is an international airport at Windhoek (WDH). The internal network of flights is reliable and the most straightforward way to access areas of the country.
Rail: The railway is limited but what little there is works well.
Road: Roads are usually in decent condition and easy to navigate. Buses connect Windhoek with Cape Town in South Africa whilst mini vans connect smaller settlements.
One Month: Sadly to get to grips with Namibia you’ll need both time and money. For the best of Namibia allow up to four weeks to tackle a lengthy itinerary that takes you from Windhoek north to Etosha, before you backtrack to the capital. From here head south, making detours to the coast at Swakopmund, Sossusvlei and Kolmanskop before finishing at Fish River Canyon. From here you can white water raft at Noordoewer or cross the border into South Africa to head to Cape Town.
Off the Beaten Track: To get off the beaten path get yourself a decent 4WD and head east from Kaokoveld, homeland of the Himba, to Waterberg Palteau Park. Continue north east towards the Caprivi Strip, taking in the abundant nature reserves here before securing a seat on a boat or plane to take you to Mpalila Island, a luxury retreat in the Zambezi. Rather than retrace your steps, cross over into Botswana.
Overall Country Guides: There are comprehensive country guidebooks to Namibia available from Bradt and Footprint, whilst the Insight Guide to Namibia is more heavily illustrated. Lonely Planet produces Botswana and Namibia.
Culture Guide: Kuperard put together Namibia Culture Smart, a guide to customs and etiquette.
Nature Guides: Bird watchers should apck a copy of New Holland's Birds of Namibia.
Road Maps: There are decent road maps of Namibia available from Reise Know-How, Map Studio and ITMB.
Street Plans: There are street plans of Windhoek available from Map Studio and Freytag & Berndt.
Nature Maps: Visitors should also consider the Fish River Canyon Adventure Map on offer from National Geographic.
Freytag-Berndt und Artaria KG
Kavango Region Tourist Map
Namibia - Directorate of Survey and Mapping
The Lost World of the Kalahari by Laurens van der Post is an anthropological classic that reveres the traditions of the San. Follow up books including Heart of the Hunter and The Voice of Thunder continue to delve into the San’s lifestyle, religion and folklore. The Healing Land by Rupert Isaacson, sadly out of print, is a quest to uncover the history of the Busmen of the Kalahari as they move from traditional lifestyle to modern day.
Namibia is not famed for its food, nonetheless try dried meat, biltong, and smoked meat, if you get the chance.
English is the official language although Afrikaans is widely spoken. German and a number of indigenous languages such as Herero and Nama are also spoken.
Namibian dollar (N$), which is tied on a one to one basis to the South African rand.
UK and US citizens do not require a visa before entering the country.
Inoculations against Cholera, Hep A, Hep B, Polio, Rabies, Typhoid and Yellow Fever are recommended. Malaria is also present in the country.
Safety, FO travel advice
Broadly safe to visit and travel through although there is still some unexploded ordnance along the border with Angola.
Useful Telephone Numbers
Namibian country representatives can be found
in the UK at6 Chandos Street, London, W1G 9LU. Tel:- 020 7636 6244
and in the US at 1605 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009, Tel:- 202 986 0540.
There is a Namibian tourist board
in the UK at Suite 200, Parkway House, Sheen Lane, London, SW14 8LS. Tel:- 0870 330 9333.
For more information visit www.namibiatourism.com.
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