The stark landscapes and rolling dunes of the Namib Desert are a photographer's dream. With a diversity of people living in relatively small communities, and an abundance of wonderful wildlife, Namibia is a must-visit country on your Southern African tour.
Namibia can be visited throughout the year. The climate is generally dry and pleasant. Wildlife viewing is best in the dry season, from June to October.
Etosha National Park - A salt pan so large it can be seen from space, with abundant wildlife that congregates around the waterholes. Etosha is both malaria free and one of the most accessible game reserves in Namibia.
Sossusvlei - Located in the southern part of the Namib Desert, Sossusvlei is a salt and clay pan surrounded by high red dunes. Spectacular with its red dunes, white salt pan and Deadvlei, it is one of the most prominent landmarks.
Dune 45 - A star attraction in Sossusvlei, Dune 45 is the largest dune in the area. It is composed of 5-million-year-old sand blown in from Kalahari Desert. It attributes its name to the fact that it is at the 45th kilometer of the road that connects the Sesriem gate and Sossusvlei.
Fish River Canyon - It is an intense experience to hike the trail as it takes you through 1.5 billion years of geological history. Located in southern Namibia, Fish River Canyon is not just the largest canyon in Africa but also the second most visited tourist attraction in the country.
Twyfelfontein - Inhabited for 6,000 years, first by hunter-gatherers and later by Khoikhoi herders, it is still used as a place of worship and a site to conduct shamanic rituals. In the process of these rituals at least 2,500 items of rock carvings have been created, as well as a few rock paintings. This site displays one of the largest concentrations of rock petroglyphs in Africa.
Spitzkoppe - More than 120 million years old, Spitzkoppe is a group of bald granite peaks or inselbergs located between Usakos and Swakopmund in the Namib desert, with some mind-blowing views. Take a break from the urban jungle and experience the vastness of the Namib Desert. Many stunning examples of Bushmen artwork can be seen painted on the rocks in the Spitzkoppe area.
Christ Church, Windhoek - Marvel at the architecture which was originally known as the Church of Peace. Constructed from quartz sandstone mined from the vicinity of Avis Dam, this church is a classic example of a mixture of neo-Romanesque, Art Nouveau and Gothic revival influences.
Daan Viljoen Game Reserve - A delightful getaway close to the capital! The vegetation in the park includes around 300 different plant species. Some common plants include the mountain thorn acacia, the Camelthorn tree, buffalo thorn acacia, karee, trumpet thorn and camphor bush. There are no large predators in Daan Viljoen nature reserve and other species like oryx, blue wildebeest, red hartebeest, klipspringer, steenbok, zebra, impala, giraffe and kudu can be easily spotted.
National Marine Aquarium of Namibia, Swakopmund - Walk through a tunnel, as the aquatic creatures swim above and around you. Featuring fauna from the cold Benguela Current in the southern Atlantic Ocean, it is the only aquarium in Namibia and is sponsored by De Beers.
Bwabwata National Park - Travelers have termed the bird watching in this park as 'unparalleled.' Created from Caprivi Game Park & Mahango Game Reserve, situated in the Zambezi and Kavango East regions, this national park lies along the Caprivi Strip and is an important migration route from Botswana to Angola for African elephant and some other game species.
Deadvlei - A white clay pan located near the more famous salt pan of Sossusvlei, inside the Namib-Naukluft Park, is claimed to be surrounded by the highest sand dunes in the world. The skeletons of the trees found here are believed to have died 600–700 years ago, and make a truly captivating sight.
Cape Cross - Seeing the waves crashing against the rocks and the interactions of hundreds of seals and their pups makes a spectacular sight! The reserve is the home of one of the largest colonies of Cape fur seals in the world. Petrified forest - Hike through the stunning landscapes, located some 40 kilometers west of the Namibian town of Khorixas. It is believed that the trees were swept downstream by a large flood and covered by alluvial sands. Deprived of air, the organic matter could not rot and decay, but instead, over millions of years, underwent silicification, through which each cell is individually fossilised and the appearance, if not the colour, of wood is retained.
Observe Namibian wildlife in their original habitat, safe in the knowledge that they are being protected and cared for. The numbers of puku antelope is limited to about 100 individuals along the Chobe River in Botswana and the Linyati marshes in Namibia and the Namibia is working on measures to protect them. Namibia also has the largest population in southern Africa of cheetah not contained within national parks. There are more than twenty species of antelope ranging from the largest, the eland, to the smallest, the Damara dik-dik. Namibia also harbours a wealth of small mammals including mongoose, jackal as well as the less common antbear and honey badger, both solitary and nocturnal.
Namibia is home to a number of National Parks and Natural Reserves:
Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park Bwabwata National Park Etosha National Park Kaudom National Park Mamili National Park Mudumu National Park Namib-Naukluft National Park Skeleton Coast National Park Waterberg National Park
Kaokoland Nature Reserve Khaudom Game Reserve Mamili Game Reserve Mudumugame Game Reserve
The traditional cuisine of Namibia is influenced by two primary cultural strands: the indigenous people of Namibia and the later settlers of German, Afrikaner and British descent. Potjie Kos, Braaivleis, Boerewors, Biltong, Mopane worms, Kapana, Mielie pap (maize meal), Tripe (Afval) and Pluck (Harslag) are some of the more popular dishes.
For agriculturalists, the staple foods are millet and sorghum; for pastoralists, dairy products. Beans and greens are eaten with millet in the north, but otherwise few vegetables are grown or consumed. Hunting and gathering, more important in the past, still provides a dietary supplement for some. Meat is highly desired and eaten as often as it is feasible—daily for some, on special occasions for others. Fish consumption is slowly increasing with government promotion of Namibian fish products.
Important occasions are marked by the slaughter of cattle or goats, and the consumption of meat, home-brewed beer, purchased beverages, and other foods. In some cultures, leftover meat is sent home with the guests.
Namibia is considered one of the safest countries in Africa. Wherever you travel, it is wise to take certain precautions to keep your visit incident-free and enjoyable.
Be familiar with your country's travel advisory for Namibia. Following is a list of some measures you can take to keep yourself safe:
Conceal your valuables, do not leave anything in the car and avoid walking alone at night.
Never leave a safari-packed vehicle anywhere in Windhoek or Swakopmund, other than in a guarded car park or private parking lot.
Avoid driving at night - wildlife and livestock on the roads pose a real threat.
The dried branches of the euphorbia plant should never be used in fires as they release a deadly toxin when burnt.
Namibia has a subtropical desert climate characterized by great differences in day and nighttime temperatures, low rainfall and overall low humidity. Namibia experiences winter (dry season) and summer (wet season) at opposite times to Europe and North America.
Dry season - May to October - Winter
There is little to no rainfall during the entire winter and humidity is low. Wildlife will gather around waterholes and rivers when other water resources dry up.
May – It is the end of summer and the rains have stopped. The nights aren't too cold yet and daytime temperatures are, on average, around 24-28°C/75-82°F. June – The nights are getting cold and can drop below 10°C/50°F. In desert areas, it can be freezing. Daytime temperatures are still pleasant around 20-24°C/68-75°F. July & August – The average maximum temperature is 21-25°C/70-77°F. The average minimum temperature is around 7°C/45°F, but can fall to below freezing at night in the deserts and higher areas. September & October – During October the green vegetation is fading and the heat gradually builds up.
Wet season – November to April – Summer
November – November is very hot, but the humidity is still low, keeping it quite pleasant. On average, the daytime temperature is above 30°C/86°F, but can be a lot higher in the deserts. December – The first rains usually arrive, and with the rains the temperature drops slightly. January & February – It tends to be hot and humid with maximum temperatures around 30-35°C/86-95°F with peaks of over 40°C/104°F in the desert. There may be torrential downpours in the afternoon, but not every day. Mornings are usually clear. March & April – Rainfall will decrease and stops around April. It cools down after the rains and the nights start to get cold again. Average daytime temperatures are around 25-30°C/77-86°F
After ages of European colonisation, poor treatment and abuse, the Namibians are now opening up to the outside world. Weary yet warm-hearted, they call themselves Namibians first rather than identify themselves by their respective clans. About 2.2 million people share the vast spaces of Namibia and that population can be divided into the following groups:
Most Namibians speak Bantu languages like Oshiwambo and Otjiherero as their first language. Others speak Khoisan languages (Nama/Damara and various Bushman languages), while a smaller percentage are native speakers of Indo-European languages like Afrikaans and English.
The San, Damara, and Nama have inhabited the dry lands of Namibia since early times. Immigrating Bantu peoples arrived around the 14th century, during the Bantu expansion from Central Africa. Oorlam people from Cape Colony started arriving in the late 18th century, crossing the Orange River, and moved into what is now southern Namibia. The immigrants and the nomadic Nama tribes lived in harmony. When the Oorlam moved further north, they faced resistance from the Herero at Windhoek, Gobabis, and Okahandja. This led to Nama-Herero War in 1880.
Though Portuguese navigators like Diogo Cão in 1485 and Bartolomeu Dias in 1486 arrived to explore the regions, the Portuguese crown did not try to claim the area. Namibia was not extensively explored by Europeans until the 19th century.
In 1884 Namibia became a German colony to forestall British encroachment and was known as German South-West Africa.
Between 1904 to 1907, the Herero and the Namaqua revolted against the Germans. The German government officials ordered extinction of the natives, killing 10,000 Nama (half the population) and approximately 65,000 Herero (about 80% of the population). The German government formally apologized for the Namibian genocide in 2004.
The German forces were defeated in World War 1 by South Africa and Namibia was declared as League of Nations mandate territory (nominally under the British Crown). The Herero Chief's Council submitted a number of petitions to the UN in the 1950s calling for it to grant independence to Namibia, but was not successful.
In response to the 1966 ruling by the International Court of Justice, South-West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO) military wing, People's Liberation Army of Namibia, a guerrilla group began their armed struggle for independence. In 1988 South Africa agreed to end its occupation of Namibia, in accordance with a UN peace plan for the entire region.