Whenever you pick up a travel magazine, one of the ‘top 10 destinations to visit’ in their countdown is always Namibia. But what exactly has adventurers so excited? What is there between the coastline and the desert that adventurers and explorers can simply not get enough of? Let’s find out.
The history of this country can be traced through to rock art found at Twyfelfontein, some dating as far back as 6000 years. It has a longstanding history of conflict, rebellions and colonization, but since becoming an independent state in 1990, Namibia has enjoyed great stability and peace. Comprising about 12 different ethnic groups (Tswana, San, Owambo, Nama, Kavango, Himba, Herero, Damara, Basters, Caprivians, Coloured, and Whites), Namibians have managed to successfully integrate all cultures, and whilst each culture celebrates their own heritage, they can also stand together proudly as Namibians.
Most journeys in Namibia start off at Keetmanshoop, a tranquil and unique town coined the unofficial capital of Southern Namibia. There are quite a few historical points in and around Keetmanshoop, making it a good starting point for your Namibian expedition. A mere 13km to the north-east, you find the beautiful Quiver Tree Forest, whilst 42km to the north-east, there is a Mesosaurus fossil site. The Brukkaros Volcano is 130km south, the famous and jaw-dropping Fish River Canyon is 180km south-east, and Ai-Ais Hotsprings just south-east of Keetmanshoop.
Namibia sports quite a few national parks – some, like the Etosha National Park, the Bwabwata National Park and Daan Viljoen Game Park focus primarily on wildlife, whilst others like the Fish River Canyon and the Namib-Naukluft Park are more landscape orientated. The national parks represent a network of Namibia’s best tourist destinations, and often include a wide-range of activities, like camping, hiking and wilderness adventures.
The Namib Desert is one of the oldest deserts in the world and stretches about 1000km along the Atlantic Coast. The majestic and distinctive rust red sand dunes are some of the highest in the world. Sossusvlei, the most accessible part of the desert, is a magical place with towering dunes that provide the perfect backdrop for capturing Namibian memories. A Sossusvlei sunset is a highly recommended bucket list moment.
Spitzkoppe is a magnificent group of bald granite peaks in the Namib Desert, the highest standing about 700 meter above the desert floor. Nicknamed the Matterhorn of Namibia, Spitzkoppe is full of interesting attractions, including San (Bushman) paintings and bizarre rock formations because of the erosion of exposed volcanic rock.
Namibia’s German influence is widely reflected, from the design of buildings to the distinctly German items on restaurant menus. Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, bares testament to the German sway. Lüderitz, with its German Imperial and Art Nouveau building styles, is also a colonial-era town steeped in historical significance. Kolmanskop, a neighbouring town, was once a thriving diamond mining hub, but is now not much more than an abandoned ghost town and a prime spot for avid photographers.
In the north on the Atlantic Ocean side, lies the Skeleton Coast. Named because of the many ships that ran aground along the coastline because of the mighty storms, dense fogs and violent surf, the Skeleton Coast has become known as the world’s biggest shipping graveyard. Incredible to experience, the part north of Terrace Bay is the most spectacular, the high and intimidating sand dunes juxtaposed against the menacing force of the Atlantic Ocean crashing onto Namibian shores.
Swakopmund is the most popular coastal town of Namibia. The sand dunes give holidaymakers the opportunity to take part in several activities such as horse riding, quad biking, and sand boarding, while the beach provides enough sand, surf and sunshine for everyone a little less adventurous.
Although the distances between towns are quite vast, most travel is done by vehicle. The roads are in good condition, but take care to do your homework on the terrains before you travel, especially when you are renting a car.
Referred to tongue in cheek as Africa-light, Namibia truly has a lot to offer visitors. Whether you are of a thrill-a-minute seeking adrenaline junkie or a ‘in search of a Kodak moment’ traveller, you’ll definitely find that Namibia is no lightweight at all. Just remember to keep your camera charged. Namibia’s beauty is everywhere.