Home to the world’s oldest desert, the highest sand dunes and the largest canyon in Africa, Namibia possesses some of the most stunning landscapes in Africa. Due to Namibia’s excellent road infrastructure a trip through the country is one of the world’s great road adventures to be enjoyed.
Natural wonders such as the mighty Fish River Canyon and the wildlife of Etosha National Park, shimmering against one of the most spectacular salt pans on earth, is where you are sure to find adventure. But it’s the lonely desert roads where mighty slabs of granite rise out of swirling desert sands that will sear themselves into your mind. A stable, democratic government, infrastructure that allows guests to move confidently off the beaten path and endless horizons that beckon you to explore, define this country and its people. Take time to listen to the silence and to your soul.
Namibia is home to vibrant cities where people are excited about the future, while remaining deeply connected to their rich, cultural past. Amongst all this is a German legacy evident in the cuisine and architecture which are there to be enjoyed whilst immersing yourself in the past at one of Africa’s richest rock art sites.
Fish River Canyon
The Fish River Canyon, the second largest in the world, stretches over a distance of 160 kilometers through the Koubis massif and ending in Ai-Ais. With a length of 650 kilometres, it is the longest river in Namibia and in places has a depth of upto 550 metres. The Fish River Canyon formed may millions of years ago (approx. 500 million years ago), during a rainy climatic epoch in the pluvial times. The gorge, however, was not only created by water erosion but also through the collapse of the valley bottom due to movements in the earth’s crust.
Upon arriving at the canyon, you may find its exact location to be a slight mystery, as the 500m vertical drop from the flat dry plateau is completely out of view. Self-drive tourists, hikers, photographers and nature lovers the world over are attracted to this long, thin, meandering river. Depending on the time of year, you could be looking out to a dry river bed or a rainy-season raging torrent.
Etosha National Park
Etosha, meaning “Great White Place”, is dominated by a massive mineral pan. The pan is part of the Kalahari Basin, the floor of which was formed around 1000 million years ago. The Etosha Pan covers around 25% of the National Park and was originally a lake fed by the Kunene River. However the course of the river changed thousands of years ago and the lake dried up. The pan now is a large dusty depression of salt and dusty clay which fills only if the rains are heavy and even then only holds water for a short time. This temporary water in the Etosha Pan attracts thousands of wading birds including impressive flocks of flamingoes. The perennial springs along the edges of the Etosha Pan draw large concentrations of wildlife and birds.
The game viewing in Etosha National Park is excellent, the best time being from May to September which are the cooler months in Namibia. Visitors to Etosha Game Reserve can expect to see many buck species, elephant, giraffe, rhino and lions. More fortunate visitors will see leopard and cheetah. There is a network of roads linking the five camps and subsidiary roads lead to various waterholes. Etosha is one of Southern Africa’s most popular wildlife parks and its camps cater for all kinds of safari lovers. The concentration of big game around the waterholes makes game viewing incredibly rewarding. In fact, you won’t have to leave the rest camp to see lion, elephant, rhino and any number of antelope and zebra quenching their thirst.
Situated in the largest conservation area in Africa (the Namib-Naukluft National Park), Sossusvlei is possibly Namibia’s most spectacular and best-known attraction. It is best characterized by the large red dunes that surround it and it is a large, white, salt and clay pan and a great destination all year round. The dunes in this area are some of the highest in the world, reaching almost 400 meters, and provide photographic enthusiasts with wonderful images in the beautiful morning and evening light.
Sossusvlei literally translates to “dead-end marsh”, as it is the place where the dunes come together preventing the Tsauchab River to flow any further, ending some 60km east of the Atlantic Ocean. However, due to the dry conditions in the Namib Desert the River seldom flows this far and the pan remains bone-dry most years. Despite the harsh desert conditions in the area, one can find a wide variety of plants and animals that have adapted to survive.
Situated 120km north of Swakopmund, Cape Cross is home to one of the largest colonies of Cape Fur Seals in the world. The surrounding area was proclaimed a reserve in 1968 to protect the biggest and best known of the 23 colonies of Cape Fur Seals which breed along the coast of South Africa and Namibia. During the November / December breeding season as many as 150,000 seals gather at Cape Cross. The name refers to the large stone cross erected here by Portuguese explorers in the 15th century.
Swakopmund is Namibia’s biggest coastal town and a popular beach resort for Namibians on holiday. The city’s German origins are quite pronounced in beautiful old German Colonial buildings throughout the city, making a stark contrast with the Namib Desert at the edge of town. The nearby sand dunes provide several activities such as sand boarding, horse riding and quad biking while the beaches of Swakopmund provide plenty of surf and sand.
With easy access to nearby Walvis Bay, additional attractions include Sandwich Harbour, which forms part of the Namib Naukluft Park and best known for its series of gigantic sand dunes which run straight into the Atlantic Ocean. A play ground for sand sports and dune driving (reserved for those in the know!). Together with a day spent at Sandwich Harbour, you can also enjoy an exciting and playful dolphin and seal cruise on the Walvis Bay Lagoon topped with a lunch or picnic stop . . . including oysters and champagne.
Kolmanskop is a ghost town in the Namib Desert, a few kilometers inland from the port town of Lüderitz. Many Germans settled in this area after a diamond was found here in 1908. Driven by the enormous wealth of the first diamond miners, the residents built Kolmanskop in the architectural style of a German town, with amenities and institutions including a hospital, ballroom, school, casino as well as the first tram in Africa. The town declined when the diamond-field slowly exhausted and was ultimately abandoned in 1954. The forces of the desert mean that tourists now walk through houses knee-deep in sand.