Namibia, known for its stark, dramatic and timeless landscapes, is truly a diamond in the rough and one of southern Africa’s best kept secrets. Namibia is situated along Africa’s most inhospitable coastline to the northwest of the Republic of South Africa. Namibia takes its name from the 130 million year old Namib Desert, which uniquely harbors elephant, rhino, lion and giraffe. Namibia is a land of contrasts with towering sand dunes, shimmering plains, sunshine, mountains, gorges, valleys, and the starkly beautiful “skeleton coast”. From the abundant game and bird life to the diverse fish and seal population on the coast, Namibia offers something for everyone. Highlights include some of the highest sand dunes in the world at Sossusvlei, unique cultural experiences with the Himba and San Bushmen; Big 5 game viewing at Etosha National Park. Namibia is like no other country in Africa, offering visitors an intense encounter with nature, the environment and wildlife.
- Location: Namibia is in Southern Africa bordering the South Atlantic Ocean, between Angola and South Africa, with Botswana to its east.
- Size: Namibia covers an area of 318,000 square miles, about the same size as France and Germany combined, or slightly more than half the size of Alaska
- Capital City: Windhoek
- Population: Just over 2.3 million people live in Namibia.
- Languages: English is Namibia’s official language but the first language of only around 7% of the population. Afrikaans is actually the most common lingua franca spoken by Namibians, including about 60% of the white population. German is spoken by around 20% of the population. Indigenous languages include Oshivambo, Herero and Nama.
- The Flag: The Nambian flag was adopted when the country gained independence from South Africa in March, 1990. The colors were mostly based on the SWAPO flag, the most important liberation movement at that time.
- Currency: The Namibian Dollar (N$: NAD) and South African Rand (ZAR) are both legal tender in Namibia.
- Getting to Namibia: Most visitors will fly into Hosea Kutako International Airport in Namibia’s capital Windhoek (WDH). There are no direct flights to Namibia from the US. South African Airways and Air Namibia service Windhoek daily from Johannesburg and Frankfurt respectively.
- Combine Namibia with: Botswana, South Africa and Victoria Falls
- Download before you go…
Books: The Sheltering Desert – Henno Martin; An Arid Eden – Garth Owen-Smith; Skeleton Coast – Amy Schoeman; An Elephant’s Life – Caitlin O’Connell; A History of Namibia -Marion Wallace.
Movies/Documentaries: The Guardians – 2014 conservation documentary by Jenny Nichols and Andy Maser; Namibia: The Struggle for Liberation (2007).
Namibia’s Central Highlands are dominated by its small, German style capital, Windhoek. Set at the geographical heart of Namibia, it serves as the major road and rail crossroads and is the country’s business and commercial operations center. Windhoek has a population of only 130,000 people, but Namibia’s ethnic mix is reflected on the streets of this town. Most safaris whether overland or fly-in originate in Windhoek, which offers large, resort style hotels or smaller bed and breakfast type accommodation.
Sossusvlei is one of the most remarkable sights in the Namib-Naukluft Park and the Namib Desert. Huge towering dunes, said to be the highest in the world, rise dramatically over 1000 feet above the surrounding plains at Sossusvlei, a huge pan set amid red sand dunes. The spectacle of changing colors and the lonely oryx silhouetted against the red dunes is one which visitors and photographers from around the world come to savor and capture on film. At any time of the year you may observe gemsbok and ostrich wandering over the sand. This vast expanse of dunes stretches from the Khoichab River in the south to the Kuiseb River in the north. It’s likely that this sand originated in the Kalahari between three and five million years ago. Although it’s certainly a workout, the best way to get a feeling for this sea of sand is to climb one of the dunes and have a look around.
Damaraland is the mountainous region in northwest Namibia inhabited by the Damaras and named after them. Originally, it was an area occupied primarily by the Damara people, but it soon became the home of other tribes such as the Hereros and the displaced Riemvasmakers of South Africa. The name Damara is derived from the Nama word “Dama”, meaning “who walked here”. This is because the Damara were known to the Nama people by the footprints they left around waterholes. From their vantage point in the mountains, the Damara were quick to spot resources, such as water or animals, on the plains below, and they were therefore able to be the first groups to reach these essential resources. Damaraland’s attractions include: The Brandberg, a massive mountain which shelters thousands of rock paintings; Twyfelfontein, which has some of the best rock engravings depicting wildlife scenes; as well as the Petrified Forest and Burnt Mountain. Damaraland Wilderness Preserve rewards the patient, and lucky, visitor with glimpses of the unique wildlife that survives here, including desert elephant, black rhino, lion, desert dwelling giraffe and Hartman’s mountain zebra.
With palm-lined streets, seaside promenades and some first class hotels, Swakopmund enjoys its place as Namibia’s most popular holiday destination. A friendly and charming town with a distinctive old world German atmosphere, it welcomes all travelers to its shore. There is an abundance of flower gardens and half-timbered houses as well as other colonial era structures but it’s the wind blown sand and the palm trees that are distinctive of Africa. Situated north of the coastal town of Swakopmund, the Cape Cross Seal Colony supports up to 100,000 Cape fur seals and is an active and important breeding ground and popular excursion.
Etosha National Park is Namibia’s premier nature reserve and one of Africa’s largest. It has great concentrations of game, especially in the dry winter months, and there are wonderful views out onto the saltpans. It protects 114 species of mammals along with 340 species of birds. Originating as a shallow lake, the Etosha Pan dominates the park and is an immense, flat, saline desert of more than 3500 square miles. Now, in years of good rain, this depression becomes a temporary lagoon full of white pelicans and flamingos. Birdlife around the waterholes is good, with ostrich, pygmy falcon and all the raptors in abundance. Some of the local “specials” include short-toed rock thrush, Hartlaub’s francolin, freckled nightjar and Meyer’s parrot. Famous for its large herds of elephant, Etosha is also home to lion, leopard, black rhino and all of Namibia’s plains game including springbok, gemsbok, and hartebeest.
The Skeleton Coast is one of our planet’s most beautiful places. Over much of the past decade, access to this private area within the National Park has been restricted. However, nearly 660,000 acres of the National Park have been set aside as an exclusive safari experience for those who want to really get away! It is wild, desolate and uninhabited…and stunningly beautiful. The area has everything, from soaring sand dunes that roar, wonderful vast, pastel colored plains, towering canyons and mountains, salt pans to seal colonies to ship wrecks. This coastline is so named for the many skeletons of shipwrecks and whales that dot the treacherous coast of this park. The freezing Benguela Current of the Atlantic sweeps up from Antarctica and meets the hot dry air of the Namib, resulting in thick morning fog, which blankets the region. This unusual weather condition brings life-giving moisture to an otherwise arid land and sustains a host of desert animals. Fresh water springs permeate the barren sands to create rare oases in the desert that sustain pockets of wildlife. Springbok, gemsbok (oryx), the rare desert elephant, Cape fur seals, brown hyena, jackal, ostrich and occasionally even cheetah eke out an existence in this rugged terrain, alongside the desert-adapted vegetation such as the ancient Welwitschia plant and Lithops, the succulent “flowering stones”. You are also able to visit authentic Himba settlements, just outside the park, for an incredible cultural experience.
NAMIB-NAKLUFT NATIONAL PARK
At 35,000 square miles in size, the Namib-Naukluft National Park is one of the largest and may be the world’s oldest desert. The prehistoric Welwitschia plants are testimony to its age and give us a glimpse into the adaptations plants and animals make in an extremely hostile environment. Areas of interest include Walvis Bay and Sandwich Harbor just outside the park on the coast, the “Moonscape” of the Swakop Canyons, Sesriem Canyon and Sossusvlei, where one will find the highest sand dunes in the world. The Naukluft mountains offer massive rock formations and heavily vegetated riverbeds where Mountain zebra, springbok, kudu, rock rabbits and Black eagles are frequently seen.
WATERBERG PLATEAU PARK
Waterberg Plateau Park covering 156 square miles, is home to several scarce and endangered species, including black rhino, white rhino, roan antelope and sable antelope. Other animals seen in this area include eland, tsessebe, brown hyena, oryx, kudu, klipspringer, and occasionally, leopard. Visitors to the Waterberg Plateau Park will also come across unique flora along with rock paintings and engravings. Three trails lead up to the top of the plateau, which rises over 820 feet above the surrounding plains.
Namibia Suggested Safaris
Ultimate Namibia10 Days 9 Nights$9325 - $10495
This 9 night/ 10 day Safari is a combination of a fly in and overland safari combining some of Namibia's highlights. Namibia is a vast country, covering an area approximately twice the size of California but with a population of a mere 2 million. It is also an 'ageless land’; visible through the heritage of rock art created by stone-age artists and geological attractions such as the petrified forest where fossilised tree trunks have lain for over 280 million years. When added to the space and silence, these factors all contribute to a feeling of antiquity, solitude and wilderness. This Ultimate Namibia safari affords you the chance to experience this magnificent and memorable country in a very personal way. You will have your own professional and experienced safari guide who will enhance your enjoyment of this unique country by making it a fascinating and stress-free journey of discovery amidst very dramatic scenery.
Scenic Namibia and The Delta15 Days 14 Nights$15100 - $21775
Namibia is the King of wild and rugged safaris, bursting with contrasting landscapes and mind-boggling scenery. This itinerary is a beguiling mix of culture and excitement, wildlife watching and bewilderingly beautiful landscapes. Begin your journey in the middle of northern Namibia’s arid, captivating savannah, bordering the world-famous Etosha National Park at Safarihoek Lodge. Come face-to-trunk with desert-dwelling elephant, track black rhino across the sandy riverbeds, and spot the iconic giraffe of the Hoanib Valley. Meet the nomadic Himba tribe, follow them and their livestock across the desert, and learn about their customs and traditional way of life. Spend time on Namibia’s enthralling Atlantic coast and explore historic shipwrecks and watch the seals at the Mowe Colony. Explore the dunes of the Skeleton Coast and clamber to the top for a beautiful evening sundowner before slipping and sliding all the way back down! After an overnight in Johannesburg to catch your breath, you fly to Maun, Botswana and onto your safari lodge by charter flight. If you’ve been forever dreaming of an iconic Okavango Delta experience, then 4 nights at Tuludi is the perfect conclusion to your safari adventure. Floodplains stretch as far as the eye can see and the glistening waterways and emerald forests attract all the stars of the safari show.
Desert Dune Safari14 Days 13 Nights$11065 - $13425
Namibia is a land of stunning landscapes, endless skies, barren deserts, rugged mountains and spectacular wildlife. This Exploration explores some of the most remote areas of this fascinating land; areas that have been rarely explored by others, making this a true journey of discovery. Like any trip to Namibia, the dunes of Sossusvlei are not to be missed so your journey begins here. Continue to Swakopmund to take in the amazing marine life just offshore, then on to the secluded and dramatic coastline of the Skeleton Coast littered with historic remnants of shipwrecks and the rugged and rocky landscape of Palmwag where the last free-roaming black rhino rove. The activities provide a wide range of differing experiences, from a dolphin cruise with a private beach lunch, to tracking rhino and climbing the Namib’s great dunes. Most of the journey is by road, but well-timed stops at local highlights, refreshments, snacks and lunches (where appropriate) all help to ensure optimal comfort. A highlight is meeting the local people of Namibia, many of whom work in the camps, while others you will have a chance to meet along the road, such as local fishermen and vendors. This small group tour is led by highly skilled and qualified professional guides with an incredible passion for the natural regions in which they work and a vast knowledge of the natural world, history and culture of Namibia. Your guide will host you for the duration of safari, providing you with a consistent, detailed interpretation that is shaped to your specific interests.