With extreme weather, miles of barren land and often-harsh living conditions, Namibia is also known as “the land God made in anger”. Taking its name from the Nama, word that means “vast place of nothingness”, a closer look at this land tells a different story. It isn’t a place God made in anger, but perhaps a place God made special.
Traveling to Namibia is often an adventure in itself. Namibia is located in southern Africa bordering the Atlantic Ocean in the west and four other African countries in the north, south and east – Zambia, Angola, Botswana and South Africa. Though twice the size of Germany, desert conditions make many parts of Namibia inhabitable – keeping the population size at about 2 million. You will mostly begin your journey in Windhoek, the country’s capital – a place alive with the hustle and bustle of busy town dwellers. But the hustle and bustle almost stops there. The rest of Namibia, as you will discover, is mostly quiet.
A sparse population count is a good thing for Namibia – it has allowed wildlife to thrive and Mother Nature to be at its best. So much of Namibia is wild, exuberant and exotic, attracting visitors far and wide who are looking for an authentic African experience. Namibia is off the beaten track, but in the best way possible. To make your experience in Namibia that much more rewarding, here are 5 useful tips you ought o keep in mind!
Want A Thrilling Adventure? Drive!
If there is any place in the world where you should consider driving, it’s Namibia. With its deserts spanning endless miles and so few traffic congestion, Namibia is any driver’s dream. Driving in Namibia will allow you to experience the country at your own pace and your own time. But it’s important to be prepared for long drives. It would be many miles before you meet the next gas station or the next town, so do ensure a full tank for the journey, as well as adequate food and water.
Drive on roads that are suitable for your cars. All national roads are tarred and well maintained, but secondary roads are most often not. However, where possible, we do recommend that you do explore secondary roads, as that will be where you find conservation centers and traditional communities – completing the Namibian experience!
Be vigilant while driving in Namibia and always be on the lookout for wildlife crossings. Elephants frequently pass through roads, as do oryx, antelopes, and warthogs. The animals are most active during dusk and dawn so if you’re on the road at these hours, stay extra focused!
Admire the Wildlife
Where else can you find a more undisturbed wildlife than in Namibia? Namibia is home to a quarter of the world’s cheetahs as well as to a healthy population of the black rhino. Safari enthusiasts should also add Etosha National Park to their to-do list while visiting Namibia. Spanning over 8,600 miles, the park is home to hundreds of species of wildlife, including several endangered species. Almost a quarter of the park is covered by the Etosha Pan, the largest salt pan in Africa – so big that it is visible from space. The endangered mountain zebra is found in western Etosha. It is also home to the endangered black-faced impala, which can be spotted nearer to the Dolomite Camp.
As with most of Namibia, the best way to experience a safari in Etosha National Park is on your own. Self-drive safaris will offer you an unrivalled sense of adventure within the park. Treat yourself to front row seats in Okaukuejo as wildlife – zebras, wildebeest, rhinoceros and many more – come down for a drink at the watering hole!
Visit the Namib Desert
The Namib Desert is often called the world’s oldest desert, as it is believed to have been in existence for more than 40 million years. This coastal desert extends over 1200 miles along the Atlantic coast. Aside from scattered towns, most of the Namib is uninhabited – wilderness at its core. While larger mammals are scarce in this part of the country, reptiles thrive, with over 70 species found in the area. At the Namib Desert you will also find one of its tallest sand dunes – the Big Daddy, who stands at 1,066 feet. A visit to the Namib Desert is a must if only for the view you’ll be able to catch atop the Big Daddy.
Another great way to really experience the Namib Desert is to camp in it! There, in the great desert, there are no 4 or 5 star hotels. Instead, there is a “thousand-star hotel”. As you sit outside your tent and gaze up, you’ll find a magnificent array of stars coloring the sky.
Find the Moon
Image credit: Desert Tracks
Or rather, the Moon landscape. Located roughly 30km inland from the town of Swakopmund, the Moon landscape is a result of erosion caused by the Swakop River over 2 million years ago. The Moon landscape provides a view that is otherworldly and stunning. Though seemingly inhospitable, there are signs of life here in the form of desert shrubs and lichens. When entering this area, take extra care, as there are no safety barriers.
If you want to plan a trip to the Moon landscape, tour guides are available for hire at Swakopmund or at Windhoek. For a fee, guides will be able to take you there and back. If you opt to drive, plan four hours or more into your drive duration. There are no shops or gas stations along the road towards the Moon landscape, so do pack food and have extra fuel in the car.
Did you know that Namibia is the driest country in Africa? With an annual rainfall of only about 350mm per annum, the country depends heavily on access to groundwater, and even then, the distribution is uneven. To make matters worse, Namibia experiences several droughts in a year that makes the already scarce water supply situation even more impossible.
As travelers to the country, it is important that we understand the scarcity of water and not make it any more challenging for those who reside there. Save water when you can. Keep showers short and quick and don’t leave the faucet running when not in use.
Fancy an unforgettable journey in the African wilderness? Step the adventure up a notch and create your own path of exploration on a self-drive safari!