Namibia Safari Destinations
Namibia – the ultimate safari destination, – is located in southwest Africa and home to a wide range of animals. 8 mammal species alone are endemic to this vast and beautiful land.
The impressive biodiversity is protected by the Namibian constitution, which is one of the only ones worldwide that has conservation written into it. With 26 national parks and reserves, the biggest being Etosha National Park at 22,270 square kilometres (home to a whopping 114 mammal species), Namibia offers more than a typical safari experience to animal lovers.
The abundance of wildlife, pristine landscapes and scarcely populated areas make Namibia an exciting tourist destination and a brilliant way to experience Africa.
The South of Namibia
Namibia is a country of many faces and many temperaments. Four times the size of Great Britain but also the second least populated country in the world.
Home to a huge variety of species, both fauna and flora, Namibia offers the visitor an experience that will not be forgotten. I have known this country since my birth, so will have to present this article in segments.
The South of Namibia is a place of wide open place and endless vistas. The population is scarce and mainly located in small towns and villages in the area.
Keetmanshoop can be considered the capital of the south, while towns like Luderitz, Karasburg and Mariental can be considered smallish towns. Each town have its own personality, but Luderitz can be considered the main attraction. With its rich history, and rugged outlay of the town, Luderitz is a strange place to visit.
It can be totally enthralling, but when the wind blows, and it can seriously blow here, then it is a place that makes the visitor feels unwelcome. The first diamond rush in Namibia took place here, and history tells us that the diamonds were lying on top of the ground, to be picked up in the light of the moon at night.
On the way to Luderitz one has to cross huge open plains, yet these plains sustain life that is not seen anywhere else in Namibia. The wild horses of Garub is famous in this area. Brought in by the Germans, when Namibia was still a German colony, some horses escaped, survived, and today they can still be seen in an area near Aus.
Most of the south has some or other form of history attached to it, the reason that when the first settles came across the Orange River from South Africa, this is where they moved through and settled sometimes.
The one thing that captures the mind is the wide open space and silence that attacks every sense of your being. Sunrises and sunsets in the clear skies of the south is something to behold, and will be cherished for a long time to come.
When in Namibia, visit the south and let your spirit run free.
Sossusvlei – Dune 7 and Deadvlei
Sossusvlei is one of the main tourist attractions in Namibia. Rightfully so; the iconic landscape known for its towering red sand dunes and the massive salt pan could just as well be from another planet.
Whether you are on a Namibian self-drive safari or taking part in a guided tour, Sossusvlei and Deadvlei in the Namib Naukluft National Park are not to be missed.
Many travellers visit Namibia just to see Sossusvlei and Deadvlei. They cover huge distances to accomplish this, saying that seeing the mighty red sand dunes is a bucket list item.
And why wait?
Sossusvlei is the perfect place to experience the Namib desert and the wildlife of the south. The truly breathtaking scenery is complimented by unforgettable sunrises.
Watching the golden disk light up the sky in the park itself is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The dunes come to life as colours start to change. Brilliant reds, husky oranges and pervading yellow-tones paint a picture that burns itself into your memory.
Dune 45, the most visited sunrise spot, is the 45th dune in the belt and, coincidentally, 45km from the entrance to the park. At dawn, the the eastern side of the dune is aglow with spectacular colours, while the western side can be left in complete darkness still. There is hardly anything comparable.
Another part of Sossusvlei that draws tourists from all over the globe is Deadvlei – an ancient clay plan famous for its dead, burned trees. The name Deadvlei literally means dead marsh; the valley’s cracked soil having dried out many moons ago.
The trees themselves are believed to be almost 700 years old. They once survived from water flowing from the Tsauchab river into Deadvlei, where pools of water collected – creating the marsh. This allowed the now blackened camel thorn trees to grow.
When the shifting sand dunes encroached on the pan and changes in climate affected the rain patterns, the dwindling water supply left the trees to become iconic monuments of times past.
Windhoek, the capital city of Namibia, is home to some 300 000 people and the largest airport in Namibia, Hosea Kutako International Airport. Its metropolitan atmosphere, relative proximity to most attractions and internationally connected infrastructure make it the perfect place for any start to a holiday in Namibia.
Windhoek is derived from the early Afrikaans “wind hoock”, meaning “windy corner”. Indigenous names, such as the Herero “Otjomuise” reference the thermal springs once present in the mountains surrounding the area.
These are also the reasons Orlam-chief Jan Jonker Afrikaner settled there in the 19th century.
Destroyed by tribal wars only years later, Windhoek lay in ruins until Curt von Francois (commander of the German troops) decided to rebuild it as the country’s capital in 1890. Since then, Windhoek has seen not only a general increase in population and size, but also racial segregation, independence struggles and unique architecture designs.
This colourful history makes it a fascinating stop on your Namibian safari.
A harbour town along the coast of Namibia, Walvis Bay was founded in 1793 by the Cape Dutch. Its name originates from a dutch word meaning whales. Not two years later, Walvis Bay was annexed by the British, who turned it into a strategic port for the West Indian trade route.
The sheltered bay provided an excellent spot to take in provisions before heading south to tackle the Cape of Storms.
A busy town based on fishing and shipping, it makes up for its somewhat industrial appearance with awe-inspiring activities that offer memorable experiences for scenic, as well as animal-focused travellers.
The pink lakes, man-made natural evaporation salt pans, cover an area equivalent to 4500 football fields. Reflecting the intriguing cloud patterns in a wind-torn sky, the mirror-like pink lakes provide a mesmerising interplay of light and colour, making them an ideal photo spot.
The salt pans lead the way to Pelican Point, a natural spit protecting the bay from the harsh Atlantic weather. Home to a light house and the second-largest seal colony in the area, the point’s waters can be explored by guided kayak tours that bring you up close and personal with the wildlife.
If you’re looking for a more luxurious experience, you can board one of many boat cruises across the bay and go looking for marine life such as dolphins, whales, turtles and sunfish.
For scenic experiences, Sandwich Harbour is the perfect day-outing. Located south of Walvis Bay, the natural harbour is easily accessible by a guided tour that highlights one of the most iconic sights in Namibia: the towering red dunes of the Namib falling into the Atlantic Ocean.
Founded in 1892, Swakopmund is located just north of the mouth of a seasonal river with the same name. A simplified version of the Nama “tsoakhaub” – which can loosely be translated to mean a certain body opening – the origin is crude, but accurately describes the dirty, muddy waters of the river emptying into the ocean during rainy season. Unlike the history of its name, Swakopmund is a particularly pretty town home to a museum, the national aquarium and myriads of buildings preserved since German rule over a century ago.
Driving north from Swakopmund takes you to Cape Cross, the landing site of probably the first European in Namibia: Portuguese sea captain Diogo Cão, who erected a stone cross in 1486. Having been replaced twice, the latest stone cross is now accompanied by a closer replica funded by private donors a few decades ago. Cape Cross, as a national monument and protected area, is also home to the biggest colony of Cape fur seals worldwide.
Etosha National Park is situated in the northwestern part of Namibia. Definitely a major highlight of any trip to Namibia, the park is home to over 100 mammal species and 300 bird species.
Although guided tours are offered, self-drives are possible, making your journey even more special. With decent, well-marked roads and a detailed map, driving through the park accompanied by nothing but the sounds of the African bush is an experience for itself.
Nevertheless, guided tours have the advantage of – you guessed it – the guides!
Taking people into the park every day with the sole aim of finding them the best animal sightings, they have an intricate knowledge of what will be best spotted where and when. Whether you’re up for an adventure or want the classic safari experience, a day in Etosha is unforgettable.
The highest mountain in Namibia, Brandberg is situated 50km from the coast. This granite mass of “fire” acted as a land mark for early explorers. Sunsets – seen against a vast foredrop of seemingly barren savanna – light up the western slopes in a burning red.
With the highest peak being around 2,575 meters, Brandberg has the biggest collection of rock paintings – an open-air gallery with impressive lighting.
More than 43,000 individual art works are situated at over 800 different rock sites around Brandberg, painstakingly documented between 1977 and 1985 by Harold Pager. The most famous one, the “White Lady”, draws curious travellers from all over the world; the mountain itself is an ideal place for hiking and rock climbing.
Fish River Canyon
The Fish River Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world. With a length of over 160km, its widest spot is a whopping 27km across. At times, the canyon walls drop over 500m down. Off the beaten track, it makes an endearing addition to any guided or self-drive tour through Namibia.
With many unique accommodation establishments to choose from, the canyon is also a prime location for adventure enthusiasts: hiking, rafting and fishing tours are just some of the many activities offered.