Namibia & Surrounds

Namibia has a population of 2.1 million people. Given the presence of the arid Namib Desert, it is one of the least densely populated countries in the world. The land size of Namibia is the same as France, Germany and some British isles put together but with only a population of 2.1 Million people. Before its independence in 1990, the area was known first as German South-West Africa (Deutsch-Südwestafrika), then as South-West Africa. Being situated between the Namib and the Kalahari deserts, Namibia is the country with the least rainfall in sub-Saharan Africa.

Since independence in 1991 Namibia has become a major African tourist destination – popular due to it’s vast distances and tiny populations. Travelers enjoy the desert vistas of the Namib Desert and some of the best game viewing in the world at Etosha National Park. The name of the country is derived from the Namib Desert, considered to be the oldest desert in the world.

Flying over Namibia’s dramatic landscapes gives you a completely different perspective. You’ll marvel at the size of the great Namib Desert, gape at the enormity of the magnificent grand dunes, fly low over seal colonies and land at grass airstrips only a few miles from your camp.

The Namibian landscape consists generally of five geographical areas, each with characteristic abiotic conditions and vegetation with some variation within and overlap between them: the Central Plateau, the Namib Desert, the Great Escarpment, the Bushveld, and the Kalahari Desert.

Namibia is one of few countries in the world to specifically address conservation and protection of natural resources in its constitution. Article 95 of the Namibian constitution states: The State shall actively promote and maintain the welfare of the people by adopting international policies aimed at the following: maintenance of ecosystems, essential ecological processes, and biological diversity of Namibia, and utilisation of living natural resources on a sustainable basis for the benefit of all Namibians, both present and future.

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Points of Interest in Namibia

Map Key

1. Spitzkoppe

The Spitzkoppe is a group of bald granite peaks located between Usakos and Swakopmund in the Namib desert. The granite is more than 700 million years old and the highest outcrop rises about 1,800 metres above sea level. The peaks stand out dramatically from the flat surrounding plains. The highest peak is about 700 metres above the floor of the desert below. Other prominences stretch out into a range known as the Pontok Mountains.

Many examples of Bushmen artwork can be seen painted on the rock in the Spitzkoppe area.

2. Windhoek

Windhoek is the capital and largest city of Namibia, and is located in a basin between the Khomas Highland, Auas and Eros Mountains. It is 1,680 metres above sea level, 650 km north of the Orange River and 360 km from the Atlantic seaboard.

Whether due to pure luck or a brilliant stroke of Germanic planning, the city is situated in almost the countries epicenter. This location has obvious benefits when it comes to governing a country the size of Namibia, and also makes it the ideal place to start and plan any Namibian travel.

3. Etosha National Park

Etosha National Park is a national park in north-western Namibia and was proclaimed a game reserve in 1907, and spans an area of 22,270 square kilometres and gets its name from the large Etosha mineral pan which is almost entirely within the park.

Etosha National Park is one of Southern Africa’s finest and most important Game Reserves, and the park is home to hundreds of species of mammals, birds and reptiles, including several threatened and endangered species like the black rhinoceros.

4. Kaokoland

Kaokoland is one of the wildest and least populated areas in Namibia, and this rugged landscape has some incredible mountain scenery. As one of the last remaining wilderness areas in Southern Africa, Kaokoland is the home of the Himba people, and is a refuge for the black rhino, the rare desert dwelling elephant, as well as giraffe.

This remote landscape is especially attractive during the early morning and late afternoon when it is transformed into softly glowing pastel shades, although the midday sun is harsh and offers little respite.

5. Caprivi

The Caprivi Strip (or Okavango Panhandle) is a narrow protrusion of Namibia stretching eastwards from the Okavango Region about 450km, and lies between Botswana to the south, and Angola and Zambia to the north.

A big attraction of the Caprivi region is that it is surrounded by four perennial rivers, the Okavango, Kwando, Chobe and the mighty Zambezi rivers. These waterfront areas combine riverine forests with vast wetlands, and are home to over 600 species of bird as well as four of the African ‘Big 5’ (less rhino). The area boasts four National Parks – Bwabwata, Mamili, Mudumu and Mahango.

6. Zambezi River

The Zambezi is the fourth-longest river in Africa, and the largest flowing into the Indian Ocean from Africa. This magnificent river rises in Zambia, and follows a meandering 2,736-kilometre course, separating Zambia and Zimbabwe and crossing Mozambique to empty into the Mozambique channel.

In the far north-east of Namibia, the incredible Zambezi River serves as the frontier between Namibia and Zambia, before plunging over the mighty Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Travellers can experience the thrills and excitement of the Zambezi River with its incredible labyrinth of waterways, floodplains, riverine forests and backwaters. There is an exceptional variety of bird-life, game and vegetation., and guided tours within vehicles and preferably boats, on and around the river are a real draw-card to this region.

7. Skeleton Coast Park

The Skeleton Coast Park is a national park located in north-west Namibia, and has the most inaccessible shores, dotted with shipwrecks. The park was established in 1971 and has a size of 16,845 square kilometres.

The park is divided into a northern and southern section, the southern section is open to those with 4 wheel drive vehicles, they are allowed to go up (north) as far as the Ugab River Gate (where a sign with a skull and crossbones warns you to go no further).The northern section can only be reached by a fly-in safari. The loose sand is a deathtrap to even the most powerful 4 wheel drives.

8. Cape Cross Seal Colony

Cape Cross is a small headland in the South Atlantic on the Skeleton Coast in western Namibia. It is 60 kilometres north of Hentiesbaai and 120 km north of Swakopmund on the west coast of Namibia.

The Cape Cross Seal Colony is a protected area owned by the government of Namibia. The reserve is the home of one of the largest colonies of Cape Fur Seals in the world. Cape Cross is one of two main sites in Namibia where seals are culled, partly for selling their hides and partly for protecting the fish stock.

9. Swakopmund

Swakopmund lies on the coast of north-western Namibia, 280 km west of Windhoek. The town has 42,000 inhabitants and is situated in the Namib desert. Swakopmund is a beach resort and an example of German colonial architecture. Founded in 1892 as the main harbour for German South-West Africa, a sizeable part of its population is still German-speaking today.

Attractions in Swakopmund include the Swakopmund Museum, the National Marine Aquarium, a crystal gallery and spectacular sand dunes near Langstrand. Outside of the city, the Rossmund Desert Golf Course is one of only 5 all-grass desert golf courses in the world. Nearby lies a camel farm and the Martin Luther steam locomotive, dating from 1896 and abandoned in the desert.

10. Namib-Naukluft Park

The Namib-Naukluft National Park encompasses part of the Namib Desert (the world’s oldest desert) and the Naukluft mountain range. With an area just under 50,000 square kilometres, the Namib-Naukluft is the largest game park in Africa and the fourth largest in the world. The most well-known area of the park is Sossusvlei, which is the main visitor attraction in Namibia.

The park’s spectacular burnt orange sand dunes are the tallest sand dunes in the world, in places rising more than 300 meters above the desert floor. The dunes taper off near the coast, and lagoons, wetlands, and mudflats located along the shore attract hundreds of thousands of birds.

11. Sesriem Canyon

The Sesriem Canyon is located about 4 kilometres from the small settlement of Sesriem, in the Namib Desert, close to the southern end of the Naukluft Mountains. The Sesriem Canyon is the second most important tourist attraction in the area after Sossusvlei.

The Sesriem Canyon is a natural canyon carved into the local sedimentary rock by the Tsauchab river. The canyon is about a kilometre long and up to 30 meters deep. The Sesriem Canyon is only two metres wide in some places, and has a portion that permanently contains water, which many animals use.

12. Sossusvlei

Sossusvlei is a salt and clay pan surrounded by high red dunes, located in the southern part of the Namib Desert. Sossusvlei is within the Namib-Naukluft National Park, the largest conservation area in Africa, and its sand dunes are regarded as the highest sand dunes in the world.

Sossusvlei is one of the most spectacular sights in Namibia, and the sand dunes at Sossusvlei are just one excellent reason to visit Namibia. The best time to view Sossusvlei is close at sunrise and sunset as the colours are strong and are constantly changing, allowing for wonderful photographic opportunities. The midday heat is intense and best spent in the shade.

13. Kolmanskop

Kolmanskop is a ghost town in the Namib desert in southern Namibia, a few kilometres inland from the port town of Lüderitz. Once a small but very rich mining village, it is now a popular tourist destination. The first diamond was found in Kolmanskop in 1908, and thereafter many of German miners settled in this diamond-rich area.

With the wealth produced by diamond mining, the residents built this German village, with amenities such as a hospital, ballroom, power station, school, skittle-alley, theatre, casino and a ice factory. The town declined after World War I when the diamond-field slowly exhausted and was ultimately abandoned in 1954. The geological forces of the desert mean that tourists now walk through houses knee-deep in sand. Kolmanskop is also very popular with photographers.

14. Fish River Canyon

The Fish River Canyon is located in the south of Namibia and is the second largest canyon in the world. It is also the second most visited tourist attraction in Namibia and this gigantic ravine is about 160 kilometres long, up to 27 km wide, and is in places about 550 metres deep.

The views over this magnificent landscape are truly breathtaking, and the towering rock faces and deep ravines were formed 500 million years ago. Self-drive tourists, hikers, photographers and nature lovers world-wide 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.

15. Kalahari

The Kalahari Desert is a large semi-arid sandy savannah which extends 900,000 square kilometres, covering much of Botswana and parts of Namibia and South Africa. A semi-desert, with huge tracts of excellent grazing after good rains, the Kalahari supports more animals and plants than a true desert.

The Namibian area of the Kalahari Desert is covered with trees, ephemeral rivers and fossil watercourses, and the regular rainfall patterns that occur every year allow for huge numbers of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, plant life and insects to thrive. Leopard, Cheetah, Giraffe, Zebra, Spingbok and Gemsbok are some of the animals found within the Kalahari.

16. Epupa Falls

The Epupa Falls are on the Kunene River on the border between Angola and Namibia. The Kunene river is half a kilometre wide where it drops in a series of waterfalls spread over a distance of 1.5 km. The name ‘Epupa’ is a Herero word meaning ‘foam’, in reference to the foam created by the falling water.

Despite being difficult to reach (a 4-wheel drive vehicle is recommended to reach the falls), the Epupa falls are a major visitor attraction in Namibia, because of the largely unspoiled environment, with fig trees, baobabs, makalani palms, and coloured rock walls framing the falls.

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