Fascinating Nature Experiences | Namibia Tours

Namibia

Namibia is one of Africa's youngest countries.  It's both stable and interesting, making it a wonderful country to tour. 

Below we've provided a bit of information about this fascinating country.  At the very bottom are also a few links for other resources. 

This page is rather long.  To make it a little easier to find your way around, we've clearly demarkated headers. 

Namibian Dune Landscape
One of Namibia's famous dunes

Namibia can be defined by simplicity, but there is a lot of interesting stuff to learn.  We've really only touched the tip of iceberg and you may want to Google for more information.  You're most welcome to contact us with questions as well. 

Where is Namibia

Namibia is in Africa.  It is located just north of South Africa on the western side.  To the east is Botswana.  To the north is Angola  and over the north-east is Zambia

The Atlantic forms the whole western border. 

How to get to Namibia

Most tourists either fly into Windhoek or they drive from the surrounding countries.  There are a few cruise ships that also visit the coast. 

It is possible to fly into Namibia from various places, but most commonly visitors would fly in from Johannesburg in South Africa. 

The main airport is located east of Windhoek, Hosea Kutako International Airport

Namibia has it's own national carrier, Air Namibia

What are the main regions of Namibia

We've described Namibia below in a way that will give you a broad picture of what the whole country is about. 

  • The Caprivi:  This area is a finger shaped region sticking out of Namibia's north-east.  It is a region of rivers and woodland, unlike the rest of the country that is primarily arid.  The Caprivi area has some really interesting conservation areas with many of Africa's megafauna such as elephants, hippos and buffaloes. 

    The rivers include the Okavango (which forms the Okavango Delta when it enters Botswana), The Kwando (which turns and becomes the Chobe), and the Zambizi River that flows over the Victoria Falls shortly after leaving Namibia. 

  • Windhoek and the central region:  Windhoek is Namibia's capital city, and it's located right in the middle of the country.  Windhoek is a small and clean city. 

    For most visitors, this is the entry point into Namibia. 

  • Central Coast  The towns of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay are two of the few towns along Namibia's harsh, foggy coastline. 

    South of Walvis Bay is the massive Namib Sand Sea, a huge expanse of dunes that runs right along the coast.  North of Swakopmund is mostly an expanse of desert plains, running up to the Skeleton Coast park. 

    The Cape Cross Reserve is a point of interest along this stretch of northern coast. 

    This whole area is within the Namib Desert. 

  • Etosha  Etosha is Namibia's flagship National Park and one of Africa's great game parks. 

    Etosha is a very large and most visitors only end up seeing a small part of it.  A vast part of the park is taken up by the barren ‘Etosha’ pan. 

    Etosha can be viewed as being three different destinations, the east with more woodland.  The south-central area around Okaukuejo is characterized by fast open plains and thin dry thickets.  The far west is more restricted, but there is now a camp in the area and there seems to be increasing access.  This western part is the only hilly region of the park. 

  • Sossusvlei Region  Sossusvlei is a series of dry white pans found between dunes.  The pans are located where an ephemeral river runs into the dunes. 

    The area is found within the huge Namib Sand Sea (Namibia's second World Heritage Site).  These dunes are huge, some of the highest in the world (read this blog post for more on that).  Aside from their size, they're fascinating for their rich colour. 

    One aspect of the main Sossusvlei valley that gives you this surreal feeling of awe is the fact that these giant dunes are lined along an open valley.  This means they rise to their towering heights from flat ground, something truly incredible to see. 

    To the east of this area there are a number of lodges along the eastern margin of the Namib Desert.  The NamibRand Nature Reserve is one of the region's best kept secrets.  This reserve has a good population of desert wildlife, interesting dunes and some great lodges to stay at. 

    Sossusvlei is a must for any landscape photographers, with its towering red dunes. 

  • Twyfelfontein and southern Damaraland  Namibia's north-west is wild country, where many of Africa's large mammals are found right within the rugged desert. 

    Twyfelfontein is special as Namibia's first world heritage site.  It has a huge number of rock engravings.  A bit further south is the Brandberg, Namibia's highest mountain. 

  • Northern Kunene Region  Northern Kunene regions is the most remote part of Namibia.  Not only are there interesting areas for wildlife, in the far north there are also the Himba people, who still live as nomadic pastoralists, traversing the dry region with their cattle. 

  • Bushman Land and Kaudom  Bushmanland is a region seldom visited by tourists, but it is interesting nonetheless.  This region is found along the northern part of the Botswana border. 

    There are regions where you can visit Bushmen people, still living a somewhat subsistence life.  The north of this area has one of Namibia's large, but almost unknown national parks, Kaudom National Park.  This park has few facilities and is hard to travel through, but it has a great region of northern Kalahari Woodland and interesting wildlife. 

  • Luderitz and the far south-west  This area is the diamond coast, an area of shipwrecks, ghost towns and restricted areas.  The coast is rugged and the town of Luderitz is truly strange. 

    Outside of Luderitz is the abandoned town of Kolmanskop.  This town was once a thriving diamond town, and now it is being taken over by the desert. 

  • The Fish River Canyon and far south  Much of the far south of Namibia is Karoo, a type of dwarf-shrub savanna.  It is huge open country.  There is one dramatic feature - the huge Fish River Canyon. 

  • The rest  Much of the south and central area is cattle farming country, with few towns and few people at all.  There are a number of interesting places between. 

What is the Namib

The Namib is the desert region that stretches along basically the entire west coast of Namibia, and stretches inland for some 100 kilometers. 

I've written some blog posts on the Namib and aridity here

Much of Namibia's character comes from it's aridity.  Though most of the country is semi-arid, the west is bordered from north to south by a hyper-arid (proper desert) region.  This desert stretches right from the coast, inland for roughly 100km. 

Deserts may seem rather boring, but the Namib is fascinating and varied.  It contains the huge Namib Sand Sea, a region the size of a small country - of just dunes! There are also hills, canyons and plains throughout this desert. 

Because the desert is along the coast, it also means that any water running from the interior would have to make it's way through the desert.  These seasonal river beds provide a finger of life though these areas, and allow many creatures to survive deep into the desert that normally wouldn't be able to. 

What makes Namibia a good country to travel in

Namibia is a large country, over 800 square kilometers in size, but yet there are only just over two million people.  This means that Namibia is one of the most sparsely populated countries on earth. 

Namibia is relatively safe, with good infrastructure, making travel a bit more convenient than other places in Africa.

Additionally, Namibia is just different.  Many of the African countries around us have typical 'African Bush', and Namibia does as well, but this whole arid element is unique in the southern part of Africa. 

Namibia is a wonderful country for photographers, and we work frequently with photographic trips.  Here's a page with more on doing photography in Namibia.

Namibia has a strong conservation ethic. 

Here are a few key features of Namibia

We've provided a simple list of things we think are worth planning your trip around. 

  • Sossusvlei's huge red dunes
  • The Fish River Canyon
  • Kolmanskop, the most accessible ghost town from former times in Namibia's gold mining history
  • The Kunene River along the northern border
  • Tweyfelfontein, Namibia's first world heritage site with a magnificent display of rock engravings
  • Etosha National Park
  • The tiny Mahango National Park, where the Okavango River splits to form the top of the Okavango Delta in Botswana
  • The Palmwag Concession, a dry area in the Kunene Region with a stable population of Black Rhino.

What mammals are special to Namibia

  • Desert Elephants These elephants are found in north-western Namibia.  They have adapted behaviorally to survival in Namibia's hyper arid areas. 
  • Hartmann's Mountain Zebra, Hartmann's Mountain Zebra.  This zebra subspecies is nearly endemic to Namibia.  It is mostly found along the eastern side of the Namib, and stretches from the South African border to the Angolan border. 
  • Black-faced Impala, Aepyceros melampus petersi are a supbsecies of Impala found mostly in Etosha.  They have stunning facial markings. 

What botanical features are interesting in this country

Namibia's most iconic plant is the Welwitschia, Welwitschia mirabilis. These plants are strange looking.  Click here to see what they look like

There are a number of plants found within the Namib that have really interesting behavioral adaptations.  One good example are the window plants, Lithops.  Being round reduces the surface area of these plants, and this reduced surface are helps to minimize moisture loss in these dry areas.  But there is a problem for plants who have reduced surface area to volume, they have less photosynthetic cells to their size as well( think of the opposite - a flat leaf is designed to maximize surface area). They make up for the loss of photosynthetic cells by having a window-like top and having photosynthetic cells inside. 

The Camel Thorn Tree, Acacia erioloba is one of the main trees found in the harsh riverbeds deep into the desert.  These trees are known to be extremely long lived, and provided food and habitat for many of the desert's creatures. 

What are Namibia's most interesting birds

Namibia has a number of near endemic birds, and at least one that is fully endemic to the country. 

The Dune Lark, Certhilauda erythrochlamys is confined to the Namib Sand Sea and a few sandy areas around it.  This bird runs around the hot dune sand in comical fashion. 

The Damara Tern, Sterna balaenarum is a near breeding endemic.  This bird has been one of Namibia's most important conservation concerns as development and off-roading has threatened its existence. 

In much of the dry country in Namibia there is one bird that is conspicuous not because of itself, but because of its nest.  These are the Sociable Weavers, Philetairus socius

These Sociable Weavers build massive nests in threes with dozens of birds occupying chambers within the one nest. 

What reptiles are special to Namibia

Bitis Peringueyi, the Peringuey's Adder, must be one of the snakes that comes closest to being cute.  These tiny snakes are dune dwellers and have a striking way of moving their tiny bodies over the sand. 

Namibia has one large near endemic species, found in the rocky areas along the eastern edge of the Namib.  This is Python anchietae, Anchieta's Dwarf Python. 

It is unusual for a regions characteristic sound to come from a reptile, but in much of Namibia, this is indeed the case.  Ptenopus garrulus, the Common Barking Gecko is a tiny, ground dwelling gecko found in much of arid Namibia.  They are a real challenge to find, but you can hear them around sunset time throughout much of the country. 

What makes the Namibian sky so awesome

Namibia has a fantastic night sky.  The NamibRand Nature Reserve has been registered as Africa's first Dark Sky Reserve

There are so few towns with lights.  There are so few people.  And, with the aridity, there are very few clouds.  Unlike many countries with heavy overgrazing in arid areas, Namibia has relatively little dust in the air.  So, overall, Namibia is perhaps one of the most spectacular places to watch the sky. 

Why are deserts interesting to visit

Deserts are deserted, right?  That's true, but it is also the very thing that makes these places interesting.  It allows one to really observe and experience deeply.  It also helps you see just how rich nature is, because as you study and get to know these dry open places and the nature that exists within them, you also start to see the complexity of nature. 

Additionally, one thing we've discovered, is that one can observe more behavioral aspects, just because animals don't disappear into the bush. 

What are the main modes of transport used to get around Namibia

If you plan to travel Namibia, these are the main options. 

Namibia is known as a self-drive destination.  The roads are reasonably well maintained, though most of them are gravel serviced roads. 

You could also do a fly-around trip in Namibia.  Flying is really expensive, and usually you'd fly in small six-seater planes. 

Though expensive, there is a huge advantage with time.  But the best part of flying is just seeing this amazing country from the air.  Places like the Skeleton Coast and the vast Namib Sand Sea cannot be appreciated nearly as much from the ground. 

You can also go on a guided Safari, where the guide takes the hassle of driving out of your hands, and helps you understand what you're experiencing. 

What should you bring and prepare for if you're planning a trip to Namibia

Here are just a few items that you might find useful if you plan to visit Namibia. 

If you're a naturalist like us, you'll certainly want some good fieldguides for your trip.  We've put together a books page. 

Good binoculars.  There is a lot to see, but sometimes you're looking over vast distances There is a massive difference between good binoculars and medium. 

In the same vain, a good camera is also really worth bringing.  You'll want both long lenses for wildlife, and wide angle for the landscapes. 

Prepare for a rather varied range of weather.  Even in the hot months, the coast can be chilly.  In the cold months there is sometimes what are known as east winds and the coast warms up to rather high temperatures.  Winter game drives can be really chilly. 

In this day and age of electrical devices, be sure you have the right electrical plugs for your devices.  The power in Namibia is 240 volts and you can see what sockets are in common use online, start here

What Languages are spoken in Namibia

English is understood throughout much of the country.  There is also a very strong German influence.  Afrikaans is widely spoken, and indigenous languages include Herero, Oshiwambo, Nama, Damara and a range of others. 

What money can I use in Namibia

Namibia's currency is the Namibian dollar.  The Namibian dollar is tied to the South African Rand.  In Namibia you can pay with either anywhere. 

US dollars and other international currencies are not accepted for payment, though they are happily accepted as tips. 

How is crime and stability in Namibia

There is crime everywhere in the world, and Namibia is no exception.  However, in comparison to much of Africa, Namibia is fantastic. 

The biggest dangers are areas where there are many unemployed people, such as in Windhoek.  And even there, the crime is mostly avoidable by staying in well populated areas and not showing your cameras and other expensive items. 

Namibia has enjoyed a very peaceful democracy so far.  There are obviously varying opinions, but politics is mostly peaceful. 

What diseases should I be concerned with when traveling in Namibia

On the whole, this is a question for your doctor.  However, there are a few useful remarks to make if you are planning to visit Namibia. 

Namibia does have Malaria, but not throughout the country.  Malaria is mostly found in the far north, and our advice is that if you are traveling anywhere in the north of the country, you should speak to your doctor about the advised prophylaxis for it. 

Namibia Guide Books

Below are some of the basic guidebooks to Namibia (Amazon Affiliate links). 

Some interesting Namibia links

Namibia on Wikipedia

Gobabeb Training and Research Center

Desert Research Foundation of Namibia

Desert Lion Research site

Save the Rhino Trust, Namibia

Our Facebook page has lots of images and other snippets that will give you more of a feel for what this country is like. 




For information about our Namibian tours, have a look at our Namibia tours page. 

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