Why Namibia Should Be Your Next Travel Destination in Africa
Let’s be honest, most people head for the same places when they visit Africa for the first time like the Masai Mara, Kruger, and Serengeti National Parks. However, some of the most fascinating experiences on the continent are far off the beaten track and this is certainly true of Namibia in sub-Saharan Africa.
What’s so interesting about Namibia?
Well, Namibia has an incredibly small population for a country so large. For this reason, many of the attractions in this part of the world are accessible without tourist crowds. You can travel through vast landscapes with precisely zero sign of civilization and when it comes to wildlife, you will rarely need to maneuver around other tourists to get up close to these majestic creatures.
Let’s take a closer look at Namibia and what you can expect on an adventure in this colorful land:
The Land of Sand and Ancient Home of the Himba
Namibia is located to the west of Botswana in sub-Saharan Africa. Temperatures often soar and there is a certain emptiness about the landscape. In fact, Namibia is home to the oldest and driest desert in the world, and not even the Atlantic Ocean, which makes up the country’s West Coast can cool the unrelenting heat and scorching sands.
That said, in spite of the barren nature of these landscapes, colorful dunes and breathtaking sunsets are common. What’s more, Etosha National Park and the Skeleton Coast provide some fantastic wildlife experience. As if that’s not enough, interacting with the flamboyant Himba Tribe offers an interesting experience.
And that’s just part of the story…
Majestic Dunes and Desert Experiences
Located at the very center of Namibia, Spitzkoppe rises out of the desert like a skyscraper made of stone. In many ways, this spectacular attraction is the most iconic landmark in Namibia and an unmistakable sight in such an incredibly flat landscape.
There is a public campsite next to the Spitzkoppe and whether you drive or join a tour, you might want to camp overnight because it is one of the most incredible places to sleep out under the stars. What’s more, you can climb up on the rocks for sunrise and wait for local wildlife to appear on the landscapes below.
Another amazing attraction is, Sossusvlei, which is located in the heart of the Namib Desert and features stunningly beautiful landscapes. It can seem empty at first, but the truth is, there is something truly fulfilling about witnessing this untouched paradise. This is also where you can find ‘Dune 45’, one of the highest in the world. This immense dune is surprisingly easy to climb.
Adrenaline Activities in Swakopmund
Swakopmund is an old German colony that can seem somewhat alien at first because the European architecture and facilities feel out of place in the middle of Africa. That said, the town is a colorful stop and the most fun place to visit for those in search of some activity.
Swakopmund is widely regarded as the “Adrenaline Capital of Southern Africa.” While skydiving over the desert is hugely popular, quad biking in the midst of the surrounding dunes is also an exhilarating experience. Where else in the world can you speed one hundred feet up the side of a sand dune with the majestic Atlantic Ocean to the right and a vast empty desert to the left?
If you think that quad biking is a little “dangerous,” you can try sandboarding, which is also popular. Although those with snowboarding experience are at a clear advantage, it takes zero experience to sit on a flat board and feel the need for speed. After climbing up these dunes, you can also opt to enjoy some “lie-down sandboarding” which is every bit as fun as standing up!
Etosha National Park and Unique Wildlife Experiences
For many visitors to Africa, the Masai Mara and Serengeti National Park are the obvious choice for wildlife safaris. Further south, Botswana is also hugely popular and most often the first pick for those in search of expensive mobile safaris. However, few wildlife encounters can offer the same unique setting as Etosha National Park in the very north of Namibia.
Etosha is home to elephants, lions, leopards and almost every other species you can imagine.. However, the diverse landscapes bring a completely different feel to the safari. For example, you might be driving through a dense bush only to emerge into a flat expanse of desert on the other side. Minutes later, you can park next to the immense salt pan and witness these animals in the unique habitat that makes this a lot more than just a safari.
Etosha has some fantastic accommodation options and some of the most interesting watering holes in Africa. Or visitors are welcomed to sit up overnight next to the flood-lit watering holes at Halali and Okakuejo, where lion, giraffe and even black rhino wander down for a drink after dark.
Unforgettable Cultural Encounters with the Himba Tribe
The wildlife safaris and the enchanting landscapes are worthy of their reputation, but when it comes to cultural experiences, tribal encounters offer a very different insight into this part of the world. In this sense, meeting the infamous Himba Tribe or Herero people is one of the true highlights on a trip to Namibia.
Located in the Kunene Region of northern Namibia, the Himba is one of the most famous indigenous tribes in Africa. For most people, their distinctive appearance is captivating as they wear skinned skirts and cover their skin with a mixture of dirt and red ochre. Although it’s said that this allows the Himba to be closer to Mother Earth, it also protects their skin from the burning sun.
Meeting this tribe is a real privilege and visiting a Himba village enables visitors to gain insight into a very old world that seems a million light years from today. If you stay for supper, you will be sure to hear drums and songs and you will see a very ancient civilization where spears are common and smartphones are a complete mystery.
A Hidden Gem
Namibia offers many of the same kinds of attractions that you could find in Kenya or Tanzania. However, the desert experiences and tribal encounters are very different from anywhere else on the continent. What’s more, with so few tourists and so many attractions, the intrepid traveler is spoiled for choices and will quickly realize the benefit of visiting such a remote destination.
The mix of natural attractions, colorful people and exciting experiences suggest that Namibia is still somewhat of a hidden gem in Africa.
Because rhinos tend to be the color of their last mud bath it can be difficult to distinguish between the white and black rhinos. However, you can determine the type of rhino by the shape of its mouth. Black rhinos have a pointed upper lip of the browser, while white rhinos have a flat wide muzzle. Their body shapes are slightly different too; white rhino have a longer neck and head and are slightly taller with longer tails. The black rhino has a more evenly proportioned body with a slightly dipped back.
Comment below if you think this is a black or white rhino.
Derek Cullen is an adventurer and travel writer from Dublin, Ireland. Having traveled the world in search of new experiences since 2008, Derek now spends most of his time leading adventure tours through Africa.