It’s a new year and it’s time to plan your holidays for 2019. Yes, the sooner the better. Have you ever been to Namibia? If not, this is the time. Let’s go and visit one of Africa’s finest.
Namibia is a unique and fascinating country. Attractions range from prime wildlife safaris to desert landscapes and a whole lot more. A country in southwest Africa, is distinguished by the Namib Desert along its Atlantic Ocean coast. The country is home to diverse wildlife, including a significant cheetah population. The capital, Windhoek, and coastal town Swakopmund contain German colonial-era buildings such as Windhoek’s Christuskirche, built in 1907. In the north, Etosha National Park’s salt pan draws game. Sossusvlei is one of the most spectacular sights in Namibia with red sand dunes rising 300m into the air. Climb a sand dune, explore the Dead Vlei or balloon over the great Sand Sea.
What to do:
Etosha National Park
Let’s face it: most visitors to Namibia are Africa first-timers and they want to see animals. Big ferocious animals that they’ve only ever seen on telly or in pictures. And for that, we have Etosha National Park, one of Africa’s greatest game reserves and an assured safari experience second to none.
With the full quota of wildlife including elephant, lion, leopard, black and white rhino, cheetah, caracal, brown and spotted hyena, giraffe, zebra and many antelope, the mammal count is impressive – 114 to be precise. Birdlife is equally impressive with 340 species on record including a high proportion of raptors.
The unique natural waterholes that surround an ancient pan attract a daily parade of wildlife and staying in the park gives you a floodlit spectacle to boot. Stay in the private parks on the edge, take a guided safari through the park or just sit at a waterhole with a thermos and your binos – whichever way you want to experience it, Etosha is the genuine African safari experience.
Sossusvlei is the endless sea of rust-red dunes, the bleached white pan and its gnarled ancient trees. Sossusvlei is the oryx flashing its flowing tail and giving you front and side views of its extraordinary features in front of a bright red dune that soars into the deep blue sky above.
A visit to Namibia is incomplete without making the long trek into Sossusvlei, climbing Big Daddy and sitting atop the world’s tallest dune looking out over a sea of equally big dunes disappearing into the western horizon.
And from the air, in a hot-air balloon at sunrise, the landscape just beggars belief.
Sossusvlei is a dot inside one of the world’s largest conservation areas. Covering 50,000sq km, the Namib-Naukluft Park begins on the plateau of central Namibia and drops to the vast basin of the Namib Desert – the 20-million year-old remains of an ancient sea.
Wide open spaces framed by purply-blue Mountains and impossible sunsets make the Namib-Naukluft a place of singular beauty and peace. The only sound you’ll hear is the gentle breeze and time seems to stand still as though the clock stopped circa Paleocene times (indeed there are preserved dinosaur footprints dotted around the country).
If you’ve seen Sossusvlei or can afford a few extra days, the Namib-Naukluft Park has some sensational eco-lodges – like Wolwedans, Desert Homestead and Moon Mountain Lodge – that offer a magical desert experience. Horse riding, quad bike trails, scenic drives and overnight hikes and hot air ballooning all offer a unique take on the world’s oldest and most beautiful desert. We’re not biased. Not at all.
The Caprivi region is like Botswana Lite: it’s on the same floodplain, the same rivers flow through it and the same animals drift in and out of the two countries on their seasonal migration paths.
Often Botswana knocks our clients’ budget into touch and we have to haul back on our recommendations. Enter the Caprivi and its off-the-beaten-track wilderness. On massive perennial rivers and dense floodplains, the safari lodges in the Caprivi offer an experience of the African bush you’ve probably pictured in your mind since watching The Lion King.
And you won’t be disappointed. The scenery, wildlife, birdlife, tranquility and luxury of the safari lodges are every bit as amazing as the more expensive destinations further south.
Fish River Canyon
Whichever way you measure it, the Fish River Canyon is enormous. Poised on the edge your view is of a vast flat land incised by rivers flowing for millennia.
Above ground, quiver trees and odd cacti dot the stony plains and the whole experience is somewhat eerie in its isolation, like you wouldn’t be surprised to stumble on a location shoot for the sequel to Texas Chainsaw Massacre – only there’s nobody around to massacre. And we mean nobody. The place is a vast and empty land blissfully untroubled by humans
Without doubt a destination in its own right but, being so achingly close to Etosha en route from the Skeleton Coast, the beauty and solitude that is Damaraland is so often missed.
Home of desert-adapted elephant, rhino and lions as well as oryx, springbok and hundreds of bird species, Damaraland is at once beautiful, unique and fascinating with rocky mountains, grass-covered plains and every conceivable range of brown from dark russet to bleached blonde. Except the sky which is invariably a deep vivid blue.
Half way between Namibia’s top two attractions, Swakopmund is the natural base from which to explore the Skeleton Coast – a fog-shrouded desert wilderness of ferocious seas, apparently lifeless interior and its own fair share of visual oddities.
Dunes meet sea at the Skeleton Coast and there is a lot to see and do here that makes Swakopmund an ideal break to the vast distance between Sossusvlei and Etosha. Desert tours, sea kayaking and scenic flights are complimented by a host of adventure activities including quad biking, paragliding, sandboarding and skydiving. Get close to nature and closer to your loved ones in a single day. There’s nothing like an adrenalin rush to sort life’s priorities from life’s trivialities.
Cape Cross Seal Reserve
Cape Cross in Namibia is known mainly as a breeding reserve for thousands of Cape Fur Seals. Cape Cross is a Cape Fur Seal Beach with an interesting history of a stone cross on the bleak headland – put up, in 1485, by a Portuguese captain and navigator, Diego Cão.Cape Cross Seal Colony, in Namibia, is the breeding place of the Cape Fur Seals, which are actually a species of Sea Lion. Along the Namibian and South African coast there are 24 colonies with a seal population of about 650 000 animals.
About 80 000 to 100 000 seals inhabit Cape Cross. hese Fur Seals are so-named for their thick pelt. Unlike true seals which have only a thin covering of hair, Fur Seals have a thick layer of short soft fur, which is protected by a layer of longer, harder hair. The top layer gets wet, the bottom layer stays dry. The bottom layer, as well as the fat formation under the skin give seals a good isolation against the cold Benguela current. Seal pups have been hunted for their jet black pelts and for the beautiful olive-grey coat which they acquire after moulting, for centuries. The adult’s fur is too coarse to be suitable for use in the fur industry.
The Kalahari is believed to be one of the oldest deserts in the world, occupying a huge sprawling sandy basin that extends from eastern Namibia across most of Botswana as well as spilling over the border into the Northern Cape region of South Africa.
The Kalahari’s varied landscapes and unique wildlife species are conserved within three primary protected areas: the wild and remote Khaudum National Park in Namibia, the scenically spectacular Kgalagai Transfrontier Conservation Area spanning the border between South Africa and Botswana, and the gigantic Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana. All three of these reserves share a real sense of space, solitude and wilderness. The burnt red dunes of the Kgalagadi provide the most mesmerising and impressive landscape, but all three parks offer excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. The Kgalagadi is the most popular and accessible of the reserves, while Khaudum sees no more than a handful of self-drive visitors per year.
The Kalahari is home to the regal black-maned lion, secretive leopard and endangered African wild dog. But the desert is also regarded as the best place in Africa to view cheetah in the wild. With its abundant herds of springbok and scattering of steenbok, the Kalahari’s wide-open landscapes provide a perfect hunting ground for Africa’s fastest land mammal. Visitors who are fortunate enough to spend some time in the company of a Kalahari cheetah stand an excellent chance of watching this amazing speedster in action as it hunts its favoured antelope prey at high speed.
Recognised national languages: Afrikaans, German, Otjiherero, Khoekhoe, Oshiwambo, Kwangali, Setswana and Silozi
Currencies: South African rand and Namibian dollar.
Best time to visit: Unlike many other African countries, Namibia is an all year destination. The dry season is best for game viewing whereas the wetter (green) season is better for scenery, bird watching and general photography.
Source: Namibia Tours and Safaris