Think of Africa and you might first think of Tanzania for its incredible safari opportunities or South Africa for its winning combination of wildlife and culture. Your mind might wander to the Sahara, perhaps the world’s most famous desert, or the red-robed Masai warriors, one of Africa’s best known indigenous tribes. But wedged between the dusty desert plains and the chilly waters of the Atlantic sits Namibia, a country that offers all of this and more. Whether it’s your first time to the continent or you’re thinking of heading back for more, here’s 10 great reasons to visit Namibia when you do.
Reasons to visit Namibia #1
It is home to some of Africa’s most incredible landscapes
Imagine mountains made of sand and you’re half way to picturing the spectacular dunes of Sossusvlei. They’re some of the biggest in the world, reaching heights of up to 380 metres and composed of sand estimated to be 5 million years old. As the sun makes its daily journey across the sky, these dunes change colour like a chameleon from dazzling orange to deep rusty red. Few places in Africa beat this region for sheer photogenic beauty thanks also to the contrast created by the blackened dead acacia trees that punctuate the landscape.
You’ll find these wind-formed behemoths in the Namib desert, one of the oldest on the planet, but this isn’t the only desert Namibia claims. Next door lies the Kalahari, a vast sea of red sand and golden grass that bears strong resemblance to the deserts of Australia. There’s also the Skeleton Coast – a harsh but handsome shoreline littered with the carcasses of sunken ships and dead whales, not to mention the radiant salt pans of Etosha. Wherever you go you’ll find that Namibia really is a photographer’s dream.
Reasons to visit Namibia #2
It is home to interesting history
As with other countries in Africa, Namibia soon found itself of interest to European powers during the imperialist ‘Scramble for Africa‘. It was the Portuguese who first set foot on Namibia’s shore but it was the Germans who claimed the country as their colony in 1884. Namibia remained under German rule until 1915 and evidence of this history is clear to see in the colourful colonial towns where little has changed in the past century. In Swakopmund street signs still bear Germanic names and menus offer traditional German dishes like bratwurst and pork schnitzel, while the capital Windhoek annually celebrates Oktoberfest. And as you’d hope, the beer is pretty damn good!
Reasons to visit Namibia #3
It is home to ancient cultures
Long before colonial powers arrived, Namibia’s human story was one of indigenous tribes. Perhaps one of the most famous of these original peoples is the San bushmen, one of the earliest settlers in the area. They are one of Namibia’s smaller groups who live a traditional nomadic way of life in the east of the country and in neighbouring Botswana, Zimbabwe and Angola. The country’s largest ethnic group is the Ovambo, who account for around half the population, but there are also the Kavango, Herero, Damara and Caprivian peoples. In the north of the country live the Himba people, with a population of just 50,000 who maintain age-old traditions. The women are easily identified by their hair, which is coated in red clay. The remote and wild Kaokaland is the best place to interact with Namibia’s tribes.
Reasons to visit Namibia #4
There’s plenty of wildlife
It wouldn’t feel like Africa if there weren’t safari opportunities and Namibia doesn’t disappoint with an enviable wildlife offering. Etosha National Park ranks amongst Africa’s best thanks to its numerous waterholes that practically guarantee game sightings. The park incorporates the Etosha salt pan, a 120-kilometre-long dry lakebed, and once the rains have ceased these waterholes are an important life source for the animals that call this place home from the African bush elephant to the white rhino, leopard to lion, giraffe to zebra. Perhaps one of Namibia’s most iconic animals is the antelope and over twenty species can be found here, including the striking Gemsbok with its long symmetrical horns. So iconic is this particular breed that it appears on Nambia’s coat of arms. Birdlife is prolific here too with over 700 different species of bird including ostrich, penguin and pelican.
Reasons to visit Namibia #5
It’s a year-round destination
As a land of largely desert and semi-arid geography, Namibia experiences a mostly dry climate with pleasantly cool winters (May to October) and hot summers (November to April). When it does rain it’s only a fraction of what countries in East Africa receive and it tends to be localised storms that move on quickly. To put it in some perspective, Namibia boasts an impressive 300 days of sunshine each year. This makes it a great destination at any time of year with reliable game viewing regardless of the season. The lush foliage and swollen waterholes during the wet season may make it a tad more challenging in Etosha or the northern Bushveld but in the desert the rains barely make a difference. And the sand dunes take on a whole new identity with patches of green grass sprouting up through the rust-coloured sands.
Reasons to visit Namibia #6
English is widely spoken
For a small population, Namibia is home to a surprising diversity of languages but the great news for travellers is that English is the official language. Secondary school students are taught in English and while it may not be a native language for many Namibians, it is a language that is understood across the service industry. Road signs are in English and even in more rural areas there’s likely to be one person that can speak at least a bit of English. This makes getting around a lot easier and offers a comforting sense of familiarity to many international travellers.
Reasons to visit Namibia #7
It is a safe destination
Namibia is considered one of the safest countries in Africa. Since gaining independence from South Africa in 1990 Namibia has enjoyed decades of political stability and good governance that has encouraged inter-racial reconciliation and invested in infrastructure and education. It has one of the highest literacy rates on the continent and the media are allowed to cover opposing political parties and views, which is not always a given in African countries.
Reasons to visit Namibia #8
It’s the perfect self-drive destination
Reasons six and seven are two great reasons why Namibia is a popular self-drive destination. The road conditions are generally good, drivers respect the rules and roads are uniformly signposted in English. Unlike some other countries in Africa, self-drive is a wholly viable option in Namibia and a downright pleasure with empty roads that cross grand, sweeping landscapes. The best thing about a self-drive holiday is that it offers total flexibility – you’re in charge of your day-to-day itinerary, making stops as you go and taking as much time as you need getting from A to B. It also makes touring Namibia a lot cheaper, especially if you opt for 4×4 vehicles kitted out with pop-up tents on the roof. Self-catering accommodation is plentiful in Namibia and is one more reason why it’s a highly affordable travel destination.
Reasons to visit Namibia #9
It’s a great family holiday choice
Whether you’re doing a self-drive holiday or booking a pre-packaged tour, Namibia is a fun destination for families thanks to the wealth of experiences and outdoor activities available. Here you can go in search of elephants in the national parks, somersault down the side of sand dunes, gaze at the constellation-strewn night sky and kayak beside pelicans, seals and dolphins. There’s something for everyone and of all ages, especially active teenagers, so no one in the family will go bored. What makes it even more appealing for families is the choice of malaria-free safari destinations – the private Okonjima Nature Reserve offers unrivalled chances for leopard and cheetah safaris while the Waterberg National Park is the Kalahari’s version of Table Mountain with rhinos and scenic hiking trails.
Reasons to visit Namibia #10
The Caprivi Strip is a budget version of the Okavango Delta
The Caprivi Strip (or Zambezi Region as it is now officially known) is a tropical paradise of wide rivers and lush vegetation located on the banks of the Zambezi River in the far northeast of the country. As Namibia’s wettest region it supports a large variety of wildlife including hippo, crocodile and buffalo, which you won’t find elsewhere in the country, and also serves as an important migratory corridor for elephant. The Caprivi Strip easily rivals the better-known Okavango Delta in terms of wildlife offering but accommodation prices here are much lower and it’s a lot more accessible by road so you don’t have to rely on expensive flights to get around. If Botswana is on your bucket list but the bank balance is a way off making that dream a reality, give Namibia a go instead – you won’t be disappointed.
Experience Namibia for yourself with our range of overland camping and lodge accommodated safaris or speak to our tailor-made team to create your own bespoke itinerary – visit our website for our full range of Namibia tours.