10 Reasons to Make Namibia your next Vacation Destination
By Scott Dicken
Stunning scenery, abundant wildlife, and plenty of adventure. Namibia has it all. Despite having spent over three months in this otherworldly country, I can say I haven’t seen even half of what Namibia has to offer. It’s also one of the easiest and safest of the African safari destinations to self-drive. As a result, companies catering to visitors who want to ‘go it alone’ are becoming ever more prevalent, catering to everything from budget camping to 5-star luxury. But what makes Namibia the ideal destination? Below are ten great answers to that question.
Climbing some of the World’s Biggest Sand Dunes
Dune 45 is one of the more popular dunes to climb in Sossusvlei National Park and stands at a daunting 85m high. But at 325m high, Big Daddy is the biggest dune in town and offers spectacular views from the top.
…..And then Sandboarding Down Some of Them in Swakopmund
Swakopmund is a small town on Namibia’s west coast, and is regarded as the country’s capital city of adventure sports. Given its abundance of sand dunes, one of the most popular local activities is sandboarding. My one piece of advice on sandboarding is to not be fooled by anyone proclaiming that sandboarding is easier (or the landing softer) than snowboarding. Having nearly cracked my head open like a ripe coconut, I can safely say it isn’t! Other sports you might want to give a go are dune quad biking, land yachting, surfing, wind surfing, paragliding and sky diving.
Enjoying Wonderful Food at Every Turn
Namibia hosts an eclectic mix of cuisine; from the locally inspired biltong and potjiekos, (bush stew) to the colonial influences of German cuisine. In Windhoek, Namibia’s capital city, you could choose to visit the Namibian Institute for Culinary Education (NICE) for dinner, or head to Joe’s Beerhouse for a more authentic bush braai (BBQ). Swakopmund on the other hand is a heavily German-influenced town. As a result, it’s dotted with German restaurants and brauhaus’ where you can get your fill of schnitzels, pork knuckles, bratwurst, and eisbein.
Getting Up Close and Personal with Wildlife at Okonjima
Okonjima is private safari reserve sandwiched between Windhoek and Etosha National Park (the latter being the country’s most notable national park and safari destination). It’s the perfect place to stop over for a night or two on your way around the country’s classic self-drive route. The Reserve is centered on the operations of the Africat Foundation; utilizing the vast expanses of land that Okonjima sits on to rehabilitate carnivores for release back into the wild. Okonjima offers an unbelievable chance to track cheetah and wild dogs on foot.
Tracking Desert Adapted Wildlife and Immersing yourself in Ancient Art in Damarland
Damaraland is probably one of the most scenic areas of Namibia. The real highlight of a Damaraland safari is tracking down the rare desert-adapted elephant and black rhino. Healthy populations of gemsbok, springbok, kudu, Hartman’s mountain zebra, and giraffe are also regularly sighted. If you’re looking for culture and history then also take some time out from safari to visit Twyfelfontein, which is home to one of the largest collections of petroglyphs in Africa.
Capturing a Sunrise over the Desert in a Hot Air Balloon
We all know that Africa has some of the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets anywhere on earth. What better way to capture the moment than from the air, soaring silently above the reds and oranges of the scorched deserts of Sossusvlei. Even if you aren’t a fan over getting up at an ungodly hour, and even if you can’t usually stomach the thought of engaging with other people before your daily caffeine intake, you won’t regret it on this occasion. After witnessing the spectacular day break, you’ll be treated to a champagne breakfast after ‘touchdown’. There are worse ways to start your day!
Hunting for Shipwrecks Along the Skeleton Coast
The Skeleton Coast is famed for its shipwrecks. Even if you don’t have the time to travel further up Namibia’s infamous west coast, there are several wrecks dotted between Swakopmund and Cape Cross, both of which are on the standard tourist itinerary. Although the more spectacular shipwrecks are farther north, requiring a fly-in to the remote beaches of the Skeleton Coast, those close to Swakopmund are more than enough to quench the thirst of the amateur shipwreck hunter.
Horseback Riding in the Foothills of Windhoek
Namibia’s capital, Windhoek, is the starting point for a Namibian adventure. Just outside of downtown are stables which offer the chance for a horseback ride amongst the stunning scenery. For those of you who, like me, aren’t experienced riders beware of the thorn bushes. Unfortunately for me my wife, who’s an experienced rider, trotted off with our guide and left me to ‘navigate’ my horse directly into a thorn bush. The next few hours were spent plucking thorns out of my arms and legs and tending to severe lacerations.
Kayaking with Seals in Walvis Bay
I don’t think there’s a better way to get up close and personal with the aquatic wildlife along Namibia’s coast than to paddle your way out into the lagoon in Walvis Bay by Kayak. Sure, you could head out on a boat for dolphin and seal watching – certainly a more relaxed and luxurious option (you’ll be sipping champagne and chowing down on hors d’oeuvres before you even leave the port) – but I’d much prefer to get down at eye level with the wildlife (including Walvis Bay’s flamingo population). This might be more work, but you’ll be right in the middle of the action as the seals swim around the kayak.
Meeting the Herero
The Herero people are a pastoral cattle breeding tribe believed to have migrated from the east African lakes about 350 years ago. Today, there are about 100,000 Herero people in Namibia; mostly found in the central and eastern areas of the country. The importance of cattle to the Herero people is displayed in the traditional dress of Herero women; particularly their headwear, which represents the horns of cattle. As you travel through central and eastern Namibia you’ll often see Herero women on the roadside selling tribal crafts.
If you want to learn more about what Namibia has to offer then check out the takephotosleavefootprints.com website!