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Namibia is a vast country located in the south west of the African continent along the Atlantic Ocean. It is unique for its natural wonders and ancient geology where underground kimberlite pipes produce an abundance of diamonds.
The country is one of few remaining destinations where little has changed in some parts; tribespeople practice ancient customs and wild animals & exotic plants survive in the world’s oldest desert. And in contrast, the main cities are modern, progressive centres.
Namibia is classed as an arid region with a sub-tropical desert climate. Extreme temperature changes occur between day and night, winter and summer. The average annual temperature is roughly 15° Celsius, however in the mid-desert, temperatures can soar to 45° Celsius.
The official currency is the Namibian Dollar, its value approximately the same as the South African Rand.
Namibia’s road network is excellent, with well-maintained tarred roads linking the main centres. When travelling in the northern area and during the rainy season between January and March, a 4x4 vehicle is necessary.
The country is safe with a stable government and the people have endearing qualities that will leave an impression long after you have left.
Things to do
Game viewing in Namibia is truly unique when you consider that Africa’s Big 5 (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo) have adapted to this harsh arid region. The largest population of cheetahs are found here, the massive dunes are the habitat of many reptiles and the Oryx antelope has evolved to survive without water for long periods.
Sossusvlei has some of the highest sand dunes in the world. The highest dune here is Big Daddy at 325m. Also of interest amongst the dunes is Dead Vlei, an ancient salt pan with long dead 900-year old camelthorn tree fossils.
Shipwrecks lie along the treacherous Skeleton Coast. Start your coastal journey from Swakopmund northwards to see penguin & seal colonies, sea ponds, flamingos, roaring dunes and a chance to find crystals scattered in the sand.
The Arnhem cave system near to the town of Gobabis has approximately 4.5km of passages. Some of the system can be explored, wear old clothes and bring a torch. It’s believed that the caves contain around 15000 tons of bat guano.
For a true African experience, travel to the Kunene region in the north to meet members of the Himba tribe. Females adorn themselves with beads and jewellery and coat their bodies and hair with a paste called otjize. This paste is made from goat’s fat, aromatic plants and red ochre.
The Etosha National Park is an idyllic location for wildlife enthusiasts and photographers.
A 20km drive west of Grootfontein will get you to the ancient Hoba meteorite. The 50 ton meteorite is a national monument and consists mainly of iron (80%) and nickel.
Visit the ghostly remains of the once-thriving Kolmanskop diamond town, 9km east of Lüderitz. The town boasted a hospital (with x-ray machine), casino and bowling alley but was abandoned in the mid-1900s when diamonds were discovered along the coast. Today, the buildings are gradually being swallowed up by shifting sands. A permit is required to enter the area.
The Agate beach on the Lüderitz peninsula has a sand almost completely black in colour due to the presence of mica crystals. Indigo coloured Agate crystals wash up regularly on this beach.
Hike the world’s 2nd largest canyon, the 500-million year old Fish River Canyon, via the 86km hiking trail.
Take advantage of the stunning dunes scattered throughout the desert by joining a sandboarding tour.
Wind and kite surfers flock to Namibia every year for the Lüderitz Speed Challenge to attempt to break the speed record on water. Speeds of around 50 knots are recorded.
The luxurious and exclusive Desert Express train travels to several tourist attractions and towns with majestic and diverse scenery along the way. Options range from 2-day to 11-day excursions. Note that the train is being refurbished for the remainder of 2015 and will begin operating again in 2016.
Where to Eat
The Crayfish Bar & Lounge in Lüderitz is a stylish restaurant overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Fresh from the sea and expertly prepared Lüderitz oysters is the restaurant’s signature dish.
Also in Lüderitz, the welcoming Fisch Imbiss Restaurant with its open outdoor area and colourful interior has a fresh and interesting menu lovingly prepared by the two German owners.
The Seeheim Hotel Restaurant in Keetmanshoop has a rustic, country feel to the place with a matching menu. Good wholesome food is on offer.
The Namibia Institute of Culinary Education Restaurant in Windhoek offers excellent meals from their talented pool of trainee chefs showing off their skills. Meals are well priced and presented in a pleasant venue.
Leo's at the Castle Restaurant in Windhoek has earned a certificate of excellence from TripAdvisor for its excellent cuisine. Great wine selection.
A funky little eatery with outside deck, Lemon Tree Deli Restaurant in Walvis Bay offers enjoyable seafood and freshly-prepared sushi. The antiques and unusual wall decorations make for a good conversation piece.
Purple Fig Restaurant in the small northern town of Grootfontein serves delightful light meals and breakfasts under the fig trees. A beautiful setting in which to enjoy a great value meal.
Go Fishy Restaurant in Hentiesbaai is an informal beach style restaurant serving up fresh seafood popular with the locals.
El Cubano at the Hilton Hotel in Windhoek is a slick venue hosting regular events and fresh DJs. Latino music on most nights.
The Warehouse Theatre in Windhoek is where the party happens every weekend for the locals. Join them for some merrymaking! Live music with the occasional international band invited.
Rafter's Action Pub in Swakopmund is an old school club with rocking music and requisite strobe lights. Late night venue.
The nightlife in smaller towns and game lodges involves drinks around the fire, good conversation and crystal clear star-filled skies.
Where to Stay
The accommodation options spread throughout Namibia are superb, from luxury hotels, guest houses and spas to charming, upmarket beachside resorts and lodges…and a few unusual but comfortable tented camps in between.
Air The capital of Windhoek has the only international airport, the Hosea Kutako International Airport. Air Namibia offers direct flights to certain African countries and Germany. There are 31 other airports dotted throughout the country, all reached via interlinking Windhoek flights or private charters.
Car Rental You will find car rental agencies at most major cities, and at the Windhoek airport, to hire a vehicle.
Taxis Taxi companies operate in all major cities, in smaller towns the transport options would be shuttle services or through local tour operators.
Trains TransNamib is the official rail carrier offering train services stretching north to Angola down to South Africa and across from Windhoek to Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and Lüderitz.
Did you know?
Hot air moving in from Namibia’s interior combines with the cold sea air producing a fog that can penetrate over 50km inland. Namibia’s fauna and flora are dependent on the fog for its life-giving moisture.
When driving into Namibia, be aware that only 2 of the 14 border posts spanning its 4 neighbours are open 24 hours. Enquire with the nearest local authority before your departure.
Most countries do not require a visa to enter Namibia, however, travellers arriving for business purposes must apply for a business visa.
The entire coast of Namibia is malaria-free, but the disease is prevalent in the north-eastern region, particularly between November and June. Take the necessary precautions if visiting that area.
Angela Jolie gave birth to her child Shiloh at the Cottage private hospital in Swakopmund in 2006. The child has dual Namibian/American citizenship.
For those who are a little adventurous and enjoy the company of other travellers, you can decide to stay at a Backpackers. Often having to share a room with others as well as costs, it is incredibly inexpensive. Often the best choice for those who may be just passing through or will be occupied for the majority of their day. It comes with the most basic amenities and is often formed as part of a bar or similar establishment. Not recommended for those who want privacy, this is best suited for those who wouldn’t mind meeting various other interesting travellers.