All You Must See and Do in Namibia
Table Of Contents
- 1 All You Must See and Do in Namibia
- 1.1 Interesting Facts About Namibia
- 1.2 Windhoek
- 1.3 Etosha National Park
- 1.4 Sossusvlei
- 1.5 Swakopmund
- 1.6 Walvis Bay
- 1.7 Damaraland and Kaokoveld
- 1.8 Twyfelfontein
- 1.9 Skeleton Coast
- 1.10 Epupa Falls
- 1.11 Otjiwarongo
- 1.12 Caprivi
- 1.13 Luderitz
- 1.14 Fish River Canyon: Must see and do in Namibia
Namibia. An African gem that is overshadowed by her neighbours’ extravagance. She is not often spoken of, not seen on the news in most Western countries. I could bet if I were to stop 50 people in Time Square and ask where Namibia is, very few would know. My bet would be on 5 or less people knowing.
Namibia is not Zimbabwe, whose president, Robert Mugabe often grabs international news. Namibia is not South Africa, the land of one of the world’s most popular statesman ever, Nelson Mandela. It is not Africa’s leading economy. She is neither Nigeria, nor Egypt no Somalia. Namibia is that shy, pretty, reserved girl that goes through high school largely unnoticed. She just doesn’t make enough noise for her cause. As such most people will never visit this land, the rest will hardly hear of her. That alone is a tragedy. To do her some justice, I will start this by acquainting you to Namibia. We will then look at what you must see and do in Namibia.
Interesting Facts About Namibia
The one thing that everyone, well everyone who does some sort of reading will know about Namibia is the famous Kalahari Desert. It is one of the largest deserts in the world, an area in which the Khoi San people still reside in. The conditions of this desert would be a death sentence to the ordinary human being, but not to the San people! They have become masters of their land.
As we travel further north of the country, the desert gives way to greener surroundings, tarred roads and cities. Within the cities, Namibia is just like any other African country. There is a distinct gap between the rich and poor, but a thriving middle class sits pretty, in between the two extremes. The poor would reside in largely high densely populated areas of the country. These places are where accommodation is cheaper. The wealthy reside in plush residential areas in prime parts of the country. Such is the beauty of these places that you would never guess that they are in Africa, if seen on a photograph. Those who have decided to shun the huff and puff of Western cities tend to come down to Africa to buy their own piece of paradise.
World War 1 saw this German colony taken back by South Africa, who was entrusted with her keeping after the war. As with other countries, Boers and other European settlers took most of the good land, leaving the natives to settle in the desert regions. When the Second World War ended, South Africa’s exploitation of Namibia was challenged by the UN, their settlement was declared illegal. The result of this was a revolution that saw Sam Nujoma become the first recognised leader of Namibia of African descent in 1990.
Perhaps as a direct result of the apartheid system in neighbouring South Africa, Namibia is divided into about 12 groups of people. These are made up of how people settled in the regions that they did as well as how they look. Trevor Noah describes a similar phenomenon in South Africa as follows, “The genius of apartheid was in convincing people that they are all different.” That is not a word for word quote, but to the same effect. Like most other African nations, Namibia is blessed with natural resources, these include copper, lead, uranium, gold and of course, diamonds!
Namibia has a population of just under 2.5 million, as of 2015, per WorldBank. Chances are, if you are not a keen historian, some of this does not interest you so I will move on to what you are here for.
Namibia Travel Checklist
- Camera (There will be some pictures to be taken)
- Insect repellent cream (just in case, Namibia is quite low on Mosquitos but we are better safe than sorry.
- Passport (Don’t usually need a visa)
- Driver’s license (I always recommend car hire when travelling)
- Handy Cash (not too much, just a bit of cash $300 or so).
- Medical Aid
- Emergency Contact (can be someone within a neighbouring country i.e. South Africa, Zambia, Angola and Botswana)
- Personal hygiene items (sanitary pads, toothbrush, toothpaste, shower gel etc. especially if you have specific preferences).
- Hair Products
- Vaccinations (check with your doctors a few months before you are due to travel.
- Printed Booking confirmations (accommodation, airport transfer and such)
- Facial Tissue
- Hand sanitisers and wet wipes
- Unlocked mobile phone (to use local sim card for internet access and to stay in contact with people, as well as for emergency calls).
- Hiking Boots
As I have already mentioned, Windhoek is the capital city of Namibia. I have heard it referred to as the “City of Many Faces”, for reasons I have yet to establish. When arriving in Windhoek, I expected it to have a very significant resemblance to South Africa, where I had gotten my connecting flight from. I have ventured into and around South Africa on several occasions, so my view of the country is a very balanced and well researched one.
The people look somewhat similar, in mannerism and skin texture. I honestly cannot explain what I mean by skin texture. There is just a caramel, milky look to both South African and Namibia populations. This is not to say that everyone in the nations looks identical, however there is an evident resemblance. Historically, there are several reasons that could explain this, but I will avoid the temptation of going off on another tangent. Back to Windhoek.
There are less than 300 000 inhabitants in the city, which is quite a small population for any capital city. Like most African countries, the colonial culture permeates and become quite prevalent, long after the colonisers have left. This is true for Windhoek and other parts of Namibia. The hand of the Germans and their heritage is still about for all to see, and I must say there is some charm to it. Over the last few times I’ve been to Namibia, it has grown as a more and more cosmopolitan feel.
If you read our previous post that covers Zimbabwe, you will follow the format that we used on that one. We will map our way around the city to some of the best places available. I will give tips on how to best enjoy your time in each place, as well as what you ought to look out for. Let’s start right from the airport.
As you can see from the map, the airport is not out of reach from perhaps the first thing I always advise travellers to get (car rental). My belief in this is that you will not fully experience most parts of the world you travel to unless you have your own wheels. In most parts of Southern Africa, the transport system is largely privatised, which makes it a lot harder to travel for someone who doesn’t know the system well. That being said, it is also a great way to meet the locals, and truly experience a city.
Rent a car
When you get out of the Hosea Kutako International Airport, there are a few car rentals that are conveniently placed within walking distance from the airport. We took a taxi, for the less than 3 minute drive down the road. Sadly, my travel companions and I do not agree on where we rented the car from. I’ll ignore their version and go with my own. As far as I am concerned the taxi driver recommended that we go with Avis Car Rental as they were a brand name. I am usually up for supporting small businesses, but when I am travelling, I can hardly afford for things to go wrong, so when it comes to such decisions, I usually go with the safe option.
For that reason, I cannot say for certain which of these car rentals is the better one. You also have Bitvest Car Rental, Hertz Rent a Car (another brand name) and Thrifty Car rentals. For a bit of fun, you can get your cab driver to take you to each of these for you to pick the ideal one for your trip. There are a few things that I always consider when going into this:
- Does it come with a full fuel tank
- What do they offer for road side assistance?
- Are there other locations to drop off the car?
There may be other things that are equally important, but whoever satisfies these four questions should the ideal one to go with. Make sure you get a 4×4, anything else won’t do the trick.
I used to love hotels, but nowadays I prefer to be in the thick of things. Hotels are for storing stuff and getting a warm bed at the end of each day’s adventures. There are hotels in London, New York, Oslo, Barcelona and any other part of the world that you may travel from. The reason why you don’t frequent those is that you are busy actually living. If there is a good time to let your hair down and just live, this is it. Try one of the local lodges, or better yet look for a house to rent for the period of your stay. It usually works out cheaper and places you in the thick if things.
Now that you have settled in we will start our expedition by exploring the capital city, Windhoek. Like most countries, the capital city of Namibia is a melting pot of cultures. This is where people from across the country travel to, to try and make a life for themselves. People from neighbouring countries also venture here in an attempt to find the proverbial green pastures. I have heard Namibia called Africa for beginners, and it is indeed. The sort of place where you romanticised vision of the continent can be nurtured without the inconvenience of a culture shock, or a reality that deviates from that which was shown on television.
The story of Katutura Township is similar to that of some townships in neighbouring, South Africa. Katutura was founded in 1960 as a forced resettlement area for the native population. The colonial government would pick the choicest land for the white population. If the land was already occupied, the black occupants would be forcedly relocated to another shitty land. In theory, it maintains a dependency on the white population. If you have bad land, you produce poor crops, you don’t make much off them if they are even enough to feed you. You will then have no choice but to go and work for the guy with better land.
Minus the back story, modern day Katutura township attracts most Windhoekers. This is where you would go and live if you have just moved to the city on a low budget. Accommodation is very cheap, although for the most part it can also be substandard. This is where 90%+ of the population reside. Here is where you find the masses, and really experience Windhoek. A city is only as good as its people. There are various tour providers. These guys will take you into the place and tell you about the place. On average the tours last up to 3 hours. I am not against this at all, however I like an authentic experience.
We drove down to Katutura, parked our car and roamed for hours, while we had food, danced, had some drinks at a local bar, had an open-air barbecue at the market, chat to locals and ended up playing football on a dusty street to cap it up. We had no cameras, they create an unnatural atmosphere; I have come to believe. The locals are at their natural best when they are not being photographed to be shown to friends overseas. Again, that’s just me. Take a camera if you would like. Any photos you see posted here will not be taken by me, except on occasions where we are joined by a keen photographer who later sends us the photos.
The rule of thumb when spending time in any township is to not be flashy. Dress down, blend. Become a local for the few hours that you will be there. Roam down to the market, drink at any of the multiple makeshift bars, get some meat from the market and get it barbecued, indulge in the fresh fruit and veg that is on sale. They also have great fish (sadly I had just developed a seafood allergy prior to my last visit). Instead of photos, get yourself a souvenirs. If it is not a monument, don’t let it steal your moments. Something that will really mean something to you. Something that really says “KATUTURA”. There is a bike tour as well. That’s something that would certain pick my interest.
Christus Kirche translates to Christ’s church. There is one of the same name in Mainz, Germany. The one in Windhoek was officially consecrated in 1910. That was about 14 years after the founding pastor, Heinrich Siebe had started the ministry there. The version you will see today is a result of some extensive renovations that were done in 1967. The place is a beauty, pure German architecture. In 1974, Christuskirche was officially recognised as a national monument. In my book, it was long overdue.
It’s about a 14-minute drive from Katutura. Fun fact, there are two hospitals in 5-mile radius. I don’t know if that is the norm? It’s a low traffic route, so you will have no issues.
Namibia Craft Centre
Having seen some great places across the world, as well as across Southern Africa; I am a firm believer in the notion that, art is the greatest expression of any city’s soul. Namibia Craft Centre is the soul of Windhoek, and Namibia as a whole. Art and craft from across the country is collected, curated and kept at this fine establishment. You will easily get lost in it all. The crime rates in Namibia pretty low, so this really is Africa for beginners.
That being said, I have travelled across Southern Africa with no incidence or news of incidents to others. You are probably safer in most parts Africa than you are in America. Perhaps the more robust police force is the advantage that you have in the West. South Africa is the only nation in Southern Africa that comes close the US stats when it comes to crime. I digress.
What makes Namibia Craft Centre so good?
- Nearly 40 stall holders run their stalls packed with a variety of artistic artefacts from across the country.
- There are over 4000 craftspersons who contribute to this centre. That’s about 4000+ families putting food on their tables. You are not buying into a large corporation that will not see the effect of your money. You are buying into a family. Your money will truly count.
- Most traveller come here as they get ready to set off the airport. Don’t be that guy. Take your time to look at the craft, interact with the stall owners, understand the stories behind it. Get some local snacks and other fresh food while you wander.
- It’s great for buying gifts as well. The prices are very reasonable and often negotiable. I’ve seen some persuasive travellers get some cracking deals for multiple purchases.
This is one of the two main museums in Namibia. Owela Museum focuses on natural and cultural history of this wonderful nation. This museum is located just outside the National Museum of Namibia, which displays the country’s independence and struggles. You should take time to visit this one as well if you have a chance. As I mentioned at the start of the article, the history of any nation you visit should be important to you as a traveller. If you pay little or no regard to the history of a place, you miss a large portion of the pleasures of travel. You miss an essential ingredient for understanding the people. Travelling is not merely about seeing monuments and new places, it is more about experiencing new cultures and expanding personal horizons.
One of the reviewers on Trip Advisor who is a native of Namibia was quite pleased after her visit to the museum. Such a review shows you just how it actually is.
The items of displays are uncannily life like. The locals agree that they resemble the true form of the tribesmen on display. Just outside the museum is an amazing statue in memory of the great Sam Nujoma. There is none more deserving of this honour than Mr Nujoma. I will post images that I have managed to gather from the web. If for any reason you feel that your rights have been infringed by the use of any of these images, please feel free to get in touch and we will remove them.
Etosha National Park
African national parks are one of my favourite places to go to. It’s not like the zoos and other enclosures. This is a place where you get to encounter wildlife in the very wild where it thrives. Etosha National Park is one of these lovely places that I hold in high esteem. It is about a 4 hour drive from the capital city. The roads are relatively quiet here, although they could be wider or better paved. Enough of my complaining already! Shouldn’t be much of a worry in a rental car.
Distance from Windhoek: 415km
Estimated Travel Time: 4 hours
You may pass through: Outjjo and Otjiwarongo
Often referred to as the gateway to Northern Namibia, for reasons I would assume to be fairly obvious. It is arguably Namibia’s most attractive tourists’ destination, if we consider the sheer number of people that it sees from across the globe throughout the year. There is no telling just how many things you can get up to once you are there.
You could expect to see:
I cannot guarantee that you will see all of these. Depending on the weather, a safari drive will help you see more of these. The cost for a safari drive is quite affordable. Get yourself some time in the wild. It’s important! Of all the places I have stayed in, the accommodation at Etosha places you right in the thick of things. There are several campsites that one can choose from.
I will resist the temptation to go on a tangent about the origin of the name. The advantage of Halali is that it places you at a vantage point to view the animals as they come to the floodlit watering hole that is nearby. There 5 honeymoon chalets, if you are bringing a significant other. I need not say that they don’t have to be used for honeymoon. Just a bit of time out with the old lady is reason enough to get one of them. You get a queen-sized bed, a private garden area as well as a Jacuzzi. For the single ones, or ones looking for cheaper option, there is the family chalet. Well, there are actually two of these.
They are secluded, giving you the privacy that we all want when on holiday, if not every day. You get two bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchenette, lounge and a braai/barbecue area.
For bigger groups of adults, you may want to look into the bush chalets. These can contain up to 4 adults! There are usually readily available as there are ten of them to go.
For a slightly smaller group, there are smaller bush chalets that can contain 2 adults. They come with everything that the bigger bush chalets offer.
There are 40 double rooms also available. They are all ensuite.
If for any reason, rooming is not your thing and you want to really go wild, camping may be the way to go. There are several campsites arounds. Equipment is usually available to rent or purchase on arrival. If you have your own, bring it with you if you can. Saves you the extra expenses.
There are 6 waterholes near this camping site, so it’s certainly the place to be.
Distance from Windhoek: 380km
Estimated Travel Time: 5 hours and 11 minutes
You may pass through: Rehoboth, Bullsport and Klein Aub
Sossusvlei is one of those places that will show up in a movie or music video and leave you wondering where in the world that is. For the common man, Namibia wouldn’t even come to mind when pondering on this. Why would it, the common man in New York and perhaps even London couldn’t point out Namibia on a man. I am not quite sure if that is a PR issue with the Namibian government or if it is mere ignorance on the part of the rest of the world. Pardon my tangent, you should already know how I feel about these things. We ought to know and seek to know our planet. To be satisfied with existing only where we are from is criminal.
So, back to Sossusvlei. In the Southern part of the Namib desert is a clay and salt pan that is surrounded by mountains of dazzling dunes. The etymology of the name loosely translates to dead end marsh. There is no telling what kind of sick man would name such a beautiful place “dead end.” To be fair, there is not much sign of life within the area. The whole desert stretches for upwards of 32 000km2 and changes from one area to another. The more established and solid of the dunes are where there is some vegetation growing. Other parts are quite sandy, hence nothing grows on them.
The underground rivers, which are under the higher dunes are what keeps the higher dunes watered. This is what makes up the marshes that are seen, and where the vlei in Sossusvlei comes from. Besides the dunes and marshes, you may encounter some desert animals. These will range from beetles, some small reptiles, rodents, springboks and ostriches. I was quite thrilled to encounter ostriches, as I know people who didn’t see them when they went.
I was made aware of the fact that the animals you see will depend on the time of the year that you travel down. The rainy season will see more animals and migrant birds arrive for their annual rendezvous. Let loose, and enjoy this fabulous place. It’s the sort of place I would imagine authors and other artists would find a lot of inspiration. It’s a place to come and collect the fragments of your thoughts.
Distance from Windhoek: 353km
Estimated Travel Time: 3 hours and 18 minutes
You may pass through: Arandis, Usakos and Okahandja.
While in Namibia, I spent most of my nights in Windhoek. This meant that I had to drive to and from a lot of places. The saddest part of it all is that all the time you spend on the road is time you could spend enjoy the destinations. You travel, you live, you learn. There are a fair share of lessons for us all, you just have to pick the right destination for each one and be willing to pay the tuition. So, Swakopmund. I found the etymology of this one too complex to explain, so I will save you the time.
Swakopmund is a coastal city, west of Namibia. It has a population of sub-50 000, which is very low by African city standards. That being said, Namibia is not vast populated. It is a beach resort, the sort of places most Westerners dream of travelling to in summer months. Everything about the layout and the building testifies of great German architecture. Quite a bit of the population remains German-speaking today. The history of Swakopmund spuns from 1892, when it was founded at a port harbour for German South West Africa. There is a beautiful library, an aquarium, a crystal gallery, as well as a golf course (Rossmund Desert Golf Course) not too far out of the city. This is obviously for those who would not prefer to lounge on the sea side.
There are also some wonderful activities to be taken part in if you would rather do that. There is skydiving, balloon riding, quad biking (which I love) and marine cruising. I didn’t take part in all of the activities, but was pleased with the ones that I got a chance to.
Swakopmund was the sight of some of the scenes in Mad Max Fury. The city is your typical desert climate, with temperatures ranging between 15-25℃.It barely rains.
While we are here, we must not miss the opportunity to see Walvis Bay.
Distance from Windhoek: 41.6km
Estimated Travel Time: 35 minutes
You may pass through: Great Views of the coast
No matter where in the world you are from, you will appreciate the experience of travelling along the coast. As mentioned above, the drive from Swakopmund to Walvis Bay is a very short one. The key here is to not rush yourself, drive and take in the scenery. Look for opportunities to stop and soak it all in, where that is a possibility. There are a host of activities that one can take part in while in Walvis Bay, so be prepared. I will attempt to list and describe as many of these as I can recall.
Things to do in Walvis Bay
Up until I went to Namibia, dolphins had never been my thing. My travel companions would go swimming with them or watched them, while I would always find an excuse for not taking part in it. That being said, I love water, and the freedom that it offers all who allow it to.
The dolphin cruise gives you the opportunity to ride the waves out into the water on one of the boats. You should expect to see dolphins leaping in the water around the boat. The cruise organisers feed the seals as others take photos or like me, just watch and marvel at these lovely creatures. Fresh refreshments and a wide range of seafood was served on board, while we enjoyed each wave.
We enjoyed this experience so much that we hired a private charter to do a second day trip on a cruise. The charter one allows you to control the itinerary, which is not possible on a shared trip. The common route will take you through Bird Island, moored Russian trawlers and then down to the Pelican point. 9am is usually the departure time for the cruise, unless you choose to take the chartered option, which you can depart at your leisure. You will also have option to have some champagne and other delicacies on request on most charters.
Walvis Bay Waterfront
If for some reason the travelling has taken it out of you and you fancy a more chilled day, the Walvis Bay Waterfront offers a great venue for such a noble pursuit. It’s a hive of activity for lounger, bird watchers, sunbathers and the like. There are quite a number of really good restaurants and cafes that you should try out once you are done with watching birds. Most of the other seafronts in Walvis Bay are industrial sights, which is what makes this one so special. Appreciate it.
There are some parks that you can see most of the local birds. You will see large groups of flamingos and pelicans in there. It’s the sort of day you would want to have with someone on a first date, before you know what they are into. It is also very chilled, the sort of place your granny would enjoy.
Dune 7 gets its name from the fact that it is the seventh highest sand dune in the world. Well, that was the case when it was named, whether it still remains that today is beyond my scope of knowledge.
It is free to visit and usual clear in the morning, before the rest of the slackers on holiday get up and populate it. It may take reaching its summit to fully appreciate this beauty. There are restrooms, picnic areas and other facilities that you can make use of while there. If you are feeling a tad bit lazy, take the long way up the dune, and get some rest under the palm tree that is located about halfway up the dune. This may also come in handy on a hot day.
If you are into sandboarding, or if you are up for trying it, this dune is a great opportunity. Anyone who loves to hike and see just how immense the world is, and the reality of how small we all are in comparison need only spend time in this sand stretching for miles.
Long Beach Leisure Park
If you have not gotten enough of the flamingos or have yet to encounter the pink flamingos, go and check out Long Beach. It is a few miles away from the Walvis Bay. It is worth the trip, even if for nothing else but a photo-opportunity.
I had never seen so many flamingos ever in my life, and it has yet to happen again. If you want to take great photos of the bird, you will need to be very patient to not startle them. There are so many of them, take your time.
If you want to get some food afterwards, I would recommend heading over to The Raft. Ask around or check your maps for it. It’s well situated, you will remain in the holiday mood.
Quad Bike Desert Tour: Must see and do in Namibia
For me travelling is about discovery, and not merely leisure. This is what the quad biking tour gave me. If you want to enjoy a few hours and learn a bit about Namibia and the desert, you must take this tour. The tour starts at 8am to try and beat the thermal winds that frequent the deserts in the afternoon. The full tour last up to 4 hours, by which time you will be back to Walvis Bay. The tour guide, Fanie was brilliant. His knowledge was explicit in depth. You should expect to take in the sights, lesson on geology, archaeology, zoology and botanical aspects of the area.
You will also see some desert creatures as you ride along. It is a safe trip, ours had no incidents and neither did I hear of any prior to or post our tour. The best part for me and my colleagues was meeting the local tribe towards the end of the tour. Nothing says Namibia like this tour experience.
If you cannot ride or have never ridden a quad before, do not worry, there is a training session given before the start of the tour. The quads are fairly simple to operate. Children are allowed on the tour if they are riding on a quad with an adult. There is obviously a small added fee for this.
If for any reason you want to experience more of the water, kayaking may be the next port of call. This one starts slightly earlier than the quad biking, at 7:45am. We met the guides at Walvis Bay, before we were driven to the Pelican point, where the fun began.
You are not expected to bring in previous experience, as you will be taught the basics. All gear and safety equipment is provided, don’t worry. It’s a half day tour as well. The waves were starting to rise when we finished.
There are a lot of other things that you could do, so keep your eyes open.
Damaraland and Kaokoveld
Most tourist destinations slowly disintegrate into what the locals perceive as being what the travellers want to. Untamed jungles soon become somewhat luxurious parlours. That sort of thing scares me, I want things to remain natural, the way there were when we first fell in love with them. I want places to maintain their true essence. Damaraland is one of the places that clings on its original state. It is unarguably the most scenic place in Namibia. If Namibia is Africa for beginners, Damaraland is the introduction to Africa. A vast untamed, and largely undisrupted land. You have everything here, sand dunes, mountain peaks for the hikers, valleys, rivers, flood plains and amazing rock formations.
The only thing that I will say to you off the bat, is that you must only venture this landscape in a decent car. If it is not a 4×4, you will be unlikely have a good trip. The roads can be treacherous.
Accommodation comes down to a wide range, from the glamping for the very precise ones with a lot of money to spend, to the more affordable variations.
Pre-colonial Africa is largely undocumented in words as we know them today. What we know of that time has been passed down through oral history and artefacts. Most people would debunk some of oral history as being mythical. If you have played broken telephone, you will certainly know just how easy it is for information to become distorted, even unrecognisably so. Enter historical artefacts. If you read our previous article that covered the places you should see in Zimbabwe, you will remember the artefacts that were found at Great Zimbabwe and how significant these were to piecing together what is known today, of that ancient African civilisation. Twyfelfontein has its rock painting to tell its own story. I will be the first to admit that these painting are almost unreal. They draw you in, like a story would.
Investigations by archaeologist, Erich Wendt established that these rock paintings/engravings were almost 4000 years old. If that doesn’t blow your mind, I don’t know what will. The area where these paintings are located has passed through several hands, and finally been placed in the care of the local farmers. It is believed that it took long for the painting to be discovered because of the way the natives viewed the place as being sacred. As such they neither frequented or spoke of it.
UNESCO has declared this to be a world heritage site, which should see the artefacts preserved for future generations to see. There are about 2500 of these engravings and paintings. There is no way I can say I saw or remember anywhere near half of them.
The tales of hunters and gatherers that lived here are all preserved in these.
The Guardian journalist, Fran Sandman, in an article in 2010, described the Skeleton coast as being “Not quite Europe, but not quite Africa either.”
The Skeleton coast in a mix of everything, the blistering desert heat, as well as the desert itself to one side, and the South Atlantic waters falling on the other side. It’s almost creaky, as well as it is creepy. It would make the perfect location for shooting a movie of a ghost town or one of those cities that you see on Grand Theft Auto, or better yet, Pirate of the Caribbean.
The name Skeleton coast comes from the sheer number of ships that were wrecked on the shore, leaving their skeletons there. For all the things that one may not like about this place, one will also note with great pleasure and some admiration just how undisturbed it remains. Unlike other coastal cities across Africa and the rest of the world, where the fingerprints of tourists are on everything, the nature of the skeleton coast is such that most people would not want to spend prolonged periods there.
Most tourists come in on fly-in tours, which are rather pricy, as they should be equally boring. I met a group while I was there. It may have just been me, but I was under the impression that our cohort was taking more delight in this experience.
There is not much else that is left to be seen at the Skeleton coast. Let us head off to our next destination.
I don’t know what it is about waterfalls and their locations. Never in my life have I gone to a waterfall that is in a convenient place. I mean there are decent transport links to some falls, and then a bit of a trek to get to it. The ones that you get to just have a look at and marvel, like the Victoria Falls that borders Zambia and Zimbabwe are probably the easier ones to get to. If you want to experience a waterfall, go under the water, swim in the pool below it, there is a price to be paid. This applies to Epupa Falls. It located on the North-Western border between Namibia and Angola.
Any doubts or regrets that you may have about the drive and the time that it takes for you to get there are easily eradicated by the wonder that this place is. There is no fee to be paid to get into the falls, which is always a welcome surprise when one is touring. Over the years it has become increasingly touristy, with more and more lodges and camps being erected along the Kunene. The important part is that the waterfalls remain as they have always been.
The water flows in from various directions, creating small pools that you can swim in. As if that wasn’t enough, the area is also lined up with palm trees and baobabs. It has that Caribbean feel to it. There are various viewpoints where you can stand as survey this vast piece of heaven. There is a small cost for accessing the viewpoints, but it is totally worth it.
The only thing I can add here is that you will need to have a 4×4. I cannot state that enough. The roads are not for your little Pinto.
Otjiwarongo is one of Namibia’s fastest growing cities. It has a population of just over 70 000 people. That is tiny by most standards. It has a large German speaking population. A local told us that this may be because most of the tourist destinations in the area remained predominantly German owned until recent years. The local infrastructure is also notably of a German taste, which is always a good thing. German architecture is something that is done well for the most part.
The name Otjiwarongo translates to “The place where fat cattle graze.” If you know anything about Africa, you will be aware of how important livestock has been historically to a population’s wealth. Today, Otjiwarongo remains one of largest producer of cattle and related products. There are good transport links between Otjiwarongo and most Namibian cities, by road and by rail.
3 places you must go to in Otjiwarongo
1. The Cheetah Conservation Fund
In a world where we fear that quite a few animals will not be available for future generations to behold, the Cheetah Conservation Fund is one beacon of hope, among the few that have sprung up to meet this need. Come ready to learn something new. This organisation is a well oiled machine. The staff are clearly passionate and knowledgeable about the things that they share with you. You will know a lot about cheetahs and other big cats by the time you leave this place. A lodge is also on the site, if you would like to stay.
An opportunity to get up close and personal with the world’s fastest mammal is there fro grabs, on the drive through the enclosure. There is a small fee to be paid for all the activities. It is all for a good cause, though. These guys are doing some great work to learn more about cheetahs and help conserve them across the world.
The feeding time was the highlight of our visit. Cats love to eat!! We loved to watch them eat.
2. Waterberg National Park
Get your hiking boots ready for this one. I will be first to admit that I sat out this part of the trip. My colleagues furnished me with the information that I will provide now. The place is vast, with a lot of hiking trails. The trails will be frequented by small game, as well as scavengers such as monkeys and baboons. You want to keep you snacks out of sight. Besides that, you will enjoy it. There were a few kids on the trail with their parents, which is always a reassuring sign. There is a small fee to be paid for entrance and use of the car.
It is not for everyone. I was assured that the views are worth it!
3. Rare and Endangered Species Trust (R.E.S.T)
I could not think of better initials to give to a better place. This place is an absolute “rest”. I had previously encountered pangolins in my time in Zimbabwe, but not in such a sanctuary. It is widely believed that if you encounter this creature in the wild, you are blessed. They are almost impossible to spot, they blend so well into their surroundings. There are a few rare birds and vultures that we also got to see. This such a great project.
This place was named after a German Chancellor, Leo Von Caprivi. It was given to the Germans by the British in a trade deal. The Germans wanted to use this as a strategic point of access to the great Zambezi River. This would open a few trade routes for them. This didn’t work out, because in all his plans, the chancellor had not considered the Victoria Falls and how that would hinder the trade route that he sought to establish. It was later an area of contention between the Botswana and Namibian government, in a case that was taken to the international court of justice. Between 1994 and 1999, the Caprivi strip was marred by a civil war.
Caprivi is surrounded by 4 perrenial rivers, Chobe, Kwabo, Linyati and the Zambezi. It also shares borders with 4 countries, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and Angola. It is said to have upwards of 600 species of birds, some which cannot be found in any other region of Africa. As you will note in from the CNN article, the wildlife in this region is now booming, having been previously depleted by the presence of the South African army.
There are about 6 native languages spoken in the region.
There are a few national parks to be seen in the region. Allow yourself some time to just drive around and see it. There is:
- Mahango Game Reserve
- Mamili National Park
- Impalila Island
Luderitz was named after it founder, Adolf Luderitz. It is said to be one of the least habitable harbours in the world. The town’s population rose significantly during the diamond rush that followed the discovery of diamonds in the area in 1909. Settlements of workers rose around the town. This came to an end at the end of the first world war, when the German population was significantly reduced due to deportation of some of the national, who were proven to be or accused of being Hitler sympathisers.
The average temperature for Luderitz is about 32°C all year round. This makes it very difficult for most tourists to live here.
If you are a fan of architecture, there are a few notable landmarks to see. These include:
- Deutsche Afrika Bank, which was built in 1907
- Felsenkirche (Rock Church), which was built in 1912
- Gluck Auf built in 1908.
- Luderitz Rail Station which was built in 1904.
Fish River Canyon: Must see and do in Namibia
There is a great guide on how to take a hike through this canyon, and I feel obliged to point it out to you from the get go. The last thing we would like is for anyone to get into this blindly. Again, this is not for everyone. The activities here can be divided into casual walks and hiking. If you are not an avid hiker, I suggest the casual walk option. Have the right shoes for it as well, please.
Now that we have gotten that out of the way, let me attempt to tell you what you should not miss when you venture into this canyon. This is vast land with all sorts of things around it. You will not run out of things to do or see while you are here. I believe, it is the second largest canyon in the world. This is truly one of those places in the world that catch you unprepared, unassuming, and leaves you stunned. The surrounding that you see as you drive in do nothing to prepare you for his beauty.
This places is 160x27km, that is absolutely amazing. It is an unforgettable hike for any avid hiker. For me, it remained surged in my memory, even though I would never dare call myself an avid hiker. Come in good time to allow yourself a lot of time to wander and take pictures while there is still sunlight. Bring a lot of water and stay hydrated while you get around.
I didn’t find out whether you are actually allowed to fish in the river or not. If not, it would be a great injustice to the name. There are a lot of animals that you will see here, hyenas, zebras, foxes, kudus, springboks, to name a few.
There are a few guided tours that you can be a part of. These include driven tours, hiking tours and so on. Some of these are forbiddingly priced. Apart from that, enjoy.
I hope I haven’t missed out on any other details. I have tried to do Namibia justice, as we had abysmally failed to in our previous article. This is such a wonderful country, with a lot of wonderful people. I hope you will enjoy your visit here, and your introduction to “Africa for beginners” has been worth it.
If you know something that we don’t, or have simply missed out at the time of writing this, please kindly send us a message or comment below. We would also like to help you book decent places to stay and so on, so don’t hesitate to ask for help.