Things to do in Namibia
Table Of Contents
Namibia. An African gem that is overshadowed by her neighbors’ 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 Times Square and ask where Namibia is, very few would know, and my bet would be on five or fewer people know.
Namibia is not Zimbabwe, whose former president, Robert Mugabe, often grabs international news. Namibia is not South Africa, the land of one of the world’s most popular statesmen ever, Nelson Mandela, and 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, and 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 things to do in Namibia and things to see in Namibia.
Interesting Facts About Namibia
The famous Kalahari Desert is the one thing everyone who does some reading will know about Namibia. It is one of the world’s largest deserts, an area where the Khoi San people still reside. The conditions of this dessert 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 towns, 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 between the two extremes. The poor would reside in primarily 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. The beauty of these places is that you would never guess they are in Africa when seen in a photograph. Those who have decided to shun the huff and puff of Western cities tend to come to Africa to buy their piece of paradise.
World War 1 saw this German colony taken back by South Africa, which was entrusted with her keeping after the war. As with other countries, Boers and other European settlers took most of the excellent 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 U.N., and their settlement was declared illegal. This was a revolution that saw Sam Nujoma become the first recognized leader of Namibia of African descent in 1990.
Perhaps due to the apartheid system in neighboring South Africa, Namibia is divided into about 12 groups of people. These are based on how people settled in the regions they did and how they looked.
Trevor Noah describes a similar phenomenon in South Africa: “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, including copper, lead, uranium, gold, and 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 traveling)
- Handy cash (not too much, just a bit of cash, $300 or so).
- Medical Aid
- Emergency Contact (can be someone within a neighboring 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 sanitizers 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
Things to do in Namibia Windhoek
As I have already mentioned, Windhoek is the capital city of Namibia, and 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 several times, so my view of the country is balanced and well-researched.
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 nation looks identical. However, there is an evident resemblance. Historically, several reasons 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 becomes quite prevalent long after the colonizers 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 a more and more cosmopolitan feel.
If you read our previous post covering Zimbabwe, you will follow our format. We will map our way around the city to some of the best places available. I will give tips on how to enjoy your time in each place best and 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 far from perhaps the first thing I always advise travelers to get (car rental). I believe you will not fully experience most parts of the world you travel to unless you have your wheels. In most parts of Southern Africa, the transport system is largely privatized, making it much 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, a few car rentals are conveniently placed within walking distance of the airport. Sadly, my travel companions and I disagree on where we rented the car from. We took a taxi for the less than 3-minute drive down the road.
As far as I am concerned, the taxi driver recommended that we go with Avis Car Rental as they were a brand name. I’ll ignore their version and go with my own. I am usually up for supporting small businesses, but when traveling, I can hardly afford things to go wrong, so I typically choose the safe option for such decisions.
For that reason, I cannot say 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. You can get your cab driver to take you to each of these for a bit of fun 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 roadside assistance?
- Are there other locations to drop off the car?
There may be other equally important things, but whoever satisfies these four questions should be the ideal one. 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 other parts of the world that you may travel from.
The reason why you don’t frequent those is that you are busy living. If there is an excellent 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 of things.
Now that you have settled in, we will start our expedition by exploring Windhoek’s capital city. Like most countries, the capital city of Namibia is a melting pot of cultures, and this is where people from across the country travel to try and make a life for themselves.
People from neighboring countries also venture here to find the proverbial green pastures. I have heard Namibia called Africa for beginners, and it is indeed. The place where your romanticized vision of the continent can be nurtured without the inconvenience of a culture shock or a reality that deviates from what was shown on television.
The story of Katutura Township is similar to that of some townships in neighboring South Africa. Katutura was founded in 1960 as a forced resettlement area for the native population, and the colonial government picked the choicest land for the white population.
In theory, it maintains a dependency on the white population. If the land were already occupied, the black occupants would be forced to relocate to another shitty land. You produce poor crops if you have bad land and don’t make much off them if they are 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.
A city is only as good as its people. This is where 90%+ of the population resides. Here is where you find the masses and experience Windhoek. There are various tour providers, and 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, chatted to locals, and ended up playing football on a dusty street to cap it up. We had no cameras, and they created an unnatural atmosphere; I have come to believe.
The locals are at their 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 when we are joined by a keen photographer who later sends us the photos.
The rule of thumb when spending time in any township is not to be flashy. Dress down, blend. Become a local for the few hours that you will be there. Roam down to the market, drink at multiple makeshift bars, get some meat from the market and get it barbecued, and indulge in the fresh fruit and veg on sale.
They also have great fish (sadly, I had just developed a seafood allergy before my last visit). Instead of photos, get yourself souvenirs. Don’t let it steal your moments if it is not a monument. Something that will mean something to you. Something that says “KATUTURA.” There is a bike tour as well, and that’s something that would certainly pique my interest.
Christus Kirche translates to Christ’s church. There is one of the same names in Mainz, Germany. The one in Windhoek was officially consecrated in 1910, 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 renovations in 1967. The place is beautiful, pure German architecture. In 1974, Christuskirche was officially recognized as a national monument. In my book, it was long overdue.
It’s about a 14-minute drive from Katutura. It’s a low-traffic route, so you will have no issues. Fun fact, there are two hospitals in a 5-mile radius, and II don’t know if that is the norm?
Namibia Craft Centre
Having seen some great places across the world and Southern Africa, I firmly believe that art is the most significant expression of any city’s soul. Namibia Craft Centre is the soul of Windhoek and Namibia as a whole. Art and craft from the country are collected, curated, and kept at this fine establishment. The crime rates in Namibia are pretty low, so this is Africa for beginners. You will quickly get lost in it all.
South Africa is the only nation in Southern Africa that comes close to the U.S. stats regarding crime. That being said, I have traveled across Southern Africa with no incidence or news of incidents to others. You are probably safer in most parts of Africa than in America, and perhaps the more robust police force is the advantage you have in the West. I digress.
What makes Namibia Craft Centre so good?
- Nearly 40 stall holders run their stalls packed with various artistic artifacts across the country.
- There are over 4000 craftspersons who contribute to this center. 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.
- Don’t be that guy. Most travelers come here as they prepare to set off to the airport. Take your time to look at the craft, interact with the stall owners, and understand the stories behind it. Get some local snacks and other fresh food while you wander.
- It’s great for buying gifts as well. I’ve seen some persuasive travelers get some cracking deals for multiple purchases. The prices are very reasonable and often negotiable.
This is one of the two leading museums in Namibia, and Owela Museum focuses on this great nation’s natural and cultural history. This museum is located 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 necessary as a traveler. If you pay little or no regard to the history of a place, you miss a large portion of the pleasures of travel, and 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, a native of Namibia, was quite pleased after she visited the museum. Such a review shows you just how it is.
The items on display are uncannily lifelike, and the locals agree that they resemble the proper form of the tribespeople on display. Outside the museum is a fantastic statue in memory of the great Sam Nujoma.
There is none more deserving of this honor 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 using any of these images, please feel free to get in touch, and we will remove them.
Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park is a key part of our Namibia itinerary. African national parks are one of my favorite places to go to. It’s not like 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, although they could be wider or better paved. Enough of my complaining already! It 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 pretty obvious. It is arguably Namibia’s most attractive tourist destination if we consider the sheer number of people 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 of 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 nearby floodlit watering hole. There are five honeymoon chalets if you bring a significant other, and I need not say that they don’t have to be used for a 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, and a Jacuzzi. There is the family chalet for the single ones or those looking for a cheaper option. Well, there are two of these.
They are secluded, giving you the privacy we all want when on holiday, if not every day. You get two bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchenette, lounge, and a braai/barbecue area.
You may want to look into the bush chalets for bigger groups of adults. These can contain up to 4 adults, which are usually readily available as there are ten of them to go.
There are smaller bush chalets for a slightly smaller group that can contain two adults, and 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 go wild, camping may be the way to go. There are several campsites, and 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 six 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 commoner, Namibia wouldn’t even come to mind when pondering this. Why would it? The common person in New York and perhaps even London couldn’t point out Namibia on a man.
I am not sure if that is a P.R. issue with the Namibian government or merely ignorance 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, and to be satisfied with existing only where we are from is criminal.
So, back to Sossusvlei. A clay and salt pan surrounded by mountains of dazzling dunes in the southern part of the Namib desert. The etymology of the name loosely translates to a 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 is some vegetation growing, and other parts are pretty sandy. Hence nothing grows on them.
The underground rivers, which are under the higher dunes, are what keep the higher dunes watered. This is what makes up the marshes seen and where the vlei in Sossusvlei comes from.
Besides the dunes and marshes, you may encounter some Namib desert animals. These include beetles, some small reptiles, rodents, springboks, and ostriches. I was thrilled to encounter ostriches, as I know people who didn’t see them when they went.
I was made aware that the animals you see will depend on the time of year 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, meaning I had to drive to and from many places. The saddest part is that all the time you spend on the road is time to enjoy the destinations. You travel, you live, you learn.
There is a fair share of lessons for us all, and you just have to pick the correct 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 time.
Swakopmund is a coastal city west of Namibia, with a population of sub-50 000, which is very low by African city standards. That being said, Namibia is not vastly populated and is a beach resort, the sort of place most Westerners dream of traveling to in the summer months.
The history of Swakopmund spanned from 1892, when it was founded at a port harbor for German South-West Africa. Everything about the layout and the building testifies to great German architecture. Quite a bit of the population remains German-speaking today.
There is a beautiful library, an aquarium, a crystal gallery, and 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 seaside.
There are also some great activities to participate if you would instead do that. There is skydiving, balloon riding, quad biking (which I love), and marine cruising. I didn’t participate in all the activities but was pleased with the ones 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℃, and it barely rains.
While 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 you are from, you will appreciate the experience of traveling along the coast. As mentioned above, the drive from Swakopmund to Walvis Bay is concise. The key here is not to 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 many 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 watch them, and I would always find an excuse for not participating. That being said, I love water and the freedom it offers all who allow it to.
The dolphin cruise allows you to ride the waves out into the water on one of the boats, and you should expect to see dolphins leaping in the water around the boat. The cruise organizers feed the seals as others take photos or just watch and marvel at these lovely creatures like me. Fresh refreshments and a wide range of seafood were served on board while we enjoyed each wave.
We enjoyed this experience so much that we hired a private charter to make a second-day trip on a cruise. Charter one allows you to control the itinerary, which is impossible on a shared journey. The standard route will take you through Bird Island, moored Russian trawlers, and then to Pelican point.
9 am 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 the opportunity to have some champagne and other delicacies on request on most charters.
Walvis Bay Waterfront
If, for some reason, the traveling has taken it out of you and you fancy a more chilled day, the Walvis Bay Waterfront offers an excellent venue for such a noble pursuit. It’s a hive of activity for a lounger, bird watchers, sunbathers, and the like. There are several excellent restaurants and cafes that you should try out once you are done watching birds. Most other seafronts in Walvis Bay are industrial sights, which makes this one so special. Appreciate it.
There are some parks where you can see most of the local birds. You will see large groups of flamingos and pelicans 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 place your granny would enjoy.
Dune 7 gets its name because it is the seventh highest dune in the world. Well, that was the case when it was named. Whether it remains that today is beyond my scope of knowledge.
It is free to visit and usually evident in the morning before the rest of the slackers on holiday get up and populate it. It may take reaching its summit to appreciate this beauty fully. There are restrooms, picnic areas, and other facilities you can use while there. If you are feeling a bit lazy, take the long way up the dune and rest under the palm tree about halfway up the dune. This may also come in handy on a hot day.
If you are into sandboarding or 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 Walvis Bay, and it is worth the trip, even if for nothing else but a photo opportunity.
I had never seen so many flamingos in my life, and it has yet to happen again. If you want to take great bird photos, you must be patient not to startle them. There are so many of them. Take your time.
If you want to get some food afterward, I would recommend heading over to The Raft. Ask around or check your maps for it. It’s well situated, and you will remain in the holiday mood.
Quad Bike Desert Tour: Things to do in Namibia
Traveling is about discovery and not merely leisure, which is what the quad biking tour gave me. If you want to enjoy a few hours and learn about Namibia and the desert, you must take this tour. The tour starts at 8 am to try and beat the thermal winds that frequent the deserts in the afternoon.
The full tour lasts up to 4 hours, and you will be back to Walvis Bay. Fanie’s tour guide was brilliant, and his knowledge was explicit in depth. You should expect to take in the sights, a 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 before 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.
The quads are fairly simple to operate. Children are allowed on the tour if they ride on a quad with an adult. There is a small added fee for this. 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.
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 7:45 am. We met the guides at Walvis Bay before we were driven to 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 travelers want to. Untamed jungles soon become somewhat luxurious parlors. That sort of thing scares me. I want things to remain natural, like there were when we first fell in love with them. I like places to maintain their true essence.
Damaraland is one of the places that cling to its original state and is unarguably the most scenic place in Namibia. A vast, untamed, and largely undisrupted land. You have everything here, dunes, mountain peaks for the hikers, valleys, rivers, flood plains, and fantastic rock formations. If Namibia is Africa for beginners, Damaraland is the introduction to Africa.
The only thing I will say to you off the bat is that you must only venture into this landscape in a decent car. If it is not a 4×4, you will unlikely have a good trip. The roads can be treacherous.
The accommodation comes down to a wide range, from the glamping for the exact ones with a lot of money to spend to the more affordable variations.
Pre-colonial Africa is mainly undocumented in words as we know them today, and what we know of that time has been passed down through oral history and artifacts. Most people would debunk some of oral history as being mythical. If you have played a broken telephone, you will undoubtedly know just how easy it is for information to become distorted, even unrecognizably so.
Enter historical artifacts. Suppose you read our previous article that covered the places you should see in Zimbabwe. In that case, you will remember the artifacts found at Great Zimbabwe and how significant these were to piecing together what is known today of that ancient African civilization. Twyfelfontein has its rock painting to tell its own story. I will be the first to admit that these paintings are almost unreal, and they draw you in as a story would.
Investigations by archaeologist Erich Wendt established that these rock paintings/engravings were almost 4000 years old. I don’t know what will if that doesn’t blow your mind. 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 a long time for the painting to be discovered because the natives viewed the place as sacred. As such, they neither frequented nor spoke of it.
UNESCO has declared this a world heritage site, which should see the artifacts preserved for future generations. There are about 2500 of these engravings and paintings, and 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.
In an article in 2010, the Guardian journalist Fran Sandman described the Skeleton coast as being “Not quite Europe, but not quite Africa either.”
The Skeleton Coast is a mix of everything, the blistering desert heat, the desert itself to one side, and the South Atlantic waters falling on the other. 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.
Skeleton coast comes from the sheer number of ships wrecked on the shore, leaving their skeletons there. 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. For all the things one may not like about this place, one will note how undisturbed it remains with great pleasure and some admiration.
Most tourists come in on fly-in tours, which are rather pricy, as they should be equally dull. I met a group while there, and it may have just been me, but I was under the impression that our cohort was more delighted in this experience.
Not much else 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. There are decent transport links to some falls and a trek to get to it. The ones you get to look at and marvel at, like the Victoria Falls that borders Zambia and Zimbabwe, are probably easier to get to. If you want to experience a waterfall, go under the water, or swim in the pool below it, there is a price to be paid. This applies to Epupa Falls. It is located on the North-Western border between Namibia and Angola.
Any doubts or regrets that you may have about the drive and the time it takes 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 lined up with palm trees and baobab, and it has the Caribbean feel to it. There are various viewpoints where you can stand and survey this vast piece of heaven. Accessing the viewpoints is a small cost, but it is worth it.
The only thing I can add here is that you need 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, which 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 German taste, which is always good. 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 know how important livestock has been historical to a population’s wealth. Today, Otjiwarongo remains one of the largest cattle producers and related products. There are good transport links between Otjiwarongo and most Namibian cities, by road and rail.
Three 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 organization is a well-oiled machine. The staff is clearly passionate about the things they share with you. You will know much about cheetahs and other big cats when 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 for 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 great work to learn more about cheetahs and help conserve them worldwide.
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, and my colleagues furnished me with the information I will provide now. The place is vast, with a lot of hiking trails.
The trails will be frequented by small game and scavengers such as monkeys and baboons. You want to keep your snacks out of sight. Besides that, you will enjoy it. There were a few kids on the trail with their parents, which is always reassuring. A small fee is to be paid for the 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 you are blessed if you encounter this creature in the wild. They are almost impossible to spot. They blend so well into their surroundings. We also got to see a few rare birds and vultures—this is 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, and 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 he sought to establish. Between 1994 and 1999, the Caprivi strip was marred by civil war. It was later an area of contention between the Botswana and Namibian governments in a case taken to the international court of justice.
Caprivi is surrounded by four perennial rivers, Chobe, Kwabo, Linyanti, and the Zambezi. It also shares borders with four countries, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and Angola. It is said to have upwards of 600 species, some of which cannot be found in any other region of Africa. As you will note 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 six native languages spoken in the region.
There are a few national parks to be seen in the region. Allow yourself some time just to drive around and see it. There is:
- Mahango Game Reserve
- Mamili National Park
- Impalila Island
Luderitz: Things to see in Namibia
Luderitz was named after its founder, Adolf Luderitz. It is said to be one of the least habitable harbors 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 ended at the end of the first world war when the German population was significantly reduced due to the deportation of some of the nations who was proven to be or accused of being Hitler sympathizers.
The average temperature for Luderitz is about 32°C all year round, making 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 was built in 1908.
- Luderitz Rail Station was built in 1904.
Fish River Canyon: Things to do in Namibia
There is an excellent 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 tell you what you should not miss when you venture into this canyon. This is a 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 that catch you unprepared and unassuming and leave you stunned. The surroundings you see as you drive in do nothing to prepare you for his beauty.
This place is 160x27km, which is impressive. 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 still sunlight. Bring a lot of water and stay hydrated while you get around.
I didn’t find out whether you are 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, and 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, and 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 in our previous article. This is such a wonderful country, with a lot of beautiful people. I hope you will enjoy your visit here, and your introduction to “Africa for beginners” has been worth it.
If you know something we don’t or have missed out on when writing this, please kindly send us a message or comment below. We would also like to help you book decent places to stay, so don’t hesitate to ask for help.
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