Desert heat and endless stretches of sand, broken by majestic dunes cut with color; this is Namibia, home to the world-famous Etosha National Park. The country is a mix of striking landscape, unmatched star-gazing, prehistoric plants and unique desert adapted animals. Ancient cultures continue their age-old traditions, alongside modern cities and quaint towns.
Namibia is one of Africa’s best kept secrets – it is off the beaten track and its landscapes and horizons make the country truly unique. Its quiet beauty soaks into your being and the sense of peace and utter remoteness is part of this country’s charm.
Admire the view from the top of a dune in Sossusvlei, explore the Namib-Naukluft Park for the bizarre Welwitschia plant, or camp in the desert under an endless night sky; Namibia offers an unforgettable experience. Wherever you are, animals are part of the story, woven into the fabric of the country, whether it’s the seal watching along the coast, viewing the elephants and rhino in Damaraland, or admiring the oryx, springbok and hyena in the desert.
Step back in time with a visit to the San (Bushmen) and Himba tribes. The traditions and cultures are as old as time, the simplistic way of living both pure in spirit and vibrantly rich.
Although Namibia is home to Etosha National Park, it is not primarily a safari destination. It should ideally be combined with another country whose emphasis is on game viewing – such as Botswana or South Africa. The Namib-Naukluft National Park is the largest conservation area in Africa, but it is not a Big 5 game reserve.
With only 2 million inhabitants, a safe and stable political economy, and a well-established infrastructure, this is a destination which has long been overlooked by regular travelers. As a tourist destination, Namibia offers much to the well-heeled traveler. Romantic, exclusive accommodation, large resort hotels or more rustic-style lodges can be selected according to your budget and preferences.
Namibia’s scenery is awe-inspiring, a vision which remains with you long after you have returned home.
Self-drivers can safely travel around Namibia and the roads are fine, but the distances are huge and add to the time required for your itinerary. We recommend flying to cut down on travel time and advocate building at least one flight into a driving itinerary for the chance to take in the country from the sky.
Namibia safaris offer dramatic landscapes, incredible stargazing, and the tallest sand dunes in the world.
There are lots of unique areas in Namibia and, if you want to spend more than a week, we recommend a circuit that covers game-viewing in Etosha, the dunes at Sossusvlei, the seaside town of Swakopmond, and the northern regions of Damaraland.
However, if you are looking to add a shorter stay in Namibia to a longer Southern Africa program, the highlights for us are the dunes at Sossusvlei and the stunning Kunene region in the north, staying at a property like Serra Cafema. These areas epitomize the best of Namibia’s unique desert landscape and will be a striking difference from anything else you will see on safari.
Namibia is suitable if you are looking for lovely desert scenery in a remote area.
While you will absolutely be able to see animals and the concentration of game around Etosha’s waterholes can be impressive, Namibia is not a classic Big-5 destination.
Namibia is a good option if you have already done a traditional safari – such as a Botswana or Kenya trip – and are looking for something different. The sense of endless space and barren landscapes will attract those who seek a place that speaks to the soul and the lack of people is part of the charm.
Namibia is home to cultures whose ancient traditions and history. The San are very evident in the south, and their rock art is an important addition for an historical itinerary. The Himba people are located in the north and their untouched culture is quite special.
Geologists and star-gazers will find much to appeal to their senses – both underfoot and well above their heads. The endless skies offer some of the most incredible sights and having a star-gazer guide is well worth it. Sossusvlei is particularly known for its star gazing and Sossusvlei Desert Lodge even has an on-site astronomer.
Namibia is a stable country and you won’t feel threatened or uncomfortable. The population is friendly and English-speaking, and infrastructure solid.
Finally, Namibia is one of the most popular destinations for self-drivers in Southern Africa. While we have some reservations, if you are set on self-drive, Namibia is one of the best options in Africa.
As it is better to fly around Namibia due to the vast distances, people who prefer to minimize their time in the air and in small planes may find this unappealing. Although you can self-drive, the routes are long and sometimes boring.
If you are looking for an exciting safari with Big-5 game and a diversity of animals, Namibia might not be the right destination for you. Although there are a number of national parks in addition to the world-renowned Etosha, these reserves are arid and dry desert landscape. You will see interesting species, such as oryx, springbok, desert adapted elephant, jackals and hyenas - but not in large numbers (except in Etosha).
Namibia is a good add-on to other destinations in Southern Africa and is easily accessed through the regional airports and airlines. In addition, if you are looking for a relaxing beach stay, then Namibia is not a suitable option as the water is icy. The Namibian coast is all about the coast creatures and the landscape - not for laying out in the sun sipping cocktails while working on your tan.
Between November and February (summer in the Southern Hemisphere), it gets quite hot and many of the lodges do not have air-conditioning, which could be uncomfortable for some. Most activities are outdoors, and you will be out in the blazing sun and the arid desert. Sand, sun, heat and dirt - but glorious scenery alongside all that!
Peak season in Namibia runs between June and October; we particularly love traveling on either end of that season, as May and September are our favorite times to be in Namibia.
Being largely desert, Namibia can get really hot in their summer months (November – February) and many of the properties are without air-conditioning. Winters get cold in the desert in the evenings (June – August).
The rainy months can be quite dangerous if you are self-driving. While it is beautiful when the desert flowers are in bloom, there are flash floods which can threaten safety.
The summer months, November through February, get really hot and properties without air-conditioning can be unpleasant. October is warm, but the game viewing is good during this time so the heat can be overlooked. We find that August can get quite crowded and can be cold.
You will pay approximately $400 - $500 per person per day for a mid-range program in Namibia, and an upmarket flying safari could start at $1000 per person per day. Flying will definitely increase the price of your trip as the distances are vast and the planes small.
Self-driving is a more cost-effective option and the prices start at about $350 per person per day; however, the country is massive and the huge distances you would need to cover means increasing the number of days spent in the country, which will thus increase costs. By flying, you can appreciate the country from up high and greatly reduce your traveling time.
The uniqueness of Namibia can be explored and enjoyed in a number of different ways.
The quaint city of Swakopmund and nearby Walvis Bay offer a huge range of both sea and sand activities, everything from whale watching to sand boarding, that you can’t get in many other destinations.
Desert camping, sand boarding, hiking the dunes and quad-biking are some of the fun activities which are provided in the Sossusvlei region, or at nearby Wolvedans. The largest dune in Sossusvlei is a fun climb and a great work-out – especially when you stand at the top and appreciate the magnificent views. Hot-air ballooning and bi-planes also allow you to admire the striking landscape from up high.
The clear night skies (especially at Sossusvlei) are a star-gazer’s paradise and Sossusvlei Desert Lodge even has its own on-site astronomer for their guests to make the most of this natural beauty.
Rhino tracking can be added on to an itinerary for those interested in black rhino. A stay at the Desert Rhino Camp, in the Palmwag Concession of Northern Damaraland, means you may track these animals on foot – but this is certainly not for the faint-hearted!
Regular game-viewing can be enjoyed at Etosha National Park either in open vehicles, or in your own self-drive vehicle, and there are a number of private concessions adjacent to the park which offer a more exclusive safari experience.
The Himba people in the North and the San in the South provide all the authentic cultural interaction you could ask for. The San Rock Art is of great historical significance and the remote Himba tribes stick to their ancient traditions.
Etosha is Namibia’s premier wildlife destination and is home to a wide range of animals, including elephant, black and white rhino, giraffe, lion, cheetah, leopard and birds, in addition to a number of buck species and small predators. Namib-Naukluft is the largest conservation area in the world, yet it is not teeming with animals. The park is unique for its desert climate, animals such as the oryx and zebra, and its ancient plants, the Welwitschia.
From Swakopmund you can take in sea-life from whales to dolphins and Cape fur seals.
Finally, anyone interested in cheetahs and leopards should definitely visit Africat at Okonjima.
Animals throughout Namibia’s vast area have developed unique adaptations to life in the desert and a good guide can open up this fascinating world for you.
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