Note: This is a guest post by Jenny Bowen from Sense Africa. She is an ecologist and Africa local who is very experienced and knowledgeable about what Africa has to offer. If you want to know more about her, make sure to check out here blog HERE!
Once visited, never forgotten. Namibia is a country that memories are made of; exhilarating moments, wilderness encounters and a sense of space that is too large to comprehend. It is where you can escape from the trappings of everyday life and have your own mini-adventure set to a stunning backdrop. Namibia, believe it or not, is a quirky country with a big heart and the reasons to visit Namibia are plentiful!
Here are the top 10 reasons to visit Namibia (as if you needed any):
1. Spectacular Scenery
Namibia’s scenery is spectacular, mind blowing, sublime. There are not enough words to adequately describe the depths of the scenery that Namibia has got to offer. From blood red sand dunes and monotone desolate coastlines to vibrant golden desert scenes dotted with quiver trees; to the vast Fish River Canyon and the rocky outcrops of Damaraland contrasting with Etosha’s shimmering white salt pan: Namibia is a photographer’s paradise of monumental montages. There never is enough time in the day to take in the scenery of Namibia, it is a constant changing canvas that makes driving an absolute pleasure through this wondrous country.
If you are looking to see wildlife, then you’ve come to the right country. There are numerous game reserves and concession areas where wildlife is prolific. The absolute gem of Namibia is Etosha National Park and it is a real privilege to be able to drive here unaccompanied. This is one of the many all-inclusive things about Namibia, you can drive practically everywhere and enjoy the scenery and wildlife under your own steam and in your own timeframe.
Etosha is a major sanctuary for a variety of animal species in Africa, protecting the largest concentration of game in the country. Here you can see elephant, lion, cheetah, leopard, hyena and even black rhino. Waiting at one of the many waterholes that are dotted throughout the park, is very exciting, as you never know what is going to pitch up next, that is the excitement of it all. The birdlife is also extraordinary and the whole experience is something that you will probably never forget. Just don’t leave your camera behind!
3. Coastal Wildlife
Carrying on the wildlife theme, there is also the coastal and sea life to take in and the variety is just as incredible. Watch seals frolicking in the water where some brazen ones may even jump aboard your catamaran or chew on the end of your canoe paddle, allow pelicans to soar over your head, admire colonies of flamingos sedately standing in the shallow waters and keep an eye out for dolphins as they surf along the side of your boat. You cannot help but have a smile on your face. All this can be seen from Walvis Bay.
Travelling up the coast from here there is the Cape Cross seal colony where over 80,000 seals can be seen at any one time, the sound is deafening and the stench of wet seals and guano can at times be rather overpowering! But it is well worth a visit to this extraordinary place and also to learn about the early settlers to the area. Who would have thought the reasons to visit Namibia might include coastal wildlife. Isn’t that surprising?
Most people are surprised to hear that Namibia has an excellent structure for hiking trails which are dotted all over the country. You are actively encouraged to walk in the wilderness and many places have self-guided trails for you to explore at your own pace. There were also many more hard-core trails, some over many days, if not weeks, and for these you need to book in advance.
The most famous of these is the Fish River Canyon hike which is the world’s second largest canyon, being 550 m deep, 27 km wide and 160 km long. This is an unsupported trail so you need to be an experienced hiker and confident in camping out in the wilds. An incredible adventure is waiting to be had.
5. Wide open spaces
Namibia is a country of compelling beauty and a sense of unconfined space. With its unspoilt landscapes, its wide horizons and clear, unpolluted skies, it is a country to be reckoned with.
Perhaps one of the best reasons to visit Namibia is that when you travel around it honestly feels as if you are the only person there, and with it being the world’s second least densely populated country: you probably are. This is something to be embraced, to be treasured and to be valued. Namibia allows you to get away from the confines of everyday life, physically and mentally, allowing you to embrace a sense of freedom.
Travelling on a Namibia safari is a paradise for those who want to experience and enjoy nature in wide open spaces, agoraphobics not advised!
Namibia is a safe place to travel, tourists are positively encouraged to explore off the beaten track and are expected to take time seeing all the sights and sounds of the country. The people are really friendly and welcoming. There are only two million people in the whole of the country, and 40% of all reported crime occurs in the capital city of Windhoek. Visitors never complain of feeling unsafe here.
7. Exploring on your own terms
You can explore Namibia in so many ways, whether it be in a group tour, on a self drive or even on your own camping trip: the country caters for everyone. You can stay in national park campsites if you are on a camping trip, self catering chalets set in the middle of the wilderness, beautiful bed-and-breakfast, farmer homestays, luxury tented camps, extraordinary safari lodges and also in complete luxury where you can only fly in to get to your accommodation. Every type of accommodation, holiday and safari can be offered. So what do you want to do?
Namibia is the ideal place for a self drive, it is safe to travel around and the directions are pretty simple. There are a lot of dirt roads but these are all well signposted so you can never really can get too lost here. The beauty of a self drive is that you can take the days as you see fit yet know that your accommodation, whatever type it is, is all sorted and that they are waiting for you for your night’s stay.
8. Namibia’s Activities
Need more reasons to visit Namibia? There seems to be an activity for everyone! Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie wanting to throw yourself out of a perfectly sound plane to the more gentle approach of a balloon safari over the desert, ending with a champagne breakfast. Whatever you are looking for, Namibia probably has got it.
Swakopmund is certainly the capital of activities in Namibia and here you can do both land-based and sea-based excursions including skydiving, sandboarding, quad biking, canoeing and dolphin and whale watching. Further afield there are rock climbing and abseiling, horse riding – even overnights trails, mountain biking as well as numerous hiking trails, some of which you can sleep out under the stars in the middle of nowhere. Namibia really does have it all.
9. Exchange rate
The Namibian dollar is tied to the Rand and with the Rand weakening it makes it an even more attractive destination. Your money will go so much further than it did about four years ago. So now is the time to go! Maybe treat yourself to a balloon safari or a flight over the Skeleton coast?
10. It’s Quirky
Namibia is certainly quirky with it constant battle with the encroaching sand and towns being swallowed by the desert. The most iconic of these is Kolmanskop which was founded in the early 1900s when diamonds were found in the desert but abandoned 40 years later to leave a ghost town gradually being reclaimed by the environment.
And then there is also Solitaire, a town which really is in the middle of nowhere and is the only place to get fuel between Sossusvlei and Walvis Bay. There is a collection of colourful yet rusty shells of vehicles that no garage would ever be able to restore. But certainly worth taking a photograph of this amusing spectacle. And the bakery here serves very good apple pie… so worth a brief stop.
Obviously, the reasons to visit Namibia, and Africa in general, are wide and varied. I hope this gave you a good sense of what to expect on your trip there!
What would you like to see and do in Namibia?
Jenny has been organizing tailor made safari holidays for 15 years through her business: Sense Africa. She is a qualified ecologist, and enjoys writing about the many once-in-a-lifetime experiences of Africa. Follow her blog, Sense Africa Blog, for more African Safari stories and information, and keep up-to-date on the wonders of Africa by following her Twitter (@senseafrica) and Facebook.