South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia are among the most popular destinations in the ever-so-mesmerizing Africa. For amazing wildlife, most people come to Tanzania or South Africa; for cultural immersion, Kenya; for history and culture as well, Ethiopia. Little did they know, there is a lesser known country in Africa that offers all the above and more: Namibia.
Where is Namibia exactly?
Namibia is in the southwest region of Africa. It sits right above the touristy South Africa, along the Atlantic Ocean coast, and shares borders with Angola, Zambia and Botswana as well. The country covers a massive 823,290 km2 land area but is sparsely populated. In fact, it is dubbed the second least populated country in the world. As a colony of Germany 25 years ago, German influences can be seen in many of their architecture, etc.
Why visit Namibia?
There are plenty of reasons to visit Namibia. For one, it is a country blessed with rare natural beauty of epic proportions: stark landscapes, limitless horizons, untamed wilderness, a gorgeous coastline, and more. It also offers minimal crowds, unique activities, charming German architecture, vibrant people and even an intriguing and wildly compelling ghost town. Travel enthusiasts also say that compared to other areas in Southern Africa, Namibia has the least extreme seasonal changes which makes it an even better all year-round destination.
Here are Namibia’s 5 most exciting, must-see places:
#1 Etosha National Park
Namibia’s finest wildlife park is one of the world’s best wildlife-viewing venues. It features a perfectly mapped out diverse landscape including savanna woodlands, grasslands, dwarf shrub savanna and the Etosha Pan, an immense saline desert that becomes a wildlife-filled lagoon for a few days each year. Covering 23% of the entire land mass of the park, Etosha Pan is Etosha Park’s most notable feature. And did you know that the pan can be seen from outer space?
Wildlife in Etosha National Park does not disappoint either. It hosts 110 reptile species, 16 amphibian species, 340 bird species and 114 mammal species including four of the Big Five, mountain zebras, black-backed jackals and several threatened and endangered species such as the black rhinoceros. Truly, even if you’ve been to a lot of wildlife safaris in your life, Etosha National Park will still mesmerize you.
#2 Namib Desert: Sossusvlei & Deadvlei
Namib Desert is the world’s oldest desert, dating back to about 80 million years. It is one of the world’s most stunning sites and definitely one of Africa’s most precious treasures. Riding a hot air balloon, you can see a vast desert with wildlife such as gemsbok and zebras, and you get to revel at one of the strangest and yet alluring landscapes you will ever see: the Sossusvlei and Deadvlei.
A highlight to any trip, Sossusvlei and Deadvlei are out-of-this-world destinations that provide a scenery that needs to be seen in person to be believed. It is located within Namib-Naukluft National Park in Namib Desert, which is in the southern region of Namibia.
Sossusvlei is the most popular between the two. It is made up of a wide, flat, salt-covered expanse, mainly characterized by its world-famous massive orange-rust red sand dunes and white salt pans. The most famous part of Sossusvlei is Dune 45 – a must-visit dune where you can marvel at the dead trees and the massive sand dunes from atop.
Sitting across Sossusvlei is the equally stunning Deadvlei. It is found among the tallest dunes in the world wherein some of the dunes reach 1,312 feet, a height almost as high as the Empire State Building. With its dunes cut off from the river, Deadvlei provides a dry climate… Too dry that its trees even fail to decompose. Today, these ancient camel-thorn trees are over 1000 years old and they form a barren forest.
A trip to Sossusvlei and Deadvlei will definitely leave any visitor spellbound. If you wish to spend a night or two in this iconic place, they have a Sesriem Campsite available. For day tour visitors, the park opens at 5:30 AM and closes at 5:30 PM.
#3 Spitzkoppe Rocks
The towering rocks of Spitzkoppe is another remarkable landmark of Namibia that photography lovers and travelers adore. Made of groups of bald granite peaks that are over 120 million years old, Spitzkoppe provide a dramatic scenery that’s an absolute sight to behold.
The mountain is located northeast of Swakopmund, near Usakos. It has also been featured in Hollywood films such as 2000 BC.
#4 Fish River Canyon
Fish River Canyon is a natural wonder that cannot be missed. With a depth of 550 meters and length of 160 kilometers, it is Africa’s largest canyon. It is also the second largest in the world. The canyon is so vast and ethereal that your eyes can barely cope with the entire view all at once.
The canyon is also home to some small hardy mammals such as Rock Hydraxes, Klipspringer Antelopes and Baboons. You can also spot mountain zebras, leopards and kudus around the canyon. When it comes to bird life, it is also exemplary with 60 bird species recorded.
Of course, the beauty of Fish River Canyon is not all about its grand physique. Hardcore adventurers will also get giddy as Fish River Canyon Hiking Trail is available. A 90-kilometer trail that can be completed in about 5 days, enjoying wild sceneries, zero cellular phone service and a world-class adventure. No wonder it is Southern Africa’s most popular hiking trail.
#5 Cape Cross Seals
If you think lions, elephants and unique landscapes are the only things you can see in Namibia, think again. The coast is popular for Cape Cross Seals – a breeding place for Cape Fur Seals. There are 24 colonies with a seal population of about 650,000 animals in the Namibian coast and about 100,000 of these seals inhabit Cape Cross due to its abundance of fishes in the Benguela current.
Namibia is indeed unlike any place you will ever see. From the orange-red sand dunes to the astounding wildlife at Etosha to the mind blowingly playful, unique landscapes scattered across the country and even its charming towns, Namibia will give you an experience that’s surreal in every way.
When to visit Namibia?
Namibia is best visited during non-rainy seasons which is between December and March. Since Namibia only receives a fraction of rain, even these “rainy months” are splendid times to visit the country. Note, however, that it can get very humid during those month.
Dry season is deemed best for wildlife viewing especially in Etosha National Park, which is from June to October.