Namibia is a vast, sparsely populated land of astounding scenic splendor. The Namib Desert is an otherworldly place, dominated by forbidding mountains, monumental rock formations and towering red sand dunes. Namibia offers remarkable game viewing in a number of disparate locations. At the center of the country, the vast Namib-Naukluft National Park and adjoining NamibRand Nature Reserve (a total area of 19,495 square miles) are famous for their heroic scenery and immense dunes of orange sand. Etosha National Park is one of southern Africa’s major wildlife areas, with a full range of large species. The Kaokoveld is home to the extraordinary desert-adapted lion. And on the savage Skeleton Coast, the shore is dotted with colonies of Cape fur seals. Namibia is also the last great bastion of the endangered cheetah, the population of which has been tragically diminished elsewhere in Africa. The country is also the final redoubt of the San (Bushmen), the traditional inhabitants of the Kalahari, who have been grotesquely persecuted over the past three centuries, as have the Herero. And close to the border with Angola, the Himba remain a colorful and strikingly traditional tribal people.
The Benefits of Air Travel
Although Namibia has a modern road infrastructure, a light aircraft is by far the most pleasant and practical way to get around. Distances between principal points of interest tend to be long, and Namibia’s extraordinary landscape is often best seen from above. For at least nine months of the year, the skies are virtually cloudless. A low-level flight up the Skeleton Coast is an extraordinary experience, with shipwrecks and huge seal colonies plainly visible.
Exploring the Caprivi Strip
In contrast to the rest of Namibia, the Caprivi Strip is richly watered. The best way to explore it is a two-night safari aboard the Zambezi Queen along the Chobe River, which draws a range of large mammals and prolific birdlife.
Cheetah Research and Conservation
Namibia is one of the last strongholds of endangered cheetahs. (The animals do not respond well to pressure from tourism, and as Africa’s wild areas shrink, cheetahs are forced into close contact with lions, which kill them.) An American woman, Dr. Laurie Marker, founded the successful and influential Cheetah Conservation Fund. If you have time on your Namibia safari, I thoroughly recommend a visit to her field research station and visitor center.
Books About Namibia
Compared with the number about many African countries, there is a shortage of books in English about Namibia (the former colony of German South West Africa). However, “An Arid Eden: A Personal Account of Conservation in the Kaokoveld,” by Garth Owen-Smith, is certainly worth a few hours of your time. (The Kaokoveld is the northern desert of Namibia that includes both the Hoanib and the Kunene rivers.) Owen-Smith developed a deep affinity for the Himba, Herero and Damara pastoralists and, over 27 years, struggled to create a conservation paradigm that would allow humans and their livestock to live in equilibrium with wildlife. “Skeleton Coast,” by Amy Schoeman, is the classic illustrated book about this spectacular region. And I highly recommend the beautiful novel “Mama Namibia,” by Mari Serebrov, based on true events that occurred during the 1904 genocidal war that Germany waged against the Herero people. The story is told by two narrators, a Herero girl and a German-Jewish military doctor.
Namibian dollar (NAD). Fluctuating rate valued at NAD14.89 = US$1.00 as of April 2020. Note: Wilderness Safaris quotes rates in rand (R); R14.88 = US$1.00 as of April 2020.
Windhoek, Tel. (264) 61-295-8522.
To phone hotels in Namibia, dial 011 (international access) + 264 (Namibia code) + city code and local numbers in listings.
Rain is rare and skies are invariably clear, making a rewarding visit possible at virtually any time of year.