Splendid isolation is the central characteristic of this vast, sparsely populated country. This is one of the few countries in sub-Saharan Africa where you can travel for hundreds of kilometres and see and meet no one. Namibia is situated between Angola in the north and South Africa in the south with Botswana forming its eastern boundary and the cold waters of the Atlantic washing the countries western shore. Caprivi, Namibia's odd colonial appendage thrusts east from the north-eastern corner of the country touching Zambia and Zimbawe on the Zambezi River at its eastern-most extremity.
The shifting sands of the Namib Desert
The Namib Desert
The Namib, the most ancient desert in the world acts as a barrier between the central highlands and the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The ports of Luderitz, Walvis Bay and Swakopmund are the only pinpricks of civilisation on this long coastline of vast sand dunes, gravel deserts and shipwrecks.
Luderitz and Swakopmund with their traditional German style architecture are fascinating to visit especially in their setting of wild and inhospitable desert set against the blue waters of the Atlantic. Swakopmund has developed a thriving tourist industry with quality hotels and comfortable bed and breakfast establishments catering for all requirements. The town retains a strong German character.
South of Swakopmund lies Walvis Bay, Namibia's premier port and until recently a South African enclave. The salt flats and lagoons south of the port are home to thousands of flamingos, pelicans and other waders and water birds.
South of Walvis Bay lies hundreds of kilometres of desert and the astonishing Sandwich Harbour, a fresh water lagoon which seeps out from below the surrounding massive sand dunes and separated from the sea by a bank of sea sand. Millions of migratory birds make use of this area during times of migration.
Luderitz and the nearby ghost town of Kolmanskop are worthy of a visit, with wild seascapes, harsh and unrelenting deserts set against the blue of the ocean.
Pink flamingoes in the salt pans, south of Walvis Bay
The Fish River Canyon and Sossusvlei
The magnificent Fish River Canyon and the eastern edge of the Namib Desert stretching north from the Orange River in the south is an area of stark beauty. The canyon is second in size to The Grand Canyon in North America and the week long hike through its depths is a haunting experience of isolation in the harshest yet most beautiful landscape. Further north the spectacle of the largest sand dunes in the world glowing bright red in the early morning light standing over the isolated Sossusvlei on the eastern edge of the Namib Desert is spectacular. This vast area is one of the most beautiful in Africa especially with the oryx antelope standing silhouetted against the setting sun.
Magnificent dunes, the largest in the world, on the eastern edge of the Namib Desert
The Skeleton Coast and Damaraland
North of Swakopmund the forbidding Skeleton Coast stretches north towards the Angolan border. This is an area of fragile ecosystems, ancient welwitschia plants, brown hyena and jackal, millions of Cape fur seals, shipwrecks both ancient and recent and the rare sighting of a lion walking down the beach.
Skeleton Coast Safaris are an expert operation specialising in the attractions of this area. Inland the spectacular Damaraland and Kaokoveld are home to the rare desert elephant and black rhino and a landscape twisted and torn by the harshness of the environment and the searing sun.
Ancient San or Bushman paintings and engravings adorn the landscape and spectacular fossil remains are to be found. Many of the Herero women of this region retain the custom of wearing Victorian style clothing to this day. Epupa Falls situated on the Cunene River are quite spectacular, with the region being the traditional homeland to the fascinating Himba people along the Angolan border.
Ancient Bushman rock art
Etosha National Park
The Etosha National Park is Namibia's premier wildlife reserve and its centrepiece is the spectacular white Etosha Pan. The reserve is a magnificent semi-desert and woodland environment with large concentrations of wildlife. Elephant, black and white rhino, lion, leopard and cheetah are frequently sighted within the reserve together with a spectacular assortment of animals endemic to this area. The waterholes situated adjacent to the rest camps within the reserve attract an array of wildlife with probably the best chance of sighting the highly endangered black rhino.
A lone leopard lying on a rock
The eastern tip of Caprivi stands in stark contrast to the remainder of Namibia. This is a region of vast rivers and swamps fed by the mighty Zambezi River flowing out of Barotseland in western Zambia and downstream to Victoria Falls. The people of this region are closely associated with the Lozi of western Zambia and they speak the same language. The Zambezi River dominates this area and the seasonal floods can push across the swamps swelling the river to many kilometres wide. Beautiful sylvan islands dot the main channel of the river and the opportunities for fishing, bird watching and game viewing along the Chobe River are unprecedented.
An ancient welwitschia plant
Namibia is vast and the arid desert landscapes are hauntingly beautiful. The infrastructure is very good and it is easy to get around and to visit most regions of this country. Direct flights from Europe and good regional connections to Johannesburg and Cape Town in South Africa and Harare and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe ensure easy access to the country. Access to the Caprivi region is easiest through Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.
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