Namibia is a country located in the Southwest part of Africa. Geographically, its neighboring countries are Angola to the North, Zambia in the Northwest, South Africa to the South and Zambia to the Northeast. To the West, the South Atlantic Ocean borders this modest country.
Although not as famous as some of its neighboring countries, Namibia is really a gem for those in search of wilderness. The country is large and boasts some remarkable natural attractions like the Namib Desert, Fish River Canyon Park, the Kalahari Desert and Etosha National Park. Known for its contrasting landscapes, Namibia is a photographer’s dream with its wild seascapes, lonely deserts, rugged mountains, stunning wildlife and colonial cities.
Essentially a desert country, Namibia is divided into four main regions: the Kalahari along the borders with South Africa and Botswana, the heavily wooded area of the Kavango and Caprivi regions, the eastward-sloping Central Plateau and the Namib Desert and coastal plains in the west.
Today, Namibia is a peaceful country and prosperous in its economic aspect because of its productive mining, tourism, fishing and agricultural industries. Despite its harsh climate, the country houses some of the world’s grandest national parks, ranging from the rich wildlife of Etosha National Park located in Northwestern Namibia to the vast shifting sand dunes and desert plains of the Namb-Naukluft Park in Western Namibia. Windhoek in the Central Highlands is Namibia’s geographical heart and commercial center, with a diverse mix of ethnic people.
Namibia also produces some of the world’s highest quality diamonds. It never fails to enthrall its visitors and charge the fantasies and imaginations of narrators and poets whose efforts are focused in describing the multi-faceted greatness and harsh splendor of this desert country.
When to Travel
Namibia’s climatic differences match roughly to its geographical subdivisions. Daytime temperatures in the arid Namib Desert can go up to 40°C but can also fall below freezing during the night. Heavy rainfall is experienced in the northeast part of the region where they enjoy a subtropical climate. The northern and interior regions have “little rains” between the months of October and December, while the primary stormy months occur from January to April.
The recommended time to go to Namibia is between May and November to avoid the hot rainy season. Best months are March and April when the weather is pleasant, the fields are green and the rain is ending. Winter nights between June and August can be surprisingly cold while it can be scorching hot during the pre-rainy season months of October and November.
One should not ignore the wetter summer months too - Namibia is after all pretty dry no matter when you visit. The rain somehow gives life to the semi-dry savannah making it a tapestry of green between December and April. Bird watching is incredible during this time of the year and many animals give birth during this season.
Cuisine and Drink
Namibian cuisine was influenced by two primary cultural strands – cooking by indigenous people of Namibia and the settler’s cooking during the colonial period by the German and British descent.
Cuisine in Namibia is interesting and varied. In the south part, the most frequent component is corn which is used in bread generally served with shellfish and seasoned with tomato-based sauces. The most common meat type used is fish and chicken, schnitzel plus fresh seafood. There’s also a good supply of beef, goat and bush rats. Namibians are known for their very high intake of meat. However, vegetarians are very much welcomed in Namibia. It is very simple to find fruits and vegetables in the country like avocado, oranges, mandarin oranges, bananas, kiwi, pineapples, beans, rice, tomatoes, corn, potatoes and celery. Some of these are limited to seasonal availability. You will also find both local and international cuisine in many diverse restaurants and cafés in Windhoek.
Rice with beans is a popular dish served as appetizer in Namibia. Meat is characterized by top position locally produced beef and mutton and animal proteins like ostrich and zebra. Seafood such as kabeljou, oysters and rock lobsters are also exotic ingredients loved by the locals. Outdoor cooking is an integral part of a Namibians way of life. The traditional braaivles which is meat barbecue is one delicious meal just like potijekos, a hot stew of meat and chicken or fish cooked over an open fire in a three-legged pot.
Namibia’s nightclubs are always open late and you will find lots of happenings there. These are mostly located in bigger cities like Windhoek, Swakopmund and Oshakati. There are only small numbers of bars (shebeens) in these areas where a good beer is really popular. The flagship beer of Namibia is Windhoek Lager an easy-drinking filtered beer similar to many German brews.
Popular Sights of Namibia
Exploring the Etosha National Park - It’s so easy to see how the Etosha National Park name had been passed around as a good spot to visit in Namibia. With its shimmering white salt pan surrounded by vast grassy plains and open woodlands, the place is an ideal home for the highest concentrations of game viewing in Namibia. Tourists can spend time viewing thirsty elephants around waterholes. There are also zebras, antelopes and giraffes around the area. Neighboring private reserves also provide excellent safari accommodation and the chance todo night drives and few bush walks – all the thrills but less the crowd.
The must-see Fish River Canyon - Located in the Southern part of Namibia, the Fish River Canyon is considered as one of the largest canyons in the world and is the most recognized natural wonder of the country. The Fish River, Namibia’s longest river, flows through this wonderful formation. There are nature reserves located near the area like Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park and Canyon Nature Park. Though the trail is a tough one, it does not stop hikers from all parts of the world to try the 85-kilometer hike into the famous canyon. Truly, this sight is a must see especially for first timers in the country.
Visit the Desert Dunes - This is what Namibia is all about: watching the sun rise from the most romantic spot in Namibia – the basket of a balloon sailing silently over the striking purples, reds and oranges of Sossusvlei’s glowing dunes. Eerie tree skeletons etched against the dunes and if you’re lucky enough, you can see a lone gemsbuck patrolling the pans completing the perfect picture.
Witness the Ghostly Skeleton Coast - Have a taste of the Skeleton Coast Park – a barren stretch of wilderness located in the Northern Coastal part of Namib Desert squeezed between an icy, treacherous sea and a harsh, rugged desert interior. It was named after the numerous ships that maroon in the thick fog found where the desert meets the Atlantic. Many seal colonies, exploring hyenas and fascinating riches of highly specialized flora and fauna can be found among the shipwrecks that dot the coastline of the world’s oldest desert.
Have an adventure in Swakopmund - Walk the bustling streets of Swakopmund and witness the morning coastal fog disappear. Then head off to the Namib Desert’s rolling dune fields just out of town for some adrenaline. The place also offers adventure activities including quad-biking, sand-boarding, skydiving and horse trails. And whoever said that Namibia is all about desolate deserts are completely mistaken - head to the beaches of Swakopmund and you will be offered kayaking and surfing too.
Discovering the Secrets of Caprivi - If Botswana has Okavango Delta, Namibia has the Caprivi Strip. Its rivers and swamps are a welcoming sight for hot, weary travelers. Stopover in some lodges nearby and visit private preserves to explore a little-visited area that boasts Namibia’s best bird-watching and good game viewing. All this is set amid magnificent forests and woodlands tangled with swamp vegetation, projecting a tropical environment.
Tour around the Waterberg Plateau Park - The Park is located on the Waterberg Plateau in the northern part of the country. It was originally established to protect rare and endangered species. Today tourists are likely to see a variety of antelopes and black rhinoceros in the park. The Waterberg Park or Water Mountain, as it is commonly known, owes its name from the bright sandstone of the plateau that absorbs moisture which surfaces on the southeast side as springs. The plateau itself is an interesting geological site to witness in the country and a must stop for tourists on their way north.
The Namibian dollar (N$) equals to 100 cents and is attached to the South African rand which is also a legal tender in Namibia at a rate of 1:1. This can be a bit confusing, given that there are three sets of notes and coins in use, all with different sizes: new South African, old South African and Namibian dollars. Notes come in different dollar denominations of N$10, N$20, N$50, N$100, N$200 and coins in values of 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents and N$1 and N$5.
Credit cards such as American Express, MasterCard, Visa and Diners Club are accepted in most institutions but not in petrol stations. Traveler’s checks can be exchanged during normal banking hours at any commercial banks or exchange bureaus. In fact, a better rate of exchange can be obtained on traveler’s checks than on cash. Tourists are also advised to bring traveler’s checks in South African Rand or US dollars to avoid additional exchange rates.