Namibia Travel Guide
A sparsely inhabited nation of only two million people, Namibia is a world leader in diamond production. As a tourist however, you will likely be more interested in its natural attractions, which ranges from the dramatic dunes of the Namib desert, to the easy wildlife spotting available in Etosha National Park.
This says nothing of the mysterious pull that the Skeleton Coast will has on visitors, nor the commanding presence of Fish River Canyon, which is Africa’s biggest. Simply put, if you love the outdoors, you will enjoy your visit to Namibia.
Currency: Namibian dollars
Languages: English, Afrikaans, German, various indigenous languages
What To Do
While Namibia is a remote country, it does have one historical attraction that is worth visiting on a quick trip. That place is the ghost town of Kolmanskop, which sprung up in the early 20th century due to a diamond find in the area.
The town’s growth exploded shortly thereafter. Bars, casinos, a hospital (which was home to the first x-ray machine in the southern hemisphere), a theatre, and a tram line that ran to the port of Lüderitz on the Atlantic coast were just a few of amenities that workers enjoyed here.
The diamond field was picked clean shortly after the first World War, leading to a long period of decline that eventually led to the abandonment of Kolmanskop in 1954. 60 years of desert encroachment did its magic, which now allows visitors to walk through abandoned homes half-filled with sand.
Do note however that access is strictly controlled, with entry fees being charged at a gate, and visits being limited to between 9:30 to 11 am from Monday to Saturday, and 10 and 11 am on Sunday.
Perhaps the most iconic vista that Namibia has to offer are of the Sossusvlei Dunes. Located in the southern Namib desert, it is known for its rusty red sand dunes. The most famous one is Deadvlei, which is known worldwide for the dead and blackened acacia trees that stand before it in startling fashion. This area was once lush with plant life, but once the course of the underground river that watered this place was altered, everything that depended upon it quickly died.
If you are looking to do wildlife viewing, there are many opportunities to go on a safari within the boundaries of Etosha National Park. This desiccated place may not seem like where you would expect to see an abundance of animal life, but the rains that come with every southern winter change that. They drench the dry landscape with life-giving moisture, filling up watering holes that draw animals by the hundreds.
All you need to do is park your 4×4 by a water source and lie in wait with your camera. Lions, zebras, antelopes, elephants, and others depend upon them, making the jobs of rangers in this park an easy one. Don’t miss checking out a saline lagoon either, as these pools draw scores of flamingos.
Another wonder of nature awaits you at Fish River Canyon. Known for being Africa’s largest canyon, it stretches for more than 160 kilometres, is 27 kilometres across at its widest point, and can be up to 550 metres deep.
The best way to experience this environment is to go on a multi-day trek. You will get see the wildlife that depends upon this chasm in the Earth for survival along with its breathtaking scenery, which will make for a memorable trip.
The Skeleton Coast is where the hostile desert of Namibia smacks head-on into the icy waters of the southern Atlantic Ocean. A foggy place filled with dangerous sandbars, countless ships have run aground here over the centuries, leaving scores of sailors to starve and die of thirst.
With many of these mariners employed in the whaling and sealing industry, (the beaches of the Skeleton Coast are littered with the skeletons of countless whales and seals) it is not hard to understand where this place gets its name.
The southern portions of this national park are accessible by 4×4, but access to the northern sector is restricted for safety reasons (soft sand makes it impossible for even the most rugged off-road vehicle to get through), and to aid wildlife conservation efforts.
What to Eat
Many foods eaten in Namibia are similar to what can be found in South Africa. Having said that, there are a number of foods that are favored more here compared to their neighbours to the South.
Chakalaka is a relish that is enjoyed alongside a number of dishes, like curries, stews and breads. Boasting a zesty zing with its mix of chilies, onions, beans, tomatoes, and bell peppers, this condiment is great for adding some life to your meal.
Many in Namibia consider Meat and Pap to be this nation’s national dish. With no shortage of meat on the grill in this country (crocodile, zebra, springbok and others complement more traditional choices such as chicken or beef), that leaves Pap to explain.
Pap is a porridge made from ground maize or pearl millet, broken down to a coarse consistency. It might be a touch bland depending on who makes it, but it serves as a good counterpoint to the flesh you’ll be eating at many meals.
Thanks to Namibia’s long history of German immigration, Wiener Schnitzel is a dish that you will frequently find here. Consisting of a breaded cutlet of chicken or pork beaten flat and fried, the Namibian version of this dish often comes topped with a fried egg and with a serving of potato salad on the side.