Introduction to Namibia
Wild at heart but surprisingly accessible, Namibia is one of the prime adventure destinations in Africa. Its flagship park, Etosha, offers superb wildlife-watching, but it’s the Namib Desert which sets this country apart. This is a land of mysteries and challenges, where ancient graphics survive in hidden caves, ‘fairy circles’ of grass dot the plains and silent, arid landscapes harbor highly evolved plants, insects and reptiles. Climbing a giant dune at Sossusvlei, tracking desert-adapted rhinos in Damaraland or drifting over the sands by hot air balloon are experiences you’ll never forget.
Things to do
To absorb the atmosphere of Namibia’s austerely beautiful desert regions and learn about unique flora and fauna, head out on safari to the classic dunescapes of Sossusvlei in the Namib-Naukluft National Park and the shimmering salt pan of Etosha National Park. Adrenaline-seekers can track rhinos on foot in Damaraland or bomb down the dunes on a sandboard near Swakopmund. The remote Kunene region, home to Himba nomads and desert-adapted elephants, is fascinating to explore by 4WD.
Windhoek, the popular coastal town of Swakopmund and safari lodges are the best places to find craft boutiques selling locally-made souvenirs such as wooden carvings, Himba dolls, chunky bead necklaces and homewares made from printed textiles. Everywhere you go in Namibia, eager street vendors will offer you keyrings or lucky charms made from makalani palm nuts, which can be hand-engraved and personalized with your chosen words.
Nightlife and entertainment
For most visitors, Namibia is a place to get back to nature rather than explore the urban jungle, but if you begin or end your safari in Windhoek or Swakopmund you’ll find enough bars and music venues to keep you entertained for a night or two. Windhoek is better for low-key performance spaces, while Swakopmund’s bars serve German-style beer and are popular with young overlanders.
Restaurants and dining
To round off a day in the desert on a celebratory note, safari lodges often offer a delicious braai (barbecue) of game meat such as springbok, kudu or zebra. Windhoek and Swakopmund are scattered with German and international-style restaurants offering everything from bratwurst and burgers to sushi and sashimi. If you’re lucky enough to be invited to eat at the home of a local family, you may be served the local staple, oshifima (millet porridge) with vegetable or meat stew.