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Tips for travelling to Namibia

In December and January I spent 2.5 weeks in Namibia. I joined a 7 day small group tour to the South, a 7 day tour to the North (both organized by the recommended Wild Dogs Safaris) and had a few days by myself in and around the capital Windhoek. This is a very special country, comparable to few others around the world. Mongolia and Australia’s Red Centre come closest.

Oryx in the Kalahari desert

1. Do not underestimate Namibia’s size

Namibia’s land area measures 823,290 square km. This makes it the 34th largest country in the world – larger than Turkey for example, and about the same size as Spain and Germany combined. For a traveller, this means that you will have to cover vast distances. On my 2 week organized tour, we drove over 4,000 km. And this on mostly unpaved roads. Those (gravel) roads often can be quite smooth as they are ‘raked’ every few weeks. But they can be very bad as well: I especially remember the hard driving in the western part of Etosha National Park and at the over 100km long access road to the Fish River Lodge.

2. Focus on the Tentative List too

Namibia has only 2 WHS to date, and that is far too little for a country of this size and state of preservation. So you should take a good look at its Tentative List for further inspiration. The 3 TWHS that I reviewed (Fish River Canyon, Benguela Current and Etosha Pan) are all worthy of inscription in my opinion. Namibia’s Tentative List further includes interesting sites such as the Brandberg and the Succulent Karoo Protected Areas.

Quiver tree near Fish River Canyon

3. See unique flora and fauna

Namibia’s very arid climate is suitable only for specific flora and fauna species. The Welwitischia Mirabilis for example, a plant endemic to the Namib desert that grows so slowly that individual plants can be encountered that are 1,000-2,000 years old. Its habitat is covered by the Welwitschia Plains TWHS. The country’s most iconic mammal is the oryx or gemsbok with its spectacular horns. It can rely upon eating wild fruits for its water intake instead of drinking water.

4. Check out ‘German’ towns and cities

Although Germany colonized these lands only for 31 years, especially in the Namibian towns and cities you can still see reminders of the German past. They say that Lüderitz looks like how Germany was 100 years ago, and that Swakopmund reflects the situation of 50 years ago. I found Lüderitz ‘interesting’ because of its inhospitable setting. I did not enjoy Swakopmund: too much of a beach destination for elderly Germans. The best ‘German’ site however is Kolmanskoppe, an abandoned mining town that has been frozen in time.

Abandoned railway station near Kolmanskoppe

5. Add a bit of Marxism-Leninism as well

It is worthwhile to look around in Windhoek for a day, as it will give you a better insight into day-to-day life for the Namibians. A good thing to be aware of is that Namibia has only been independent since 1990. A must see therefore is the Independence Memorial Museum, a huge modern structure developed by a North Korean building company. The history on display strongly underlines the dominant political party’s SWAPO’s communist support base, with some remarkable socialist realist paintings and sculptures.

Els - 3 February 2018

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Shandos Cleaver 19 January 2038

Great to read your tips! I've heard so many recommendations about this country and can't wait to visit.

Clyde 19 January 2038

Interesting post! Thanks for sharing, Els.