Namibia is a large and sparsely-populated country located in South Western Africa. It is home to just over 2 million people, including the notable Himba Tribe, who are well-known for their ochre-coloured dreadlocks.
Namibia was home to the San, Damara, and Nama people before becoming a German colony in 1884. The country gained its independence on March 21, 1990, and swore in Sam Nujoma as its first president. The capital and largest city by population is Windhoek, which is home to over 200,000 people. The second largest city is Walvis Bay.
Namibia is a visitor’s paradise as it is filled with a diversity of natural habitats, including beautiful desert landscapes, rugged coastlines, and a myriad of wildlife. The perfect time to visit Namibia is during the winter (March to October), when the weather is sunny and pleasant, ranging between 18 and 22 degrees Celsius and when wildlife is easier to spot.
When visiting the country, you’ll land at the main international airport located in Windhoek, the Hosea Kutako International Airport, or the Walvis Bay Airport, located 15 kilometres (9 miles) outside of the country’s second largest city, Walvis Bay. The best way to get around is to rent a car at the Avis or Budget car rental kiosks available at the airport. An airport shuttle bus and taxis are available to transfer individuals and groups to destinations in Windhoek and elsewhere in the country.
When in Windhoek, you can stay at the highly-rated Hilton Windhoek located just 40 minutes from the Windhoek International Airport in the heart of the city. Prices start at R790 per night. Other top-rated accommodations include Discovery Guest House, located in the suburb of Hochland Park in Windhoek, and Caotinha Guest Cottage, also located in Windhoek. Prices for these are available upon request.
In Walvis Bay, good accommodations can be found at the Lagoon Lodge, which is located on the Namibian Coast, as well as the Protea Hotel by Marriott Walvis Bay. Prices are available upon request.
Places of Interest
Fish River Canyon
When in Namibia, it is a must to visit Africa’s largest canyon and one of the largest in the world, the Fish River Canyon. It is located in the eastern Namib Desert, and is 100 miles (161 kilometres) in length. It was initially a fracture in the earth’s crust and was further eroded by the Fish River millions of years ago. The best way to experience the canyon is via a hike, which can only be undertaken during the winter season. The 5-day trail covers 53 miles (86 kilometres), and on the hike, you experience the beauty of the cliffs and rock-strewn plains. The end of the hike is reached at Ais-Ais at a hot spring resort where you can soak in therapeutic hot water after completing the trail.
Etosha National Park
A must-experience place of interest is the Etosha National Park, also known as the great white place of dry water. The park features a beautiful landscape of saline desert, as well as savannah and scrubby woodlands, which attracts a diversity of animals and bird life. The park has three campsites where you can stay, namely Okaukuejo, Namutoni, and Halali.
The Namib Naukluft Park
One of Namibia’s prime places of interest is the Namib Naukluft Park, which is an ecologically-protected area that covers 49,800 km² at the Atlantic Coast. Here, you will experience the high dunes and beautiful scenery of the Namib Desert, as well as the Naukluft Mountains, as well as Sandwich Harbour, which is a lagoon that is home to over 200,000 birds, including pelicans and flamingos. Sossusvlei and Sesriem are also the main attractions of the park, with Sossusvlei being a salt-clay pan surrounded by dunes, and Sesriem being a deep canyon that was dug out by the Tsauchab River.
Swakopmund and Kolmanskop
For a taste of German history in Namibia, a visit to Swakopmund and Kolmanskop is a must. Swakopmund is a coastal city, which makes it the ideal getaway for a long weekend. Here, you can get a taste of German colonial culture through various buildings and monuments, including the Hohenzollem Building, the WWII memorial, the Marine memorial, and Princess Rupprecht House, which was originally a military hospital. Kolmanskop is a famous ghost town located a few miles from Luderitz. Here, you can go on a guided tour of the city that was once a bustling diamond town, but soon succumbed to the harsh climate of the Namib Desert.
Namibia Culture and Cuisine
Namibia has a mix of languages, and those that are widely spoken include English and Oshiwambo, which is the language of the country’s largest ethnic group, the Ovambo. Windhoek is a lively city with lots of restaurants, art galleries, museums, and many places of interest to choose from.
When visiting Namibia, it is a must to feast on potjiekos, a meat-based or chicken-based dish with vegetables that is cooked in a large, black, three-legged cast iron pot over an open fire. This traditional meal is a shared delicacy with the Afrikaans communities of South Africa. Also a shared delicacy with neighboring South Africa is biltong, which is dried meat (anything from beef to game meat) that is marinated and spiced before being hung to dry for at least 21 days. It is usually eaten as a snack. Local street food to try is katana, which is small pieces of meat served with peppers, onion, chilies, and sauces.
Passport and Visa Requirements
No visas are required for South Africans visiting Namibia for tourism or business for up to three months. Foreign visitors must have confirmed return/onward tickets, as well as the necessary travel documentation for their next destination. Visitors should also ensure that they have at least two blank pages remaining in their passports for entry and departure endorsements from the Namibian Immigration Service. Visitors must have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond the period of intended stay in Namibia.
Namibia’s currency is the Namibian Dollar (NAD) divided into 100 cents. Its value is equal to the South African Rand, which is also accepted as legal currency in Namibia. Major credit cards are accepted. Foreign currency can be exchanged at any bank or bureau de change. ATMs are available in larger towns only.
A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter Namibia if arriving within six days of leaving or transiting through an infected area.
Typhoid, hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccinations are recommended, as well as rabies vaccinations in the event of dog bites. There is a malaria risk in the northern region of Namibia during the rainy season (January to April). HIV/AIDS is prevalent, so safe sexual precautions are encouraged.
Cholera outbreaks do occur, so it is encouraged and advised that visitors drink only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks.
Make sure to have medical insurance in case of any emergencies. Windhoek has good medical facilities should you require medical attention; however, outside the main cities, medical treatment may be hard to come by. For peace of mind, take your necessary prescription medications kept in their original packaging and accompanied by a signed and dated letter from a doctor detailing why the medication is needed.
Tipping is usually at 10% where a service charge has not been included in the bill. Please take note that tour guides, game rangers, and trackers rely on tips for their income, so it’s best to tip accordingly.
Namibia is generally safe and no major incidents of violence against foreigners have been reported. Keep general safety precautions in mind, including keeping valuables out of sight, avoiding using taxis and traveling alone, using the main tarred roads, and traveling during daylight hours to avoid accidents mainly with livestock that wander the roads. Visitors are advised to carry identification at all times.