Travel & Tourism
Ancient deserts, tropical forests, and some of the best game viewing in Africa: it’s little wonder that Namibia, in the southwestern part of the continent, is becoming known as a top tourist destination. The country’s topographical beauty and commitment to wildlife preservation (environmental protection is mandated in its constitution) are immediately evident, no matter whether you travel to the red sand dunes of the Namib Desert or the fertile, densely wooded northern regions. Also, since Namibia gained its independence 20 years ago, it’s been politically stable, so it is one of the safest places to visit in Africa today. Game parks, river cruises, shopping, and some of the best eating on the continent await you as you make your way to Namibia.
What to Do in Namibia
1. Etosha National Park: One of the best game reserves in Africa, Etosha, in northern Namibia, is home to all kinds of wildlife, from some of Africa’s largest elephants to rare black-faced impalas. Sightings of leopards and lions are almost guaranteed.
2. Swakopmund: Both a picturesque, seaside town with German, colonial-era architecture and a top destination for thrill seekers (skydiving, paragliding, and more), this large region along the northwestern coast is definitely worth checking out.
3. Namib-Naukluft Park: Composed of one of the world’s oldest deserts and an isolated mountain range, this 50,000-square-kilometer park along the southwestern coast offers infinite possibilities for exploring. Don’t miss Sossusvlei, the dramatic, brightly colored red sand dunes, which are especially majestic at sunrise and sunset.
4. Crafts Shopping: In the northern areas of Omuthiya and Onenongo, shop for traditional palm leaf baskets, earthenware bowls, and other handmade goods at the small craft initiatives popping up all over the region. Many were started by NGOs in an effort to generate income for local women while preserving traditional skills.
5. Khaudum Game Park: In northeastern Namibia, near the Botswana border, this remote, densely forested park shows another side of the country’s varied landscape. Giraffes, rare wild dogs, and hundreds of birds are among the wildlife.
6. Local Cuisine: Feast your way through Windhoek, Namibia’s capital city, sampling everything from traditional West African dishes to German-inspired fare.
7. Sandboarding: You shouldn’t leave Namibia without sandboarding; the Namib Desert, along the western coast, boasts some of the largest sand dunes in the world. Try it standing up or lying down, but don’t do it alone. Sandboarders can reach speeds of 60 miles (96.5 kilometers) per hour, so it’s essential to arrange an expedition with a professional sandboarding company.
8. Fish River Canyon: Often compared to the Grand Canyon, this massive landform in southern Namibia is split by the country’s longest river and is home to mountain zebras, baboons, and more. There are few visitors, and it is an excellent place for camping and hiking.
9. University of Namibia Choir: Singing in both English and indigenous languages, choir members belt out lively melodies and use call and response in their moving performances. The university is located in Windhoek.
10. River Cruise: Glide down the Zambezi River, along Namibia’s northernmost coast, on a houseboat. Be on the lookout for hippos and crocodiles.
11. Skeleton Coast: Namibia’s Skeleton Coast is a harsh and unyielding landscape where only the hardiest of desert-adapted animals survive. It is also notorious for its rough seas and thick fog that has claimed the lives of many sailors over the years.
12. Kolmanskop: This ghost town was once a thriving diamond mining area but now lies semi-buried by the sands of time. Its haunting beauty is only overshadowed by the eerie feel of abrupt abandonment that whispers through the broken windows and down the lonely streets.
13. Hoba meteorite: The Hoba meteorite is the largest on the planet as well as the largest naturally occurring mass of iron known to exist on the earth. It was first uncovered in 1920 and remains in the exact location where it crashed into the earth’s surface over 80,000 years ago.
14. Welwitschia Drive: This desert route is located in the northern corner of the Namib-Naukluft National Park and includes 13 numbered stone beacons at points of particular interest. The four-hour drive culminates at one of Namibia’s largest, and oldest, welwitschia plants, a strange and highly unique desert species.
15. Namib Desert: The Namib Desert claims the title of the oldest in the world and dishes up panoramic landscapes that are second to none. It is an immense expanse of relentlessly moving gravel plains and dunes that stretch along the entire Namibian coastline and holds evidence of human existence dating back to the Stone Age.
When to Go
The ideal time to visit Namibia is from June to November, when interior temperatures range from 65 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 to 25 degrees Celcius) and you’re more likely to see plenty of game animals. Namibia’s rainy season lasts from October to April; during that time, average interior temperatures span 70 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 32 degrees Celcius.) (In certain parts of the country, temperatures spike to more than 100 degrees (37.8 degrees Celcius) during this season.) If you’re traveling at the end of the rainy season, or you plan to camp outdoors, it’s advisable to bring a mosquito net and insect repellant with you. Malaria is not prevalent in this area, but having these on hand will make life a little easier.
Getting In and Around
Visas: A passport with at least two unstamped pages and a visa are required to enter Namibia. Travelers with U.S. passports who plan to visit the country for fewer than 90 days can obtain visas at the airport. Tourists traveling to or from Namibia via South Africa are encouraged to have five or more unstamped pages in their passport.
Transportation: In/Out and Within Namibia: Namibia’s national airline, Air Namibia, offers flights from New York City and Europe as well as flights within the country. British Airways, South African Airways, and LTU also fly to the Namibia. In Windhoek, you’ll find a local bus service, a fleet of taxis, and a luxury bus line that connects to many of the country’s regions as well as to South Africa. Rental cars are available at the airport (WDH) as well as in Windhoek’s city center. An international driving permit is required for renting a car.
Mobile Phones: You can use a GSM mobile phone, if you have one, in Namibia. Most international phone companies provide roaming coverage to the country’s urban areas.
Safety and Security
Concerned about your safety as you plan travel to Namibia? We at Africa.com, together with our friends, family and colleagues, travel extensively throughout the continent. Here are the resources we consult when thinking of our safety in Namibia:
Africa.com comment: Very timely and frequently updated. Perspective assumes that you ARE going to travel to Namibia, and seeks to give you good guidance so that you understand the risks and are well informed.
Africa.com comment: Can sometimes be considered as overly conservative and discourage travel altogether to destinations that many reasonable people find acceptably secure. On the other hand, they have the resources of the CIA to inform them, so they know things that the rest of us don’t know. See what they have to say about Namibia.
1. Located in southwestern Africa, Namibia is a large country the size of Texas and Louisiana combined. It shares borders with Angola and Zambia to the north, Botswana to the east, and South Africa to the southeast and is divided into 13 regions: Omusati, Oshana, Ohangwena, Oshikoto, Okavango, Caprivi, Kunene, Otjozondjupa, Erongo, Khomas, Omaheko, Hardap, and Karas.
2. Namibian dollars (NAD) are the local currency, but South African rands are also used within the country. (Namibian dollars may not be used in South Africa, however.) One American dollar is equal to approximately seven NAD.
3. Freedom of the press is not an issue here; in fact, Namibia is one of the more press-friendly countries in Africa. The major newspapers are the Namibian, a private, English and Oshiwambo-language daily; Namibia Economist, a daily; Die Republikein, an Afrikaans daily; New Era, a government-owned daily; Windhoek Observer, a private weekly; and Allgemeine Zeitung, a German-language daily.
4. The official language in Namibia is English. Afrikaans, German, Oshivambo, Herero, Nama, and other indigenous languages are also spoken throughout the country.
5. Smoking in public places has recently been banned in Namibia.