For starters, Namibia is stunning. Not only are the people welcoming and warm, but the natural wonders found throughout the country are gorgeous and sometimes a bit mysterious. Fish River Canyon gives the Grand Canyon a run for its money and is an impressive sight from overhead or from one of several viewpoints. The Namib Desert is probably the most unique and truly awe-inspiring place in Namibia, with its trademark rust coloured dunes shifting and moving slowly and changing colours as the sun rises an sets. Come just before a full moon for truly spectacular views of the moonrise over the dunes against a dark blue sky – the perfect photo op.
Soussousvlei is arguably the most accessible part of the desert as well as the most unique in terms of sights. Check out the old skeletal looking trees that rise up from the cracked earth against the backdrop of orange dunes and blue sky. Etosha National Park is impressive in itself and surrounds the Etosha Salt Pan which is an interesting place to visit. Animals are attracted here due to it being a source of water, even in the drier months. For other wildlife viewing opportunities check out the Caprivi, Waterberg Plateau Park and Kaokoland.
For the most unique experience though, the Skeleton Coast is worth a look if you can get access – be careful here, much of the land is owned by mining companies, and so you’d be effectively trespassing if on the wrong bit of land. The name is taken from the multitude of old oil tanker which has been beached along the coast, with shipwrecks for miles. This is also a hot spot for surfing the notoriously huge Namibian waves, but be warned – pieces of old ship can lurk underneath the waves and pose hazards. Make sure your tetanus is up to date if going in the water here.
High Season is generally June to October, as this is winter in the southern hemisphere, so temperatures are especially low at night time at the start of this season, from June to August. After August, temperatures in the daytime and the night-time really pick up very quickly, and by September through to October get hotter and hotter. Prices at this time of yeah are at their highest, especially for accommodation, and are doubly high in Etosha, which is the best place to view wildlife, especially at this time of year. The ‘Cusp Seasons’ are May and November. May enjoys mild temperatures ideal for travel, whilst in November there are sporadic, occasional downpours but this actually cools things down too. The Cusp Season is also advantageous for travellers since accommodation is cheaper and there is more availability and choice. Finally, the Low Season runs from December to April. This is a tricky time to travel, as it is the rainy season and summer in the southern hemisphere. The humidity and high temperatures at this time of year can make it unbearably for some and uncomfortable for many. But on the flipside, accommodation is at it’s cheapest and availability is very high for those that dare to travel at this time of year.
Despite Namibia being a fairly safe and friendly country, like anywhere there is a bit of a shady side. Women are advised not to travel in taxis alone after 9pm and men, after midnight in most major towns and cities. Using common sense will help you avoid any potentially upsetting and dangerous situations, and in fact many people travel through Namibia having had nothing but enjoyable experiences.
Banks in Namibia will exchange South African Rand with no charge and no hassle, so it’s a useful way to get your money changed up while avoiding bank fees. As with many cities across the world today, it’s advised to use ATM’s that are located physically within bank buildings to lessen the likelihood of ATM fraud and theft, which is a large issue throughout Namibia amongst other places.
Namibia has a bit of a reputation for its nightclubs and they are always packed with something going on. For a great night out check out some of the bars in Windhoek. Likewise, Windhoek is home to a number of local and international restaurants serving almost every form of food you could possibly want. Namibians typically eat a lot of meat, but vegetarian options are available with some fantastic options for fruits being commonplace.
Bus services throughout the country are good with decent buses serving passengers. Train services are limited and it’s no longer possible to get into or out of Namibia by train. As an added benefit to travelling in Namibia – if you have spent time in South Africa, Namibia is very similar and vice versa. Due to their relative close relationship with Namibia, it’s common that travellers do both South Africa and Namibia in one trip. Taxi services in major centres are typically one of the better ways to get around and long distance taxis are available to do intercity trips. Most of the travelling in Namibia is done by road, despite the relatively long distances.
Namibia has been inhabited essentially since the beginning of time by the San people, which were later known as the Bushmen. It was invaded by the Bantu and later colonised by the Germans. Many people in Namibia still speak German to this day as a throwback to colonial times. After the first world war, South Africa took over Namibia and made it an extension province of South Africa, a contested topic that resulted in a guerilla war for independence fro 1966, unsuccessful until 1990.
Due to the fact that Namibia was under control of South Africa throughout its period of apartheid, Namibia too experienced detrimental effects due to the system and continues to to this day as well. In this respect, Namibians have developed more reference in life to race and may refer to racial topics more commonly than in other places. Despite this though, Namibians of different races tend to live harmoniously and racial aggression and tensions are rarely an issue.
Namibia was also unfortunately somewhat involved in the Angola civil war with some of the fighting spilling over into north east Namibia, but when that came to an end in May of 2002 Namibia resumed its place as a peaceful, welcoming and friendly nation. It’s seen its fair share of foreigners, especially since the UN supervised their elections, so they are no stranger to visitors in the country and are quite happy to see foreigners enjoying Namibia.