"Namibia" Namibia by minstrel74

Namibia Travel Guide: 2,073 reviews and 6,707 photos

An Unforgiving Land of Stark Beauty and Contrasts

I have had the good fortune of visiting over thirty countries in my lifetime, and without question, Namibia is my favorite. The landscape here is so desolate and raw, and yet so full of everything that one associates with Southern Africa, that you sometimes feel as if you are in a dream. The kind of dream where all sorts of unrelated people and places come together in a way that almost seems surreal. Many people comment on the contrasts that you can find in Namibia, and I agree that this is an apt way to describe it. In the Namib Desert, you almost feel as if you were in the Sahara. In the far north, you might as well be in the great national parks of East Africa, full of African wildlife. On the Skeleton Coast, you feel as if you are on the fog-enshrouded coasts of some desolate spot in the Atlantic, and in Swakopmund, you might as well be in a German village. I have always been surprised by how few people visit Namibia relative to neighboring South Africa, but perhaps this is its charm. Namibia remains a somewhat undiscovered travel destination for North Americans; however, even if this changes, I suspect there will always be room for adventure in the far reaches of Kaokoland or among the enormous, wind-sculpted sand dunes of the Namib.

Namibian Culture

For those seeking to learn about traditional African culture, Namibia will not disappoint. Although the capital, Windhoek, is a modern city with shopping malls, luxury hotels, chain restaurants, and transnational banks, one only has to drive a day or so out of town to encounter people who live much as they did before Europeans first came to this area. Although one would be hard-pressed to locate anyone who has had little or not contact with the "outside world," many people still live by ancient traditions and are happy to share this with visitors. Most notable among these groups is the Himba, who live in the far northwest. Although they have seen increasing visits by tourists in recent years, they have maintained their traditional lifestyle admirably well. As a result, they have much to teach us, and we have much to learn.

Landscape and Wildlife

Many visitors would describe Namibia as desolate and remote. This description may be true, but it only paints part of the picture. What I found so striking was the juxtaposition of different types of landscapes within such a relatively short distance. While the interior (including Windhoek) is stark, hot desert country, a few hours to the west, along the coast and in Swakopmund, you find yourself enshrouded in mist and pulling on a sweater to stay warm. It feels more Mediterranean than African. The change is so sudden that you feel as if you have crossed an invisible line. In terms of wildlife, this is the last thing you expect to see when you are strolling through 400-foot high sand dunes, but you may encounter oryx in such places, and in Etosha National Park, you can find all the wildlife that you might expect to see in Kruger National Park in South Africa. There is something for everyone, and since the roads are good and tour companies abundant, visiting anywhere in the country is easier than one might think.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:incredible landscape, abundant wildlife, and fascinating culture
  • Cons:vast distances, oppressive heat
  • In a nutshell:Endless Opportunity for Adventure!
  • Last visit to Namibia: Oct 1999
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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