Stunningly stark, yet far from short of attractions and activities, the country of Namibia is a beautiful enigma. Its unique landscape is unquestionably marvellous in its solitary, desert glory and while mindful soul-searching is easy to achieve, action and adventure are also not difficult to find. Read on for a peek into some of Namibia’s most delightful treats.
Cross the Tropic of Capricorn
The Tropic of Capricorn runs parallel to the equator and is the southernmost latitude where the sun can shine from directly overhead. It passes through Namibia on the C14 between Sossusvlei and Walvis Bay and is well signposted for those looking for a photo op. Although the Tropic of Capricorn runs through a number of countries in Africa, including Botswana and Mozambique, if you consider its starting place to be the Prime Meridian, it first makes landfall on the coast of Namibia.
Capture the ghostly magic of Dead Vlei
Dead Vlei is one of the most photographed locations in Namibia and immediately captures your attention with its eerie stillness and silent, stark beauty. The area consists of a clay pan that was formed when the Tsauchab River flooded many hundreds of years ago and the abundance of water allowed camel thorn trees to grow. However, over time and due to climate change, sand dunes have edged closer to the pan and stopped the river from reaching the trees. Now long dead, the trees have decomposed as a result of the dry climate and stand out sharply and stunningly against the orange-hued dunes.
Take a walk through history at the National Museum of Namibia
This intriguing museum is housed in Alte Feste, the oldest existing building in Windhoek, which was once a German fort. In times gone by the edifice stood as a powerful reminder of the German occupation of the area, but today celebrates Namibia’s varied and rich heritage. After a tour through the past, visitors can admire a collection of rock art that is located nearby the museum.
Sail your own ‘desert ship’
Camels are synonymous with the desert. They are also supremely adapted to desert life, with large flat feet that refuse to sink into the sand, built-in temperature regulators and the ability to survive for days without any water. Taking a slow meandering camel ride across the magnificent sand dunes of Namibia is a one-of-a-kind experience and gives travellers the chance to admire the fabulous desert scenery and possibly even spot some wildlife of the smaller variety.
Swakopmund Camel Farm, Swakopmund, +264 812301758
Soar through the sky in a plane
One of the best ways to take in all the scenic beauty that Namibia offers is on a plane ride. Charter flights cover numerous locations in the country and skim the sand dunes while passengers admire aerial views of the vast and solitary Namib Desert; Tsondabvlei, the only known breeding area of the Lappet-faced vulture in southern Namibia; and the highest shifting sand dunes in the world at Sossusvlei. Abandoned diamond mines, Cape fur seal colonies and old shipwrecks can all be included in your itinerary.
Take it slow in the Namib Nauklaft
Taking some time for unrushed explorations is highly recommended in this spectacular area of Namibia where the vast landscape stretches from famous sand dunes to mighty canyons and rugged and beautiful mountain ranges. The enormous park covers approximately 50,000 square kilometres (19,305 square miles) and is one of the largest conservation areas in Africa, comprising stunning and unique desert scenery and amazing and unusual wildlife.
Take a day trip to Keetmanshoop
Keetmanshoop is the economic centre of south Namibia and one of the oldest settlements in the country. It has a small museum housed in the Rhenish Mission Church that is also a national monument, and its unique combination of gothic architecture cast in African stone makes it one of the architectural masterpieces of the country. The town is also famous for its quiver tree forest and Giants Playground, a massive collection of amazing Dolerite balancing rock formations piled up on top of each other.
Make friends with the dolphins
The protected waters of the Walvis Bay lagoon offer a gentle and serene boat cruise that is filled with abundant marine life. The excursion begins in the Walvis Bay harbour en route to Bird Island and then cuts across the lagoon to visit large colonies of Cape fur seals. Follow this with a visit to Pelican Point, where schools of bottlenose and Heaviside’s dolphins are endemic to the area.
Travel back in time at Kolmanskop
Not far from the seaside port of Lüderitz lies a town lost in time, where once-grand houses and stately buildings now stand deserted and semi-buried in the sand. Kolomanskop was once a thriving diamond mining town, however once the gems dried up, the area was abruptly abandoned, leaving a ghost town in the sand dunes.
Take a stroll through prehistoric rocks
The Gibeon Meteorite display can be found in the Post Street Mall in Windhoek and consists of 30 of these extraterrestrial wonders. They are thought to be part of a massive meteor that crashed into the earth over 600 million years ago; large numbers of the rocks were found near the village of Gibeon in Namibia, thus giving the display its name.
Untangle the mystery of Namibia’s fairy circles
Whether they are caused by UFOs, termites or plants, or are simply a natural, inexplicable phenomenon, no-one really knows, but Namibia’s fairy circles certainly attract their fair share of attention. These regular, circular patches of bare ground in otherwise thick grass are scattered over the Namib Desert and have been a source of interest and intense debate for years.