When asked about my favourite travel experiences, Namibia always comes to mind. I’ve never done justice to Namibia on my blog because the trip was in 2008, long before my blogging days, and many of my photos are stored cumbersomely on CD-ROM. Well, I finally dug out our shoe boxes of discs, waded through countless images, and transferred them to my photo library. Too much time has elapsed for me to provide a detailed travel report, but I hope you enjoy my photo memories of this stunning country.
Namibia is located on the southwestern coast of Africa. It’s a large country by land size—a third larger than France—but it has only 2.3 million people. We spent three weeks road tripping and explored only a fraction of the country’s many charms. I was struck by Namibia’s vast emptiness and enchanted by its austere desert beauty. It seemed like hours before we passed another car (I’m sure it was less). The photo below best captures my enduring image of Namibia.
And so does this next one. Three flat tires in three weeks. But it isn’t the frustration I remember, it’s the kindness and helpfulness of locals.
NamidRand Nature Reserve
The Namib Desert is a long coastal desert that stretches the length of the country and beyond. We spent significant time exploring different sections of this desert. Perhaps most memorable was our 3-day hiking/camping trip in the NamibRand Nature Reserve with our guide from Tok Tokkie Trails. During the day we hiked through incredible desert landscapes, and at night we slept under the brilliant southern hemisphere sky— no light pollution.
Namib-Naukluft National Park
Just north of the NamibRand lies one of Namibia’s top tourist attractions: the giant, intensely coloured sand dunes of Sossusvlei in Namib-Naukluft National Park. Like most visitors, we had fun climbing Dune 45. Its curves and colour, accentuated by shadows, are magnificent. At 80 meters tall, it is dwarfed by neighbouring 200m+ dunes, among the largest in the world. Surrounded by the dunes of Sossusvlei is the eerily beautiful Dead Vlei, a sun-baked clay pan filled with the skeletal remains of trees.
Swakopmund and area
Swakopmund is an eclectic place. It’s a beach resort that sits within the Namib Desert. Shimmering beaches stretch for miles in both directions but the water is cold and wild. The remains of German colonization (1884-1915) are strongly evident in the city’s architecture and cuisine. It’s oddly fascinating to be eating strüdel in a German cafe while a traditional Namibian arts and craft exhibit is taking place across the street, under a blazing African sun. Swakupmond is an interesting place to visit in its own right but also makes an excellent base for day excursions into the dunes and along the coast.
My photos of Damaraland, a mountainous region in north central Namibia, are unexplainably lacking, but it deserves special mention. I loved its “Flintstonesque” landscape. Giant round boulders dot the landscape and sit precariously on top of one another. We splurged at the Movani Mountain Camp, which has incorporated the rocks into the property design. This area is also home to thousands of ancient rock paintings and desert adapted wildlife, most notably elephants and rhinos.
Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park, in northwestern Namibia, was our first experience at an African wildlife park. I will never forget driving into the park and seeing our first zebra in the wild (we probably took a hundred photos of that zebra). Over four days of driving through the giant park and staying in two different sections, we saw plenty more zebras and giraffes, elephants, rhinos, lions, warthogs, ostrich, gemsbok, wildebeest….Since our visit to Etosha, I have been to wildlife parks in South Africa, Botswana and Zambia. They have all been great experiences, but that first time seeing the animals in Etosha National Park will always stand out for me.
Unfortunately, I’m missing photos from other regions we visited, most notably Windhoek, Namibia’s capital—a modern, orderly city with a quirky African-German vibe. Like most visitors (and many locals) we had to try Joe’s Beerhouse—a big indoor-outdoor restaurant that serves icy cold beer and an assortment of Namibian cuisine with a German twist.
Another photo gap is from our visit to the Cheetah Conservancy Fund near the city of Ojiwarongo. It was a bit of a detour, but Alex and I (cat lovers) managed to convince Mike. I think he’d agree that the afternoon we spent with the cheetahs and learning about how CCF works to save cheetahs and their habitat was worth the extra few hours on the road.
Tips for a Namibia visit
Namibia is large and the distances take longer to cover than expected. Give yourself lots of time and don’t cram your itinerary. Although many of the roads we traveled (in 2008) were gravel and punctures were to be expected, they were in relatively good condition. We never felt unsafe traveling via rental car and we were happy with the flexibility that this gave us. We had invaluable assistance in planning our trip through the Cardboard Box Travel, now under the Gondwana Collection. Although I’m hesitant to recommend a company we used 12 years ago, their website provides lots of good information.