Namibia is an amazing country to visit at any time of year but if you’re starting to think that you don’t want yet another dank and grey Christmas in the UK, you should really give Namibia more than a passing glance. The exchange rate is even (currently) in the favour of the visitor.
You can be guaranteed to have days full of warm to hot humidity free sunshine and very little rain; try saying that about a UK summer!
Getting to Namibia is simple with flights either via South Africa or Germany – Namibia used to be called German South-west Africa – on many well-known carriers. And with KLM and Emirates flying from many regional airports you don’t even have to come anywhere near Heathrow; what a wonderful way to start your holiday.
So, where to go in Namibia? Here’s my Top 7 picks for you……………….
After your flights from the UK to get to Namibia, despite there being little or no time difference, you are most likely going to be tired, so I would always recommend a nights stopover before you hit the safari trail, especially if you are self-driving. And actually even if you are being flown to your first destination.
Windhoek is a small, modern city with more than the occasional nod to its colonial past – many buildings would not be out of place in a Bavarian village. I’d steer clear of the larger hotels, not that there’s any wrong with them, and go instead to one of the capital’s excellent guest houses.
My pick would be Galton House, an 8 bedded contemporary property in Eros Park on the northern part of Windhoek.
If you’re a bit of a rock-hound head into the deep south of Namibia, not far from the border with South Africa, and you’ll discover the largest canyon in Africa and one of the largest in the world – the Fish River Canyon.
At over 160kms long, 27kms wide and in places 550 metres deep, the canyon is truly an amazing site and is one of the more highly visited locations in Namibia. Due to its size though you rarely feel crowded. Try saying that about the Grand Canyon! You can hike the canyon but not in the summer months due to the heat within.
I’d stay on the rim and explore its upper levels, staying at the Fish River Lodge (not an original name granted) but its setting is phenomenal and its simplicity fits in perfectly with its surroundings.
No visit to this largely desert country is complete without visiting the small Atlantic coastal town of Swakopmund. If the German colonial routes are evident in Windhoek, they yell at you here – but not in an unpleasant way. The local beer (Windhoek Light is my particular favourite) is brewed following Bavarian traditions and the local ‘bakerei’ offer superb coffee and cakes.
A two night stay in Swakopmund is easily warranted, perhaps three, as there is plenty to do and see in the dunes behind the town, down the road at Walvis Bay and northwards towards the Skeleton Coast Camp.
The best location in town had set empty for many years but a new individualistic Strand Hotel now occupies the site and offers its guests home comforts and superb cuisine before the more ‘wild’ parts of the country call.
The coastal area north of Swakopmund is one of the most evocative in Namibia, stretching for many hundreds of kilometres up to the Angolan border. This desolate but beautiful element sculpted part of the country is one of the remotest parts of southern Africa, very sparsely inhabited and offering a real challenge to survival. And yet animals have survived through adaption, and lions, giraffe, elephant and the odd looking brown hyenas can all be seen. The river beds of the seasonally flowing Huab, Hoanib and Hoarusib offers the best chance to find them.
Traveller accommodation is limited but at least one more lodge (hopefully not many more) are planned. &
I would stay at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, although it is outside the Skeleton Coast Park as it gives the best balance of comfort and access to the region.
In the far north of Namibia is a region known as Kunene, the remotest of all the regions and home to the nomadic Himba people famed for the ochre pigment, used to protect against the sun, and the intricately plaited hair worn by the women.
In the stark environment water is vital for survival and the permanently flowing Kunene River not only forms the border with Angola but supports both the Himba and a wide range of flora and fauna. The seasonally grassed Hartmann and Marienfluss Valleys form dramatic backdrops to the dune fields both in terms of colour and relief and is are places of such beauty and tranquillity that I would without a doubt have it as my top location to visit in Namibia.
Unless you are a very experienced 4×4 driver, with all necessary survival equipment on board and a few days for the journey, I’d fly into and stay at Serra Cafema and for at least three nights. You will not regret the decision.
A quirk of colonial history has given Namibia an odd extension to its border called the Caprivi Strip, with strip being a very apt word, as the extension is almost 500kms long but only 30kms wide at its narrowest point. It exists as the Germans thought the Zambezi, the mightiest river in southern Africa had to flow into the Indian Ocean and they wanted a transport route without going round the British controlled Cape. It did but they forgot about Victoria Falls. Oops!!
The Caprivi now offers travellers a way to access the Falls, and the countries of Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia, without having to go back to a main airport hub. It’s a long drive but through one of the most verdant parts of Namibia.
I’d stay at Hakusembe Lodge, near Rundu, to break the journey from the Etosha and then again as one of the excellent small reserves such as Mudumu. Or perhaps cut south down the Okavango panhandle into Botswana.
If you’re not heading north to Serra Cafema or east through the Caprivi to Victoria Falls, then you just have to break your journey back to Windhoek at a true gem of a lodge. It is also co-located with a wildlife charity that has been saving and releasing injured or orphaned big cats, principally cheetahs and leopards, as well as providing wildlife education.
It’s called Okonjima and the charity is Africat.
There is a wide choice of accommodation from a camp site through to villas, the latter of which are ideal for small group or families. The range of activities offered are immense from bush walks through to learning about the work of the Africat. Birdlife is prolific.
So don’t put your head down and drive straight back to Windhoek, break the journey and enjoy two superb days with Rosalea and her team.
Whatever your plans may be for Africa – do not leave Namibia off them.