How to accurately describe Namibia? After serious contemplation, S seems to be a fitting choice to touch on just a few of the highlights that we experienced during our 6-day visit. Namibia is massive and we only experienced a very small area from Swakopmund to Windhoek. There are many scenic areas and definitely a photographers dream. The one aspect though that surpasses all is the solitude. We live in a fast paced environment and often struggle to slow down but in Namibia…you will experience solitude that is food for the soul!
Note though that with its modern infrastructure Namibia provides endless opportunities for the leisure or corporate traveller and is a popular destination for corporate incentive groups.
Sand, sea, sun & sky
It is quite weird to arrive in Walvis Bay or Swakopmund and the only green you see are palm trees surrounded by sand and more sand as far as the eye can see. The lack of grass becomes irrelevant though as the sand dunes are a spectacular sight, especially where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. This country affords an average of 300 sunny days per year and with Swakopmund being referred to as the adventure capital of Namibia; you will never experience a dull moment.
Swakopmund is a quaint sea-side town with old world charm and strong German influence, especially apparent in the architecture. It is popular for relaxing beach holidays and active adventure seeking guests. This is an all year round destination but note it is THE premier holiday resort for the locals and availability during the December holidays may prove to be fairly challenging. Although small, it has good accommodation, excellent restaurants, night life, shopping, adventure activities and day excursions to the desert.
During the living desert tour you are astonished by how animals survive in these harsh conditions The small creatures of the Namib Desert includes the Namaqua chameleon, sidewinder snake, shovel-snouted lizard, cartwheeling spider / white lady spider, Palmato gecko, sand-diving lizard, FitzSimon’s burrowing skink, black scorpion, sand snake / horned adder, desert wasps, fish moths, crickets, various beetle species, chat chat trac (woestynspekvreter) to name but a few. Our host, Tommy Collard has a passion for the desert and with his vast knowledge and keen eye, he surprised us time and again in locating these creatures where they seek shelter from the fierce Namib sun.
Quad biking and sand boarding in the dunes is a scintillating experience! Well, in spite of eating a bit of sand, we had loads of fun. These activities are available throughout the year and located just outside Swakopmund. The operators are very environmentally conscious and stick to specific routes for 4 x 4 driving, quad biking, sand boarding and sand skiing. Due to these activities not being controlled in the past, one can still see 20 year old tracks in certain areas, unfortunately spoiling the natural beauty of the area. Alternatively experience the dunes from the sky by way of scenic flights, sky diving and paragliding.
The natural harbour at Walvis Bay is a starting point for a whole different experience with marine based activities including sea-kayaking at sunrise, wind surfing, kite surfing, para-sailing & fishing. The lagoon is considered the most important wetland for coastal birds in Southern Africa. Catamaran excursions in the harbour and out to Pelican Point or Sandwich Harbour is a favourite activity for leisure guests and groups because of the abundant bird and marine life. On these excursions one can get ‘up close and very personal’ with flamingos, pelicans, seals coming on to the catamarans, dolphins, sea turtles and whales. If being kissed by a seal is on your bucket list, this is the place to go to get that one ticked!
Solitude, Silence, Splendour
The stark moon landscape inland from Swakopmund has to be seen and experienced. This area is located in the Namib-Naukluft Park and consists of Granite Mountains eroded over thousands of years to form this unique and eerie landscape. From Swakopmund this is a 140 km round trip. Combined with staying in the desert in a movable tented camp, this is a superb option for corporate groups. They choose an area and set-up camp according to duration of stay, means of transport to the site and the group size. Everything is portable and environmentally friendly, thus they only leave footprints. They are able to accommodate up to 200 guests on a sharing basis. Facilities include tents with camp beds, camping shower and basins. Portable luxury toilets are conveniently positioned in the camp. When you want to shower, hot water is provided by the staff. Electricity is supplied by a generator at specific times. Bedding, towels and soap are provided. With dinner anything is possible. Do you fancy oysters and champagne or a braai under a spectacular night sky? Various entertainment options are available. The entire experience is further enriched by attention to detail, friendly staff and exceptional service and ‘can do’ attitude. Waking at sunrise in the desert is a humbling experience. The solitude and scenery makes for a powerful combination.
Sossusvlei, Sesriem Canyon, Solitaire and Spreetshoogte Pass are inland areas, between Swakopmund and Windhoek. Sossusvlei is world renowned for the spectacular red dunes and the combination of these dunes, stark landscape and intense blue skies and white sand of Deadvlei is extraordinary. One should try to spend a few days in the area, including sunrise and sunset to fully appreciate this splendour. Sossusvlei leads into Deadvlei and then the lesser known Hiddenvlei. On the rare occasion that there is enough rain and the vlei is actually filled, people flock from everywhere to experience this. Sossusvlei was last flooded in 1997 and Deadvlei has not been flooded in recent history. What is quite amazing is that despite the lack of water, there is still life. The small settlement of Sesriem and Sesriem gate is the main access gate to Sossusvlei as well as the Sesriem Canyon.
Solitaire is literally a small settlement in the middle of nowhere but be sure to stop there for good food, fuel, Moose McGregor’s desert bakery and accommodation if needed. When travelling from Solitaire to Windhoek one can stick to the district gravel road (D1275) and travel via the Spreetshoogte Pass from the desert to the Khomas Highland. This is the steepest pass in Namibia with an elevation of almost 1 000 metres within 4 kilometres. Stop at the top to enjoy the spectacular view. Note that this pass can only be used by vehicles without trailers. The alternative route will be to travel via the Remhoogte Pass, approximately 30 kilometres south.
Savour the food
Namibian cuisine is quite varied. Braai (barbeque) is very popular with beef, mutton, and venison together with chicken, boerewors, sosaties and potjiekos. Namibian specialities include Swakopmund green asparagus, homemade cow and goat’s milk cheese, seafood notably the Luderitz oysters and olives as well as their beer (Windhoek Lager, Windhoek Draught and Tafel Lager). German delicacies such as eisbein, wiener schnitzel and confectionary are common in certain towns including Swakopmund. Highlights: The Königsberger Klopse, a Prussian dish of meatballs with a creamy caper sauce, served with boiled potatoes and red cabbage as well as the smoked Barbel (small carp-like fish) with avocado on toast.
Namibia’s standard, in terms of accommodation, is high. Visitors can choose from comfortable 3-star to 5-star accommodation including truly exceptional desert lodges. With the exception of Windhoek, facilities are small with most offering less than 40 bedrooms.
Interesting facts about Namibia
- Approximately 2/3 of the country is desert with natural visible water almost non-existent
- Walvis Bay has the biggest salt works in Africa
- Walvis Bay Wetlands & Lagoon, has been a Ramsar site since 1971 and is a haven for approx. 160 000 birds in summer
- Sossusvlei has the highest sand dunes in the world
- The dead pan at Sossusvlei is carbon dated to be between 500 – 600 million years old
- Twyfelfontein, the site of ancient rock art, was awarded World Heritage status in June 2007, the first ever and first cultural site in Namibia
- On 21 June 2013 the Namib Sand Sea was inscribed on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List – the only coastal desert that has an ancient semi-consolidated dune field overlain by an active younger dune field, with fog being the primary source of water, the first natural site in Namibia added to the World Heritage Site list.
In terms of world ranking only 6 independent states (Greenland, Falkland Islands, Svalbord, Pitcairn Islands, Mongolia & Western Sahara) have less people per km² than Namibia. According to current figures Namibia shares their population density of 3 people per km² with only 6 other independent states (French Guiana, Iceland, Suriname, Australia, Botswana and Mauritania). On the other side of the scale Macau leads with 20 069 people per km² followed by Monaco with 18 068 people per km².
|2013 ranking||Namibia||South Africa|
|Population||2 113 077 (2011 census)||52 981 991 (2013)|
|Biggest population in the world ranking||235th||25th|
|Size of country||825 418 km²||1 221 037 km²|
|Biggest country in the world ranking||34th||25th|
|Density||3 people per km²||41 people per km²|
It has been said: ‘You can leave Namibia, but it will never leave you…” and I agree wholeheartedly!
Accommodation: Swakopmund Hotel (89 rooms) www.legacyhotels.co.za Swakopmund Boutique Hotel (21 rooms) www.swkboutiquehotel.com, Rossmund Lodge (20 rooms) with golf course www.rossmundlodge.com.na, Beach Hotel (± 30 rooms) www.beach-hotel-swakopmund.com, Sea Side Hotel & Spa www.seasidehotelnamibia.com
Restaurants: Brauhaus, Zum Kaiser at Swakopmund Boutique Hotel, Tug Restaurant, Lighthouse Restaurant and Jetty Restaurant in Swakopmund. The Raft Restaurant, Anchors and the Jetty Restaurant in Walvis Bay.
Activities: Living Desert Tour with Tommy Collard www.tommys.iway.na , Quad biking and Sand Boarding etc. www.namibiadesertexplorers.com Walvis Bay harbour & sea cruises with catamaran www.laramontours.com
Rosstock Ritz Desert Lodge, www.rostock-ritz-desert-lodge.com
DMC for group and corporate incentive business: Abenteuer Afrika Safari, www.abenteuerafrika.com
Namibia Tourism Board, www.namibiatourism.com.na