Wedged between the South Atlantic and the Kalahari, the beautiful Namibia harbours the world's oldest desert, the highest sand dunes, and one of the most notorious coasts to shippers, aptly named Skeleton Coast. It’s one of the world's newest independent republics.
With its deserts, seascapes, bushwalking and boundlessness, Namibia is a real treat for any traveller. It’s rich in natural resources, has a solid modern infrastructure, diverse cultures and 300 days of sunshine a year.
Previously known as South West Africa, Namibia used to be a German settlement. Since World War I it came under the administration of South Africa, but the German heritage is still very evident in the architecture, place and dress of the Herrero tribe’s womenfolk, who still copy the dress of the 19th century German missionaries' wives.
Namibia overflows with diamonds, uranium, copper, silver, tin and other minerals.
Even though most of Namibia is a desert, it still has regional climatic variations. The sun shines at least 300 days of the year throughout the entire country. But this doesn’t stop temperatures and rainfall from varying significantly both seasonally and geographically. The driest climate is found in the centre of the Namib Desert, where summer daytime temperatures rocket to over 40°C (105°F), falling again to sometimes below freezing at night.
In the mountainous and semi-arid Central Plateau (including Windhoek), daytime temperatures are generally lower than in the rest of the country. Fog is pretty common on the coast.
The hottest month everywhere is December. Average temperatures get to 30°C (86°F). Namibia has two rainy seasons, namely the 'little rains' from October to December, and the main rainy period from January to April. The main rainy period consists of brief showers and occasional thunderstorms that clear the air.
Low-lying areas in the eastern part of Namibia are usually much hotter than the Central Plateau and, except for Kavango and Caprivi in the northeast, get little rain.
The most popular time to visit is Mid-Dec to Mid- Jan; late April to Early June; late Aug to Mid-Sept. The resort areas are at their busiest during these times. In May to Oct it is the dry winter season. The days are warm and sunny, while nights are cold, often with temperatures falling below freezing. From Dec to March the Namib-Naukluft Park and Etosha National Park are extremely hot. Because of this, the Fish River Canyon is closed to the public between December and April. Flooding also occurs at this time, making the roads impassable.
Namibia has a population of 2 million people with the official languages being Afrikaans and English. The capital of Namibia is Windhoek. The average temperature ranges from 20-30 degrees Celcius all year round. Namibia's main attractions are the dunes of the Namib Desert and Etosha National Park.
Quick facts about Namibia
Full name: Republic of Namibia
Capital city: Windhoek
Area: 825,418 sq km; 318,694 sq miles
Time Zone: GMT/UTC +1 ()
Daylight Saving Start: 1st Sunday in September
Daylight Saving End: 1st Sunday in April
Languages: English (official); Afrikaans (official); Herero (other); German (other); OshiKwanyama (other); Nama (other)
Religion: Christian (80-90%); Native religions (10-20%)
Electricity: 240V; 50HzHz
Electric Plug Details South African/Indian-style plug: 2 circular metal pins above large circular grounding pin
Country Dialling Code: 264
Recent history of Namibia
Namibia is Africa’s youngest nation. Although President Nujoma supported Robert Mugabe's forcible possessions of white farms in Zimbabwe, he did, however, adopt a more peaceful approach to land reform, and condemned illegal land seizures. By 2003, 15 farm invasions were prevented when a black farmhands' union came to an agreement with white farmers.
After 15 years in office, President Sam Nujoma finally stepped down in 2004, and was succeeded by Hifikepunye Pohamba, also a Swapo veteran.
In 2006, expropriation of farms became compulsory even though the government still states that the rule of law must be obeyed.
Namibia does have very modern problems, with corruption within its politics and HIV/AIDS having dire effects on its population, among them. Along with this, the majority of its sparse population lives in terrible poverty and its energy requirements far exceed current supply.
Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park
is a scrubby savannah that defines the western part of the park, while further east, the landscape is made up of mixed woodland. However, the surrounding bush and grasslands provide a home for 114 mammal species and 340 bird species. Meaning 'great white place', the salt pans are what defines the Park. A strong contrast to the white terrain is when the flamingos flock to the pan's edge creating a pink hue only seen in picture books. It is also known as 'place of dry water'
because the pan is usually very dry, occasionally filling with water for brief periods in the summer, attracting pelicans, flamingos, black rhino and black-faced impala.
The Fish River Canyon
The mighty Fish River Canyon
is the second largest canyon in the world, leaving you breathless as you take in all its glory. Several mammals, reptiles, insects and fish live in the natural pools of this unusual habitat. Hiking
around this area is a popular sport and well-worth the effort.
The Skeleton Coast
On the Skeleton Coast
you can visit the many shipwrecks that scatter the shores and have given this eerie place its nickname of 'the land God made in anger'
. When sailors were washed ashore here, they had no chance of survival. To add to this, there’s a misty fog that hangs in the air for most of the year. Here you can see clay castles, experience the salt pans, hike the dunes, view the rock engravings, go on desert walks and drives and take a flight over the coast.
The Namib-Naukluft National Park
The Namib-Naukluft National Park
is one of the largest national parks in Africa and is larger than Switzerland. Beautiful high red dunes shape this barren landscape which is not an everyday sight and is well worth the visit just to experience an early morning sunrise. It is home to some unusual animal life and insect life, namely the Namib desert beetle
, a unique insect that collects water on its back.
is a salt and clay pan amid towering red dunes in the southern part of the Namib desert, which is part of the Namib-Naukluft National Park. Rust-red dunes mark this territory by rising 300 metres above the valley floor, a spectacular sight to see.
is very popular with rock climbers all over the world due to their granite peaks, with the highest outcrop being 1784 metres above the desert floor. The peaks are for seasoned rock climbers, but despite this there are many conquests
of these rocky outcrops. So if you are looking for adventure and a good challenge, why not try your hand (or feet!) and conquer one of these peaks.
is a seaside resort with a difference, since it’s surrounded by the harsh Atlantic Ocean, a strip of foggy coastline, windswept dunes and barren gravel plains. There are plenty of action-packed activities
for adrenalin junkies such as skydiving, hot-air ballooning, paragliding over the dunes, quad biking and sandboarding. However, there are also leisurely safari drives, tranquil fishing spots, an interesting museum to visit, the national Aquarium, or a boat cruise to visit the dolphins and seal colonies.
The capital and largest city of the Republic of Namibia, Windhoek
is the social, economic and cultural hub of the country. It is a very vibrant city with much to see and do. Many African safaris begin here, so make sure to spend some time exploring the city before you head off into the desert.
The Caprivi Strip
is a narrow strip of land north-east of Namibia and has considerably more rain than the rest of Namibia, hence the Okavango and the Kwando rivers. This changes the landscape and vegetation slightly and you have extensive floodplains, floating papyrus swamps and lush riverine forests.
has a dramatic landscape of red-hued mountains, enormous granite koppies (hills) and wide, open, sandy plains. It lies south of Etosha National Park
and north of Swakopmund
. Some of the highlights are the bushmen paintings in Twyfelfontein
, and learning more about the way they used to live off of the land.