How to describe Namibia?
Sinead Bailey, Tribes Travel consultant
What words can you use to describe a country so stunning that it leaves you speechless?
Here are a few of my favourites that I keep coming back to when recounting my recent visit to beautiful Namibia.
Namibia is a vast country, and to really experience this you need to be prepared for some long drives. I’ve never been anywhere before with such endless stretches of road. We drove for hours without seeing a single person. It was extraordinary.
A particularly memorable stretch is from Sossusvlei to Walvis Bay. First there is a brief stop at Solitaire, a unique spot where you will find the most delicious apple pie (an unexpected treat!). Then it is just you, the road and the ever-changing landscape all the way to the coast.
Photos by Sinead Bailey.
The scenery changes constantly, from the red sands of Sossusvlei, on to lush green fields with an abundance of small yellow flowers. We crossed the Tropic of Capricorn (of course stopping for the ubiquitous photo op!), and passed the Namib Gravel Plains, home to springbok and ostriches. Then the dramatic granite swirls of the Kuiseb Canyon – fascinating to see the trickling Kuiseb River which is such an essential water source. Finally back to sand again before reaching the windswept coast and flamingos of Walvis Bay.
“I can’t recommend a visit to Namibia highly enough – you will love it.”
Namibia really is an adventure playground. There is an endless amount of activities to enjoy. Swakopmund is the ideal base for both mild and extreme adventure seekers… If sand-boarding or sky diving sounds too energetic, then offshore fishing or a dolphin cruise may suit you better. Of course, the ever present sand make a great back drop, and quad biking in the dunes certainly gave me that ‘Mad Max’ feeling!
The Sandwich Harbour tour was a real highlight, heading off with our guide to beyond Walvis Bay in our 4WD. We drove along the windswept beach, and then up the steep sand dunes – hold on for the way down!! Top tip – always follow the tracks – we added to our adventure by rescuing some self-drivers who hadn’t followed this advice!
The wildlife in Namibia is everywhere, not just in the national parks. Our first animal highlight was the giant crickets on the side of the road just outside of Windhoek, and it just continued from there! The unforgettable oryx strolling through Sossusvlei as we were eating our breakfast in the dunes; the dust covered desert elephants of Damaraland; the endless number of seals at the Cape Cross Colony; the flamingos at Walvis Bay.
Etosha National Park is home to a vast variety of wildlife, and sitting at one of many of the waterholes for just a half hour we saw elephants, giraffes, hartebeest, zebra and numerous black faced impala.
Okonjima is home to the AfriCat Foundation. This successful conservation project is a fascinating place to visit and stay. The knowledge of the guides is excellent and we got a real insight into the research and rehabilitation work they do here.
It is impossible to describe Namibia without mentioning the sands of Sossusvlei. We’ve all seen the stunning pictures of the red sand mountains, but nothing prepared me for the reality of seeing these immense dunes rising into the air.
There were hot air balloons circling overhead, but I don’t think you can beat exploring these dunes on foot. It is possible to climb any of the dunes in Sossusvlei, but the most famous are Dune 45 and Big Daddy.
Our guide insisted, that to beat the heat of the sun, we should climb Big Daddy first. At a height of 325m, it dwarfs the other dunes and is quite a challenge. The trick is to step into the preceding footsteps to avoid sliding down the steep slopes – there is no doubt, it is hard work! So, did I make it to the top? Well, let’s just say I managed ‘Little Daddy’ and had great fun sliding back down.
Close by is the iconic Dead Vlei, and then of course leave time to also climb Dune 45 – much easier than Big Daddy! It is a photographer’s paradise, and sunrise and sunset are the best time for capturing the light, so be sure to stay nearby if this is your focus.
One of the most popular ways to see Namibia is to self-drive, and there is very good support and infrastructure for this. However, I genuinely think that another reason it is so popular is because of the people of Namibia.
Everywhere you go, you are met with a smile and a willingness to go above and beyond to help if needed. All the Namibians I met were great ambassadors for their home.
I can’t recommend a visit to Namibia highly enough – you will love it.