Destinations > Namibia
‘A good traveller is one who does not know where he is going to, and a perfect traveller does not know where he came from.’
Witness the Desert Lion, Desert Elephant, Brown Hyena, and Desert Rhino….a great diversity of habitat greets you in the deserts of Namibia, from the Great Game Parks of Etosha to the Great Sand Dunes of the Namib Naukluft National Park to the Fish River Canyon – Grand Canyon of Southern Africa.
Experience the great sights of this fragile desert environment where colourful and uniquely adapted plants and animals make this harsh environment their home.
The Jewels in the Desert can be learnt about in our highlights below;
Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park was first established when Namibia was a German colony known as South West Africa. At the time, the park’s original 100,000 km² (38,500 mile²) made it the largest game reserve in the world. Due to political changes since its original establishment, the park is now slightly less than a quarter of its original area, but still remains a very large and significant area in which wildlife is protected. The Etosha Pan dominates the park. The salt pan is roughly 130 km long and as wide as 50 km in places. The hypersaline conditions of the pan limit the species that can inhabit the pan. The salt pan is usually dry, but fills with water briefly in the summer, when it attracts pelicans and flamingos. Perennial springs attract a variety of animals and birds throughout the year, including the endangered Black Rhinoceros and the endemic Black-faced Impala. In the dry season, winds blowing across the salt pan pick up saline dust and carry it across the country and out over the southern Atlantic. This salt enrichment provides minerals to the soil downwind of the pan on which some wildlife depends, though the salinity also creates challenges to farming. Etosha is a first class wildlife destination offering unique species such as the desert adapted springbok, Oryx and Brown Hyena.
Skeleton Coast National Park
The Skeleton Coast is the northern part of the Atlantic Ocean coast of Namibia and south of Angola from the Kunene River south to the Swakop River, although the name is sometimes used to describe the entire Namib Desert coast. The Bushmen of the Namibian interior called the region “The Land God Made in Anger”, while Portuguese sailors once referred to it as “The Gates of Hell”. On the coast the upwelling of the cold Benguela current gives rise to dense ocean fogs for much of the year. The winds blow from land to sea, rain fall rarely exceeds 10 millimetres (0.39 in) annually and the climate is inhospitable. There is a constant, heavy surf on the beaches. In the days of human-powered boats it was possible to get ashore through the surf but impossible to launch from the shore. The only way out was by going through a marsh hundreds of miles long and only accessible through a hot and arid desert. The coast is named for the bleached whale and seal bones which covered the shore when the whaling industry was still active, as well as the skeletal shipwrecks caused by rocks offshore in the fog. More than a thousand vessels of various sizes and areas litter the coast. Notable wrecks in the region include the Eduard Bohlen, the Otavi, the Dunedin Star, and Tong Taw.
Wildlife Namibia has declared the 16,000 km² (6,200 mi²) Skeleton Coast National Park over much of the area, from the Ugab River to the Kunene. The northern half of the park is a designated wilderness area. Notable features here are the clay castles of the Hoarisib, the Agate Mountain salt pans and the large seal colony at Cape Fria. The remainder of the coast is the National West Coast Recreation Area. The coast has been the subject of a number of wildlife documentaries, particularly about adaptations to extreme aridity. Many of the plant and insect species of the sand dune systems depend for their moisture on the thick sea fogs which engulf the coast and windblown detritus from the interior as food. The desert bird assemblages have been studied in terms of their thermoregulation, coloration, breeding strategies and nomadism. The riverbeds further inland are home to baboons, giraffes, lions, black rhinoceros and springbok. The animals get most of their water from wells dug by the baboons or elephants. The black rhinoceros population was the main reason why the show Serious Desert was filmed in the region.
Namib-Naukluft National Park
The Namib-Naukluft National Park is a national park of Namibia encompassing part of the Namib Desert (considered the world’s oldest desert) and the Naukluft mountain range. The Namib-Naukluft is the largest game park in Africa and the fourth largest in the world. The most well-known area of the park is Sossusvlei, which is the main visitor attraction in Namibia. A surprising collection of creatures survive in the hyper-arid region, including snakes, geckos, unusual insects, hyenas, gemsboks and jackals. More moisture comes in as fog off the Atlantic Ocean than falls as rain, with the average 106 millimeters of rainfall per year concentrated in the months of February and April. ‘Namib’ means open space and the Namib Desert gave its name to form Namibia – “land of open spaces”. A place of stunning scenery and unique fauna and flora.
Sossusvlei (sometimes written Sossus Vlei) is a salt and clay pan surrounded by high red dunes, located in the southern part of the Namib Desert, in the Namib-Naukluft National Park of Namibia. The name “Sossusvlei” is often used in an extended meaning to refer to the surrounding area (including other neighbouring vleis such as Dead Vlei and other high dunes), which is one of the major visitor attractions of Namibia. The name “Sossusvlei” is of mixed origin, and roughly means “dead end marsh”. Vlei is the afrikaans word for “marsh”, while “sossus” is the name for “no return” or “dead end”. Sossusvlei owes this name to the fact that it is an endorheic drainage basin (a drainage basin without outflows) for the ephemeral Tsauchab River. The highlights in this area include; Elim Dune, Dune 45, Big Daddy Dune, Big Mama, Dead Vlei, Hidden Vlei and the Petrified Dunes. Fantastic photo opportunities exist.
Fish River Canyon
The Fish River Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world and the largest in Africa, as well as one of the most popular attractions in Namibia. It features a gigantic ravine, in total about 100 miles (160 km) long, up to 27 km wide and in places almost 550 metres deep. The Fish River is the longest interior river in Namibia. It cuts deep into the plateau which is today dry, stony and sparsely covered with hardy drought-resistant plants. The river flows intermittently, usually flooding in late summer; the rest of the year it becomes a chain of long narrow pools. At the lower end of the Fish River Canyon, the hot springs resort of Ai-Ais is situated. Public view points are near Hobas.
The Orange River is the longest river in South Africa. It rises in the Drakensberg mountains in Lesotho, flowing westwards through South Africa to the Atlantic Ocean. Although the river does not pass through any major cities, it plays an important role in the South African economy by providing water for irrigation, as well as hydroelectric power. The red sand found in the coastal dunes along Namibia’s coastline, is brought by the Orange River all the way from the Drakensberg and deposited out at sea. Northerly moving ocean currents, carry the sand north. Winds blowing inland moves some sand inland to create the dunes we see today. This sand has come a long way.
Walvis Bay (meaning “Whale Bay”), is a coastal city in Namibia. The town has 85,000 residents approx. The bay has been a haven for sea vessels because of its natural deepwater harbour, protected by the Pelican Point sand spit, being the only natural harbour of any size along the country’s coast. Rich in plankton and marine life, these waters also draw large numbers of whales. Walvis Bay, with its large bay and sand dunes, is the tourism activity centre of Namibia. Other attractions include the artificial Bird Island, centre of a guano collection industry, the Dune 7 sand dune, salt works, birdlife and a museum. You can see in this photo Timothy Jackson enjoying a paddle in Walvis Bay here and getting lots of attention from the seals.
Cape Cross Seal Colony
Cape Cross is 120 km north of Swakopmund on the west coast and is the home to the Cape Cross Seals Reserve. The reserve is the home of one of the largest colonies of Cape Fur Seals in the world. The name refers to the large stone cross erected in the area by Portuguese explorers in the 15th century. The smell here is one that few forget. It smells like fish fertilizer, for those of you who have spread some of this on your gardens? The seals call out sounding like young lambs(Sheep). There are 1000′s and 1000′s, and the sound, smell and atmosphere make a visit worth while.
Swakopmund (German for “Mouth of the Swakop”) is considered a seaside resort, the weather is cooler here in December to January (Namibia’s summer months). The German colonial architecture is well know here and a sizable part of its population is still German-speaking today. Buildings in the city include the Altes Gefängnis prison, designed by Heinrich Bause in 1909. The Wörmannhaus, built in 1906 with a prominent tower, is now a public library. Attractions in Swakopmund include the Swakopmund Museum, the National Marine Aquarium, a crystal gallery and spectacular sand dunes near Langstrand south of the Swakop River. Outside of the city, the Rossmund Desert Golf Course is one of 5 all-grass desert golf courses in the world. The city is known for extreme sports. Nearby lies a camel farm and the Martin Luther steam locomotive, dating from 1896 and abandoned in the desert. A great way to start or end a safari in Namibia is take some timeout here in ‘Swakop’ as the locals call it.
Damaraland is one of the most scenic areas in Namibia, a huge, untamed, ruggedly beautiful region, incredibly able to sustain small, but wide-ranging populations of desert-adapted elephant, black rhino, giraffe, ostrich and springbok. These animals have adapted their lifestyles to survive the harshness. The name Damaraland is derived from the fact that the Damara people live in this area (they were relocated here as a result of the Odendaal Plan in the 1960′s). The name Damaraland is still commonly used in tourism circles, although the entire region has now been renamed; the southern section now lies in the Erongo region while the north forms part of the Kunene region. Highlights of the area include:
•The Brandberg – Namibia’s highest mountain and home to the famous ‘White Lady’ Bushman Painting.
•Twyfelfontein – a wonderful rocky outcrop with thousands of Bushman engravings.
•Spitzkoppe – a typical pointed inselberg, and a place of great mystery to the ancient San people
•The Petrified Forest – which is millions of years old.
•The Vingerklip (finger rock) – a towering finger of limestone that rises 35m above its base.
The White Lady Bushman Painting
The White Lady was first discovered in 1918 by German explorer Reinhard Maack as he was surveying the Brandberg. Modern studies on the White Lady suggest this is a bushman painting just like the thousands of other painted figures in the Brandberg. Damaraland is very rich in bushman rock art sites, including Twyfelfontein.
Twyfelfontein World Heritage Site – Bushman Engravings
Twyfelfontein is situated in the Huab valley in the southern Kunene Region of Namibia, an area formerly known as Damaraland. The rocks containing the art work are situated in a valley flanked by the slopes of a sandstone table mountain. An underground aquifer on an impermeable layer of shale sustains a spring in this otherwise very dry area. The name Twyfelfontein refers to the spring itself, to the valley containing the spring, and in the context of traveling and tourism also to a greater area containing nearby tourist attractions: the rock engravings, the Organ Pipes, Burnt Mountain, Dorros crater, and the Petrified Forest. The World Heritage Site covers the area of rock engravings. Very much worth a visit.
Spitzkoppe – An Ancient Mystery
Spitzkoppe rises abruptly above the arid and sparsely vegetated plains of the Namib. Also known as the “Matterhorn of Namibia”, the granite outcrop is a typical example of Namibia’s recognizable landmarks. It is located in the Namib Desert, between Swakopmund and Usakos, which is also the nearest town (approximately 50km away). The summit of this imposing granite rock formation is 1,728m and the shape of it reflects how it got it’s name, the Matterhorn of Africa. A minor peak – the Little Spitzkoppe – lies nearby. The Spitzkoppe is the country’s top rock climbing destination. Timothy Jackson, in his early Africa days, decided to try and walk around this rock starting at around 4pm. Its takes about 6 hours at a very good pace (running for at least two of them) – The lesson was learnt. A very beutiful area. Spitzkoppe is of spiritual and historical importance to the traditional San people of this region, and their paintings can be found here.
Vingerklip – Finger Rock
The 35m high pillar of sedimentary rock, the Vingerklip, (Finger Rock) is one of the most impressive rock formations in Namibia. It stands proudly above a valley, known as the Ugab terraces, mid-way between the Etosha National Park and Swakopmund in the heart of Damaraland. This is an excellent base to explore the many attractions of Damaraland, a vast beautiful wilderness in north-west Namibia. Vingerklip Lodge is the location where this picture was taken.
Okonjima – home of the AfriCat Foundation
Jackson’s African Safaris supports staying at Okonjima during a safari to Namibia, for learning and experiencing everything the Africat Foundation has to offer. Visit WWW(.)AFRICAT(.)ORG for more information. The AfriCat Foundation has specific objectives as found on their website:
- To create awareness and promote the tolerance of large carnivores among the farming community by assisting farmers in effective farm management techniques including targeting problem predators as opposed to indiscriminate removal.
- To educate youth about large carnivores and environmental awareness.
- To research large carnivores, particularly cheetahs and leopards, on farmland and in captivity.
- To provide humane housing, treatment and care for orphaned and injured animals.
Kunene River & Kaokoland
Unspoilt landscapes, wildlife and historic Himba culture abound in this wild, remote part of Africa. The Kunene River forms a natural boundary at Namibia’s northern extremity, and here we find one of the country’s adventure centres spoilt with Ruacana Falls, the spectacular Epupa Falls, and the area is an ideal gateway for those setting out to explore the rugged and beautiful Kaokoland region of Namibia to the north-west. Whether your looking for a Himba cultural experience, kayaking, raging white-water action, trekking, hiking or birding… Or, taking life a little easier with some river fishing, the Kunene River wilderness has much to be explored. Timothy Jackson’s Godparents son, Pete Morgan, with his wife Hillary, own and operate Kunene River Lodge. Kaokoland (also called Kaokoveld) is an area in Northern Namibia, in the Kunene Region. It is one of the wildest and less populated areas in Namibia, the most represented ethnic group there is the Himba people, that accounts for about 5,000 of the overall 16,000 inhabitants of Kaokoland. The main settlement in Kaokoland is the city of Opuwo. Kaokoland is one of the wildest regions of Southern Africa, with very few roads and structures. The only road that is accessible to non-4WD vehicles is that connecting Sesfontein and Opuwo. Many roads in Kaokoland are often in very bad condition and may be challenging for 4WDs as well, especially during the rainy season. Most services such as shops, hospitals, garage, and so on are only found in Opuwo. Traveling here does need careful planning.
Kalahari Game Reserve & Desert
The Kalahari Desert is a large semi-arid desert in Southern Africa covering much of Botswana and parts of Namibia and South Africa, with huge tracts of excellent grazing after good rains. The Kalahari supports more animals and plants than a true desert. There are small amounts of rainfall and the summer temperature is very high. Whether your in South Africa, Botswana or Namibia, the Kalahari offers a great contrast to the rest of each country, where you have the opportunity to view animals and plants adampted to living in these often very harsh conditions. We offer you comfort in the desert. Central Kalahari Game Reserve is a national park in the Kalahari desert of Botswana, it is the second largest game reserve in the world. The park and many other areas of the Kalahari contain giraffe, brown hyena, warthog, cheetah, wild dog, leopard, lion, blue wildebeest, eland, gemsbok, kudu and red hartebeest. The land is quite flat and some areas undulating, covered with some sand dunes, and areas of larger trees. Ancient river valleys like the well known Deception Valley made well known by the work of Mark and Delia Owens, are remote destinations we love to take our guests to experience true desert wilderness, and the unique species that live there. The Bushmen or San people, have inhabited the Kalahari for thousands of years. The Kalahari is a great destination.