It is a country of amazing contrasts ranging from rugged mountains, enormous red sand dunes and open lush plains to beaches along the wild Atlantic Skeleton Coast.
This vast open country has an unusually small population of just over 2 million and with most of the population concentrated around the capital city of Windhoek this leaves boundless space to explore and experience. With more than 300 days sunshine each year, every single month is well worth a journey to Namibia. Most visitors prefer May to October for optimum game viewing conditions.
Choose from a self-drive or a fly-in safari on a journey to experience exciting desert activities, meet local tribes and discover the abundance and diversity of wildlife that has not just adapted to this environment but also thrives in it. A spectacular two week journey could combine Okonjima AfriCat Foundation, Etosha, Damaraland, Swakopmund and the Namib desert.
Namibia also works well with Botswana and Victoria Falls on a journey that takes you from desert to the verdant waterways of the Caprivi strip to see colourful bird species and wallowing hippos before ending up at the majestic Victoria Falls.
Namibia is celebrated for its vast open landscapes, big blue skies, sun drenched weather and its culture – it is simply unique. It is a country of amazing contrasts ranging from rugged mountains, enormous red sand dunes, open lush plains and beaches along the wild Atlantic coastline. This vast open country has an unusually small population of just over 2 million and with most of the population concentrated around the capital city of Windhoek this leaves boundless space to explore and experience!
Namibia has more than 300 days of sunshine per year. Partially covered by the Namib, one of the world’s driest deserts, Namibia’s climate is generally very dry and pleasant. The cold Benguela current keeps the coast cool, damp and free of rain for most of the year. Inland, all the rain falls in summer (November to April). January and February are hot, when daytime temperatures in the interior can exceed 40ºC (104ºF), but nights are usually cool. Winter nights can be fairly cold, but days are generally warm and quite nice.
Namibia is a year-round destination. Just pack accordingly.
The history of this land can be found carved into rock paintings found to the south and in Twyfelfontein, some dating back to 26,000 B.C. A long lineage of various groups including San Bushmen, Bantu herdsmen and finally the Himba, Herero and Nama tribes among others have been making this rugged land home for thousands of years.
But, as Namibia has one of the world’s most barren and inhospitable coastlines, it was not until the middle of the nineteenth century that explorers, ivory hunters, prospectors and missionaries began to journey into its interior. Beyond these visitors, Namibia was largely spared the attentions of European powers until the end of the 19th century when it was colonized by Germany.
The colonization period was marred by many conflicts and rebellions by the pre-colonial Namibia population until WWI when it abruptly ended upon Germany’s surrender to the South African expeditionary army. In effect, this transition only traded one colonial experience for another.
In 1966 the South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) launched the war for liberation for the area soon-named Namibia. The struggle for independence intensified and continued until South Africa agreed in 1988 to end its Apartheid administration. After democratic elections were held in 1989, Namibia became an independent state on March 21, 1990.
To date, Namibia boasts a proud record of uninterrupted peace and stability for all to enjoy.
Population: Estimate 2,198,406 – Source The World FactBook July 2014
Ethnic Groups: black 87.5%, white 6%, mixed 6.5% Note: about 50% of the population belong to the Ovambo tribe and 9% to the Kavangos tribe, other ethnic groups include Herero 7%, Damara 7%, Nama 5%, Caprivian 4%, Bushmen 3%,Baster 2%, Tswana 0.5%
Religion: Christian 80% to 90% (at least 50% Lutheran), indigenous beliefs 10% to 20%
Languages: English (official) 7%, Afrikaans (common language of most of the population and about 60% of the white population), German 32%, indigenous languages (includes Oshivambo, Herero, Nama) 1%.
Time Zone: GMT +2
Country Dialling Code: +264
Currency: The Namibian Dollar is the official currency. This is tied to the South African Rand and 1 ZAR = 1 N$. Both are used in Namibia.
Most hotels and lodges accept payment in US Dollars as well as Namibian Dollars and South African Rand. It is worth noting that petrol and park fees are paid for in cash for those on a self-drive. Cash machines can be found in most major towns.
Electricity: Namibia has 220 volt electricity, meaning unless your computer or appliance is dual voltage or designed for 220 volts, you will need a converter or transformer.
Climate: Desert, hot, dry, rainfall is sparse and erratic.
The Namibian landscape consists generally of six geographical areas: the Central Plateau, the Namib Desert, the Great Escarpment, the Bushveld, the Kalahari Desert and Coastal Desert.
The Central Plateau runs from north to south, bordered by the Skeleton Coast to the northwest, the Namib Desert and its coastal plains to the southwest, the Orange River to the south, and the Kalahari Desert to the east. The Central Plateau is home to the highest point in Namibia at Königstein elevation 2,606 metres (8,550 ft). Within the wide, flat Central Plateau is the majority of Namibia’s population and economic activity. Windhoek, the nation’s capital, is located here, as well as most of the arable land. Although arable land accounts for only 1% of Namibia, nearly half of the population is employed in agriculture.
The Namib Desert is a broad expanse of hyper-arid gravel plains and dunes that stretches along the entire coastline, which varies in width between 100 to many hundreds of kilometres. Areas within the Namib include the Skeleton Coast and the Kaokoveld in the north and the extensive Namib Sand Sea along the central coast.
The Great Escarpment swiftly rises to over 2,000 metres (6,562 ft). Average temperatures and temperature ranges increase as you move further inland from the cold Atlantic waters, while the lingering coastal fogs slowly diminish. Although the area is rocky with poorly developed soils, it is nonetheless significantly more productive than the Namib Desert. As summer winds are forced over the Escarpment, moisture is extracted as precipitation. The water, along with rapidly changing topography, is responsible for the creation of microhabitats which offer a wide range of organisms, many of them endemic. Vegetation along the escarpment varies in both form and density, with community structure ranging from dense woodlands to more shrubby areas with scattered trees. A number of Acacia species are found here, as well as grasses and other shrubby vegetation.
The Bushveld is found in north eastern Namibia along the Angolan border and in the Caprivi Strip which is the vestige of a narrow corridor demarcated for the German Empire to access the Zambezi River. The area receives a significantly greater amount of precipitation than the rest of the country, averaging around 400 mm (15.7 in) per year. Temperatures are also cooler and more moderate, with approximate seasonal variations of between 10 and 30 °C (50 and 86 °F). The area is generally flat and the soils sandy, limiting their ability to retain water. Located adjacent to the Bushveld in north-central Namibia is one of nature’s most spectacular features: the Etosha pan. For most of the year it is a dry, saline wasteland, but during the wet season, it forms a shallow lake covering more than 6,000 square kilometres (2,317 sq mi). The area is ecologically important and vital to the huge numbers of birds and animals from the surrounding savannah that gather in the region as summer drought forces them to the scattered waterholes that ring the pan.
The Kalahari Desert is perhaps Namibia’s best known geographical feature. Shared with South Africa and Botswana, it has a variety of localised environments ranging from hyper-arid sandy desert, to areas that seem to defy the common definition of desert. One of these areas, known as the Succulent Karoo, is home to over 5,000 species of plants, nearly half of them endemic; fully one third of the world’s succulents are found in the Karoo.
Another feature of the Kalahari, indeed many parts of Namibia, are inselbergs, isolated mountains that create microclimates and habitat for organisms not adapted to life in the surrounding desert matrix.
Namibia’s Coastal Desert is one of the oldest deserts in the world. Its sand dunes, created by the strong onshore winds, are the highest in the world.
The Namib Desert and the Namib-Naukluft National Park is located here. The Namibian coastal deserts are the richest source of diamonds on earth, making Namibia the world’s largest producer of diamonds. It is divided into the northern Skeleton Coast and the southern Diamond Coast. Because of the location of the shoreline—at the point where the Atlantic’s cold water reach Africa—there is often extremely dense fog.
Namibia has more than 300 days of sunshine per year. It is situated at the southern edge of the tropics; the Tropic of Capricorn cuts the country about in half. The winter (June–August) is generally dry, both rainy seasons occur in summer, the small rainy season between September and November, the big one between February and April. Humidity is low and average rainfall varies from almost zero in the coastal desert, to more than 600 mm in the Caprivi Strip. Rainfall is however highly variable, and droughts are common.
Weather and climate in the coastal area are dominated by the cold, north-flowing Benguela Current of the Atlantic Ocean which accounts for very low precipitation (50 mm per year or less), frequent dense fog, and overall lower temperatures than in the rest of the country. In winter, occasionally a condition known as Berg wind or Oosweer (Afrikaans: East weather) occurs, a hot dry wind blowing from the inland to the coast. As the area behind the coast is a desert, these winds can develop into sand storms with sand deposits in the Atlantic Ocean visible on satellite images.
The Central Plateau and Kalahari areas have wide diurnal temperature ranges of up to 30C.
During the months December to March it is generally hot throughout the country. The main rainy season starts in January (often with thundershowers). The vegetation turns into a lush green.
During April to May rains might still occur. The temperatures slowly start to drop.
From June to September it is winter in Namibia. No more precipitation is received (except in the far south – in the winter rain areas) and during the day temperatures are moderate to warm. The nights are severely cold, in the inland and desert overnight frost occurs. The vegetation changes from green to brown.
In October and November temperatures rise increasingly and it gets hot again. The so called “little rainy season” starts and brings a most welcome end to the long dry period.
Hosea Kutako International Airport is the main international airport serving the Namibian capital city of Windhoek. Located 45 km (28 mi) east of the city, it is Namibia’s primary airport with international connections and named after Namibian hero Hosea Kutako.
Although British nationals can enter Namibia for a holiday or private visit of up to 90 days without a visa, there have been cases where visitors have only been given permission to stay for periods much shorter than 90 days, sometimes as short as only 7 or 10 days. Before leaving the immigration desk in the airport arrivals hall, check that you have been given permission to stay in Namibia for the duration of your intended visit up to the maximum allowable of 90 days and that you have been given a correctly dated entry stamp by Namibian Immigration officials, as this will be checked on departure.
Overstaying the time granted or an incorrect or missing entry stamp could lead to detention, arrest and a fine.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Namibia and have 3 completely blank pages for Namibian immigration to use. If you are also going to travel in South Africa, you should be aware that although South African authorities state they require 1 blank passport page for entry, some officials insist on 2 blank pages. If you plan to take this route, make sure you have a total of 3 blank pages.
Yellow Fever – Yellow fever vaccination is required for travellers arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission.
Malaria: Malaria risk is present throughout the year in the Kunene River, Caprivi and Kavango regions. There is a high risk of malaria during November to June in the following regions: Ohangwena, Omaheke, Omusati, Oshana, Oshikoto and Otjozondjupa. There is very low risk of malaria in all other areas of Namibia throughout the year.
When travelling to Namibia you should avoid mosquito bites to prevent malaria. You may need to take prescription medicine before, during and after your trip to prevent malaria, depending on your travel plans, such as where you are going, when you are travelling and if you are spending a lot of time outdoors and sleeping outside. As always please consult your doctor 6-8 weeks before departure.
Courses or boosters usually advised: Hepatitis A; Tetanus; Typhoid.
Other vaccines to consider: Cholera; Diphtheria; Hepatitis B; Rabies.
Yellow fever vaccination certificate required for travellers arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission. Travellers on scheduled flights originating outwith, but in transit through, the area with risk of yellow fever transmission are NOT required to possess a certificate provided such travellers remained at the airport, or adjacent town, during transit. All travellers on unscheduled flights originating within an area with risk of yellow fever transmission or who have been in transit through these areas are required to possess a certificate. The certificate is not insisted upon in the case of children under 1 year of age, but such infants may be subject to surveillance. This information is intended as a guide only and The Big 5 Safari Company does not take responsibility that this is a full and accurate account of the medical requirements for Namibia and travellers should contact their Medical Practitioner 6-8 weeks in advance of their trip.
Altitude & Travel: This country has either areas with high altitude (2400m or more) or/and areas with very high altitude (3658m or more). Travellers who may go into areas of high altitude should take care to avoid ill effects of being at altitude including Acute Mountain Sickness, a potentially life-threatening condition.
Water: Tap water in Namibia’s major towns and borehole water used in many more remote locations is perfectly safe to drink. However, even the mildest of the local microbes may cause slight upset stomachs for an overseas visitor. Two-litre bottles of mineral water are available from most supermarkets; these are perfect if you’re in a car.
Insurance: Visitors to Namibia are advised to take out a comprehensive medical insurance policy to cover them for emergencies.
Tipping is not compulsory but if you are happy with the service, then is enthusiastically received. Guides are normally tipped upon your departure from camp and as a rough guideline you might want to tip from N$50 per guest per day. It is also a nice gesture to tip general camp staff too. Here we recommend about N$30 per guest per day. This should be placed in the communal tipping box. If you wish to tip porters then as a rough guide, N$10.
Food and Drink:
What you eat in Namibia depends largely on where you are and who you are with. Although certain foods are common to all of Namibia’s ethnic groups, each has their own specialities – some more appealing than others. Game meat, particularly kudu, oryx and other antelope is very common. Other game meat on offer includes buffalo, and occasionally, giraffe, while seafood is plentiful and excellent – particularly in Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. Braais (barbecues) are very common among Afrikaaner and German groups, while most African tribes’ staple diet is mealie pap (a doughy maize paste) and oshifima, the millet version often served with meat or vegetable stews. South African dishes such as bobotie (a meat pie with a savoury egg custard crust) are also common.
Most restaurants offer food with a German influence with menus heavy on the meat whilst for those with a sweet tooth there is no shortage of classics such as apple strudel and sachertorte.
On a fly-in safari, the allowance on inter camp transfers or “lodge hops” is very strictly applied and for Namibia is as follows:
20kgs (44lbs) per person in a soft duffel-type bag, this includes hand baggage and camera equipment. There may be exceptions to these rules according to your camp destination. Travelling with a hard suitcase may result in extra charges or separate transportation. International flights usually have a maximum limit of 23kg (British Airways) but you should check with the airline of your choice.
Some of the camps in the park offer the unique experience of floodlit waterholes for night-time ...read more
Some of the camps in the park offer the unique experience of floodlit waterholes for night-time viewing. Ongava Lodge is one of Namibia’s most important game reserves and a top place to watch wildlife congregate and interact at the floodlit waterhole.
Experience Sossusvlei from the air – Hot air balloon rides, helicopter flips and scenic flights ...read more
Experience Sossusvlei from the air – Hot air balloon rides, helicopter flips and scenic flights over the majestic desert landscapes will allow you to comprehend the enormity of the landscape.
With a good network of tarmac and gravel roads, Namibia is the perfect place to experience an ...read more
With a good network of tarmac and gravel roads, Namibia is the perfect place to experience an African self-drive. At your leisure you can take in the breathtaking scenery and spot wildlife in Etosha National Park.
Unique desert-adapted wildlife exists in the Namib Desert with species including black rhino, ...read more
Unique desert-adapted wildlife exists in the Namib Desert with species including black rhino, elephant, Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra, as well as a fascinating number of insects and reptiles that survive these parched environments.
For thrill seekers and nature lovers a quad biking tour through the Namib desert to explore the ...read more
For thrill seekers and nature lovers a quad biking tour through the Namib desert to explore the different plant and animal life is unmissable. Round it off with a chilled sundowner as a dazzle of stars comes to life.
The World Heritage Site of Twyfelfontein is one of the most important prehistoric rock art sites in ...read more
The World Heritage Site of Twyfelfontein is one of the most important prehistoric rock art sites in southern Africa, and features well preserved 2000 year old Bushmen engravings.
Scenic flight over the Skeleton Coast reveals a landscape of haunting beauty, renowned for its ...read more
Scenic flight over the Skeleton Coast reveals a landscape of haunting beauty, renowned for its mist-enshrouded beaches, strewn with bleached whale bones and rusted shipwrecks with opportunities for aerial photography.
The Himba is the famous tribe of ’red people’ in northern Namibia who lead a semi-nomadic way ...read more
The Himba is the famous tribe of ’red people’ in northern Namibia who lead a semi-nomadic way of life. At Serra Cafema Camp, guests have an opportunity to learn about their lifestyle and customs.
Swakopmund, a Germanic resort on the coast, is a destination in its own right, with palm trees, ...read more
Swakopmund, a Germanic resort on the coast, is a destination in its own right, with palm trees, gift shops, good restaurants and a laid-back feel – not to mention some of the best extreme-sports options, in Southern Africa, from skydiving to sand boarding.