Nicknamed ‘The Land of the Brave’, Namibia holds definite appeal for thrill seekers. But there is much more to be found in this desert landscape than an adrenaline rush.
A patchwork of different tribes sit side by side at local markets, from the red painted topless ladies of the Himbe tribe to the neighbouring Herera women dressed in full colonial Victoriana; the landscape is similarly varied, with salt pans and savannahs in the north, the Namibian Desert to the west and the second largest canyon in the world separating this country from its former ruler, South Africa.
These are the best things to do in Namibia.
Wildlife Experiences in Namibia
Etosha National Park
Safaris are found all over Africa, but in the northern plains of Namibia you’ll find one of the few places you can continue after dark: a watering hole with night vision lighting and a viewing deck offers a glimpse into the real wilderness of Africa. Bring a blanket and cuddle up under the stars to watch endangered rhino bathe, lions pace and roar into the darkness, and antelope flit around unseen predators.
By daylight, the bright white salt flats shroud elephants in a ghostly hue as they traverse this no man’s land looking for the last scraps of sustenance.
Located halfway between Etosha and the capital Windhoek, Okonjima is the home of all things cheetah, and the base for the charitable foundation AfriCat. Stay on the reserve to watch wild cheetahs tear into huge hunks of meat, and get up close and personal with abandoned cheetahs that have been hand reared with a dominant Jack Russell.
This is a phenomenal opportunity to interact with and observe one of Africa’s big cats up close.
Natural Sights in Namibia
Namib Desert – Dune 45, Deadvlei, and Sossusvlei
Despite being in the heart of the Namibian Desert, Dune 45 (the world’s most photographed sand dune) is easily accessible by 4×4. Sunsets over the rust-coloured horizon are spectacular from the top of the dune, where you’ll be joined by beetles rolling down the steep slopes, leaving streams of sand in their wake.
Deadvlei, the dried up bed of a river that once carved its way through the dunes, is a stark white pan basin littered with the remnants of fossilised trees. Blackened by the sun’s heat but perfectly preserved by the dry climate, they have stood guard over the desert for 900 years. Nearby Sossusvlei offers a direct comparison between the dunes and Deadvlei, as the desert slowly suffocates the life from this river.
What do you get when the molten inside of a volcano hardens before the volcano wears away? Spitzkoppe, thrust up from the plains, was formed by magma hardening inside a volcano. Used as a canvas by ancient nomadic hunters to depict a menu of animals following particularly good hunts, its history is literally marked in the stone.
Take a local guide to discover the history of this formation and learn your name in the local ancient Nama language, one of few featuring clicking sounds. For the climber brave enough to ascend the smooth granite surface, it’s another must-see sunset location.
Adrenaline Activities in Namibia
Sandboarding may seem like an obvious choice in a country dominated by desert, but the Namibians do it a little differently. In an attempt to be green there are no quad bikes or mechanical lifts to drag you to the top of the steep slopes. The effort is worth it for the views alone: is that the sea in the distance, or just a mirage?
If you’re feeling brave/a little insane try launching yourself off the purpose built jumps. Just try not to end up stuck at the end of the ramp like I did!
A plane, apparently held together with gaffer tape, lifts you to 10,000ft. Sprawling below is the orange desert and azure blue sea. Strapped in tight and sat with your feet dangling below, there’s nothing to do but jump!
The instructors here love their acrobatics, and will even let you steer the canopy if you feel brave enough. It’s a great adrenaline filled afternoon, improved by the cooler full of beer waiting for you on the runway.
Namibia’s infamously named Skeleton Coast is rumoured to have the world’s longest barrelling waves. It may not always be consistent, but when the swell pounds in you want to be in the line up.
Many of the point and reef breaks are considered world class but lay un-crowded and undiscovered. Although strong currents and the occasional shark make the pro spots unsuitable for beginners, there are plenty of beach breaks along the coast with decent rides.
Food and Drink in Namibia
Joe’s Brewery, Windhoek
Joe’s is an institution with locals and travellers alike. A well-stocked bar, showcasing the local ‘Windhoek’ beer and passion fruit liqueur, is hidden inside an overgrown wooden shack.
Bush meat is the main draw here, with platters showcasing zebra, crocodile, ostrich and two types of antelope, it’s not for the faint hearted (or devoted animal lover) but offers a delicious taste of the animals that pass by your safari jeep.
Jetty 1905, Swakopmund
Balanced on the very tip of Swakopmund Pier is Namibia’s affordable answer to high class gastronomy. The rustic exterior gives way to stunningly modern design, where fish, caught just hours before, are hauled up directly from the boats and into the open kitchen.
Some bush meat is featured, but it really is all about the seafood, as fresh oysters are served alongside sushi and calamari. If you fancy a challenge, try the 700g steak combined with giant prawns – a truly humungous surf and turf.
Harking back to the German occupation of coastal Namibia, Brauhaus serves up typical Bavarian fare in a pub full to the brim with German flags and paraphernalia. Travellers and locals mingle here, chomping on fantastic schnitzel, sauerkraut, and weiners.
Brauhaus is most famous for ‘Der Stewel’: two litres of local brew served in a boot-shaped glass. Time your travels right and spend Oktoberfest at Brauhaus; you might think you were in Germany, until you stepped outside.
Catie Brown is a travel blogger and photographer with a passion for the wildlife and hidden wonders that lie in wait all over this planet. Inspired by her travels across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean, Catie shares her personal experiences and entices you to follow in her footsteps. Follow Catie on Instagram or Facebook.