Stretching along the west coast of southern Africa, Namibia is a country of extremes. The harsh climate, arid grasslands and barren deserts are like no other part of Africa. It’s also a hauntingly beautiful country with wide horizons and big skies, which offer a feeling of unconfined space. Wildlife still roams freely in the vast wildernesses, while some people retain traditional lifestyles that haven’t changed for thousands of years.
The country’s most dominant feature is the brooding and desolate Namib Desert, where the highest sand dunes in the world march determinedly towards the sea in a dune field 300 km wide. An essential experience is to climb one of Sossusvlei’s dunes at sunrise and watch as the sun changes them into incredible shades of peach and orange. In the south, the Fish River Canyon is a 300-million-year-old gash in the earth forcing the river to wind tortuously through the towering sandstone rocks. To the north are the stony, parched plains of Damaraland and Kaokoland, which harbour free-roaming rhino and elephant and some unusual rock formations. Also in this region, the fabulous Etosha National Park has a network of waterholes that give life to a staggering number of animals, while birdwatchers should head to the lush perennial rivers along the splendidly green Caprivi Strip.
Being a place of wide open spaces, there are plenty of opportunities for adventure throughout Namibia. You can try quad biking or sandboarding in the giant sand dunes, mountainous multi-day hikes or gentle rambles around a guest farm, and if the sky is your thing, ballooning or skydiving. On water there are leisurely canoe trips on the Kunene and Orange rivers, or coastal cruises to spot sea life; while the cool Benguela Current creates a perfect environment for angling and deep-sea fishing.
Windhoek and Swakopmund are worth a visit for their charming laid-back atmospheres, modern amenities and excellent infrastructure. You can learn about Namibia’s colonial history and the country’s rise to independence from the museums, monuments and architecture, and then enjoy a German bröchten roll with your coffee or a fine Namibian steak with a frosty Windhoek beer.