Discover Namibia - A Country of Extremes
Why Namibia is an Exceptional Country
When you want experience one of Africa's beautiful countries, pick Namibia.
Namibia is exceptional because of a few things:
- It is one of the most sparsely populated countries on Earth
- It is 20% larger than Texas, while it has 12 times less inhabitants
- It has the oldest desert on Earth, the Namib desert
- It has Etosha, one of Africa's finest game reserves
- It has Sossusvlei, the highest (red) dunes in the world
- It has the Bushmen and the Himba, two exceptional rare peoples
- It has one of the most bizarre landscapes on Earth, like Skeleton Coast
Due to the cold (La Niña) Gulf stream that streams along Namibia's tropical coasts, it has one the harshest and driest climates of all African countries. Namib literally means 'an area where there is nothing'.
In this Hub I will safe you the historical details of Namibia. You can find that extensively on Wikipedia or elsewhere on the internet. This Hub will provide you some details you won't find much elsewhere.
Would You Like to Travel to Namibia?
When to Travel to Namibia
You should know when to go to Namibia and when you better stay away! Namibia is best to be in from 1 September to 15 October.
Game viewing is at its best in this period. That is what most people are coming for. Besides this, it's then not too dry, not too hot, and not too wet. Rainfall in Namibia can turn the roads into a very dangerous place.
Despite some of the advices of travelling agencies, this is the best period. They might have unclear commercial reasons to advice another period.
June, July and August are too dry and relatively cold. There's not much game to spot then, because there are still enough water holes left, which makes game hard to find. From November to May has Namibia its rainy seasons, which means that you might have to swallow Malaria tablets. Rainy seasons in Namibia can be dangerous because of the flood streams that cross the dirt roads at many places. In the rainy season it's also very hot over there, and that's not such a good combination.
This Hub is meant for people who have the desire to travel through Namibia on their own, and which preparations you should take to get safely back home.
And keep in mind to drive on the left side!
If you want to give God a good laugh, tell him of your future plans.— Namibian Proverb
North West Namibia - Desert Lions and Desert Elephants
Walking, driving or camping on the inconceivably remote Skeleton Coast (part of Kaokoland) is not entirely without risks. You must be aware of the dangers that come with travelling through this vastly remote country.
The beaches and the inland of the North Western part of Namibia is the territory of a special kind of lion, the Desert Lion, also called the Skeleton Coast Lion. These lions are specialized in catching seals, which requires some very special skills.
A flat tire, or any other kind of mechanical failure, is not the kind of things you want over there. But this can always happen, and it will happen over there. You must be able to fix minor defects yourself. Besides breakdown risks, the risk of running out of fuel or water is much larger than being mauled by a lion. In this area there's no GSM reception, so you might have to hire a satellite phone, to stay in touch in case you run into troubles.
Breakdowns are never without risks, especially in these remote areas in Northern Namibia. Depending on the situation there should be someone on the lookout for dangerous predators in this region, while you're trying to repair the defect.
Kaokoland is also the territory of the Desert Elephant, another extraordinary animal that is adapted to this very harsh country. Desert Elephants are known to be very sociable among eachother, but they can be extremely aggressive towards intruders.
Keeping a safe distance (at least 100 yards) and use binoculars or telelenses to study these animals is the best advice!
Bushmen at Tsumkwe
One of the most astonishing ancient Human races still living today are the Bushmen. Bushmen are fully adap- ted to the unimaginable harsh land. A full grown man isn't larger than a child of about 10-12 years old.
One of the best ways to meet Bushmen tribes is to visit the settlement near the village of Tsumkwe. This requires a tough drive to the North East, near the border of Botswana and not far from the famous Okavango delta. This trip to the San Bushmen of Tsumkwe cannot be made without a 4WD. It requires a thorough preparation when you're doing it on your own, but it's doable and you will be rewar- ded with one of the most amazing experiences of your entire life.
A small amount of Bushmen live in settlements around Tsumkwe, and try to live a life between the best of two worlds - combining the traditional living with the more modern way of living. The government has forbidden the Bushmen to hunt in Namibia, and this became the only way for them to live a life between two extremes.
The Bushmen of Tsumkwe will show you for a payment their traditional way of living. This sounds like a tourist attraction, but it's not. Not many tourists are able to make it this far. The trip is too tough. The Bushmen of Tsumkwe are able to live a sustainable life. Most of the Bushmen now end up as addicts in the cities.
Southern Africa has not many Bushmen left, the latest estimation counts on between 60,000 and 80,000. The minority has withdrawn into the Namib Desert of Namibia and Botswana, and might be hostile to intruders (poisonous arrows!).
When you decide to go there, take much extra water with you. At least 20 liters. Take a few kilo apples with you as well. Besides the standard payment, it's highly appreciated to take extra gifts. But don't take sparkling water! This is regarded as bewitched water.
Driving Cross the Van Zyl's Pass
The Van Zyl's Pass
There are two ways to get in the remote North Western region of Kaokoland - by road and by airplane. By boat is possible, but uncommon.
Getting there by airplane is for the wimps. By road is for the ultimate die hards. There is nothing in between these two choices!
When you consider yourself a very experienced 4x4 driver, you can try to concur one of the most difficult and dangerous passes in the world - the Van Zyl's pass. The pass covers a distance of about 10 miles, but it is nothing to be ashamed of if it takes you 2 days!
You will understand that this undertaking is not something without risks. Most important is not to make any irreparable damages on the car, because the nearest by repair guy is about 150 miles away.
Taking the Van Zyl's pass is only possible in the dry season, that is between June and September. Any other period is considered as impossible and too dangerous.
The South West - The Wild Horses of Aus
Although the exact origin of the wild horses of Aus (officially Klein-Aus Vista) is unknown, it is generally accepted that they are left by the German armies after WWI. It is the only feral horse of Africa.
Somehow these very tough and athletic horses managed to adapt to the extreme harsh climate.
What is special to know is that at sundown, the horses move away from the water hole at Garub, to the other side of the road. At night the surrounding of the water well becomes the hunting area of the Leopard, the Spotted Hyena and the Brown Hyena. That's why they move away every night.
It's a special sight to see the herd calmly move over to the other side of the road.
Exclusive Lodges at Skeleton Coast
One of the most exclusive lodge at Skeleton Coast is the Hoanib Skeleton Coast lodge. It is one of the few lodges to be found over there, and is accessible by plane. Hoanib has its own airstrip. Getting there by car is not the greatest adven- ture though. It's quite good accessible partly via tar roads and mainly dirt roads.
A long shower, followed by a great dinner with one of South Africa's great wines and the great view might appear somewhat decadent. It's also an experience of extremes that's not easy to forget. After surviving many days in a harsh environment is being pampered in these kind of lodges, an awesome experience.
These exclusive remote lodges are not cheap. Count on $600 to $1000 per night.
I don't want to turn this Hub into a I will scare the hell out of you Hub. But there are some things you should know before you go there.
Ever heard of the Black Mamba?
The Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis) is known to be one of the most dangerous animals on Earth. Besides being one of the most poisonous and fastest snakes on Earth, it's also the most agressive. They sometimes chase their victims, instead of running away from them, like most other snakes do.
Black Mamba's like to hunt on Social Weavers, a little bird, that likes to make their nests together high up the tree, as a kind of apartment complex. After Black Mamba's are finished eating they let themselves fall from the tree, onto the ground. And you were just sitting there in the shade, taking a shelter against the intense tropical sun. Oh boy, it's hot out here!
And this Black Mamba might have fun to chase you without any rational reason or cause. Maybe Usain Bolt is able to outrun a Black Mamba, but you certainly not. There are just some things you should know...
So, don't sit under a tree with large nests in it.
When you hire an all terrain vehicles, from which the Toyota Hilux or Nissan Navara are the most popular ones, you must be aware that they might be scanty equipped with extras. Check this carefully before you book anything.
- When you want to camp, you can consider to hire a 4WD with tents of the roof. They're fairly safe for wild animals and relatively comfortable.
- Make sure to take at least 2 spare tires, and make sure the rims are in perfect condition and that the tires are new.
- Take at least 5 litres of water per person per day with you. Stocking up supplies is only possible in larger villages. Take that into account, when planning the next route on your trip.
- Depending of the kind of trip, you have to take extra jerrycans of fuel with you. A 4WD consumes in heavy terrain double the amount of fuel as on tar roads. Make no mistakes in the calculations.
- Depending of the area you're travelling to, you might want to hire a satellite phone. You can buy two or three prepaid SIM-cards from different providers when you enter the country. This covers the whole of Namibia except the blank spots (see picture).
- A good map and a compass. You can try to use a GPS, but this won't work on all roads. Tracks4Africa has one of the best paper maps of Namibia.
Driving on Dirt Roads
One of the most common, and also unpleasant things of dirt roads is the transverse wash board patterns.
Most dirt roads are fairly well maintained by using a kind of soil milling machines. But due to an overuse of the so called Overlanders, that carry budget tourists through Namibia, the main dirt roads turn into wash boards. That's a similar phenomenon like seeing Europe in one week. Oh yeah, you'll see a lot of... dust, dust and dust.
The wash boards can become dangerous when taking the somewhat sharper bends. The car might loose its grip on the road, and can 'vibrate' of the road. That means that driving on main dirt roads can be uncomfortable and sometimes even dangerous. It may be worthwhile to plan your trips along sub dirt roads. This can be joyful and full of inspiring encounters of many different kinds.
Another common mistake new drivers often make, is misjudging the depth of the relatively narrow dry riverbeds. The tropical sun casts hardly any shadow. That, in combination with the often very light coloured soil, can make it hard to spot any riverbed while driving. Driving too fast in combination with overlooking a riverbed will launch your car at exiting the riverbed. This uncontrolled launch can go wrong in many ways, from mechanical failures to a crash.
You will see the most of the country when you plan not more than 100 miles per day. There might be some exceptions of course, but try not to travel in overdrive. Namibia is simply not the kind of country for that.
When you're travelling with your own vehicle, and not in a group, you should learn yourself to fuel at almost every station along the trip. Even when you just fueled 100 miles back. Just do it.
Fuel stations are rare in Namibia, especially in rural areas. There are some lodges that offer fuel service, but they are often out of gas.
Some stations are out of fuel, and the next station can be 150 miles away. In that case you might use the jerrycans that you saved in the back.
Almost nothing in Namibia is like in our modern Western society.
The Best Places to Eat - The Raft Restaurant at Walvis Bay
Lodges have often a very large property. They range from 10,000 acres up to 80,000 acres. Some are even larger though. Most lodges in Namibia serve real good food, and mostly high quality meat, shot on their own property.
Among all good food, the best food in Namibia is still served at The Raft in Walvis Bay, and it's far from expensive.
Besides that there are many things to do and to visit in Walvis Bay.
But The Raft only could be the reason to visit this place. The location is also breathtaking.
A Vegetarian in Namibia
Being a vegetarian is something unknown in Namibia. When you don't eat fish either, you might have a problem getting your proteins. Namibians don't even know what a vegetarian is.
It needs to be mentioned that the meat in Namibia is beyond any doubt of the best quality you will ever experience, because of its outstanding purity.
But when you're a persistent vegetarian you might have to take some of the protein substitutes yourself!
Doing Deviant Things - Make a Sailing Trip at Luderitz
There are so many places to see and to visit in Namibia, that it's impossible to mention all the common things that are already presented by travel agencies.
This little mostly abandoned very odd mining city has a nice harbour. There are a few people who rent their sailing boat for a day trip at sea. You can ask in one of the few little tourist shops for renting a sailing boat with skipper. They are all family of eachother! This is not listed on the menu of travel agencies.
When you're lucky you will see migratory whales, dolphins, walruses, penguins and maybe even some sharks. These are one of the inexpensive day trips you can make in Namibia.
Well, folks, there's much more to tell about Namibia. But for now, that's all!
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