Ancient deserts, tropical forests, and some of the best game viewing in Africa: it’s little wonder that Namibia, in the southwestern part of the continent, is becoming known as a top tourist destination. The country’s topographical beauty and commitment to wildlife preservation (environmental protection is mandated in its constitution) are immediately evident, no matter whether you travel to the red sand dunes of the Namib Desert or the fertile, densely wooded northern regions. Also, since Namibia gained its independence 20 years ago, it’s been politically stable, so it is one of the safest places to visit in Africa today. Game parks, river cruises, shopping, and some of the best eating on the continent await you as you make your way to Namibia.
The Top 10: What to Do in Namibia
1. Etosha National Park:
One of the best game reserves in Africa, Etosha, in northern Namibia, is home to all kinds of wildlife, from some of Africa’s largest elephants to rare black-faced impalas. Sightings of leopards and lions are almost guaranteed.
Both a picturesque, seaside town with German, colonial-era architecture and a top destination for thrill seekers (skydiving, paragliding, and more), this large region along the northwestern coast is definitely worth checking out.
3. Namib-Naukluft Park:
Composed of one of the world’s oldest deserts and an isolated mountain range, this 50,000-square-kilometer park along the southwestern coast offers infinite possibilities for exploring. Don’t miss Sossusvlei, the dramatic, brightly colored red sand dunes, which are especially majestic at sunrise and sunset.
4. Crafts Shopping:
In the northern areas of Omuthiya and Onenongo, shop for traditional palm leaf baskets, earthenware bowls, and other handmade goods at the small craft initiatives popping up all over the region. Many were started by NGOs in an effort to generate income for local women while preserving traditional skills.
5. Khaudum Game Park:
In northeastern Namibia, near the Botswana border, this remote, densely forested park shows another side of the country’s varied landscape. Giraffes, rare wild dogs, and hundreds of birds are among the wildlife.
6. Local Cuisine:
Feast your way through Windhoek, Namibia’s capital city, sampling everything from traditional West African dishes to German-inspired fare.
You shouldn’t leave Namibia without sandboarding; the Namib Desert, along the western coast, boasts some of the largest sand dunes in the world. Try it standing up or lying down, but don’t do it alone. Sandboarders can reach speeds of 60 miles (96.5 kilometers) per hour, so it’s essential to arrange an expedition with a professional sandboarding company.
8. Fish River Canyon:
Often compared to the Grand Canyon, this massive landform in southern Namibia is split by the country’s longest river and is home to mountain zebras, baboons, and more. There are few visitors, and it is an excellent place for camping and hiking.
9. University of Namibia Choir:
Singing in both English and indigenous languages, choir members belt out lively melodies and use call and response in their moving performances. The university is located in Windhoek.
10. River Cruise:
Glide down the Zambezi River, along Namibia’s northernmost coast, on a houseboat. Be on the lookout for hippos and crocodiles.
When to Go
The ideal time to visit Namibia is from June to November, when interior temperatures range from 65 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 to 25 degrees Celcius) and you’re more likely to see plenty of game animals. Namibia’s rainy season lasts from October to April; during that time, average interior temperatures span 70 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 32 degrees Celcius.) (In certain parts of the country, temperatures spike to more than 100 degrees (37.8 degrees Celcius) during this season.) If you’re traveling at the end of the rainy season, or you plan to camp outdoors, it’s advisable to bring a mosquito net and insect repellant with you. Malaria is not prevalent in this area, but having these on hand will make life a little easier.