As Namibia becomes an ever-more popular destination we are very conscious of the fact that we need to have a responsible approach to how we travel and traverse this awe-inspiring travelled country. A game plan, a strategy and a sense of awareness of the impact that we as humans (and in this case travellers) have on our environment, the imprint we may leave on other people and the after-effects of our journey. We so often use the adage Leave only your footprints behind, but are we truly conscious of each footprint? And perhaps they aren’t only physical.
We want Namibia to remain the special and authentic experience which we can proudly say it is today. Over-tourism is a rapidly growing global issue and we, here in this far-flung corner of southern Africa, are not immune to it. So we’d like to encourage you to travel consciously. Pick travel partners (like lodges and tour operators) who are aware of their impact, and thus by extension yours, on our earth. Sometimes going off-the-beaten track can be far less damaging than encouraging hordes of visitors to demolish a specific spectacle… when off-the-beaten track is done right.
So here are our recommendations of special places to visit in Namibia that may not pop up on the first page of your search engine results, that haven’t made it to the majority of Top 10 lists, and therefore have been able to retain their authenticity and charm. Skip the crowds, take the road less travelled. Enjoy Namibia for what it was always meant to be. Raw, authentic and unique. We hope it stays that way.
TO THE DESERT
The Namib Desert is surely one of Namibia’s most unique features, and the most famous point of attraction is Sossusvlei. Yes, even the desert can have crowds, and heading into Sossusvlei can sometimes be quite a time-consuming exercise. It is very high on everyone’s list, and deservedly so. Few things compare to the beauty and majesty of the towering ochre dunes and the contrast of the massive white clay pan that is Deadvlei. You may not be aware, however, that this is not where the Namib Sand Sea starts or ends, and neither is it the only place where you can enjoy the awe-inspiring and breath-taking aura of our special desert. There are in fact a number of private nature reserves that surround Namib-Naukluft National Park and are equally special. The biggest and best-established of these is NamibRand Nature Reserve. The reserve stretches across an area of more than 215 000 hectares and is a landscape-level conservation initiative that was started in 1984 by integrating former livestock farms to develop a sanctuary for nature, and the desert. Today, NamibRand is host to various upmarket lodges, like the Wolwedans Collection and andBeyond’s Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, The Family Hideout, an old farmhouse turned into self-catering accommodation, as well as adventure activities such as Tok Tokkie Trails guided walks and Namib Sky Balloon Safaris. It is also home to NaDEET, a non-profit environmental education centre.
Elsewhere, also not far from Sossusvlei, the N/a’an ku sê Foundation has established Kanaan Desert Retreat on a similar principle of turning farms into a nature reserve. A lodge, camping, wildlife orientated activities and voluntourism can be found there.
Gondwana Namib Park is host to various lodges and campsites, as well as activities that include nature drives and ebike cycling routes travelled around the surroundings.
Another option is to see the orange desert hues form above in a hot-air balloon or on a scenic flight over the vast sandy peaks. Take it all in. Spot a gemsbok wandering over a dune, or a tiny critter scampering along. This is the oldest desert in the world, and the amount of life that prevails here will astound you… We don’t refer to it as the Living Desert without good reason.
GET LOST IN HINTERLAND
We’re sure you have heard or read about the wild hinterland that is Namibia’s arid northwest. We won’t further inundate you with tales of desolation, far-flung wilderness and unexplored reaches. We will rather highlight three very special experiences that will make for a unique and marvellous adventure. Flanked by rugged mountainscapes the Hoanib Valley and the Hoanib River with its towering Ana trees are host to wildlife brave enough to take on the often extreme climate of Namibia’s Kaokoland. It is a destination that should surely be on every avid explorer’s itinerary. There are two luxury lodges along the riverbanks, which are mostly dry all year, and community campsites for the more rugged traveller. The scenery is unsurpassed and it is rural enough to not be on any ‘main’ or ‘first-timer’ itinerary. An epic and engaging adventure awaits in the Etendeka Valley near Grootberg. Etendeka Mountain Camp’s slack-packing walking trails take explorers on a travelled journey through rugged terrain, where you will be immersed in the enigmatic natural world. Discover plants you’d never imagine could exist in such a harsh landscape, watch wildlife from your rocky trail and spend your nights sleeping under an unbelievable canopy of stars. All the way north, on the Kunene River which forms the border between Namibia and our northern neighbour Angola, the thundering Epupa Falls sit perched in their dramatic glory. Namibia’s largest waterfall is a visual spectacle, and the surrounding area is just as appealing and unique. Visit the nomadic Himba people of the area, attempt a daring rafting trip down the river, or just leisurely marvel at the beauty of the falls from one of the lookout points. Various lodges and campsites are available along the riverbank, some even overlooking the falls.
A WETLANDS PARADISE IN A DRY COUNTRY
Namibia has a few ‘secret national parks’. Khaudum. Mudumu. Nkasa Rupara. Bwabwata. We call them secret because they are not on your easy-to-reach and simple-to-experience Namibian destinations lists. They are tucked away in the far north-eastern reaches of the Kavango and Zambezi regions, not too often talked about and thus sadly overlooked on a regular basis. What they have going for them, though, is the very fact that they are wild, untouched and most definitely not a tourist hotspot teeming with vehicles and large groups of travellers. This, to us, is what makes them utterly special. Add to that the stunning landscapes, an abundance of animals and birdlife and that they are off-the-grid, and you have a culmination of epic reasons to visit them if you are an adventurous traveller. Namibia has its own wetland-wonder region that may even rival the famous Chobe riverfront or the Okavango Delta. Explore the Okavango, Kwando, Linyanti, Chobe and Zambezi rivers from Namibia’s side. All the riverine forests, wildlife and natural beauty, minus the crowds
INFAMY AND A FAR-AWAY LAND
Namibia’s coastline stretches for more than 1500 km from the Orange River in the south to the Kunene in the north. Along these tumultuous shores are strewn what is estimated to be over 1000 wrecks of ships and crafts that never reached their destination. The northern section of the country’s coastline and the desert landscapes inland form Skeleton Coast National Park. From the Ugab River northward to the Kunene River, and some 70 km inland in certain places, this conservation area protects some of the most pristine and untouched desert and arid landscapes in the world. Its wilderness is home to desert-adapted species of wildlife and ancient flora specimens. Dramatic vistas are mostly untouched by destructive human hands. One of the park’s most captivating features, however, is surely the wreckage of crafts to be found on its beaches. Stories of these ill-fated vessels have become part of the area’s infamy. They stand sentinel along these lonely shores, warning others of the dangers of the treacherous, but beguiling Skeleton Coast. Harsh, and far away, this destination is becoming ever-more popular. The fact that it is in a national park with strict concessions ensures, however, that it is not easily over-visited. Camping and accommodation options include Terrace Bay, and Torra Bay in December. A luxury establishment, Shipwreck Lodge, was opened in a private concession area 45 km north of Möwe Bay in 2018. Guests can also explore the Hoarusib River and other points of interest from there on guided day trips. Scenic flights or 4×4 concession tours are other ways in which to delve into the infamous desert landscapes of this special and unique place.
10 Coolest Places to Camp in Namibia
Why do some people love to camp and others don’t? To be honest, who cares? Luckily Namibia offers everyone the chance to travel the country and stay in the type of accommodation they prefer. Okay, with that settled, for those who DO love camping, here is a list of the ten coolest places to pitch your tent in Namibia.