Namibia in a nutshell, what you need to know before you go
January 1, 1970
by Marisna Burger
So you have saved up your money and now finally have enough to go on holiday. Now the challenge is deciding where to go. To help you do this here is a “before you go” guide. This guide will be countrywide and not focused on a specific area or activity. It is to give you a idea of what to expect when you travel to Namibia as well as some interesting facts to help you connect more with the locals.
Before you go, here is some interesting background information…
Namibia is a young country, the first settlements where build by the dutch in 1793. Up until that time there was nothing, not a single building or horse cart, just bush veld (the local name for a Savannah grassland). Due to the years spent as a German colony it still retains a lot of German influence. Many locals to this day jokingly refer to Namibia as “little Germany”.
Only as recent as 1990 did Namibia become independent, and the slogan Land of the Brave was born. Since then the country has been making huge strides in terms of technology to catch up with the rest of the world. Since its independence it has been governed by the same political party namely SWAPO. It has had 3 presidents Sam Najoma, Hifikepunye Pohamba and currently Hage Geingob.
The People of Namibia…
The major cultures in Namibia are – Owambo who are the majority, Herero, Nama, Afrikaner, German, Himba, Damara and Baster. To give you an indication of whom you are likely to encounter during your travels, I have divided them up according to which regions you are more likely to deal with them. Also please remember, these people are found countrywide, and are not restricted to only the specific area mentioned. Please keep in mind, there are many sub-cultures and immigrants who have come to the country within the last 26 years, but for now I will stick to the most common ones.
The Owambo people are more concentrated in the northern regions as well as the Himbas. As you move downwards you get the Damara and Hereros. Afrikaners and Basters are more concentrated in the central parts. Then towards the coast there is a strong German influence. And finally in the south you get the Nama people.
How to decide which areas to visit…
One thing you must always remember when visiting Namibia is that it has a very unique climate. Although it is a small country the climate for the different regions can differ drastically.To help you to decide which areas to go visit here is a rough breakdown.
The Northern regions.
In the north it is year round sub tropical weather. In other words HOT and humid, it also has the most wildlife and rivers that flow all year. This means it generally has lush foliage and is beautiful.So you will stand a great chance of seeing a crocodile, hippo or even hear a lions roar at night. In the north you can also visit traditional villages, where people still live in huts and use traditional means to gather and cook food. If you have a proper and connected guide you can also go to the Himba and Bushman settlements. These 2 cultures are the only ones who have stayed true to their traditional roots. This means no clothes or any other type of modern comfort, they still sleep on the bare ground and forage and hunt. If you come from a big city or a first world country they are a MUST SEE when you come to Namibia.
The central and southern regions.
The central areas are more open Savannah and grasslands. Here you can also find a large variety of wildlife. Giraffes grazing on trees along the road, boboons baking in the sunlight, warthogs and kudus watching from under the trees. One stop you must definitely make is to the AfriCat foundation where you can come up close and personal with all the big cats, lions, cheetahs, loepards and even the very endangered Wild Dogs. Link to AfriCat Website
The Namib desert.
To the west is the coast and the south is the Namib desert. While wildlife is not as abundant as in the other regions the desert holds its own beauty with the sand dunes and breathtaking landscape. If you are very lucky or have a excellent guide you might even see the famed desert horses or desert elephants. The Namib is the oldest desert in the world and is truly a sight to behold. I strongly recommend getting a guide when traveling through the Namib, because if you get lost or run into trouble you will need help fast. From dinosaur footprints and ancient cave paintings to a plant that is literally 2000 years old the Namib Desert will leave you breathless.
Finally the last area is the coastline. Namibia’s coastline is one of my favorite places. First of all the weather is chilly and misty which is about the polar opposite to the rest of the country. Swakopmund for example only has summer 3 months in a year, the rest of the time it is wet and the sun is blocked by the mist. What I love most about the coast is that in some places you have nature in stark contrast, the dry and barren dunes on the left and the ocean teaming with life on the right. Here you can travel up the skeleton coast and stare in wonder at the remains of old ships which ran aground decades ago. Or forget about the stress of everyday life by watching flamingos fish in the lagoon. Or even go down to Luderitz and explore the remains of the ghost towns the first settlers built.
The final verdict…
In conclusion, Namibia is a sight to behold. I have barley begun to describe the wonders you can see and the places you can go to. Namibia has something for everyone, whether you want to see the largest land going animals or hike in the mountains or take photos of landscapes there is truly something for everyone.