Namibia - The Land God Made in Anger
The indigenous peoples of Namibia refer to the deserts in which they live as The Land God Made in Anger, on account of the endlessly dry seas of sand that stretch out between rocky outcrops. This vast land is in many ways as inhospitable and unforgiving as it is beautiful – tourists die of thirst every year because they ignore advice and lose themselves in the shifting desert where there is no water. That said, Namibia is also an eco-tourist paradise waiting to be discovered by visitors who take reasonable precautions.
Namibia takes its name from the Namib Desert, which is said to be the purest desert on Earth. To the inexperienced eye, this haunting land is barren, arid and lifeless. Yet the moist coastal strip is home to exotic plants and animals that are perfectly adapted to desert conditions and thrive in the harsh climate. Namibia also has a wide range of other geographical features that include the Skeleton Coast with its lonely shipwrecks, the seemingly endless orange humming dunes at Sossusvlei, the stunningly arid Fish River Canyon, and several magnificent game parks that are set in the western parts of this huge land.
The Namibian climate is classic semi-desert, with dangerously hot days and refreshingly cool nights. At the height of summer, day temperatures can exceed forty degrees centigrade, while in winter the glass may drop to freezing at dawn. The coastal strip can be blessedly cooler thanks to the fogs that roll in from late afternoon and remain until mid morning the following day. Rain falls from October through April – for the rest of the year thunderclouds may appear only to vanish in a lost battle with the heat rising off the thirsty land. It is best to visit Namibia between March and October, which are the warm and dry months of winter. Remember, though, that the nights can still get very cold, especially in desert areas. Winter is also a great time for game viewing as thirsty animals converge on the few waterholes that do not run dry. Summer is not a good time for visitors from cooler climates to be away from major roads – heatstroke is dangerous and thunderstorms can instantly turn dry riverbeds into deadly torrents. During the summer months take shorts, sandals and light t-shirts for daytime use, plus one warm change of clothing if the weather changes. In winter, you will need to be prepared to change to something warmer for the evenings. Don not forget swimsuits, sun hats, sun block and sun glasses for relaxation, and walking shoes and mosquito repellent when game spotting.
My Dream Namibian Journey
You will need to spend three months in Namibia if you want to see everything. My favorite three-week trip will introduce you the greatest wonders.
Make your reservations in advance. Namibia is a vast country and sparsely supplied with excellent facilities that are frequently completely booked.
Fly in to Johannesburg Oliver Tambo International Airport during the local winter months. Relax for a day or two to get over your jet lag while you enjoy the local attractions. Take a plane to Keetmanshoop, hire a car and head off to the Fish River Canyon making sure you have booked two nights’ accommodation at Ais Ais Resort, which is about all there is in the way of lodging.
When back on the road take the dog-leg through to Luderitz where three nights will be required to fully experience the historic town, the excellent seafood, and the adjacent diamond mining village half lost to shifting desert sands.
Avoiding the desire to drive on anything but national tarred roads, head back to Keetmanshoop and take the long straight road to Windhoek where you can catch up on city luxuries and local history for as many days as you like.
When tired of city lights, head on down the road to the coast through the magnificently austere Kuseb Canyon. At the end of a long day's journey, turn into historic Swakopmund which is as German as Germany was a hundred years ago. Relax in the quaint seaside town that time has passed by, not forgetting to pay a visit to nearby Walvis Bay with its vast clouds of flamingoes and other birdlife.
When you have seen as much wildlife as you can, head back towards Windhoek on the Oshikati-Tsumeb road and your flight home. Take a day out at Grootfontein to sample the local indigenous markets and visit the amazing Hoba Meteorite, which the locals claim is the largest piece of outer space on Planet Earth.
As you relax on your flight home, thank the Creator for the many wonderful natural wonders that you were able to enjoy on your trip.
Local Time And Daylight Hours
Namibia is at GMT plus two or two hours ahead of UK summer time. On average, the sun shines for three hundred days a year.
Although English is the official business language in Namibia, many people speak only Afrikaans, German or an indigenous language, particularly in rural areas. People are very friendly and will usually find a bridge between unfamiliar languages. This together with a wide range of tourist facilities and a well-developed infrastructure make the country a popular destination. The indigenous people still treasure their traditional values and visitors are advised to dress modestly and respect the ethical standards and customs when in rural areas. Special care must be taken before photographing indigenous people such as the Herero and Ovambo in their traditional dress as some believe that this will bring bad fortune upon them.
The banking system is well developed and most formal businesses accept traveler's cheques and credit cards. The general rule is to carry enough cash for out of pocket expenses. The local currency is the Namibia Dollar, which is on par with the South African Rand - many city businesses will accept payment in either currency.
The International Airport outside Windhoek is serviced by major European, American and Australian airlines. Limited flights make the South African connection attractive and many tourists now include a stopover in South Africa followed by smaller-plane connections to their Namibian destinations. Namibia welcomes tourists and the rules are as user-friendly as possible. Please check with the Namibian High Commission in your country or your preferred travel agent as government policy changes from time to time.
Health & Medical Considerations
The dry Namibian climate is very healthy and vaccinations are only required when visiting the northern areas of Etosha, Ovambo and Caprivi. The following precautions must be observed at all times:
Municipal water is safe to drink – avoid drinking unpurified water from rivers and ponds.
High factor suntan lotion must be applied during daylight hours to avoid sunburn.
Bilharzia is widespread in many rivers and streams and swimming in these must be avoided unless the water is fast running. Consult a doctor if a member of your party inadvertently breaks this rule.
Malaria is widespread in the areas north of Otjiwarongo except in the coastal strip. The risk is easily controlled by medication taken before and during your visit.
HIV-AIDS is prevalent throughout the region and taking the necessary precautions cannot be too strongly recommended.
Medical facilities such as doctors and pharmacists are very limited outside urban centers. Take a supply of sufficient medicines with you that, if taken regularly, covers the entire period of your trip away from home, and make sure that you have comprehensive medical insurance before leaving home.
The more rural you go, the safer you will be. The urban centers are like those in any part of the world – take precautions against street crime and pickpockets by never venturing out alone and never going into any places that do not look completely safe. Carry identification information with you, and always make sure that somebody else knows where you are going. This is especially important when going on a small plane flight or venturing out into the desert alone.
Namibia is a vast expanse of often pristine semi-desert that offers the eco-tourist rare opportunities seldom available elsewhere in such abundance. The multi-cultural community is ever generous and welcoming, and tourist facilities are usually excellent. Distances are vast by European standards and it sometimes seems that the road is endless. Amazingly, every roadside stop in this great country offers new adventures and endless beauty. Indeed, only the most jaded tourist cannot find the breath to echo the words:
Namibia – The Land God Made In Anger And Loves Endlessly For Ever More.