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Namibia

Breathtaking scenery, endless horizons, towering sand dunes and desert-adapted wildlife against a wonderfully photogenic backdrop

Tailor-Made Holidays
To Namibia

Namibia is world-renowned for its breathtaking, unspoilt scenery, endless horizons, towering sand dunes, tales of survival and adventure along the wild Skeleton Coast, diverse and fascinating peoples and desert-adapted wildlife living against a wonderfully photogenic backdrop.

At almost four times the size of Great Britain, Namibia calls to mind the vast Namib and Kalahari deserts with their desert-adapted wildlife such as oryx, ostrich, elephant and rhinoceros. However, in the far north where the majority of the population lives, the wetlands and lush savannah around the Kavango, Kwando, Linyanti, Chobe and Zambezi river systems provide a significant contrast, with wetland species such as hippopotamus and Nile crocodile as well as large numbers of bird species.

The majority of rivers in Namibia are known as ephemeral; that is, they flow only after heavy rain in their catchment areas. The normally dry riverbeds and some localised springs support scarce vegetation, and these ‘linear oases’ attract wildlife from miles around. Water may also stand for short periods in shallow clay or limestone depressions, such as the enormous Etosha Pan. Such is the attraction of those relatively wet areas that multiple species of wildlife can be seen gathered there, especially in the dry season.

Namibia is home to over 250 mammals including desert-adapted endemic subspecies, and is particularly famous for its desert elephants which roam across miles of desert to reach water and vegetation. Both black and white rhino can be found, including the largest free-ranging population of black rhino in Africa, as poaching is nothing like as serious as in Kenya and other countries.

Hartmann’s mountain and plains (or Burchell’s) zebras thrive in Namibia, and its antelope species range from the tiny Damara dik dik, through springbok, impala and the majestic gemsbok (or oryx – Namibia’s national animal) to Africa’s largest, the eland. It is notably the only Southern African country to support two species of impala (common and black-faced).

Giraffe and blue wildebeest are common in Etosha National Park, providing prey for lion, leopard and cheetah. Wild dogs are critically endangered in Namibia and found only in the Caprivi Strip. The far north-east holds wetland and woodland species such as hippopotamus, Nile crocodile, buffalo and roan, sable, tsessebe, sitatunga and red lechwe antelopes.

Namibia is rich in bird life, with around 660 species (around 72% of all southern African species) with 16 endemic and near-endemics, mostly found in the arid highlands and in the Namib Desert, from the Naukluft mountains northwards to the Kunene River on the Angola border. The greatest variety of Namibia’s bird species are found in the wetlands and woodlands of the Caprivi Strip – particularly diverse in the wet season with the arrival of migrants.

The marine life of Namibia is also special, with the diminutive Benguela (or Heaviside’s) dolphin (endemic to southern Africa) inhabiting inshore waters along the Atlantic coast with the highest density off southern Namibia. Along with bottlenose dolphins and other cetaceans, they can be seen on cruises from Walvis Bay and Lüderitz. Various colonies of Cape fur seals inhabit the Skeleton Coast, with the largest in Southern Africa living at Cape Cross, north of Swakopmund, with over 270,000.

Additionally, Namibia’s geological history, diverse tribes such as the nomadic Himba and San ‘bushmen’, and 28 indigenous tongues including the Khoisan ‘click’ language, add fascinating extra dimensions to that special destination.

Namibia holidays can be designed in various ways, depending on your time, budget, sense of adventure and thirst for knowledge. Distances by road tend to be large and, this being one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world, you often find yourself in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by unspoilt wilderness and endless horizons, with no other vehicle or person in sight for hours. It makes for a fantastic adventure holiday in a self-drive vehicle, but your understanding of your surroundings (and your level of relaxation) will be greatly enhanced by a qualified private driver-guide.

Roads (sealed, gravel and salt) are well-maintained and directions on the more usual routes are quite straightforward – there may be only one junction for several hundred kilometres. The self-drive challenge primarily comes in the form of keeping one’s concentration on seemingly endless straight roads, whilst resisting the temptation to speed. That is another advantage of a guided trip: your guide will be used to such driving conditions and will concentrate on the road, allowing you fully to enjoy your spectacular surroundings.

PLEASE NOTE: Our Namibia guided safaris tend to include all meals, selected drinks whilst on your private vehicle, park fees and permits, fuel etc – as well as a highly qualified and informative guide who will add immeasurable value to your experience.

An image caption based on something written in the destination intro. E.g. wonderful shot of an inquisitive young Gorilla in Nyungwe park

Photography by Reef & Rainforest

Best Time To Visit Namibia

The Namibian climate varies from arid and semi-arid in the south to subtropical in the far north-east, with great variation in rainfall depending on location: however all areas experience over 300 days of annual sunshine on average (many Namibians are envious of the UK’s more unpredictable weather).

The hottest months in Namibia are November to February when daytime temperatures can top 40C in the Namib Desert and extreme north and south, with cool nights. Winter temperatures tend to be pleasantly warm in the day and drop to sub-zero at night in desert areas. Coastal temperatures are largely influenced by wind direction, with the prevailing south-westerly winds – cooled by the chilly Benguela current – often forming a thick band of coastal fog on meeting the hotter Namib Desert air during summer. By contrast, easterly winds can bring dust storms and sweltering heat from the desert which, oddly, means coastal areas often experience their hottest days in mid-winter.

Namibia welcomes its limited rainfall during the summer months of October to April when humidity increases and localised evening downpours develop in the central and eastern areas. Flash floods are common, saturating the usually dry riverbeds and hampering road crossings – drivers must exercise caution during this period. Generally speaking, it rains less as one travels from north to south and from east to west. Average annual rainfall varies from less than 50mm along the coast to 350mm in the central interior and 700mm in the north east Caprivi Strip. Humidity tends to be very low throughout most of Namibia, but can reach as high as 80% in the far north during summer.

Wildlife congregates in large numbers at waterholes in the drier months (July-October) making it an extremely popular time to travel. Accommodation fills several months in advance and high season rates apply. Conversely, many lodges offer much lower ‘Green Season’ rates in the less popular summer months (January-March). Scenically, April to June are very beautiful for the flora that result from the preceding wetter months and the autumnal colours in some regions, and lower visitor numbers increase the sense of space and wilderness.

Namibia Travel

Getting There

Flight Time

13-14 Hours from London to Windhoek

Time Zone

GMT +1

Language

English

Population

2.3 million

Highlights

What To See

Windhoek

Windhoek, meaning ‘windy corner’, is Namibia’s capital and the usual point of arrival and departure into the country. In a pleasant and convenient central position surrounded by the Auas and Eros mountains, Windhoek has a growing population but is still relatively small at around 300,000 people. The architecture is German and South African-inspired, with a well organised layout. It offers a mixture of the modern and traditional, with sophisticated international fashion boutiques, traditional African clothing and gemstone shops, pavement markets selling wood carvings, jewellery and other arts and crafts.

There are several 19th and 20th century German historical buildings of interest such as the Alte Feste, railway station, Tintinpalast, the Turnhalle and Gathemann House. Other places of interest include the National Botanical Garden, National Theatre of Namibia, Meteorite Fountain and the Warehouse Theatre.

As well as the usual steak houses, pubs and coffee bars, Windhoek has a wide range of à la carte menu restaurants serving a variety of cuisines. Namibian beers can be sampled at various beer gardens, such as the famous Joe’s Beerhouse, which is also a restaurant specialising in game dishes.

Windhoek has a good range of comfortable accommodation choices, mainly guesthouses. Our favourites include the Galton House, The Elegant Farmstead, Olive Grove and The Olive Exclusive Boutique Hotel.

Gamsberg

Rising 500m above the Khomas Hochland about 120 southwest of Windhoek, the 2347masl Gamsberg Mountain is a table-top mountain with a distinctive quartzite sandstone summit, offering views towards the Namib-Naukluft Mountains to the south. The area is renowned for the dramatic Gamsberg Pass and its exceptionally clear skies and lack of light pollution which makes for fantastic stargazing. There are plenty of walking and hiking trails (some arduous) through beautiful scenery, nature drives and sundowner drives available. The Gamsberg is also a place to simply relax and enjoy the splendid isolation and star-studded African night.

Okonjima

Conveniently half way between Windhoek and Etosha lies the 22,000 hectare Okonjima Private Game Reserve. Okonjima and the AfriCat Foundation work together to conserve Namibia’s large carnivores through a rehabilitation programme, mostly focusing on leopard and cheetah. Various pressures on the big cat population include persecution by farmers, the pet trade and capture of wild cats for tourist entertainment which are subsequently unwanted when they become troublesome or expensive.

The AfriCat Foundation assists in relocating and rehabilitating these carnivores and has been able to release over 85% back to the wild – a great achievement. AfriCat understands the importance of research, habitat conservation and education and works closely with farmers and local populations to increase understanding and reduce human-animal conflict.

The accommodation options at Okonjima, from camp sites to luxury villas, provide the opportunity for visitors to witness the work of the AfriCat Foundation, to enjoy game drives in Okonjima’s Private Reserve with fantastic photographic opportunities of the cats, other predators such as African wild dog and hyena and general game.

Waterberg Plateau Park

The beautiful Waterberg region, with its imposing 150m high sandstone plateau complete with 200 million year old dinosaur tracks, provides a 41,000 hectare haven for endangered species such as roan and sable antelope, tsessebe, black and white rhino. Predators such as leopard, cheetah, brown hyena, black-backed jackal and caracal can also be found, with the more common prey animals such as gemsbok, eland, kudu, impala, steenbok and klipspringer.

Smaller mammals such as banded mongoose can be encountered on walking trails and the tiny Damara dik-dik and lesser bush babies are often seen foraging near the rest camp at Bernabe de la Bat.
Over 200 species of bird have been recorded in the Waterberg, including critically endangered Cape vultures and the impressive Verreaux’s (black) eagles along the cliffs off the Waterberg escarpment.

The vegetation is dense in parts and wildlife sightings therefore require some effort, but it is a stunning and varied landscape of colourful cliffs, ravines, broad-leafed woodland, grassy plains with acacia trees – all explored by vehicle or walking on trails.

The Waterberg is steeped in history with San (Bushmen) living a traditional existence in the area into the 1960s. Further back in time, the area was the site of the tragic Battle of Waterberg in 1904, involving 1600 men of the German colonial forces and 40,000 Herero men women and children. The latter were almost annihilated, with only a few escaping into the Kalahari desert and British Bechuanaland (now Botswana). A cemetery for the German casualties can be found near the rest camp: there is none for the Herero.

Namib Desert

Thought to be the oldest desert in the world at over 55 million years and the only true desert in Africa lying south of the equator, the Namib runs from southern Angola to Lüderitz in the far south of Namibia. With an area of 80,950 km², the Namib Desert extends 1570km along the Atlantic coastline and 50-160 km towards the interior. Its aridity is caused by the combination of coastal air being cooled by the cold waters of the Benguela current (descending and becoming less able to bear water) with hot dry winds from the east that have lost their moisture over the mountains. The hot and cold air currents meet at the coastline, often forming fog – a life-giving source of moisture for specialist desert-dwelling plants and animals, and a major hazard for sailors whose shipwrecks line the Skeleton Coast.

The flora and flora of the Namib Desert is weird and wonderful, including the ‘living fossil’ plant Welwitschia mirabilis, a relict gymnosperm which grows close to the ground and has its own taxonomic group. Very slow-growing and officially a tree, Welwitschias can live over 1000 years (the largest are estimated at around 2,500 years old), collecting moisture from the coastal fog through specially adapted leaves.

Wildlife biodiversity is high in reptiles with around 70 species with 25 endemic or near-endemic to the Namib Desert. The wedge-snouted sand lizard, small-scaled sand lizard, web-footed gecko, barking gecko and Namib day gecko all dive beneath the sand when they sense danger. Small rodents include Grant’s golden mole which can ‘swim’ through the sand dunes, gerbils, the Namaqua dune mole rat, the Namib long-eared bat and Angola wing-gland bat which feed on the dune dwelling insects. This is also the home to Peringuey’s adder (Namib Desert sidewinder) – an ambush hunter that buries itself beneath the sand, with only the eyes and tip of its tail exposed, waiting for prey such as desert lizards. When on the move it has a wonderful side-winding motion to give it purchase on the shifting sand. The Namaqua chameleon is also specially adapted to the desert, digging holes and changing colour throughout the day to help thermoregulation and excreting salt from nasal glands to conserve water. They stalk prey such as beetles, crickets, scorpions and lizards, and are in turn hunted by hawks, eagles and jackals.

Desert insects includes tiny endemic Namib Desert darkling beetles or “fog beetles” which use their bodies as fog collectors by assuming the characteristic fog-basking pose, while the ‘flying saucer trench beetle’ digs trenches to capture the fog’s moisture to drink.

Larger animals of the Namib include gemsbok (oryx) which can regulate their body temperature and survive for weeks without drinking, springbok, klipspringer, steenbok and Hartmann’s zebra towards the eastern boundary. Predators include spotted and brown hyena, cheetah, Cape fox and bat-eared fox. Other species such as baboon and leopard are mostly confined to the rivers.
Of the 180 bird species found in the Namib Desert, the most prominent bird found is the ostrich. There are six endemic birds: the dune lark, Benguela long-billed lark, Gray’s lark, bank cormorant, tractrac chat, and Rüppell’s korhaan. As the environment is so harsh, most birds of the Namib are concentrated along the coastline, with hotspots in Walvis Bay and Sandwich Harbour areas.

A strange phenomenon in the Namib Desert is the presence of ‘fairy circles’. Best seen from the air, these denuded circles of grassland of 5-8m average diameter dot the landscape for miles. Fairy circles (also known as ‘fairy rings’) can be found on the eastern border regions of the desert from southern Angola to the Orange River in the south. There are several theories about their cause: the residue of allopathic growth inhibitors by Euphorbia plants, radioactivity, Gods or, indeed, fairies. A more likely explanation seems to be harvester ants or harvester termites which gather vegetable matter from the affected area. However, despite various studies, concrete scientific evidence for any of the theories remains lacking and the mystery remains. Fairy circles last around 100 years before becoming re-colonised by plants.

Although mostly impenetrable and uninhabited, permanent settlements in the Namib Desert include Sesriem (near Sossusvlei), Lüderitz, Walvis Bay and Swakopmund. The Namib Desert is mineral-rich and an important area for salt, tungsten and diamond mining. Protected areas within the Namib Desert include the Namib-Naukluft Park, NamibRand Private Nature Reserve, Dorob National Park and the Skeleton Coast Park.

Namib Naukluft National Park

One of the largest conservation areas in Africa, approaching 50,000km², the Namib-Naukluft National Park is the place of Namibia’s iconic rusty-red dunes, some up to 300 metres high, together with gravel pans, canyons and mountains making for a truly spectacular setting. The Namib-Naukluft encompasses famous sites such as Sossusvlei, Dead Vlei, Dune 45, Big Daddy, and Sesriem Canyon, as well as rare desert-adapted wildlife and bizarre and wonderful xerophytic plants.

Sossusvlei

Probably the most iconic area of Namibia, Sossusvlei is a (normally) dry pan surrounded by the highest dunes in the Namib Desert, some over 300m tall and among the highest in the world. The rust-red dunes of bewildering variety of form are magnificent, and their colours particularly striking at sunrise and sunset. The dunes, pans and mountains – together with occasional acacia trees and wildlife such as gemsbok (oryx), ostrich and springbok – make this a photographer’s paradise. On very rare occasions after heavy rain, the Tsauchab River floods into Sossusvlei creating a temporary inland wetland to the excitement of wildlife, locals and visitors alike. The enormous dunes reflected in water are indeed a rare sight to behold.

Whilst visiting this area there is the opportunity to climb the 170m Dune 45, not only for the incredible views it offers but also the thrill of walking on sand which, 5 million years ago, made its way down the Orange River on the southern border of Namibia with South Africa to be deposited into the Atlantic Ocean. From there it gradually moved northwards with the Benguela Current, to be washed ashore with the pounding surf before being blown inland, creating the immense dune ‘sea’. The high iron content has meant that as time progressed, oxidisation turned the sand from a yellowish colour by the coast to the dramatic red of the ancient ‘rusted’ sand beneath your feet at Dune 45. Of course, this history continues with the dunes continually evolving with the shifting sand.

Other vleis (pans) in the area include !Nara Vlei, Hidden Vlei and Dead Vlei, with its ancient dead trees creating an eerie spectacle.

Dead Vlei

Normally combined with a visit to Sossusvlei, the nearby Dead Vlei (“Dead Marsh” in English) is a white clay pan surrounded by some of the biggest dunes in the world, such as the imposing Big Daddy dune which, at around 350 metres tall, is a fun challenge to climb. A classic site in Namibia for photography, Dead Vlei was formed when the Tsauchab River used to flood the area along with Sossusvlei. With this water availability, camelthorn acacia trees were able to grow and survive. However, about 900 years ago, Dead Vlei was cut off from the Tsauchab River valley by sand and silt deposits, parching the soil and causing the trees’ demise. Due to the extreme aridity of the area the dead trees have not rotted or petrified but simply stand sentinel as bare black trunks and branches on the white pan of parched clay, with the backdrop of the red dunes – a striking sight indeed.

Kunene

Kunene (also known as Kaokoland) is a remote, mountainous, arid and relatively inaccessible region and traditional home to the semi-nomadic Himba as well as the Damara and Herero people, each with their own rich culture. The region’s name stems from the Kunene River which defines its northern border with Angola and includes the infamous Skeleton Coast with its stories of survival and maritime tragedy along its wild and inhospitable shoreline. Moisture from the coastal fog sustains some weird and wonderful flora and fauna including Welwitschia mirabilis, desert beetles, Namaqua chameleon, shovel snouted lizard and much more.

The geology of this region is fascinating and spectacular, with ephemeral rivers and natural oases supporting desert-adapted animals including desert elephants, desert black rhinos, desert-adapted lion, giraffe, Hartmanns mountain zebra, gemsbok (oryx) and springbok.

Palmwag Concession

A very special nature reserve in northern Damaraland, the 450,000 hectare Palmwag Concession (or Palmwag Reserve) offers true wilderness safaris with a focus on tracking desert adapted black rhino with the help of the Save the Rhino Trust – an admirable organisation which was founded in 1982 to protect the desert black rhinos from poachers. The Palmwag Concession now holds the largest free-roaming population of the critically endangered black rhino in Africa and is one of very few places where rhino numbers are steadily increasing thanks to the vigilance, monitoring and conservation work of the Save the Rhino Trust. It is an exhilarating and unforgettable experience to approach the black rhinos on foot – a rare opportunity and available in the concession.
A breathtaking arid wilderness of rocky landscapes, grasslands and normally dry river courses against a backdrop of the flat-topped mountains of the Etendeka Plateau, the Palmwag Concession has much more to offer besides black rhino. The morning fog drifting inland from the Skeleton Coast brings life-giving water for all manner of strange flora, including welwitschias, salvadora bushes, bottle-shaped pachypodium trees, poisonous euphorbias, leadwood trees, shepherd’s trees and more. Freshwater springs support diverse fauna including giraffe, kudu, Hartmann’s mountain zebra, gemsbok (oryx), springbok, klipspringer and steenbok. Desert elephants roam through the concession, browsing along the Uniab River line. Predators include a good number of elusive desert adapted lion as well as cheetah, leopard, spotted and brown hyena, black-backed jackal, spotted genet and meerkat (suricate).

Birding is productive with endemics including Rüppell’s korhaan, Benguela long-billed lark and Herero chat. Raptors include Verreaux’s eagle, booted eagle, lanner falcon and greater kestrel. Other birds such as the loquacious and brightly coloured bokmakierie, Monteiro’s hornbill, white-backed mousebird, Namaqua sandgrouse, Burchell’s courser and grey-backed sparrowlark will keep you entertained whilst waiting for the radio call from the Save the Rhino Trust tracker that they’ve spotted a rhino.

Daan Viljoen Game Park

Located around 20km from Windhoek in the Khomas Hochland mountains, the Daan Viljoen Game Park makes for a worthwhile day trip. There is a nature drive but also walking trails that wind through highland savannah for a chance to spot diverse game such as mountain zebra, eland, springbok wildebeest, gemsbok, kudu, red hartebeest, impala, steenbok and klipspringer as well as baboons and dassies (rock hyrax). The area is renowned for its birding, with around 200 species and several endemics to this area. Some birds of Daan Viljoen include the Damara rockjumber (or rockrunner), Montiero’s hornbill, Rüppel’s parrot and white-tailed shrike.

There is simple bungalow accommodation and a basic campsite at Daan Viljoen, based around a reservoir, but you may also visit from more comfortable accommodation options in Windhoek.

Damaraland

Located between Namibia’s Central Plateau and the Skeleton Coast, Damaraland is a geologist’s dream renowned for its natural beauty, desert-adapted wildlife and ancient human history in the form of rock engravings. A land of endless horizons, pastel colours, sublime sunsets and more stars at night than you can possibly imagine, this is true wilderness at its best.

Split into vast private concessions, it is here that you can track the world’s only naturally occurring free-roaming population of desert-adapted black rhino. It is home to Namibia’s desert-adapted elephants which roam huge distances in search of water and nourishment, aided in their survival by their undeniable intelligence, memory capacity and sense of smell.

Other major attractions include the rock engravings at Twyfelfontein (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and geological features such as the strange petrified forest, Burnt Mountain and Organ Pipes.

Etosha National Park

Home to around 114 mammal, 340 species of bird, 110 reptiles, 16 amphibians and one species of fish (believe it or not) and vast at over 20,000km2, Etosha National Park is one of the largest reserves in the world. It It is famous for the two million year-old Etosha Pan, a 5000m2 shallow depression visible from space, and its surrounding bushveld, savannah and perennial springs that attract numerous animal species, especially in the drier months. The interaction between species which gather at these precious water sources is something special to behold.

The great white expanse of the Etosha Pan, covering 25% of the Etosha National Park, was originally a shallow lake fed by the Kunene River. Tectonic movements led to the river’s diversion northwards and so the lake dried to the salt and clay ‘saline desert’ found today. As it is devoid of water and plant life, animals tend to stay clear of the pan itself and instead spend time in the surrounding mopane-dominated bushveld and around the waterholes south of the pan. However, the occasional zebra or wildebeest can be found standing silhouetted against the shimmering mirage of the pan in the heat of the day and, after heavy rain, the pan may hold water for a time. The subsequent algal bloom attracts millions of flamingos which come there to breed – a special sight indeed.

The vegetated areas and numerous waterholes of eastern Etosha usually produce the most abundant wildlife viewing and great birding. The central-south offers endless vistas over the Etosha Pan and has some very productive waterholes frequented by elephants, rhinos, giraffe, gemsbok (oryx) and other game. Western Etosha, relatively recently opened to tourists, is probably the most scenic area and characterised by hilly terrain and dolomite outcrops, karstveldt and mopane vegetation. Game viewing is less intense than further east nearer Etosha Pan, but is still very good with the chance to see both black and white rhino, Hartmann’s mountain zebra (only found in the west of the reserve), sable antelope, black faced impala, as well as the other animals found elsewhere in Etosha.

There are four government-run camps located inside Etosha National Park (Namutoni and Halali in the east, Okaukeujo in the central-south, and Dolomite Camp in the west). Several private lodges are located just outside Etosha which can offer guided safaris inside the National Park (as well as on their own private reserves). Okaukeujo rest camp offers guests the unique opportunity to take guided night drives inside the park to spot nocturnal wildlife.

Sesriem

A small settlement best known for the access point to the Namib-Naukluft National Park and Sossusvlei at Sesriem Gate and for the nearby Sesriem Canyon. There is a fuelling station, shops for general supplies and various campsites and accommodation choices in the area. Excursions such as hot air ballooning over the dunes depart from Sesriem Gate.

Sesriem Canyon

Geologically very interesting and around a kilometre long and 30 metres deep, the Sesriem Canyon was carved from the sedimentary and conglomerate rock by the Tsauchab River over the last 30 million years. In fact the name ‘Sesriem’ was given by Afrikaners on the Dorsland Trek and translates as ‘six belts’ for the number of leather straps (which fastened an ox to its wagon) required to be tied together for a bucket to reach the water at the bottom of the canyon. Most of the riverbed is normally dry, but there are some permanent pools which were historically an important water source for local people and are now enjoyed by birds, fish and occasionally bathing visitors.

Namib-Rand Private Nature Reserve

South of Sossusvlei, the NamibRand is a breathtakingly beautiful private nature reserve on the eastern fringe of the Namib Desert bordering the Namib-Naukluft National Park to the west and the Nubib Mountains to the east. At 172,000 hectares, it is one of the largest private nature reserves in Southern Africa, encompassing a wide variety of habitats including vegetated red-sand dunes, gravel and sandy plains, mountains and inselbergs, together with mysterious fairy circles which extend for miles around. The NamibRand is important for protecting seasonal migration routes for the desert-adapted wildlife. Animals include gemsbok (oryx), springbok, Burchell’s (plains) and Hartmann’s mountain zebra, kudu, giraffe, red hartebeest, blesbok, klipspringer, steenbok, porcupine and baboon. Predators in this vast wilderness include leopard, brown and spotted hyena, black-backed jackal, bat-eared fox, aardwolf, Cape fox, African wildcat, genet and caracal. New species of smaller desert creatures such as rodents, reptiles and invertebrates are continually being added to the species list as research continues. Around 150 species of bird have been noted in the NamibRand reserve, ranging from ostrich and Ludwig’s bustard down in size to the endemic dune lark and many more.

The lodges on the NamibRand are kept intentionally small and, with c.1000 hectares of expansive, beautiful wilderness per person, the reserve is a nature lover’s paradise. Lodges in the NamibRand include Sossusvlei Desert Lodge in the north of the reserve and properties in the Wolwedans collection further south: there is also the opportunity to hike in the far south NamibRand and sleep under the stars with Tok Tokkie Trails.

Wolwedans

Set within the NamibRand Private Nature Reserve in an area of sublime natural beauty, the lodges of Wolwedans with their outstanding outlooks and top quality guides are rightfully renowned for immersing guests in the full splendour and serenity of this part of the Namibian desert.
These two regions in the north- and central-east of Namibia encompass multiple fascinating and beautiful areas, rich in diverse natural history and cultural interest. Location highlights include the Kunene River, Hartmann’s Valley, Epupa Falls, Skeleton Coast Park, Puros, Palmwag Concession, Damaraland, Etendeka Plateau, Dorob National Park, the Brandberg and Erongo Mountains, as well as the popular coastal towns of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay.

Twyfelfontein

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007), the hillside of red sandstone boulders (petrified sand dunes) of Twyfelfontein hold around 2,500 rock engravings, depicting various animals, footprints and patterns, and is one of the largest collection of its kind in Africa. Artefacts found at the site, dating back around 6,000 years, suggest the long-term occupation of Stone Age San hunter-gatherers, followed by Khoikhoi herders.

Twyfelfontein, meaning ‘uncertain spring’ in Afrikaans, was named by a farmer in 1946 because he wasn’t sure whether the spring would provide enough water to sustain his livestock and family. Evidence of the farm still remains today and the (undoubtedly rather feeble) spring provides a great attraction to bird life.

The main engravings of interest lie along two circular routes, taking around two hours, and a visitor centre provides information on the history, people and geology of the area.

Etendeka Plateau

The commanding flat-topped mountains which define the Etendeka Plateau have an exciting history. They originate from an enormous basalt flow which emanated around 132 million years ago from what may be the largest volcanic eruption ever known on Earth. It had a volume in excess of 10,000,000 km3 (2km thick in places), spreading over parts of what are now Namibia, Angola, Brazil and Argentina, just prior to the breaking away of Southern Africa from South America. Also known as the Paraná-Etendeka Traps, this means the mountains seen in Paraná, Brazil are made of exactly the same rock as those in Namibia’s Etendeka Plateau. That catastrophic event occurred around 10 million years before the mass extinctions at the Jurassic-Cretaceous boundary when 37% of marine genera including ammonites, corals and bivalves vanished.

The Etendeka Plateau, eroded over time yet still almost 900m deep in places, makes for a stunning wilderness concession of 40,000 hectares. Views from the Grootberg Mountain over the flat-topped mountains and valleys are outstanding, and the Etendeka region is fantastic for nature walks and horse riding, and for immersion in the fascinating geology of the area. Oryx, Hartmann’s mountain zebra, kudu, klipspringer and black eagle may be seen, and It is possible to track desert adapted elephants and black rhinos as well as visit local Himba villages should they be resident in the area at the time of your visit (Himba are semi-nomadic so might not be there).

Skeleton Coast National Park

The subject of numerous tales of adventure, tragedy and survival against the odds, the Skeleton Coast National Park, which stretches from to Ugab River in the South to the Kunene in the North, is named after the remains of rusting shipwrecks and whale bones strewn along the shore and into the inhospitable desert hinerland. Mariners who survived shipwreck in the treacherous conditions offshore found themselves washed up into a surreal and beautiful landscape yet one without shelter, food or fresh water.

However, this harsh wilderness reveals abundant life to those who know where to look. Cape fur seal colonies support jackal and brown hyena; oryx and springbok are well-adapted to the desert conditions, and ostrich, giraffe, black rhino, desert elephant and lion roam the edges of ephemeral riverbeds. Flora include unique lichens, dollar bushes and the wonderful welwitschia.

Purros Conservancy

The Purros Conservancy in Kaokaoland is a beautiful wilderness based around a rural village next to the Hoarusib River, 55km east of the Skeleton Coast and approximately 200km south of the Kunene River. The area is home to the Himba tribe, nomadic pastoralists with a culture that is fast being usurped by modern ways. The transition between traditional and new ways of life can be clearly seen in Purros.

The Purros is perfect for nature drives along the ephemeral Hoarusib riverbed and into nearby mountains for a chance to see desert-adapted elephants, giraffe, baboons and springbok, and a stop at a spectacular look-out point for views over the vast wilderness. Accessible only by 4×4 or light aircraft, Purros makes for a different and exclusive safari experience far away from the more popular wildlife reserves.

Hartmann Valley

Nestled in the Hartmann Valley and inaccessible except by light aircraft, Serra Cafema is a remote lodge set in a land of contrasts. The permanently flowing Kunene River with its waterbirds and crocodiles flows right in front of the lodge, surrounded by a verdant pocket of vegetation. The backdrop is an unspoilt lunar landscape of dunes, plains (with the strange fairy circle phenomenon) and mountains of the Namib Desert. Unusually for Namibia, activities include wildlife viewing by boat as well as nature drives, quad biking in the dunes and interpretive walks in the mountains and by the river. A nearby Himba village welcomes visitors (when occupied) from Serra Cafema, where guests have the opportunity to learn about the tribe’s traditional way of life.

The Kunene River

Forming the border between Namibia and Angola, the Kunene River is a permanently flowing watercourse in an untamed landscape and traditional home to Himba people. The region offers a wonderfully contrasting experience to other areas of Namibia, with the chance to explore by boat and spot water-loving animals such as crocodiles and rare birds such as the rufous-tailed palm thrush and Cinderella waxbill as well as Rüppell’s parrot, Bennett’s woodpecker, violet wood-hoopoe and more – there are around 240 species in total with 10 endemics.

Epupa Falls

On the Kunene River and reached by 4×4 from the town of Opuwo in the far north (Kaokoland), Epupa Falls descend 60m over a distance of 1.5km in a series of cascades over colourful rocks. The falls are named ‘Epupa’ in Herero language for the waterfalls’ spray – particularly evident after the rains. In Angola the same falls are known as Monte Negro Falls. The surrounding area is unspoilt, offering interesting flora such as baobabs, makalani palms, maroelas, anna trees and wild figs as well as medicinal plants such as brown-stem corkwood and hoodia – the latter a hunger suppressant used for centuries by San bushmen and now used globally in slimming pills.

Featured

Wildlife Holidays

Accommodation

Featured Places To Stay

Serra Cafema

Luxurious, remote safari camp with a peaceful ambience on the banks of the flowi...

Desert Rhino Camp

A wonderfully remote camp committed to conserving highly endangered, desert adap...

Onguma Bush Camp

A family-friendly lodge with bush-chic styling that ensures guests are cocooned ...

Ongava Tented Camp

An elegant, intimate lodge set amidst a wildlife- rich patch of mopane woodland ...

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Namibia: -22.512557, 18.369141

Your Very Own

Namibia Specialist

Alan Godwin

Area Specialist

If you have limited time, or simply wish to enjoy the sublime views and luxury of flying between locations, fly-in safari holidays work very well indeed. Lodges often have their own airstrips, enabling you to cover great distances and experience a variety of locations with hardly any road travel.

If you have any questions regarding travel to Namibia, please feel free to contact me on +44 (0)1803 866965