Namibia is one country that I have always wanted to visit in Africa. I think it’s because it was the first country to become independent in my lifetime. I was a geography nerd as a child (still am) and had a huge collection of atlases and almanacs. A new country appeared one day in the latest edition and it fascinated me. How can you just make a whole new country?!?!?
Statistically not as successful at Botswana, Namibia is still one of the better performing countries in Africa. At first glance, Namibia actually looked a lot nicer than Botswana, especially in the towns where buildings looked newer and cleaner. Grocery stores were bigger and there were a few more amenities available than what I had found in the previous countries. Looking a little bit closer, I could start to see the differences. Formerly a German colony, Namibia was transferred to South African control after World War I and the South Africans imposed their apartheid policies on their new territory. Evidence of those policies remains today: townships, high income inequality, and high crime rates (though it definitely felt way safer than South Africa).
Crossing the border, we drove several hundred kilometres to the capital city of Windhoek. Our attempt at doing something touristy during the afternoon failed when the National Museum was or wasn’t open. We still aren’t sure. Some doors were unlocked but there was nobody there except a mumbling lady out front. She may have been homeless or she may have been a security guard. Again, we still aren’t sure. It was in Windhoek that we picked up a herd of ten more travellers to join our group. From there, we packed a lot into the next eleven days. How am I going to fit this into one blog post?
A few highlights of my time in Namibia:
Etosha National Park:
Along with Chobe in Botswana and Kruger in South Africa, Etosha is considered one of the best national parks for wildlife spotting in southern Africa. We had several game drives there where we saw many species that we had seen before along with several new species including the sociable weaver – a tiny bird that builds massive communal nests – and three species of antelope: oryx, springbok, and red hartebeest. We also stepped onto the Etosha Pan – the giant salt flat that makes up a huge chunk of the park. The best part of Etosha, however, was our campsite. On the edge of our campsite was a giant waterhole with a plethora of seating around one side of it where campers could sit and watch the wildlife get their drink on – both by day and by night. On our first night (and our second night), we saw our fourth of the Big 5: the rhino! Actually, it was several rhinos… and elephants… and giraffes… and a lion which totally spooked the giraffes. It was such a treat to just sit in the dark, quiet area and watch the animals go about their business at the dimly lit waterhole. AMAZING!
After Etosha, we headed to an area called Twyfelfontein. There, we visited two main attractions: the Living Museum – which interactively demonstrates the traditional way of life of the local Damara people – and an area of ancient cave paintings and rock engravings which became Namibia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site just a few years ago.
We camped at Spitzkoppe – a massive collection of rocks in the middle of nowhere. The afternoon was spent wandering and climbing over the rocky area, and at night, with no electricity (or any other facilities) at the campsite, the stars were out in full force.
On the coast lies Namibia’s second city and one of its biggest tourist hubs: Swakopmund. Home of adventure sports, I opted to join most of the group for a quad biking adventure on the giant sand dunes that surround the city. After realizing that I’m not really one for adventure sports, I spent the next day having brunch and taking a leisurely walk to explore the town. On the third day, our group did a township tour to explore the apartheid past of the city.
Heading back inland, we ventured into the great nothing: the Namib Desert. It was here that I saw my first quivertree – one of my 103 Things! We also saw two important new species: the mountain zebra (which is different to the Burchell’s zebra that we had been seeing previously) and the CHEETAH! The animal crossed the road well in front of truck but our guides had a great eye and we were able to stop and locate it in the bush. It was then that I had an uncontrollable craving for Cheetos…
Elsewhere in the desert, we took a Living Desert tour where we learned all about life in the desert, including some plants, quirks with the sand, and hidden life buried just below the surface. We visited two canyons: Sesriem Canyon – which was small enough for us to walk down into – and Fish River Canyon – the second largest canyon in the world. The desert is an endless sea of giant sand dunes and no trip to Namibia is complete unless you climb up one, which we did at Dune 45 for sunset one day. We ended our tour of Namibia just as the scenery started to change to include a bit more green. Our last night camping in Namibia was alongside the Orange River which acts as the border of Namibia with South Africa. The river looked inviting so a few of us opted for a swim in what turned out to be frigid temperatures. Was it worth it? Sure. Would I do it again? No. My balls won’t let me.
Feed me, Seymour:
It was in Swakopmund where I found my first real café and decent coffee in weeks (YAY!!) but that was just the tip of the food iceberg. Our lovely guide, Jess, introduced us to bobotie – a Cape Malay dish made of mince beef. I also had my first fish & chips in Swakopmund (yes, I know, that’s ridiculous). I gave the mopane worm another go, but unlike the dried version in Zambia, this one was fried. It was greasy. It was meaty. And it left an aftertaste that did not want to go away. There’s nothing like a 10am beer to try to erase the flavour of a worm. Ick! The highlight of the food scene, however, was the game meat! Namibia restaurants were filled with meat from local animals, and despite not being a huge meat eater, I decided that I should try the local fauna. On our first night, my friend Jemma and I tried a skewer with five big chunks of meat on it: crocodile, zebra, and three antelopes: kudu, oryx, and springbok. Oryx are the only antelope that can really survive in Namibia’s harsh desert conditions, and their prevalence meant that they were on a lot of menus. I experienced oryx three more times in Namibia in the forms of a schnitzel, tostada, and pizza.
Eleven days in Namibia was an absolute success. The country didn’t disappoint at all (well, except for the crappy red velvet cake I got one day). But all good things must come to an end, and I was long overdue for some quality time with a proper big city. Cape Town, here I come! But first, let me take a quivertree selfie.
To see more photos of my time in Namibia, follow this link: