Namibia in the southwest corner of Africa is distinguished by the Namib Desert along its Atlantic Ocean coast. Home to diverse wildlife, including a notable cheetah population, the country’s charm extends from the German-era buildings in Windhoek to the salt pan of Etosha National Park in the north.
Yet, it’s the sheer vastness and sense of space that define Namibia, a land where extremes converge in a single, mesmerising journey through the wilderness.
These are some of the primary areas to include on your itinerary.
Etosha National Park: Renowned Wildlife Sightings
One of the largest savannah conservation areas in Africa, Etosha National Park is world-renowned for its spectacular wildlife sightings of elephants, and black and white rhinos – often gathered together around a waterhole. In the rainy season, the salt pan becomes a haven for migratory flamingos, turning the landscape pink. Whether you find solace in simply gazing at the landscape or capturing raw wildlife moments, Ethosha is a Namibia essential. Exclusive photo hides and private decks offer intimate viewings, while guided bush walks and twice-daily game drives are popular pastimes in the park. The winter months are ideal for wildlife enthusiasts, while summer beckons birdwatchers.
Onguma Game Reserve: Unforgettable Escape
Onguma, translating to ‘the place you won’t leave,’ is home to four exceptional lodges, each offering a spectrum of experiences. With over 30 wildlife species, including the elusive black rhino, Onguma promises quiet moments and wild game adventures. Birdwatchers can spot a myriad of species among the reserve’s 300, making it an ideal retreat. Walking safaris, tree-top stays, and offroad game drives await, with easy excursions into the neighbouring Etosha National Park. More at: https://onguma.com/
Ongava Private Game Reserve: Rhino Haven
Nestled between the mountains south of Etosha National Park, the 30,000 ha Ongava Game Reserve is touted as being ‘one of the most exclusive destinations in Namibia. It holds to this statement and strives endlessly through fierce conservation efforts to do good by the beautiful wilderness it occupies. One of the few reserves in southern Africa where visitors will have the chance to see both Black and White Rhino as well as the opportunity to track White Rhino on foot with an experienced guide. The reserve also offers bird watching, 4×4 guided game drives and guided game walks. More at: https://www.ongava.com/
Damaraland: An Ancient Land
Damaraland, one of Namibia’s most dramatic wilderness areas, unfolds stark plains and rugged mountains painted in hues of rust and purple by the setting sun. Geological wonders and desert-adapted wildlife grace this land, with attractions like Burnt Mountain, Organ Pipes, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site Twyfelfontein. Petroglyphs dating back thousands of years, including the iconic White Lady, a 40 cm frieze depicting a lady in white holding a bow and arrow in one hand and a flower in the other, tell tales of a captivating past. You will also find the critically endangered desert lion in this region as well as various endemic desert plants such as the photogenic (but poisonous) Euphorbia virosa and the ancient Welwitschia mirabilis. A geologist’s paradise, with its striking geological formations and ancient wonders.
Read my blog post: Onduli Ridge in Namibia’s Dramatically Beautiful Damaraland.
Swakopmund: A Taste of History and Cuisine
Swakopmund lies along the Atlantic coastline where the desert meets the wild ocean and offers a unique blend of natural beauty, German-inspired architecture and thrilling adventure opportunities. Adventures abound in the Moon Landscape’s eroded canyons, and quad biking on nearby dunes is a local favourite. May to October is the optimal time to savour the region’s offerings. Stroll along the picturesque promenade, breathing in the refreshing sea breeze and enjoying panoramic views of the ocean. Walk through the town’s streets, where well-preserved buildings stand as reminders of the past. Notice the blend of European and African aesthetics, with intricate facades, ornate balconies, and colourful buildings lining the streets. Spend time walking on the beach and listening to the rhythmic sounds of the wild waves. Indulge in thrilling water sports such as kiteboarding or surfing.
Sossusvlei: Scaling Africa’s Highest Dunes
Sossusvlei, a barren desert of ever-changing colours, offers a surreal landscape where the sand turns shades of pink and red. From hot air balloon rides for a bird’s eye view to sliding down towering dunes, the inner child finds joy. As the sun rises and casts its golden glow on the dunes, the landscape transforms into a magical palette of colours. Climb the iconic Dune 45 or challenge yourself to conquer Big Daddy, some of the highest dunes in the world, to be rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views. Explore the surreal Deadvlei, a clay pan dotted with ancient camelthorn trees, their gnarled and desiccated forms contrasting against the stark backdrop of the dunes. The surreal landscapes of both offer truly unique and unforgettable experiences, allowing you to connect with the raw power and timeless beauty of the desert.
Skeleton Coast: A Haunting Maritime Tale
Namibia’s hauntingly beautiful Skeleton Coast is a remote and mysterious stretch of coastline aptly named for the numerous shipwrecks scattered along its shores and the skeletal remains of whales that once populated the area. The cold and unpredictable Benguela Current of the Atlantic Ocean clashes with the dune and desert landscape of north-western Namibia here. Holding a dramatic beauty, the often foggy coast and soaring dunes have long been a graveyard for unwary ships and their crews, hence its forbidding name. From this vast desert landscape to its resilient wildlife, the Skeleton Coast offers an extraordinary highly photographic adventure that will leave a lasting impression. This protected area stretches from Sandwich Harbour, south of Swakopmund, to the Kunene River, taking in dunes and gravel plains to form one of the world’s most inhospitable waterless areas in the world’s oldest desert. More at: https://naturalselection.travel/camps/shipwreck-lodge-2/
Namib-Naukluft National Park: Arid Beauty Unveiled
Covering 50,000 km2 in the Namib Desert, the Namib-Naukluft National Park is a wilderness of terracotta dunes, vast plains, and shimmering savanna. As Africa’s largest conservation area, it provides an authentic desert safari experience. Oryx, kudu, giraffe, springbok, black-backed jackals, African wild cats, aardvarks, and leopards thrive, showcasing life’s resilience in this harsh environment. From towering dunes to rugged mountains and vast gravel plains, the park offers a diverse range of landscapes to explore. Thrilling desert drives have you witnessing the ever-changing colours and shapes of the dunes. Discover the Sesriem Canyon, carved by the Tsauchab River over millions of years.
For assistance with planning your Southern and East Africa safari, please reach out to me on firstname.lastname@example.org and I will happily assist, putting my two decades of working in the industry towards ensuring your African travel expectations are met.
** Pics sourced, with Onguma, Ongava, Onduli lodges, and Shipwreck Lodge, featured.