Your African Escape
Etosha National Park is the third largest in the world, covers more than 20,000 km2 and is home to 340 bird species and 114 mammals.
The main area of the Park is covered by a vast salt pan which originated 12 million years ago as a shallow lake fed by the Kunene River. Eventually the lake dried up as a result of climatic conditions and volcanic activity in the area, and the pan is now only occasionally covered in water. When this happens the usually dry expanse becomes a riot of colour as the area becomes a haven for flamingos.
The pan is not accessible to visitors, but the surrounding, flat bushveld is dotted with many waterholes which are easily reached via the network of well-maintained gravel roads.
The vegetation is dominated by mopane trees and sparse shrubs. In the western part of the park is the strange ‘haunted forest’ of Moringa ovalifolia trees; looking as though they have been planted upside down with their roots reaching up into the clear skies, they offer a mysterious ambience to the area.
Namibia is a vast country in the South-Western part of Southern Africa, also known as the smile on the face of Africa. It is dominated by the Namib Desert, an extensive inland plateau and stunning mountain ranges.
By its very definition, Namibian safaris are off the beaten track, with a surface area that is four times the size of the UK and just over two million people, Namibia is the second most sparsely populated country on Earth.
The Namibian landscape varies from vast expanses of desert and sand dunes to rock formations in the south, contrasting starkly to the savannah and woodlands of the central regions and the lush and forested scenery of the northeast. This makes a real treat for the nature enthusiasts who tour in Namibia. The Brandberg with a height of 2 579 meters in the southern Kunene Region is Namibia’s highest mountain, while the Fish River Canyon in the far south is the second largest canyon on earth.
Namibia is also home to the 8th largest protected area in the World, the largest underground lake in the world and was the first country on Earth to include nature conservation into its constitution.
Namibia is a melting pot of cultures and peoples, with 28 languages spoken; English being the national language. Namibia is a safe destination with a wide network of roads which are well maintained and demarcated – with a wide variety of lodges to suite every pocket. Hence, a holiday in Namibia is a fantastic opportunity for self-drive, but also a destination for every taste.
Namibia is bordered by South Africa in the south, Angola and Zambia in the north and Botswana and Zimbabwe in the east; while the Western border of Namibia is 1,300km of seemingly desolate coastline, from the Orange River in the south to the Kunene River in the North. The Namib Desert, meaning “vast place” in the local Nama language is where the country takes its name and is the oldest desert in the World, with reputedly some of the highest sand dunes on Earth. For some this is the main highlight of their Namibian tours.
The local currency is the Namibian Dollar, which is pegged to the South African Rand. The South African Rand is legal tender in Namibia which makes changing money prior to arrival much easier for visitors.
Namibia offers a diverse range of highlights; from the lush northern Caprivi Strip and the wildlife of Etosha National Park to the vast Namib Desert and the desolate Skeleton Coast, Namibian safaris have something for everyone.
Namibia stretches along Africa’s west coast and covers a total land area of 824,290 sq km. It is bordered by Angola and Zambia in the north, Botswana in the east and South Africa in the south. Although the majority of the country is very arid, there is much variety to explore during a safari in Namibia from the dune fields and coastal desert plains in the west to the 1660m high central escarpment, the densely wooded bushveld in the north and the lush, green Caprivi Strip.
The coastal region receives only 15 to 100mm of rain per year.
The long, narrow Namib desert from which the country derives its’ name, stretches 2,000km from the Oliphants River in South Africa to San Nicolau in Angola. Hence, the entire coastal strip of Namibia falls within the realms of the Namib Desert.
The climate is arid with a usually brief rainy season between October and March. The desert days are extremely hot with summer temperatures reaching into the 40’s centigrade and sometimes higher. Nights are, conversely, very cold and warm clothes are needed in the early morning during your Namibian holidays. A major factor in the shaping of Namibia’s environment, flora and fauna has been the cold Benguela current which flows south to north off the coast, up from the Antarctic.
The cold waters reach the coastline and meet warm, offshore winds to create a fog belt which condenses on land. For some this creates a scenery that will become a part of their memories of Namibia Holidays. This moisture sustains many varied and fascinating species of plant and animal including the toktokkie beetle which has an interesting method of gathering the water from the condensing fog. The beetle stands with its’ behind raised in the air and waits for the fog droplets to condense on its carapace and flow into its mouth! Such unusual forms of plant and insect life form the basis of a surprisingly rich and varied desert food chain.
The mountainous red dunes of the coastal desert give way to gravel plains as the altitude rises inland. The width of the coastal plain varies; in Luderitz it is almost 300km wide whereas it is almost none existent in the Kaokoveld area to the north where the mountains reach almost to the sea. The Namib itself is criss-crossed by many dry riverbeds leading the way from the mountainous highlands to the coast, most of these rarely carry water although some will flood briefly in years of high rainfall.
Millions of years ago, however, these river beds carried huge volumes of water and were responsible for carving out spectacular canyons such as the famous Fish River Canyon in the south of the country, great for hiking safaris as a part of your holiday in Namibia. The inland landscape boasts chains of dramatic mountains and inselbergs. Some of these are volcanic with caves and rock shelters where remains of ancient human habitation have been found.
The desert vegetation consists of many drought resistant species such as the nama melon, various lichens and some stunted acacias. Desert species give way to savanna grassland near the central escarpment which is dominated by Stipagrostis, Eragrostis and Aristida species. Areas of aloe plants, euphorbias and quiver trees are found in the south and buffalo and camel thorn acacias grow along watercourses. The Caprivi Strip is characterised by Mopane woodlands, acacia belts and grasslands as well as reed-beds near the rivers.
The wide variety of vegetation across the country supports an equally staggering array of insect, bird and animal life creating fantastic photographic opportunities during the safari in Namibia. The “big five” rhino, elephant, buffalo, leopard and lion are represented across the country, and in addition approximately 20% of the world’s cheetah population is found in Namibia.
The bird life is equally prolific with many water birds supported by the rich fish stocks and several hundred land based species present throughout the country. Namibia is home to the worlds’ largest bird, the ostrich, as well as the worlds’ heaviest flying bird, the Kori bustard.
The earliest inhabitants of Namibia were the San, also known as bushmen, a small number of whose descendants still survive in remote areas of the country living a traditional, nomadic lifestyle. Initially the San lived in widespread groups of low population density, moving around frequently. They were always incredibly well adapted to their harsh environment, and the many skills which have been passed down through the generations are still relied upon today in a few of their remote settlements.
Over time the San came under pressure from Khoi-Khoi (Hottentot) groups, ancestors of the present day Nama tribes, who are thought to have moved into Namibia from the south. The Khoi-Khoi relied on raising cattle rather than hunting for survival, and they were probably responsible for making the oldest pottery fragments found in the archaeological record. Many of the San were absorbed into the Khoi-Khoi way of life, and latter references are made to the ‘KhoiSan’ people, an amalgamation of the two original tribes.
Bantu tribes arrived in Namibia around 2,300 years ago, bringing with them the first tribal structures in Southern African societies. The majority of the KhoiSan retreated further into the desert or to Botswana, those who remained in the more accessible areas of the country risked enslavement by the Bantu tribes. Around 1600AD Bantu speaking cattle raisers from the Zambezi occupied the North and West of Namibia, these people were known as the Herero tribe. There followed conflicts with the KhoiSan for the best grazing land and water holes. Most of the KhoiSan and the Damara people (whose origins are unknown) were displaced and only a few remained to hold out against the Herero.
By the 1870’s a new Bantu group, the Wambo, probably descended from East African migrants, had settled in the North of Namibia along the Kunene and Okavango Rivers. The Wambo now constitute the largest tribal group in Namibia.
The first European visitors to Namibia were the Portuguese. Initially the coast of Namibia was largely ignored. Further exploratory voyages occurred during the 1600’s, but these were based out of Dutch colonies in the Cape. The first white explorer to travel overland from the Cape across the Orange River to Namibia was a Dutch elephant hunter in 1750.
He was swiftly followed by a progression of traders, hunters and missionaries. The Cape colony government then decided to put the ports of Angra Pequena (the present day Luderitz) and Walvis Bay under their ‘protection’ as they perceived a threat from British, American and French colonisers and obviously saw the value of these ports. The ubiquitous missions began to spring up around 1805 with stations established in Windhoek, Rehoboth and Keetmanshoop towards the middle of the century.
It was around this time that Britain began to take an interest in the more lucrative areas of Namibia and in 1867 the country annexed the guano islands off the coast of Angra Pequena in order to exploit the guano for fertiliser.
Walvis Bay and the surrounding area was also annexed by Britain in 1878 as the only deep water port in the country. Britain subsequently took a prominent role in maintaining law and order in the KhoiSan/ Herero wars. Although at this point Namibia had a number of colonial influences, it was Germany that finally emerged as the dominant power. In 1883 a German merchant named Adolf Luderitz bought the port of Angra Pequena from a Nama chief, and the town was subsequently named after him. Namibia was put under German protection in 1884 following conflict between Germany and Britain and the boundaries were finally agreed in 1890 between the British in neighbouring Becuanaland (Botswana), the Portugese in Angola and the Germans.
The German take over was facilitated by a colonial company, a similar procedure to that of the British in India. Unfortunately this company was unable to maintain law and order among the many different tribes and colonial influences, and the first German troops arrived in Namibia in the 1890’s. They built elaborate forts which can still be seen across the country.
Between the 1890’s and the First World War, the German Reich took over all of the Khoi and Herero land and demolished most of their tribal structures. During this time the majority of the arable land was taken over and distributed among German settlers.
During World War One South Africa was pressurised by Britain to take Namibia over from Germany, and an invasion was eventually effected in 1914. German troops were pressed northwards until their defeat at Khorab in 1915. In 1921 a League of Nations mandate was signed which gave power to South Africa and many of the German farms were sold to Afrikaans settlers. During this time the Bantu tribes were subjected to territorial demarcation similar to the South African ‘homelands’ policy. This remained in place until independence in 1990.
South Africa maintained control over Namibia despite growing international pressure from 1950 onwards. The rich mineral deposits and the countries strategic importance was enough incentive for the colonists to hold onto power for as long as possible. Towards the 1970’s however, many other African countries had gained independence and the struggle for Namibia was gaining momentum. During this time the first conference involving all of Namibia’s eleven ethnic groups gathered.
Attempts at self-government began in the 1980’s with a Multiparty Conference and the Transitional Government of National Unity being established in 1985. The South African government remained responsible for foreign affairs and defence. A huge South African military presence involved itself in a messy bush war against the SWAPO “terrorists” who based themselves just across the border in Angola with the backing of Cuban forces.
An end to this futile war was reached on April 1st 1989 with Cuban forces agreeing to pull out of Angola in return for the granting of independence to Namibia from the South African government. Full independence was achieved on 21st March 1990 under UN supervision, and the government has remained SWAPO dominated ever since.
Today, Namibia’s population numbers around 1.7 million with approximately 25% living in urban areas. The growth rate is around 3% and 44% of the population are under 14 years old. Life expectancy is now 41 years for men and 40 years for women. Around half of Namibia’s population are reliant on agriculture for their living, much of this at a subsistence level. With the country being dominated by desert, the country’s carrying capacity is close to being reached, even taking into account the tiny population! Windhoek is the capital city, and is situated conveniently almost in the geographical centre of the country. Windhoek is home to the Supreme Court, parliament buildings, international airport, museums and art galleries.
The Namibian head of state is president, Hifikepunye Pohamba, who was elected by popular vote on 21 March 2005. The government is headed by the prime minister, who, together with his cabinet, is appointed by the president. SWAPO, the primary force behind independence is still currently the country’s largest party.
The main opposition party is the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA) which is a moderate, 11 party alliance. Thus far the government has remained stable and elections based on universal franchise are held every five years. The Namibian legal system is based on the Roman-Dutch rule of law, and the constitution was drawn up for independence with UN recommendations in 1990.
Despite the lack of water and local fuel sources, Namibia is still a very prosperous African country. The main reasons for this success have been a constant effort to attract foreign investment and a reasonably sensible approach to the exploitation of natural resources.
The mainstays of the economy are mining (mainly diamonds and uranium), agriculture (cattle and karakul sheep), fishing and tourism. Tourism has now overtaken fishing in terms of revenue earnings. The high quality diamond deposits are found in alluvial sands and gravels and are mainly extracted by strip mining. In addition to uranium and diamonds, Namibia also has reserves of lithium, germanium, silver, vanadium, tin, copper, lead and zinc.
Commercial farming is mostly carried out in the central and southern areas of the country. Subsistence farming occurs widely in the higher rainfall areas of the north. Over the years the commercial emphasis has shifted from cattle to game ranching, this is due to the high incidence of drought and the fact that game animals are infinitely better able to cope with these harsh conditions than cattle. Many benefits can be seen in this approach; the main one being that habitats are able to return slowly to an ecological equilibrium much closer to the natural state. Indigenous game animals also exert a lot less grazing pressure on the land due to their varied diet.
The Benguela current is responsible for the rich fishing waters off the coast of Namibia. The cold waters swelling up from the Antarctic are rich in plankton and sustain plentiful shoals of anchovy, pilchard and mackerel as well as the larger tuna and swordfish and rock lobster and oysters.
The north of Namibia (Etosha National Park and the Caprivi Strip) is a malaria area and recommended prophylaxis should be taken. The remainder of the country poses practically no risk. Your doctor can advise you on the best type for the area of travel and your personal requirements. However, taking prophylaxis will not guarantee that you will not contract malaria! The best way to avoid malaria is to avoid being bitten by the mosquitoes that carry the parasite. Only the females of one species of mosquito (Anopheles ) carry the tiny parasite, and the greatest incidence of malaria is in areas of high population where there are many people for the mosquito to bite and pass the parasite between.
Mosquitoes usually bite between sunset and sunrise, so make sure that you are covered up during this time! Wear loose fitting, long sleeved shirts and trousers, use a good insect repellent and sleep underneath a mosquito net or in a tent/ room sealed with netting. If you do develop flu-like symptoms, or feel at all unwell, during your holiday or after your return home, you must make sure that your doctor knows that you have recently travelled in a malaria area. Malaria is not a serious problem provided people take adequate precautions and seek advice and treatment immediately if they feel unwell.
Namibia’s major private hospitals are of a good standard with clean and safe facilities. However, serious medical cases will be evacuated by air to South Africa where further facilities are available. For this reason you must make sure that comprehensive travel insurance is taken out before you travel, this insurance should cover any medical expenses, air evacuation and repatriation if necessary.
The water is safe to drink throughout the majority of Namibia. When visiting the remote areas purification tablets should be used, or bottled mineral water bought en-route. Plenty of water must be drunk to prevent dehydration. We recommend 2-3 litres minimum, excluding beverages such as tea, coffee, juice and alcohol. Dehydration is responsible for many emergency evacuations and can cause very serious problems, it is totally avoidable, so don’t let this spoil your holiday!
Pros: Quieter tourism period, lush green landscape, fantastic migrating birds, beautiful sunsets and stunning views of electrical storms
Cons: Wildlife is more spread out, very warm temperatures; activities may be interrupted by rain.
Pros: Higher chances of excellent game viewing, cooler, few mosquitoes in the north.
Cons: Busiest tourism period, cold mornings and evenings, drier environment.
Our personal preference would be for either March-May or early November as these times are neither too hot nor too cool and the accommodation establishments are generally quieter. At both times of year the wildlife is usually very exciting and the heat is not extreme. The coastal weather is unpredictable, and this area is blanketed with fog for up to 9 months of the year! However, during summer this can provide a welcome respite from the desert heat.
Bring plenty of memory cards and a spare camera battery as these items may not be available in some of the more remote areas of Namibia. A good zoom lens (minimum 200 mm) is essential for wildlife photography.
Neutral, muted colours such as khaki, dark green or beige ensure as little disturbance to wildlife as possible whilst on game drives or walks. White or bright colours are not advised and army camouflage uniforms or army hats are not recommended.
Neutral coloured casual clothing (shorts/shirts) for everyday wear, stout shoes (with soles thick enough to protect against thorns and for walking), light waterproof jacket for summer, warm jumper/ fleece for winter, warm long trousers for winter, two sets of good casual clothes for evening dining where appropriate, towel, broad brimmed hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, camera, plenty of memory cards & spare battery, binoculars, reliable torch, sleeping bag if camping. It is also worth noting that if you are travelling by light aircraft or as part of a guided safari, you should carry no more than 10-15kg of luggage in a soft bag for ease of packing.
The Namibian currency is linked one to one with the South African Rand. Each dollar is divided into 100 cents. The South Africa Rand is interchangeable with the Namibia dollar in Namibia and all Rand notes and coins are accepted. However, the Namibia dollar is not accepted in South Africa! Namibian dollars are difficult to get hold of outside the country and it is easier to purchase cash in South African Rand before travelling. US$ can be easily exchanged throughout the country, as can Euro and pounds sterling. Traveller’s cheques can also be changed in banks and most accommodation establishments accept credit cards, mainly Visa or Mastercard, although this should be checked before arrival. Fuel can be purchased with credit cards, but cash is still the preferred method of payment. In the more remote areas they might not have credit card machines either.
Visitors from the European Union and the USA can obtain tourist visas for up to 3 months at the border. Please contact us for details regarding your personal visa requirements.
Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, is located in a basin between the Khomas Hochland, Auas and Eros Mountains. It is 1,680m above sea level, 650km north of the Orange River and 360km from the Atlantic seaboard. The city is situated in what is almost the country’s geographical centre. This location has obvious benefits when it comes to governing a country the size of Namibia, and also makes it the ideal place to begin your Namibian holiday. Windhoek is home to approximately three hundred and fifty thousand people, an extremely small capital by global standards. This number is growing rapidly at present mostly due to a lack of employment in rural areas.
The city centre is characterised by a proliferation of German style buildings, a lasting reminder of Namibia’s early colonial history. Early buildings such as the Alte Feste (old fort), Christuskirche and Tintenpalast (the parliament buildings) are of particular historical interest. Other notable buildings in Windhoek include St Mary’s Cathedral and the Turnhalle Building.
Windhoek has had several names over the years, many inspired by the hot water springs found in the area, the earliest of which were the Damara /Ais //Gams (/ indicates a click in Nama spelling) which means firewater, and the Herero Otjimuise or place of steam. Several opinions are offered for the origin of the present name; the most popular of these is that sometime before 1840 Jonker Afrikaner, a Nama leader, named the area Winterhoek, after the farm in South Africa where he was born. Windhoek, or windy corner, is a corruption of this name. During the day the city centre has a European cafe culture, German cuisine dominates, but Namibian influence can be found in the quantity and quality of meat on offer, (vegetarians be warned, Namibia is carnivorous country!) Saying that, the streets are choc-a-bloc with people of all ages and cultures, all bearing a wonderful sense of pride, hope and ambition.
South of Sesriem is the NamibRand Nature Reserve, one of Southern Africa’s biggest privately owned reserves covering an area of some 200,000 hectares. Synonymous with some of Africa’s most breathtaking locations, the Reserve originated in 1992 as the dream of J.A. (Albi) Brückner – to extend desert frontiers by integrating a large number of former livestock farms. To date, thirteen former livestock farms have been rehabilitated into a single continuous natural habitat. The result is a sanctuary free of fences allowing the wildlife to once again roam their habitat unhindered.
The NamibRand Nature Reserve is a non-profit private nature reserve. All landowners belonging to the Reserve have signed agreements and adopted a constitution that sets aside the land for conservation – now and in the future. NamibRand is bordered by the Naukluft Park in the west and the impressive Nubib Mountain range in the East. The special attraction of the reserve is the diversity of desert landscapes where mountains plunge into endless grassy plains, interspersed by red vegetated dunes.
Game species found in the reserve include gemsbok, mountain and plains zebra, springbok, red hartebeest, bat-eared fox, spotted hyena, cape fox and African wildcat. The more rocky areas are inhabited by kudu, klipspringer, baboon and leopard while the dunes harbour a rich and diverse micro-fauna. Over a hundred species of birds have been recorded. In 2012 the NamibRand was designated as an International Dark Sky Reserve, a prestigious honour and yet another reason to visit this unique area and experience the splendour of the night skies!
Sossusvlei and Sesriem present one of the most spectacular images of Namibia. Sesriem means ‘six thongs’ and refers to the Sesriem canyon, the water at the bottom of which could be reached by lowering a bucket on a length of six leather oxen thongs. Sesriem Canyon is located close to the Sossusvlei National Park campsite and is relatively small but a perfect destination for a Namibia Desert Safari.
Sossusvlei literally means ‘saucer pan’ and is a shallow, dry pan located 60km from the campsite and surrounded by high, red coloured dunes shaped into spectacular forms.
In occasional years of high rainfall, the pan is flooded with a shallow layer of fresh water, causing the desert to bloom and photographers to flock to the area.
Here the sand is at its reddest and the dunes are higher than anywhere else in the Namib, some climbing up to 300m high. Sunset and sunrise are spectacular and it is well worth exploring the area at this time of day to experience the fantastic colours and light which floods the desert landscape. Guided walking trails can be arranged in this area as well as the nearby extensive and beautiful Namib Rand Nature Reserve.
The Kalahari Desert covers the entire western and central regions of Botswana and stretches into Namibia and South Africa. With an average annual rainfall of 250mm, it is not a true desert but rather a “thirst-land” with grasses and scrub vegetation prevailing. Despite the lack of surface water, the area supports a great variety of plants, animals and birds and many of these species have developed fascinating adaptations to their harsh environment. Because of its remote and arid nature, the Kalahari is difficult to access and human interference continues to be minimal, the area is therefore extremely important for conservation.
The best time to visit the Kalahari is between December and April when the rains bring the area to life and the harsh plains are transformed into swathes of lush grassland
Two distinct conservation areas exist within the Kalahari; the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in central Botswana and the Kgalagadi Trans-Frontier Park in the south west of the country.
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve covers a vast area of 52,800km2 (the approximate size of Holland and Belgium combined) and was originally established in order to provide protection for the San bushmen who still live in increasingly small and remote communities within the reserve. The landscape is predominantly sand with dry fossil valleys, dune fields and grassy plains. The Reserve itself is one of the largest in Africa, and the second largest protected area in the world.
Pans such as Deception Dry Valley, Piper Pans and Sunday Pans fill with water during the rainy season and attract great numbers of giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, gemsbok, springbok, eland, cheetah, lion, leopard and wild dog. In addition to these larger species, the area is home to many smaller animals such as spring hare, suricate (meerkat) and bat eared fox.
The Kgalagadi Trans-Frontier Park was established in 1999 and incorporates the previous Gemsbok National Park of Botswana and the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park of South Africa. The Park now covers an area of just under 38,000km2 and is managed as a single ecological unit with the co-operation of both Botswana and South Africa. Rolling grasslands and pastel coloured sand dunes provide the backdrop for a range of species including hartebeest, eland, springbok, gemsbok, leopard, lion, cheetah and the rare brown hyena. The Park is also a haven for thousands of birds, more than fifty raptor species occur here. Infrastructure is extremely basic at present with camping sites being the only form of accommodation.
Swakopmund is a fascinating and intriguing resort town, complete with German architecture, monuments, historic buildings, well-maintained gardens, palm tree lined avenues, coffee bars and great seafood restaurants. Temperatures rarely drop below 15C and rainfall is practically zero, however, the town is subjected to 9 months of morning fog each year. These damp and grey conditions often result in cool temperatures persisting for the whole day, but this mist band, stretching up to 30km inland, gives water and life to the desert plants & animals and sustains 80 types of lichen, as well as the unique Welwitschia plants. The many ingenious adaptations to water collection, like the Tok-Tokkie beetle which condenses vapour on its’ raised back, make for fascinating walks and drives in the ‘Moon Landscape’ or ‘Welwitschia Drive’, located close to the town. Please ask us for advice on restaurants, the more popular ones should be booked in advance and we are happy to do this for you.
There are many adventure activities on offer including sand-boarding (lie down or stand up), tandem sky-diving, fishing or quad biking which can be arranged prior to arrival. We can also recommend some excellent day trips including one which visits the marine sanctuary of Sandwich Harbour, a unique environment comprising towering dunes, a freshwater lagoon and the wild Atlantic Ocean. Alternatively, a half day catamaran cruise from Walvis Bay may offer the opportunity to see dolphins, fur seals and many species of marine birds, as well as enjoying some sparkling wine and local oysters on board. Other half day trips which are a lot of fun include the Living Desert tour which takes you into the dunes near to Swakopmund, in search of uniquely adapted creepy crawlies, kayaking with seals from Pelican Point in Walvis Bay, or a specialist birding trip in the area. Some activities can be booked at the last minute, but we recommend booking in advance to avoid disappointment.
There are also some very interesting attractions in the town itself that you may wish to visit. The Crystal Gallery has displays of Namibia’s mineral wealth, and an area where kids (or adults!) can collect a bag full of semi-precious stones. The National Marine Aquarium only displays indigenous Atlantic Ocean species and has a wide variety of fish, some sharks, rays and smaller inhabitants of the rich Benguela waters. The Snake Park houses a fascinating display of Namibian snake species as well as some confiscated exotics, and the Swakopmund Museum near to the main beach offers an interesting insight into the history of this town.
This mountainous area of Namibia is situated between the extreme desert aridity of the skeleton coast and the central plateau. Damaraland offers spectacular scenery and a variety of attractions ranging from fascinating geological formations to unique vegetation and the only UNESCO world heritage site in Namibia, the largest collection of ancient rock art in Southern Africa. The Petrified Forest can be found a few kilometres west of Khorixas and is the final resting place for a collection of huge, fossilised tree trunks. These trees were once part of an ancient forest and are thought to have been washed down from higher ground by floods.
Around fifty trees can be seen and are thought to be around 200 million years old. Most are members of the gymnosperm family. Local guides escort visitors around an organised circuit and share their knowledge of this unique landscape feature. Twyfelfontein is located a little further west of the Petrified Forest, the name means ‘doubtful fountain’ and is so called due to the unreliable water supply. It is yet another example of Namibia’s stunning scenery and also contains what is said to be the largest collection of rock art in Southern Africa. The majority of art consists of rock etchings made by using stone chisels to cut through the hard outer crust of the local sandstone. Most of the work dates back around 6000 years and was probably undertaken by San hunters. Many of the huge boulders used as a surface for these ancient pieces of art have subsequently moved from their original resting places and it is quite possible that many more etchings lie beneath rocks overturned by thousands of years of natural disturbance.
More rock paintings can be seen at the Brandberg Mountains, north of Uis. This is Namibia’s highest mountain at 2573m and is strewn with pottery fragments and stone tools. The famous ‘white lady’ painting can be seen here, located in a protective shelter on the mountainside. This specific painting is around 40cm high and due to its unusual colour, extensive debate on its origin has taken place. Some have put forward the view that the painting represents a San spirit, some more far-fetched hypotheses are that it depicts an alien or a Caucasian time traveller! Whatever the origin, it is a thought provoking piece of ancient art which, although never satisfactorily dated, could be part of a frieze painted as long as 16,000 years ago. The Brandberg is also known as ‘Fire Mountain’, so named because the western face glows a vivid and beautiful red in the face of the setting sun.
A 12km long volcanic ridge can be seen just south east of Twyfelfontein. Known as Burnt Mountain, this ridge looks very much as though a raging fire has decimated the area. Although very little grows here, the rocks become alive during sunrise and sunset when the whole area glows a burnt umber colour.