5 Wonders of Namibia
Namibia is undoubtedly any traveller and photographer’s dream. This spectacular country boasts a topographical variety of the wilderness in the north, the miraculous dunes of the Namib Desert in the south, the flat Kalahari lands in the east and the breathtaking Fish River Canyon to the south.
TravelGround made a list of a few of the wonders of Namibia that are a must-see if you’re lucky enough to travel through this awe-inspiring country.
Does history and unique town characteristics make your pulse race? Then the deserted town of Kolmanskop, a once thriving diamond-mining town on the West Coast of Namibia, might just be the cure for your curiosity.
This so-called ghost town was founded in 1908 when a rail worker discovered a diamond in the area which lead to Kolmanskop being built up to a German-influenced town. The little town had everything its residents needed to function: a sports hall, hospital, power station, ballroom and theatre. At some point Kolmanskop had nearly 1 200 residents.
German settlers thought they’d hit the jackpot on this one, but after the end of World War I, the mine was on the verge of exhaustion. After a larger diamond discovery south of Kolmanskop in the mid 1950s, the town was abandoned, leaving it vulnerable to Mother Nature and Namibia’s brutal sandstorms. Sixty years with no residents allowed the sand dunes to take back their territory, leaving only the skeletons of buildings and making it a fascinating landscape for photography.
Visitors should just be sure to apply for a permit before visiting this awe-inspiring ghost town.
The Skeleton Coast boasts unreal views from afar ─ the ocean touching the shore shaped by infinite dunes. But it is on land where this fascinating area gets its haunting name. The coast is scattered with whale and seal skeletons left behind by the former whale industry which made quick work of hunting these sea animals. Shipwrecks are also buried in the sand here, mostly because of the hidden rocks offshore. If humans were lucky to survive the shipwreck itself, they were definitely not lucky enough to survive the harsh environment. The Portuguese sailors didn’t call it “Gates of Hell” for nothing, and the Namibian Bushmen spoke of “the land God made in anger”.
Why would you go here then, you ask? This scary-sounding area is seen as one of the most pristine, eerily beautiful shorelines in the world. It starts north of Swakopmund toward the Angolan border, consisting of about five-hundred kilometres of shoreline and two-million hectares of dunes and gravel plains. The area forms a national park, divided by the Ugab and Hoanib rivers in the south, and the Hoanib and Kunene rivers in the north.
Travellers can apply for permits to take a day trip to the south of this region, but the northern, more extreme part called the Skeleton Coast Wilderness, is for the true adventurers only. Those of you who wish to explore this pristine area should know that, in order to protect the environment, only about 800 visitors a year are allowed to come to this area.
You can spot some of the hauntingly beautiful shipwrecks that are still stuck on this ruthless shoreline, or slide down the dunes while they roar angrily!
Astoundingly, the indigenous Himba tribe of Namibia, as well as some elephants and lions call this deserted wasteland home. With there being no light pollution, the Skeleton Coast boasts crystal-clear skies and therefore breathtaking star-gazing opportunities.
Adventurous souls can also enjoy sandboarding en quad biking on the endless dunes of the Skeleton Coast and this area is famous for providing excellent surfing conditions.
Etosha National Park
A trip to Namibia is not complete without going to Etosha National Park ─ one of the world’s finest wildlife-viewing parks where you’ll get to see the great beasts of Africa. This enthralling park offers various unique experiences with its epitome being the Etosha Pan, a great, flat white mineral pan, that sometimes changes into a shallow lagoon, booming with pelicans and flamingos. This pan is so enormous (about 4 800 m²) that it can be seen from space! The dry season forms a contrast with the shallow lagoon that sometimes appears after heavy rainfall, where everything in the park looks like it’s covered with white chalk ─ hence the nickname “Great White Place”.
A San legend has it that a village was raided thousands of years ago and all the members of the tribe were slaughtered, except the women. One of them was so upset about her family that she cried until her tears formed an enormous lake, and after it dried up, nothing but the big pan was left.
Etosha offers wonderful camps where visitors have access to restaurants, shops with basic goods, garages and swimming pools. The park has its own morning, afternoon and night guided safaris, and private lodges in the area also offer daily game drives into Etosha where you are bound to see elephants, lions, gemsbok, black rhinos, more than 340 bird species, and many other magnificent creatures in their natural habitat! Etosha is truly unique in the sense that the watering holes that surround the camp ensure that you can merely sit and wait for the game to come and quench their thirst ─ especially during winter. It’s a photographer’s paradise!
If you want to experience Africa in its purest form, please be sure to keep in mind that Etosha is extremely popular, therefore pre-bookings are highly recommended.
You can stay at these places in and around Etosha for an experience straight from your wildest dreams:
Swakopmund is Namibia’s main holiday destination, with its pleasant climate, stretched beaches, top accommodation, captivating architecture, seaside promenades and activities for every Tom, Dick and Harry ─ how can you go wrong?
This breathtaking town offers activities such as dune carting, quad biking, sandboarding, parachuting, hot air ballooning, deep sea fishing, beach angling and sky diving, so you have no excuse to sit around twiddling your thumbs.
One of the most exciting activities to take part in is without a doubt quad biking on the dunes outside Swakopmund. You can access a part of the dunes that not even 4x4s can reach, and those who are a bit unsure of their quad biking skills, can get training and guidance from quad bike pros! There are also combo tours that offer a combination of quad biking and sandboarding. If you’re longing for a bit of adrenaline, this is definitely the thing for you, and rest assured, the quad biking companies are completely legitimate and therefore make conserving this precious environment a priority.
For those of you who like to play it safe, Swakopmund boasts beautiful German architecture due to its German colonial history, so visitors can take in the timelessness of the town while taking long walks through the unique streets, admiring various buildings and monuments.
The Swakopmund Sightseeing Tour promises great opportunities to see the interesting German and British influence on this town, especially on an architectural level, as well as what modern day Swakopmund means to its residents from all different social groups. The interesting geographical setting of this town is also what contributes to its unique and breathtaking character, seeing that it is situated between the contrasting natural elements: the ice cold Atlantic Ocean and the scorching Namib Desert, the contrast of which often forms a mystical fog bank.
Whether you want to enrich your Namibian knowledge or you’re keen for an adrenaline-filled adventure, there is an abundance of accommodation opportunities in Swakopmund!
Between the coastal towns Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, you will find the highest dune in the area, namely Dune 7, which is about 383 metres high from the base. If you’re planning a trip along the coast of Namibia, Dune 7 definitely has to be on your to-do list.
This intimidating dune has become an increasingly popular tourist attraction, and with good reason. Not only does Dune 7 offer the opportunity for curious visitors to test their climbing abilities (and fitness), it also offers astounding views from the top, with the Atlantic Ocean on the one side and the endless dunes on the other, as well as sightseeing and adventures that will make your heart race!
Be sure to be on the lookout for the interesting little creatures that inhabit this area, such as the cartwheeling spider, the Namaqua chameleon, sidewinder snake (that lives just beneath the sand with only its eyes and tail showing), and the Namib dune gecko.
The adventure activities on Dune 7 include a guided quad bike tour that takes you to the heart of some of the highest dunes in the Namib Desert, sandboarding in two styles ─ either standing up on a board or lying down on a flexible sheet ─ as well as monster truck rides over the dunes. For the less brave, there are also sundowners while admiring a spectacular desert sunset, and a curio and art shop. If you’re all out of ideas for an eccentric venue for your next event, Dune 7 can even be booked as a venue for cocktail parties, birthday parties, corporate events, and more!
Don’t miss out on getting some champion calves while climbing this massive dune, or just enjoying magnificent views while drinking some sundowners in the Namib Desert.
When visiting Dune 7, be sure to also explore the coastal town of Walvis Bay about seven kilometres away. This town promises interesting experiences such as the Sandwich Harbour tour, kayaking and canoeing, world-class cuisine, spectacular views as well as bird-, dolphin- and whale-watching on a boat trip.
A one-day visit to Dune 7 is definitely not enough, so stay at these places in the area to do some more exploring for a little longer:
Don’t wait any longer to go on that long-awaited road trip filled with adventure and natural charm. Start planning a trip to this special country and be ready to be astounded by true Namibian beauty every step of the way.
Feature image: Bigstock