Namibia really is a hidden gem. Virtually unknown to the west, Namibia is a country full of geological and biological diversity creating beautiful and breathtaking scenery that is truly one of a kind. Two years here may seem like a long time, but since teaching will take up most of my time, I will only have a few short breaks in between school trimesters to see all that the country has to offer. Here are the top five destinations that I hope to be able to see during my time in Namibia.
Fish River Canyon
The second largest canyon in the world (behind Arizona’s Grand Canyon), the Fish River Canyon is one of Africa’s least visited wonders. With that being said, it is important to book ahead if you are trying to hike the 80-90 kilometers from Hikers’ Viewpoint to Ai-Ais since numbers are limited to a maximum of 30 hikers per day. The hike follows the river within Ai-Ais national park where vehicles never venture.
Namib Naukluft National Park/Sossusvlei
Covering almost 50,000km^2, the Namib-Naukluft National Park is one of the largest national parks in Africa. The park protects some of the oldest desert scenery in the world and there are many fascinating flora and fauna that call this desert home. The highlight of the park is the Naukluft Trail, a 120km, circular 7-8 day trail that winds through the varied landscape along river beds, through gorges, and up rocky mountains to prestine plateaus. The most famous attraction in the park is Sossusvlei, home to some of the largest sand dunes in the world.
The Skeleton Coast
Treacherous fog and strong currents have forced many ships to wreck along this stretch of coast. Even if the sailors survived the wreck, they were then stranded in the barren landscape of the Namib Desert, the world’s oldest desert. The northern part of the park beyond Terrace Bay is restricted to fly-in visitors making it one of the most remote areas on the planet. While it may seem like a barren wasteland, many incredible animals have adapted to thrive in this climate. The brown hyena is common in these areas though seldom seen and lions have even been spotted preying on seals. Desert adapted elephants call this area home as well as oryx, kudu, springbok, steenbok, jackals, genets, and even giraffe.
This area of Namibia is historically significant as well as ecologically and geologically interesting. Waterberg Plateau park centers on a plateau of compacted sandstone 250m high. The sandstone is highly permeable, but the mudstones below are impermeable, resulting in several springs at the base of the southern cliffs. At the top of the plateau, there is a patchwork of deciduous forest and grasslands. This diverse landscape allows the park to support a large variety of wildlife. Several endangered species have been relocated here such as the white rhino, roan, and sable antelope in an effort to start viable breeding herds. Birding is also popular here with more than 200 species on record. A war cemetery from the Waterberg battle during the 1904 Herero uprising can be visited in the park.
Home to one of Africa’s greatest concentrations of rock art and engravings, Twyfelfontein was declared a world heritage site in 2007. Two guided hikes around the area take approximately 30 and 45 minutes respectfully. Nearby Twyfelfontein is Organ Pipes and Burnt Mountain. Organ Pipes is a unique rock formation of hundreds of tall, angular columns of dolorite some reaching 5m high. About 1km beyond Organ Pipes lies the Burnt Mountain. When the rock catches the morning or late afternoon light, the mountainside glows as if it were on fire. Other closeby attractions include Wondergat, a large hole in the ground thought to be the remnants of a subterranean cave whose roof collapsed and the petrified forest. These petrified trees lie on a bed of sandstone and are thought to have been carried as logs by a river some 260 million years ago and then became stranded on the sandbank.
I know I said five, but Victoria Falls is not actually in Namibia (although it is very close) so you get a bonus number six! Victoria Falls is in Zambia and Zimbabwe just past the end of the Namibian pan handle. Victoria falls has been described as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world, but it is classified as the largest based on it’s combined width and height, resulting in the world’s largest sheet of falling water. It is roughly twice the height of Niagara Falls and well over twice the width of Horseshoe Falls.
Namibia is a land of stark contrasts, striking beauty, and inhospitable landscapes. Any trip to Namibia is a guaranteed adventure which will not disappoint. So when are you coming?