As the world’s second least densely populated country after Mongolia, Namibia is a great choice of destination if the idea of travelling for miles without encountering a single soul (of the human variety, at least!) appeals to you. Aside from this, the sheer variety of landscapes, activities, wildlife experiences and affordable accommodation on offer make this an attractive option for every traveler. Here are just some of the uniquely Namibian attractions you could encounter when you visit!
Only in Namibia – unusual attractions
The Hoba Meteorite site, Grootfontein
You’d be forgiven for expecting a gigantic crater around the site of the largest known meteorite on the planet, but it’s thought that this massive 60 ton meteorite -which is estimated to be at least 200 million years old – actually ‘bounced’ here from its original site during impact. Interestingly, the American Museum of Natural History in New York tried to purchase the meteorite in 1954… only to find they couldn’t move it! Today you can visit the site near Grootfontein to marvel at this ancient visitor from outer space.
Kolmanskop ghost town
Founded on the heels of a diamond rush before World War I, Kolmanskop was once a thriving town complete with theaters, casinos, hospitals, and even the first X-ray station in the Southern Hemisphere. The diamond rush ended as a more profitable location was found in Oranjemund, and the town emptied virtually overnight. Today, the abandoned buildings have filled with sand from the surrounding desert, giving this ghost town a particularly eerie feeling that is well worth experiencing!
Old world charm at Swakopmund:
Nestled on the seashore and famous for its beautiful architecture, Swakopmund is a popular destination with locals and international visitors alike. The German colonial buildings are a reminder of the days when the area was considered an important harbor, and many famous buildings such as Hohenzollern House, the Swakopmund Lighthouse and ‘The Mole’ are located here. In fact, the old jailhouse is so attractive that it often gets mistaken for a hotel!
Today, well-tended public gardens and palm trees make this pretty seaside town along with its wide variety of hotels, restaurants and shops a favorite place to lay anchor on your holiday. For the more adventurous traveler, it’s also an excellent location to try your skills at sandboarding the steep local dunes! Beginners can start off sandboarding on their tummies before attempting a standing position similar to surfing.
With almost half the entire country dedicated to national parks, wilderness reserves and communal conservancies; as well as the fact that it was one of the first countries to include protection of the environment in its constitution, Namibia is a shining example of sustainable tourism.
One of their best initiatives are the ‘living museums’, which aim to help preserve the way of life of the indigenous people while uplifting poor communities and preserving the environment at the same time. Some of the indigenous groups they work with include the San, Damara and Bantu.
Namibia has the largest wild cheetah population in Africa, with 3,500 cats out of the 10,000 cheetahs remaining in the wild found here. It is also a critical conservation area for the endangered black rhino. It’s also an excellent choice if you would like to undertake a self-drive trip across the country, taking in the landscape and wildlife as you go.
Perhaps the most famous reserve is the Etosha National Park, which is regarded as one of the best safari destinations on the continent. It’s a dream come true for aspiring wildlife photographers, as countless species gather around the water holes together to quench their thirst. Sightings of lion and even leopard are relatively common here, and if you want to complete your tick list of The Big Five, you can head to Bwabwata National Park on the border with Angola, Botswana and Zambia to see some of their 1,000 Cape buffalo.
Become a stargazer:
One of the biggest bonuses for a country which is so sparsely populated is the incredibly low level of light pollution. Combined with the dry atmosphere (meaning plenty of cloudless nights) and a good position for viewing the stars of the southern hemisphere, this makes the Namibian skies some of the best in the world for astronomy. In fact, the NamibRand Nature Reserve was named an “International Dark Sky Reserve” in 2012. So make sure to take your telescope with you if you’re heading out camping!
The Sossusvlei Desert Lodge even has night viewing facilities, complete with a 12-inch telescope and resident astronomer.
Best time to visit:
As with most game reserves, the easiest time to spot animals is during the dry season when the vegetation is less dense and animals tend to congregate around the water holes. In Namibia this is between the months of May to October, which is their peak season.
You’ll find cheaper rates during the wet season, and while the animals can be harder to find, this is the best time to see newborns and migratory birds.