Before this latest trip to Namibia, I had not been there for many years. My impressions of the country and its people were through the eyes of a child. Back then my family did a long road trip through Namibia, and I can remember the insane distances we were driving and the intense heat (it was mid-summer). And the sand and rocks everywhere. I did have fond memories of the trip though – it was just so different from everything I knew.
Willie and I visited Namibia in mid-winter which made the whole trip more bearable. But the insane distances and rocks and sand were still there. So what impressed us about Namibia?
From the moment you cross the border the scenery starts changing. I had wanted to document our whole Namibian experience and started to whip out my camera at the border post, when Willie pointed out that may not be a smart move. The border police might find that a little suspicious. So I had to contain my excitement until we had been through border control and driven a little way into Namibia.
Besides the really iconic landscape and landmarks like the Fish River Canyon and Soussousvlei, almost every vista showed an amazing rock formation or desert scene. We stopped numerous times just to stare in wonder and take photographs.
Namibians are friendly and intensely proud of their country. Speaking to the locals you almost got a sense that they could not understand why you would want to live elsewhere. They are also very good hosts – they welcome visitors to their country and want to show off their country. We met a lot of especially European tourists (mainly Italians and French visitors) on our travels there.
The travelling distances in Namibia are enormous. In 2 weeks we travelled 7643 kilometres, and we didn’t even cross the country from south to north, west to east. However, the roads are very good – even the numerous dirt roads one has to travel to get to specific landmarks. The dirt roads were really well maintained and very wide – almost like runways.
Namibia is a great place for tourists to visit. There are a lot of lodges, car hire companies and tourist guides.
We were impressed by the fact that in a lot of places we stayed, free WiFi (or “Wiffie” as the locals called it) was available to guests. Something we hadn’t experienced in South Africa at that stage – where at the time one paid for a WiFi connection in hotels and lodges.
The Wildlife Conservancies
Namibia is one of few countries in the world to specifically address habitat conservation and protection of natural resources in their constitution. Article 95 states, “The State shall actively promote and maintain the welfare of the people by adopting international policies aimed at the following: maintenance of ecosystems, essential ecological processes, and biological diversity of Namibia, and utilization of living natural resources on a sustainable basis for the benefit of all Namibians, both present and future.” – Wikipedia
Through the above legislation local communities have been able to “create conservancies that managed and benefited from wildlife on communal land while allowing the local community to work with private companies to create and manage their own tourism market.” (Wikipedia article). The Wikipedia article is an excellent introduction to the conservation issues faced in Namibia, and the role of the Wildlife Conservancies.
This is such a brilliant idea. Not only does it help conservation efforts, it provides much needed income and job opportunities for the local communities. So it gives value to conservation and gets the local communities invested in maintaining those natural resources and ecosystems.
We came across several of these conservancies in our travels. At Twyfelfontein the local community manages a site which has unique rock carvings which we done by their own ancestors. They operate everything from the information centre and kiosk, to having guides from the community take visitors to the site and give lectures about the rock carvings and the history of the area.
At Spitzkoppe we stayed in a camp which was run by the local community.
In the Tirasberg area, four farms “teamed up to form the Tirasberg Conservancy which covers 125 square kilometres. The Conservancy protects, ecologically manages and aims to make the beautiful Tiras Mountains area accessible to tourists.” (Tracks4Africa) This area had some unique rock formations. With the permission of one of the farmers, one can drive through the area and look at the landscape and the wild animals (mostly antelope) roaming across it.
The Etosha National Park
This is in the northwestern Namibia and “spans an area of 22,270 square kilometres (8,600 sq mi) and gets its name from the large Etosha pan which is almost entirely within the park. The Etosha pan (4,760 square kilometres (1,840 sq mi)) covers 23% of the area of the total area of the Etosha National Park. The park is home to hundreds of species of mammals, birds and reptiles, including several threatened and endangered species such as the black rhinoceros.” (Wikipedia article) It is a stunning place to visit and a huge tourist attraction.
In future posts I’ll be discussing all of the places mentioned here in more detail. But I think you can see from these highlights that Namibia is definitely worth a visit!