The south of Namibia is wide-open and arid, but it's this very austerity that makes the region so fascinating. Arguably the country's most spectacular geological phenomenon, the Fish River Canyon cuts an impressive 161 km long gorge into an otherwise flat landscape. From here, attractions are spread across great distances, the reward being the land's peace and quiet. To the north, you'll find the Quiver Trees Forest.
To the south, the hot springs of Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, and to the west, the Sperrgebiet, an immense restricted access area rich in gem quality diamonds. Luderitz, the area's biggest town, is situated on a forbidding and varied stretch of coast and is famous for fresh crayfish and oysters depending on the season.
Situated in the largest conservation area in Africa, Sossusvlei is possibly Namibia’s most spectacular and best-known attraction. Characterized by the large red dunes that surround it, Sossusvlei is a large, white, salt and clay pan and is a great destination all year round. The dunes in this area are some of the highest in the world, reaching almost 400 meters, and provide photographic enthusiasts with wonderful images in the beautiful morning and evening light.
Sossusvlei literally translates to “dead-end marsh”, as it is the place where the dunes come together preventing the Tsauchab River to flow any further, some 60km east of the Atlantic Ocean. However, due to the dry conditions in the Namib Desert the River seldom flows this far and the pan remains bone-dry most years. During an exceptional rainy season the Tsauchab fills the pan, drawing visitors from all over the world to witness this spectacular site. Photographic enthusiasts are spoilt with a glassy “lake” holding reflections of the surrounding dunes. When the pan fills it can hold water for as long as a year.
Despite the harsh desert conditions in the area, one can find a wide variety of plants and animals that have adapted to survive.
The name Skeleton Coast derived most probably from the huge numbers of stranded whales that lost their life here and whose skeletons could be seen all over the place. The Himba who are settled in the far north-eastern parts of Namibia used the whale bones for building their huts.
Numerous ships have stranded at the Skeleton Coast thanks to the thick fog, the rough sea, unpredictable currents and stormy winds. The sailors who were able to make it to the land did not stand a chance of survival at this inhospitable coast and died of thirst. Despite the hostile character of the Skeleton Coast, there are quite a number of wild animals to observe, for example desert-adapted elephants, rhinos, desert lions, brown hyenas, jackals, giraffes, seals, oryx, kudus and zebras. Also some plants are incredibly adapted to the rainless area of the Skeleton coast and depend solely on the daily fog from the Atlantic Ocean: There are welwitschias, lithops succulent plants (often called “living stones”), lichen and pencil bush (ink bush).
Since Etosha National Park is the gateway to Northern Namibia and Ovamboland, it’s a very popular stop on any Namibia Safari. Above all, it is known as Namibia’s foremost wildlife sanctuary.
The landscape is unique and varied and subsequently home to a wide variety of animals. For example lion, elephant, leopard, giraffe, cheetah, hyena, springbok, two kinds of zebra, eland and many more species of wildlife are found here. What makes this park unique is the floodlit waterholes at all the main camps. Some of the camps even have photography hides near the waterholes. Of course, Etosha is any photographer or nature lover’s dream. Most of the lodges have private decks or verandas to observe the pristine landscape.
The area is rich in natural wildlife and has mineral resources. Of particular interest to the government of Namibia is that it gives access to the Zambezi River and is thereby a potential trading route to Africa's East Coast. However, the vagaries of the river level, various rapids, the presence of the Victoria Falls downstream and continued political uncertainty in the region make this use of the Caprivi Strip unlikely, although it is used for ecotourism.
Within Namibia the Caprivi Strip provides significant habitat for the critically endangered African wild dog. It is a corridor for African elephant moving from Botswana and Namibia into Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Local communities have organized themselves into communal area conservancies and community forests.
The „Damaraland“ is part of the Kunene Region in the north-west of Namibia and is located between the Brandberg and the little village of Sesfontein. The Damaraland is characterized by its rocky and rugged landscapes of rough, fascinating beauty.
The flora and fauna of the region have adapted perfectly to the harsh weather conditions of high heat and persisting droughts. Here you find the desert-dwelling elephants who with elongated limbs and broader soles are able to handle the extreme rock and sand desert better and can travel for kilometers in the dry river beds in search of water. Also the critically endangered desert lions managed to adapt to the arid climate. Numerous endemic desert plants are found in the Damaraland such as the poisonous but photogenic Euphorbia Virosa and the ancient Welwitshia Mirabilis.
An Extraordinary Safari Experience
The landscape is Namibia’s defining natural asset. People use all sorts of words to describe it: vast, endless, magnificent, unimaginable, among others. Good words as far as words go, but they don’t really do Namibia’s top attractions justice. There simply is no frame of reference, nothing that comes close to seeing the sunset at Sossusvlei, spending the day playing at Swakopmund or visiting the Himba in Damaraland.
Few countries can match Namibia’s natural beauty.
The country’s name derives from its desert, the Namib, and there are few more deserts on the planet, from the sand sea at Sossusvlei to the sand dunes plunging down to the sea at Sandwich Harbor and the Skeleton Coast.
Inland, running through the heart of the country, a spine of mountains creates glorious scenery – With rivers in the Caprivi Strip and the endless grass plains of the Kalahari, it’s difficult to think of an iconic African landscape that Namibia doesn’t possess.
Etosha National Park belongs to the elite wildlife-watching destinations – big cats, elephants, black rhinos and plains game in abundance.
The Damaraland is a wonderful place to see desert-adapted elephants and lions, and it also hosts Africa’s largest population of free-ranging rhinos. Away to the north, along the Skeleton Coast, shipwrecks only heighten the sensation that humankind is here very much at the mercy of the elements and at some point during your stay in Namibia, you may well look around and wonder if you’ve fallen off the end of the earth.