Namibia is a country that needs to be discovered and experienced. The arid open spaces will not appeal to everyone at first sight but at a second glance Namibia unfolds a wealth of geological and cultural history, an unexpected diversity of plants and wildlife, a rough and pristine coastline and an untouched wilderness that will give nature lovers and explorers at heart much to discover.
Namibia’s most prominent features are the Namib Desert and an almost hostile coastline. Behind rough icy waters and a sea of sand lies a rocky expanse that has been largely unchanged through the ages. Characteristic rock formations such as Spitzkoppe or the Brandberg and the Fish River Canyon are obvious landmarks, but Namibia is speckled with curiosities such as underground lakes, weirdly shaped rocks, meteorites, petrified forests, flat topped mountains and the Etosha salt pan that is so large that it can easily be seen from space. The oddly shaped Caprivi Strip on the other hand is fed by an abundance making it an uncharacteristically green oasis in an otherwise arid country.
Fauna and Flora
Namibia has a wealth of open space, a rare luxury these days. The 824 268 km² area is populated by only 2.5 million people; that is a population similar to that of Paris spread over an area larger than France. Many places in Namibia seem untouched by tourism or the modern world. Despite being a largely arid country Namibia is home to most of Africa’s big game species. Etosha National Park is renowned for its excellent game viewing and accommodates rare species such as the black rhino. The Caprivi Strip with its thick vegetation and abundant water is filled with life and still quite undeveloped. Other areas are less dense with big game but the unique habitats of the Namib Desert, the Skeleton Coast or the Sperrgebiet foster a diverse indigenous fauna and flora as well as well known species that have adapted to the harsh conditions. While green is not one of Namibia’s characteristic colours, this expanse of rock and sand is still highly interesting for botanists. Curious species such as the quiver tree, welwitschia mirabilis brave the dry climate and the Succulent Karroo of the Sperrgebiet has been declared a biodiversity hotspot.
Namibia’s People and History
The oldest inhabitants of Namibia are the San, the Nama and the Damara. Later other tribes including the Owambo and the Herero migrated into the country. Westernization took hold Namibia when Chancellor Bismarck proclaimed South West Africa a German protectorate. The Germans were driven out of the country by South Africa during World War I. After a long liberation struggle between the SWAPO (South West Africa People’s Organisation) and South African forces Namibia became in independent country in 1990.
German and South African influence can still be found throughout the country. While coastal towns such as Swakopmund and Lüderitz and even the capital, Windhoek are still soaked with German architecture, cuisine and culture Namibia’s population made up of 13 cultural groups. The bulk of the population lives in the capital city Windhoek and in the traditional land of the Owambo north of Etosha. Throughout the 106 years of foreign rule many of Namibia’s original inhabitants have managed to preserve much of their culture and traditions. The Himba of the Kaokoland and the San of the Kalahari still practise many aspects of their traditional lifestyles and happily share their knowledge with visitors.
Economy and Tourism
Agriculture, mining, fishing and tourism are the strongest elements in Namibia’s economy. Livestock is the largest contributor to the agricultural sector of the economy, while the fishing industry lives on the fertile Benguela Current. Namibia’s mines produce some of highest quality diamonds, uranium, zinc, copper and salt.
The combination of vast and untouched conservation areas with an excellent infrastructure is turning Namibia into one of Africa’s top tourist destinations. More accessible than other African countries Namibia still offers wildlife, dramatic scenery and anything from luxury lodges to real adventures.