Historic towns swallowed by shape-shifting desert sands, shipwrecks thrust from the frothing Atlantic onto rolling dunes... Namibia’s rampant beauty is accompanied by a palpable sense of respect for nature's power. A photographer’s paradise and nature-lover’s delight, Namibia’s wealth of environments are home to Africa’s most stunning survival specialists, including desert elephants and the black rhino.
Namibia’s epic landscapes, reaching endlessly to the wide horizon, ever-changing into shapes alien and new, set the ultimate stage for wildlife safaris, hikes and road trips in this most eerie and spectacular of destinations. Rise early for pinch-yourself views over the Namib Desert’s elegantly-slinking dunes, glowing red under swirling morning mists; or to the south, venture into the barren salt and clay pans of Sossusvlei, where dead acacias punctuate vast orange vistas. Self-drive in moonscapes punctuated by mysterious granite kopjes to fully appreciate Namibia’s primeval terrain, or fly from blissful beaches to vibrant national parks over what could easily be the surface of Mars, if not for the shadows cast by patrolling elephants. Stake out a waterhole at Etosha National Park to witness ostrich, zebra and kudu march through featureless chalk-white salt pans to quench their thirst under the watchful eyes of prowling lions. Due west, the aptly-named Skeleton Coast is littered with the rusting shells of unfortunate vessels, while to the east lies the semi-arid Kalahari, hunting ground of the enigmatic cheetah.
Safari in the Caprivi Strip’s nourishing waters to spot hippos, crocodiles and elephant herds; watch graceful giraffes disturb hornbills in Damaraland trees; visit the Okonjima reserve, protecting Namibia’s regal big cats; or kayak in Walvis Bay, home to an astonishing colony of seals. Trek the boulder-strewn Erongo Mountains or the Huab Valley’s parched clay to encounter ancient cave paintings, some 3,000 years old. Echoes of a more recent past are apparent in colonial Swakopmund’s cream-laden pastries and cured biltong; in Windhoek’s Germanic architecture overlooking colourful open-air markets; and in the sand-smothered ghost town of Kolmanskopp, where a diamond-mining settlement has been partially devoured by the dunes. Then there are Namibia’s indigenous tribes – the San Bushmen, tongue-clicking Damara, and ochre-painted Himba peoples – all smiles, generous laughter and inquisitive interactions. There truly is something for everyone in Namibia, and with the on-the-ground experience of our regional specialists, we’ll show you exactly where to look.
To call Namibia’s extraordinary landscapes a backdrop would be to completely miss the point – they take centre stage. This is the natural world at its most brutal and untethered, manifested in towering dunes and serpentine chasms, frothing waterfalls and treacherous coastlines. You can drive for days without seeing a soul, instead freeing your own in the wide, open, untouched world around you.
Roughly translating to ‘dead-end marsh’, this region in the southern Namib boasts giant dunes, some 400 metres in height and 5 million years old, and crusty pans decorated by long-dead skeletons of trees, cracking under the intense heat of the desert sun. To fully appreciate the scale and age-old beauty of Sossusvlei, climb one of its sweeping orange dunes for breath-taking panoramas over a desolate land.
Home to Africa’s famous ‘Big Five’ – lion, elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros – Namibia’s abundant and various habitats showcase the continent’s most spellbinding wildlife, from the lofty giraffe to the speckled guinea fowl. Lie low with the lions at Etosha’s waterholes, waiting for commuting herds of zebra, springbok, kudu and ostrich to come to you, or track the elusive black rhino on its lonesome desert ramblings. Venture into the rarely visited Caprivi Strip to witness elephant herds and snorting hippos frolicking in lush wetlands, a world away from the deserts further south.
Namibia’s cultural history is richly-decorated: cave paintings at Twyfelfontein display the artistry of ancient hunter-gatherers, brightly-painted Germanic townhouses are a nod to a colonial past, and indefatigable tribes retain their elegant customs and intimate knowledge of the land to this day. Enduring sweltering days and freezing nights, OvaHimba women apply protective red otjize paste to their skin under domed huts, or San Bushmen hunt with a cool wisdom etched into vigilant faces.
A nature reserve with a difference, the remarkable AfriCat Foundation works towards the rehabilitation of Namibia’s displaced cheetahs, leopards, lions and wild dogs. Safaris here offer unique opportunities to watch off-their-game carnivores return to their lethal best, from watchful cheetahs perched on termite mounds to confident leopards lounging in their favourite tree.
A more laid-back alternative to Swakopmund’s toytown atmosphere, Walvis Bay is the seaside gateway to Namibia’s ocean-dwelling wildlife. Feast on sumptuous seafood while looking out over the dainty silhouettes of thousands of flamingoes, dodge lumbering pelicans on the promenade, paddle between dolphins and seals on a kayak, or hit out into whale-spotting waters, where humpbacks and orcas emerge from deep Atlantic swells.
Highlights of Namibia Self-Drive
13 days from £4,665 pp incl. flights
Explore Namibia’s beautifully austere, wildlife-rich landscapes from the Namib Desert to Sossuslvei. Enjoy desert stays, Big Five game drives and 4WD self-drive routes that take you off the beaten track, as well as coastal cities that host wild seal colonies and laid-back beach resorts alike.
Spirit of Namibia
12 days from £6,995 pp incl. flights
Venture in search of wild elephants, rhinoceros and more on this safari exploration of rugged Damaraland, surreal, otherworldly Skeleton Coast and the endless ochre expanses of the Namib Desert – all the while staying at some of Namibia's finest luxury safari camps.