Namibia has always been an aspirational destination for nature lovers and those who hanker after its stunning desert landscapes and hidden cultural treasures. But with the rand now weakening against the pound, the favourable exchange rate makes Namibia an even more attractive holiday proposition. And what is more, Namibia can also offer competitively priced safari experiences to rival those of neighbouring South Africa and Botswana, the routine choices for similar wildlife tours.
What’s new in Namibia for 2019?
Until recently, the breath-taking Namib Desert has mainly attracted the attention of hardy trekkers crossing over from the bordering countries of Botswana and South Africa, or visitors willing to make the journey from Zimbabwe. However, this beautiful corner of south-west Africa has now significantly upgraded its facilities to include a number of upmarket lodge venues. There are still simple guest houses available, but Namibia can now accommodate those looking for sophisticated luxury.
Omaanda, a five-star lodge located just outside the capital city of Windhoek, can boast a heated infinity pool and boutique spa, which should be enough to make it a dream destination for most visitors. Beyond this, Sonop, an equally classy sister location, is a tented-chalet camp in the Namib Desert which plans to open in summer 2019 and will feature a 1920s British-colonial vibe. Another recent addition is Sossus Under Canvas, an exotic private tented camp which is close to the fascinating Sossusvlei region of red sand dunes, as well as the Nest at Sossus, a sensational new private villa with a thatched exterior design inspired by the nesting habits of the weaver bird.
Further striking innovation awaits in Namibia’s far-northern region where the shipwreck-shaped cabins of Shipwreck Lodge nestle amid the sand dunes of the Skeleton Coast National Park. The elegant and exclusive Hoanib Valley Camp, which is another days’ drive further on, offers a unique opportunity to track endangered rhino, and desert-adapted species of elephant, lion and giraffe. Even further into the wilderness, the newly refurbished Serra Cafema Camp is one of southern Africa’s most remote, and most beautiful, luxury camps.
Etosha National Park wildlife
Extending to cover 20,000 square kilometres, Etosha National Park is a globally important wildlife haven where it’s relatively easy to view a host of wildlife species at close quarters. At Etosha, it’s possible to drive to the park’s waterholes and wait for the animals to arrive. This is a great way to view large numbers of elephant, lion, springbok, gemsbock and many more species. Even seasoned African wildlife watchers will find this a spellbinding experience. In this land of contrasts, the annual rains transform the Etosha into a shallow lagoon harbouring immense flocks of pelicans and flamingos, while the heat of the dry season turns the grassy landscape back into white chalky dust.
Top attraction in Sesriem & Sossusvlei: Deadvlei
Deadvlei, which means ‘dead marsh’, is a white clay pan in the Namib-Naukluft National Park. Though the nearby Sossvlei is itself an appealing location, many consider Deadvlei one of the most iconic landscapes in southern Africa. Its parched camel thorn trees sprouting like skeletons from the bleached-white land, framed by towering orange sand dunes and a brilliant-blue sky, are an unbelievably picturesque sight.
The coastal oasis of Swakopmund
Hemmed in between the rolling Atlantic Ocean and the vast expanse of the Namib Desert, Swakopmund is Namibia’s largest coastal town and a popular holiday resort with great sandy beaches. It’s also Namibia's adventure capital where you’ll find Swakopmund’s shipwreck-themed gaming floor offers all the popular casino games players enjoy – such as roulette, blackjack, poker and slot machines to name but a few. Though it’s clearly a thoroughly African city, some beautiful remnants of its German colonial past give the town an interesting, multi-dimensional appeal which makes its visitors want to prolong their stay.
Listen out for Toto’s “Africa” playing for eternity in the Namib Desert
Max Siedentopf, a German-Namibian artist, has created an installation – somewhere in the Namib Desert – which plays the band Toto’s “Africa” song song on an endless, solar-powered loop. Siedentopf believes this ancient desert, which is something like 55 million years old, is the ideal place to hear the song being performed. He also thinks that really dedicated Toto fans will soon find the location.
The best time to go
The dry season from May to October is usually considered the best time to visit Namibia’s national parks. At that time the air is clear, making it easier to get a good view of the abundant wildlife. But remember to bring warm clothing because the desert nights can be cold. The rainy summer season runs from October to April and can bring suffocating heat, but this is a good time to see lush green vegetation, migrating birds and young animals.