In a country with so much to do, and so much to see it can be difficult to know what you want to do on your first visit to Namibia. This post is aimed specifically at the traveller visiting our beautiful country for the first time, but even the most seasoned Namibia explorer could benefit from reading on.
What to do
First, you have to decide what you want to get out of your holiday. If you have a limited amount of time it is probably best to try and not do everything Namibia has to offer since there is simply too much to do in a short period of time.
Enjoy the hustle and bustle of Windhoek.
Ask yourself, are you looking for a high-octane adventure holiday?
A climber scales a cliff face.
(Image courtesy of Element Riders)
Or perhaps you would like to take it a bit slower and build your travelling plans around photographing the stunning landscapes and wildlife on offer.
Namibia’s wide open spaces are perfect for panoramic photographs.
If, on the other hand you like nothing more than relaxing in a sun drenched dipping pool overlooking the wilderness and not doing much else, there is something for you in the land of the brave.
Have a soak whilst taking in a view of the Fish River Canyon.
Below, in no particular order, are some of our travellers’ favourite spots and activities in Namibia. Click on the images for more information.
and have a look through our travel guides. The most important thing is to make sure that you have all the necessary documentation to ensure that you can enter and travel freely through Namibia. To check if you need a visa, visit Namibia's Ministry of Foreign affairs here
and click on the visa link on the right hand side.
Namibia is a country of contrasts, and its weather is no exception. In the summer expect hot days with very rare thunder storms in some of the regions. Winter nights meanwhile can get very cold, so if you are in the desert regions of our country then be sure to pack some warm jackets as the temperatures drop with the sun.
Always remember to pack according to the activities you have planned.
Namibia is a big a country, vast and largely uninhabited so there isn’t a vast public transport network. There are tourist trains like the Desert Express
, but most travellers get around by either driving or flying.
The Desert Express.
(Image courtesy of Rail Tours)
Many tourists drive their own vehicles or hire one from a company to get around the country. Driving is very manageable in Namibia as the national road network is easy to navigate and is well maintained.
Below is a list of some car-hire companies in Namibia:
**Note make sure you have a driver’s licence that is valid in Namibia as the penalties for unlicensed driving are severe, and there are several police checkpoints on the national roads that will ask you to display a valid licence.**
When driving always make sure you have enough petrol in your car and be certain that you have planned your trip so that you are never out of reach of a petrol station. Also, make sure you have enough hard cash to pay for petrol as many of the more remote service stations do not accept cards for fuel.
A car stopped on the side of the road in Etosha National Park.
Another option is to enquire about hiring a driver for a few days, although this can be expensive. You can always use the local taxis in whichever town or city you find yourself in, and check with your hotel or lodge reception to know the going rate.
As with driving anywhere the same rules apply, be cautious, alert and considerate. Note, in Namibia we drive on the left.
Something that many people do not know about Namibia is its extensive network of private and public airports dotted around the country.
An Air Namibia plane at Luderitz airport.
The three major airports can be found in Windhoek (including Hosea Kutaku International) and there are several domestic airports around the country. If you want a full listing of airports run by the Namibia Airport Company here
Hosea Kutako International.
There are also many private airstrips at several of the game lodges, national parks, and secluded areas in Namibia with landing strips for light aircraft. There are chartered plane companies
and if you are able to pilot a craft you can even hire a plane
A map of many of Namibia’s airport.
(Map courtesy of Maps of the World)
is a detailed list of airstrips and information you will need if you wish to fly yourself around Namibia. There is no exhaustive list of landing spots, so always remember to check wherever you go to see if they have a nearby airstrip if you require one.
Have aircraft will fly!
(Image courtesy of the Namibian)
We have several photography tips from professional photographers for those of you who would like some advice on taking photographs of this beautiful land. Below is a list of some of the people who spoke to us about snapping the perfect shot in Namibia, and shared the amazing images they managed to capture.
Come and visit
The people of Namibia are friendly and welcoming and if you arrive adequately prepared there is no reason why you won’t enjoy your first (and definitely not only) trip to Namibia.
Namibia is waiting to welcome you!
Download our Travel Planning Guides
to download our planning guides about traveling to Namibia, adventure, photography, self-drives and wildlife.
The Skeleton Coast is one of Namibia’s most remote locations. It is also one of the most beautiful and unique places in the world. This blog post will give you everything you need to know about going on a once in a lifetime flying safari to this isolated paradise.
Flying high above the dunes
(Image courtesy of Natural High Safaris)
The Skeleton Coast can be difficult to get by land, as much of it is restricted and vehicles are simply not allowed in. But by plane, exploring this area is a cinch! There are several different ‘fly-in’ options for the traveler who wants to explore from the skies, with a variety of operators offering packages that range from scenic day flights to four-day flying tours.
Get a unique view of the icnonic Sossusvlei from the skies.
(Image courtesy of Expert Africa)
Skeleton Coast Safaris
One such operator who organizes three-day safaris is the Schoeman family who run Skeleton Coast Safaris. It is a small family business that specialises in taking small groups of visitors (no more than eight) into Namibia’s desolate and beautiful Skeleton Coast.
The Schoeman’s run three camps which guests are ferried to and from in light aircraft. At each camp unique and beautiful flora, fauna, geology and shipwrecks can be found and explored making this experience definitely one for the bucket list.
(Video courtesy of Expert Africa)
Three nights, three camps
The three night tour usually follows the same schedule but nothing is set in stone when you get to places this remote. Each night you will be in a different location, and each of the camps you visit has its own distinct appeal.
There is the Kuidas Camp, with its shipwrecks, amazing birdlife and astonishing stargazing opportunities in the evening. These attractions make the Kuidas Camp is the perfect way to kick-off your three day fly-in safari of the Skeleton Coast.
The camp is lush and yet the surrounds are stark.
(Image courtesy of Expert Africa)
On your second night you will be stopping at the Leylandsdrift Camp which is situated near a natural spring. The camp borders the Skeleton Coast National Park and getting to this camp may juat be the highlight of your day as you will do several low sweeps of the surrounding area. Flying above this astonishing landscape will give you a once in a life time opportunity to take in one of Namibia’s most beautiful areas from a unique perspective.
Isolated and beautiful, the desert dunes of Namibia's West coast.
(Image courtesy of Expert Africa)
Once you touch down at Leylandsdrift Camp you can go tracking desert adapted elephants (read more about these amazing creatures here) and visit the nearby Himba settlement where you can learn about one Namibia’s indigenous cultures.
A Himba woman.
(Image courtesy of Expert Africa)
The Kunene River Camp is most often the last port of call for adventurers on the three day Skeleton Coast Safari. To get to this camp you will fly North from the Leylandsdrift Camp over seal colonies and more beautiful rolling desert. Once at the camp you will be treated to an open air 4x4 safari that will take you to the border between Namibia and Angola.
The Kunene River camp looks over the mighty river.
(Image courtesy of Expert Africa)
Mountains and dunes meet on the plains near the camp.
(Image courtesy of Expert Africa)
When you visit this camp, and during your journey to the campsite, keep an eye out for Namibia’s ‘fairy circles’. Seeing these geological wonders in the stirring mountainous region is truly unforgettable.
4x4 tours are all part of the unforgettable experience.
(Image courtesy of Expert Africa)
Obviously a tour like this is an absolutely amazing experience which is incomparable to anything else you can do in any other country, but don’t just take our word for it: Read what people who have been on the tour think about it over here.
If a multiple day flying safari sounds a bit too hectic then why not hop on a scenic flight instead and get to witness Namibia unfold below you as you take a low-level flight over its dunes and landscapes. Here are just some of the companies in Namibia who offer scenic flights and flying safaris:
One of the Skeleton Coast's many shipwrecks, seen from above.
(Image courtesy of the Namibian)
One piece of advice
If you plan on visiting the Skeleton Coast remember that it is always wise to bring clothes that are good for both extremes of temperature that you will be exposed to in the region. During the day it can be extremely hot, while during the evening it can get bitterly cold- so make sure you bring shorts, t-shirts, long pants and sweaters.
Dunes and airplanes- a match made in Namibia.
(Image courtesy of the Namibian)
The bustling capital of Namibia is a city that proudly wears its history on its sleeve. Buildings, monuments and neighborhoods not only weave a narrative of the local histories and cultures, but it also makes for fascinating sightseeing.
Welcome to Windhoek!
The city is clean, well organized and fairly easy to navigate, making it ideal for walking tours and casual sightseeing. There are few must-visit sites in Windhoek that are all the more interesting when you know a bit of their back story.
This bustling main road cuts through the city centre and on it you will be able to take in the Gibeon Meteorites. 31 of the original 77 meteorites that fell near the town of Gibeon in Southern Namibia have been crafted into an unusual but beautiful piece of municipal art near the Sanlam Building on Independence Avenue. Thought to be over 4 billion years old, the 150 tons of space debris fom part of the largest meoteorite shower in the world.
At the intersection of Independence Avenue and John Meinhert Street, you’ll find the bronze kudu statue, one of Windhoek's best loved statues. This popular landmark and meeting place was unveiled in 1960 and symbolizes a “spirit of hope” and a “shared passion for the beautiful abundance of the country's wild.”
The Christus Kirche
Head up the avenue toward the iconic Christus Kirche church, located on a traffic island in the middle of Robert Mugabe Drive. Take in its curved gables, quartz sandstone walls and elements of Neo Gothic and Art Nouveau, and you will understand why it is often used as the face of Windhoek, on countless postcards and brochures.
The church’s clock and three bells were imported from Germany, as was the stained glass that was manufactured in Nuremberg and was a gift from the Emperor Wilhelm II.
The Christus Kirche.
Visitors to Windhoek are increasingly taking the opportunity to visit the thriving township of Katutura, which itself has a fascinating history linked to the country’s colonial past.
When the League of Nations made Namibia a South African protectorate, many of the apartheid policies and strategies were applied to the city of Windhoek, such as the policy for “separate development”, and in the 1950’s, township areas for the various ethnic groups were created, with a view to keeping the city segregated.
The local black population was relocated to the township of Katutura, a name that means "the place where we do not want to settle". The plans ignited great opposition, eventually culminating in a bloody confrontation on Dec 10, 1959, a date that is today commemorated as “Human Rights Day” in memory of the 13 people who lost their lives.
The Katutura of 1968 consisted of about 4000 standardized rental houses without water and electricity organized into sections of five different ethnic groups. Each house had a living area of 45qm and a large letter on the door symbolizing the tribe (D = Damara, H = Herero etc.). If you look carefully, you can still see some of the letters on the walls to this day.
Jerusalem street, Katatura.
Windhoek's total population is currently around 300 000 people, about 60% of these people live in Katutura. There are many suburbs of Katutura with poignant names such as Soweto, Havana, Babylon and Wanaheda. But residents of the townships have built these neighborhoods into vibrant, prosperous locales that can give visitors a unique insight into Namibian life.
Meat markets and craft centres
Take a guided tour through the lively meat market at Single Quarters, where visitors can have a taste of “kapana”, the local road-side barbecue that is the snack of choice for many Namibians. Or drop in at Soweto market, a commercial centre where small businesses such as seamstresses, vendors and hairdressers thrive.
A local vendor preparing kapana.
Another popular stop is the Penduka Women’s Centre. This non-governmental development organisation aims to empower disadvantaged or disabled women in Namibia by giving them a place to make beautiful hand-crafted souvenirs. In the Oshiwambo and Otjiherero languages the word Penduka means “wake up”.
Arts and crafts...
...made by the women at the Penduka Women's Centre.
For the more daring, visit the infamous Eveline Street – the street that never sleeps. Lined with an array of shebeens (bars), hairdressers & other informal traders, its worth the visit if only to see the quirky names of the bars.
Eating out in Windhoek
Windhoek offers its visitors a plethora of dining options- the international cuisine at places like Stellenbosch Wine bar or the ethnic fare to be found at Xwama in Katutura and the “Penduka” restaurant.
Xwama- fusion culture, fusion food!
While in Namibia, visitors can step out of their gastronomical comfort-zones and get a taste for the local cuisine- from mopane worms, to the local brew omalodhu or more hearty foods like springbok and kudu steaks.
For more great food ideas, take a look at our post on where to eat in Windhoek.
Mopane worms- in a tin.
Go on, try one.
For those who find themselves in Windhoek en-route elsewhere, it can be so much more than just a stopover. Whether you prefer to explore with a guide or on foot, with family or alone, it can offer a memorable, enjoyable Namibian experience.
Picturesque- Parliament Gardens in Windhoek.
The Rare and Endangered Species Trust is an organisation that operates in Central-Northern Namibia near the town of Otjiwarongo and the Okonkjima game reserve. Many of you may remember them from our post on Pangolin conservation, but REST also plays a leading role in the effort to conserve endangered vultures in Namibia. Read on to find out how you can help too.
The Cape Griffon vulture, in flight.
(Image courtesy of REST)
The vultures' plight
Most people are surprised when they find out about the plight of the various species of vultures in southern Africa. The fact is that vulture numbers are down across the region, and unless strong action is taken immediately we risk losing many of these species.
In Namibia Maria Diekmann decided to take action and many years ago founded REST. The trust now runs many programs to help save various species of animals in and around Namibia. Maria, along with her dedicated band of volunteers and permanent staff, hopes to educate the public on the plight of the vulture and in doing so illustrate just how vital these birds are for a functioning and healthy ecosystem.
Maria preparing to release Diana, a White Backed vulture, into the wild.
(Image courtesy of REST)
What vultures do for us
Simply put, vultures are nature’s clean-up crew. These birds can eat just about anything, ingest any pathogen and remove it from the ecosystem. What this does is it takes this undesirable meat, and disease, out of the ecosystem.
Without vultures doing this, whatever disease is in an animal’s carcass will get ingested by other scavenging animals (wild dogs, jackals etc) and will eventually land causing a lot of harm to the entire ecosystem that has been robbed of its vultures.
Wild White Backed vultures nesting.
(Image courtesy of REST)
What is happening to Namibia's vultures?
Poaching is a massive problem for vultures in southern Africa. These birds are the ultimate innocent bystanders in the bloody war that is poaching. This is what happens: A gang of poachers will kill an animal for its ivory, horn or pelt and will then discard the carcass in the bush. Once this is done the vultures, who have keen eyesight and a knack for sniffing out a meal, will circle and eventually descend down to feed on the dead animal.
Many game rangers and anti-poaching teams had begun to use the circling vultures as a way of spotting where an act of poaching may have occurred and could then begin to give chase to any possible poachers. But the poachers have gotten wise to this. Now these highly organised gangs of thieves and smugglers will poison a carcass that they have killed in the hopes that it will kill off the vultures in area and thus make it harder for the game rangers and authorities to find them.
Nelson, a rescued Cape Griffon vulture who, unfortunately,
is too damaged to send back into the wild.
(Image courtesy of Linda Millington, via REST)
In August, this year, 600-1000 vultures were killed when one poached elephant carcass was deliberately poisoned in an attempt to rid an area in the north of Namibia of its vultures. Visit here to see if you can lend a hand to help lessen this crisis. It is estimated that every year nearly 2000 cultures are deliberately poisoned.
There are other problems facing vultures in our modern world as well. Loss of habitat, internal organs for use in traditional medicine, ignorance and even misguided farmers who pump their cattle and herds full of an anti-inflammatory drug that is as deadly as a poison to a vulture. We cannot stop all of these things at once, but we can begin to reverse the thinking behind each of these problems, one at a time.
The good news
The good news is that you now know about the problem. More good news is that through organisations like REST we can all lend a hand to making the world a little bit more vulture-friendly. And as with most conservation efforts it starts with education. By learning about the vital role, and by teaching this to young children REST fulfills an integral role in bringing awareness to the masses about the plight of the vulture, and you can help.
Volunteers at REST tagging a Cape Griffon vulture.
This was the first time ever that this species had been tagged using telemetry.
What we can do
You can volunteer. Not only is this a fantastic way to get to learn about a variety of different animals that REST concerns itself with, but it is also a fantastic way to have a unique and moving experience in Namibia. Click this link to find out all the details on REST’s volunteer project.
Volunteers at REST get the full hands-on experience.
(Image courtesy of REST)
There is accommodation for volunteers with running water and all the amenities you need to live comfortably in the bush. You won’t be finding a TV or anything like that though! The prices are reasonable and all the money paid is ploughed straight back into the trust’s efforts.
A vulture, flying the coup.
If you do not have the ability, or time, to volunteer then you can always donate money to the trust. All money is directly spent on conservation efforts as the organisation is well streamlined to ensure that no money is wasted on needless bureaucratic expenses.
Funds are used to maintain things like REST's vulture restaurant.
(Image courtesy of REST)
Maria and REST rely on donations and sponsorships to allow them to continue doing the good work that they do, so once you have finished reading this article please consider donating some time or money to their cause.
One of REST’s focuses is the critically endangered Cape Griffon vulture. There are only 12 breeding pairs left in Namibia of this majestic bird. That is not a big number, and it is even more shocking when you consider that 50 years ago there were over 2000 of these birds.
Nelson having a bit of a pose for the camera.
(Image courtesy of REST)
But, if you visit REST you can see what is hoped will be the first successful breeding project of the Cape Griffon in captivity. Things are looking good right now and everyone is holding thumbs that this will be the start along the long road to recovery for these vital, and too often forgotten about, birds.
We need to support organisations like REST and we have to educate ourselves, and everyone we know, about the importance of vultures in the wild and by extension, our lives.
REST is planning for the future by protecting what we have now.
Capturing the best of Namibia on film can be as challenging as the land itself, but never fails to reward avid photographers. We asked professional photographer Lizzie Shepherd from the UK to share some of the thrills and spills of her latest expedition to Namibia.
"Skeleton Coast Dunes" © www.lizzieshepherd.com
Tell us about your most unforgettable moment while shooting in Namibia.
It probably won’t surprise you to know there were several unforgettable moments during our trip, so it’s quite hard to choose. My first instinct was to say an evening spent in the Giant’s Playground with thunder and lightning nearby. But I think I’m going to have to go with my dawn shoot in Deadvlei. We’d walked across the cool sands in the dark, arriving in the pan just as the darkness was starting to ease. My husband decided he was going to climb Big Mama dune to catch the sunrise, whilst I opted to stay in the pan to capture the Camelthorns in the soft light of dawn. Soon after he left I heard the sound of feet clattering on the pan. At first I couldn’t think what could be making the sound but as I looked towards the distant edge of the pan I was just able to make out a couple of Gemsbok. At the same time, they noticed me and stopped to stare back for a while. Clearly not impressed by this intruder, they then continued on their way, trotting round the edge of the pan. It was the most magical moment to share the pan with just these two Oryx - the rhythmic sound of their hooves on the pan will stay with me forever.
"Quiver Tree Portrait" © www.lizzieshepherd.com
Every destination has its challenges and rewards; how does Namibia compare to other places you’ve photographed?
Namibia is undoubtedly one of the most rewarding places I’ve photographed. I have always loved deserts and Namibia boasts some of the finest. The vast open spaces, big skies, at times desolate scenery have always appealed. Equally, the more hidden riches and the amazing flora and fauna that thrive in the desert. The diversity of the landscape and its inhabitants is extraordinary and offers wonderful opportunities for photographing grand vistas, abstracts and, of course, wildlife.
One thing I must mention also is the wonderful hospitality of Namibia - of all the African countries I have visited, it stands apart as being an incredibly safe and stable place to visit. The people are friendly and welcoming, and the infrastructure is excellent - it really is very easy to get around most parts of the country and the accommodation options are superb. All these things make it so much easier to concentrate on your photography and to make the most of the opportunities that come your way.
I think the biggest challenge during our visit (in December) was the sun - for the most part the weather was a little too good! Of course I tried to concentrate my photographic efforts on the first and last part of the day but, even then, the skies were often cloudless. If you are on a limited timescale, as most of us are, it is inevitable you will at times be photographing nearer the middle of the day in quite harsh light - you just have to adapt your approach accordingly and make the most of the conditions you find.
"Grasses & Sand Namib Rand" © www.lizzieshepherd.com
Which 3 photos shot in Namibia are you most proud of and why?
I think the first one I’d choose would be ‘Camelthorns and the last rays, Deadvlei’. When I visit a classic location such as Deadvlei, I try very hard not to look at any photographs of the area for some months before I visit. I’m always keen to try to forget what anyone else has done and hope simply to respond to the place, in my own way. It was such a thrill finally to visit the pan and, if anything, it exceeded my expectations. I hadn’t realised the dead Camelthorns would be quite so beautiful - often they are portrayed as quite dark - yet the wood is surprisingly light and the colours and textures are fabulous. There was a graphic beauty about the combination of trees, pan and dunes and I felt this composition, in the fading light, really captured what I found so special about the place.
"Camelthorns and the last rays, Deadvlei" © www.lizzieshepherd.com
My second choice is one of my more abstract landscapes - ‘The long and winding road at dawn, Wolwedans’. This was taken shortly before sunrise in the immaculate NamibRand nature reserve and I love the cool, silvery green tones of the amazing grasses, giving way to the rich red sand below. These grasses varied in colour from a rich golden yellow to a silvery blue colour and it was wonderful to witness how the hues changed as the sun rose above the horizon. I have a very similar image taken about 15 minutes later and the ground looks a completely different colour.
"The long and winding road at dawn, Wolwedans" © www.lizzieshepherd.com
My third choice has to be ‘Lightning strikes, the Giant’s Playground’. I have to say that, at the time, I was a little disappointed with this image - I had no chance to do a recce beforehand and had to rush like mad to capture that last bit of red sunlight on the Quiver trees, taking repeated shots in the hope of also catching a lightning bolt. As a result there really was no chance to fine tune my composition. I was extremely lucky to catch the lightning and, on reflection, feel proud to have made a striking photograph at a time when I was having to rely on instinct to make the most of some amazing conditions in a spectacular, but unfamiliar, location.
"Lightning strikes, the Giant’s Playground" © www.lizzieshepherd.com
When going on a Namibian photographic expedition, what is your equipment of choice? And what do you never leave home without?
My main camera is a Nikon D800e but I also have a backup camera with me - at the time it was a Nikon D600 but I now use a Fuji XE-1 as a small and light alternative and/or backup. I like to have a range of lenses with me - on this trip I had focal lengths between 14mm and 300mm covered. A sturdy tripod is a must, along with a couple of cable releases and spare batteries for the times when recharging is difficult/impossible. Plenty of memory cards as well as devices on which to back them up. I also like to have a laptop with me to review images on the trip. When going somewhere with a lot of sand, a really useful addition is a couple of small paint brushes for cleaning off the sand from the camera and lenses - it gets everywhere and this minimises the chance of it finding its way inside your gear!
"Burnt by the sun Sossusvlei" © www.lizzieshepherd.com
A photographer friend is desperate to capture the best of Namibia. What top 3 tips would you give them?
#1: Do plenty of research and to work out the kind of scenery that will appeal most to them. Also do they want to see big game or do they want to visit some of the tribes like the Himba (both things we had to omit on this trip due to time constraints). Unless you have endless time and resources at your disposal, then it really is impossible to include everything on your trip.
#2: Plan an itinerary that gives you at least two nights in most places. A few one night stays are fine but you don’t want to be on the move all the time. I would also recommend having a few ‘wild card’ or spare days, where you do not have a fixed itinerary. We did this and really enjoyed the freedom of being able to make a few last minute decisions, including a fascinating detour to Terrace Bay on the Skeleton Coast.
#3: My final tip would be to do something we didn’t do - take a flight over the dunes. It’s expensive but by all accounts well worth it if you can afford it. You should get some super photographic opportunities and it’s something I would really love to do on a future visit.
About Lizzie Shepherd
Lizzie is a professional photographer based in North Yorkshire in the UK, specialising in landscape, nature and travel photography. She provides commercial photography services to a number of different clients and exhibits her work at a number of galleries locally. She runs small group and 1-2-1 photographic workshops, both individually and for Tripod Travels. Find out more about Lizzie by visiting her website www.lizzieshepherd.com or following her on Facebook and Twitter.
More Photographer Tips
This part of a series of blog post interviews with photographers on how to Capture Namibia. Every week we'll be posting tips, tricks and amazing photographs from these impressive photographers.
Follow us to get the latest in the Capture Namibia series:
Aus is a small village that can be found in Namibia’s south west. It lies on the B4 national road and is a popular site to visit for travellers exploring the deep south of Namibia or those who are making their way to or from the charming harbour town of Luderitz.
Aus, stark and beautiful.
How Aus was founded
Aus’ origins can be traced back to July 1915 when German forces surrendered to the South African forces who had been pursuing them through South West Africa (what is now Namibia) as part of the WWI effort.
The location where the village now stands used to have internment camps for the German prisoners of war, but in May 1919, after the ratifying of the treaty of Versailles, the camps were dismantled. Now all that remains of that era are a few graves of the soldiers who passed on at the camp or in the surrounds. But the village that sprung up around the camps remains.
The village itself is modest and unassuming, but it's location makes it the perfect place to use as a base of operations when exploring the interior of Namibia's south. For example, to the west of Aus is one of Namibia’s most talked about attractions. In this area, just outside the village, a patient traveler can catch a glimpse of one of the few herds of wild horses in the world.
Wild horses are very inquisitive creatures.
These wild horses cohabit the land with ostriches, oryx and other desert adapted animals. Check out our post on the Wild Horses of Namibia to find out more about these amazing feral creatures.
Things to do and see while in Aus
As already mentioned, beyond being a very pretty and relaxing place in it’s own right, many adventure seekers use the small village as a base to explore the southern interior of Namibia.
125km West of Aus is Luderitz. Check out our blogs on what the quaint seaside town has to offer, from its unique architecture, adventure sports, cultural activities, and a nearby ghost town you’ve never heard of. This little coastal town is also a fantastic gateway to the stirring south west coast of Namibia and is a must visit if you are in the south.
To the East of Aus you can find Keetmanshoop and the quiver tree forest, which are both remarkable destinations for those willing to go off the beaten path.
The iconic quiver tree.
To the south of Aus lies the Orange River, the border between Namibia and South Africa and the astounding Fish River Canyon. You must read our post on the amazing day hike you can take into the canyon by clicking here.
Hiking in the Fish River canyon is once in a lifetime experience.
Where to stay in Aus
Klein Aus Vista
Klein Aus Vista is a collection of four different styles of lodges, the Desert Horse Inn, Eagles Nest Chalets, the Desert Horse Campsite and the Geisterschlucht Cabin. These four accommodation options mean there is something to suit every adventurer’s taste when looking for a place to spend a few nights in Aus.
Klein Aus Vista is part of the Gondwana Collection of lodges and accommodation option. The Gondwana group often has special rates and package deals for travellers in Southern Africa, so be sure to check out their website to see if you qualify for any special rates.
The Desert Horse Inn
This is the perfect place for families of all ages to stay for a few nights. The rooms are beautifully situated and simply appointed. There is a good restaurant and plenty of space and excellent views of the beautiful semi-arid surrounds.
The Desert Horse Inn, comfortable and unforgettable.
Eagles Nest Chalets
These chalets are a 15 minute drive from the Desert Horse Inn’s main reception and are very popular. Each unit is uniquely decorated and is situated in such a manner that once you arrive at your chalet you will feel like you are in your own private wilderness.
A view from one of the chalets.
Each chalet is built around the massive boulders that have settled at the foot of the mountain against which the buildings have been constructed.
The individualised rooms are...
...in and around the natural rock formations.
Desert Horse Campsite
Klein Aus Vista also manages two self-catering accommodation spaces, one of which is the Desert Horse Campsite which affords campers the opportunity to set up camp under beautiful camel thorn trees and amongst the enourmous granite boulders which litter the entire area.
This is an excellent place to use a base of operations for those adventurers who would like to a bit of light rock climibing and hiking in the mountains of the region. The campsite is also a mere 20km’s away from where you can find Aus’ famous wild horses.
DIY camping at its finest.
The Geisterschlucht Cabin is quite the hidden gem at Klein Aus Vista. This unique and rustic little cabin can only be hired by one group o travellers at a time, regardless of their number. There are two dormitories in the cabin that sleep ten people each.
Isolated and inspiring, the cabin is a perfect getaway.
This means that you and your travel companions can settle down on your own in the beautiful surrounds. Like the Desert Horse Campsite the cabin is close to the wild horses and is also an excellent place to set off on hikes from.
If you stay at the Geisterschlucht cabin look out for the nearby relics from a bygone era.
If all these options are fully booked then check out this link, for a few other places where you can lay your head to rest in and around Aus.
A final tip
While staying at the Desert Horse in you may also want to take advantage of their sunset drive. Here are three pictures taken on one of these drives:
Namibia's southern regions have so much to offer- so don't miss out!
Sesriem is often only thought of as just a gateway to the famous and amazing Sossusvlei, but it is also home to the Sesriem Canyon, a natural gorge carved millions of years ago by the once mighty Tsauchab River.
If you are heading into the Namib and you find yourself in the Naukluft National Park of Namibia, you will no doubt hear talk of Sesriem, a small settlement with a filling station and general supplies store close to the southern end of the Naukluft Mountains.
Sesriem Canyon, Namibia
Photo courtesy of TravelNewsNamibia.com
Some Sesriem Canyon Facts
The canyon’s birth dates back between two and four million years, when continental upheavel resulted in the creation of most of the westward flowing rivers in the Namib Desert region.
Today the Tsauchab River only runs after good rains fall in the nearby Naukluft Mountains, but the canyon is a testament to the rivers long-past prime some 15- 18 million years ago when the gorge was created by the river’s once sweeping movement.
The canyon is up to 30 metres deep at points and is roughly about 1km long- with a width that ranges between one and three metres wide, flattening out as it approaches the iconic Sossusvlei.
The name Sesriem is derived from the Dutch/Afrikaans words for “six (zes) belt (riem)” and was given to the settlement by explorers returning from the Dorsland Treks. “Six belt” is a reference to the six belts, usually made of Oryx hide, that a thirsty settler would have to tie together in order to reach down into the deep hollows in the canyon floor to extract the crystal clear cool underground water which collects under the canyon’s floor.
Take a stroll along the river bed of the Sesriem Canyon
Photo courtesy of summitpost.org
What is there to do?
Sesriem canyon is an interesting place to walk and appreciate the canyon’s multiple layers of exposed rock. It is best appreciated at sunrise or sunset, where the changing shadows and soft light foregrounds the area’s breathtaking scenery, setting up excellent photography opportunity or offering a weary traveler a chance for some quiet reflection.
For those visiting by day, a walking trail leads into the canyon from where the layers of the different sedimentary layers are more clearly visible. A variety of tree species also grow within the canyon, such as the unique laurel fig.
Do note though, if you are visiting in the warmer months of the year, do try and avoid walking around during the hottest parts of the day. Rather beat the heat and leave for your walks through the canyon very early or later in the afternoon when the Namib begins to cools down.
If you're staying in the park, ask your lodge to organise a special sundowner over the canyon for spectacular views
The Sesriem Canyon’s hidden treasures
After good rains, pools of water collect in the narrow, sheltered sections on the floor of the canyon. These pools of crystal clear water are an invigorating sight in the barren and stark surrounds, and some of the larger pools even present adventurous explorers with a chance to enjoy a refreshing swim.
Deeper hollows in the canyon’s floor hold supplies of permanent water, even in the dryer months, which many animals use to survive in the harsh land. The pools are filled with species of fish, so be on the lookout for the barbell which call these pool’s their homes.
A campsite managed by the Namibia Wildlife Resorts is situated close by under huge camel-thorn trees, and right by the Sesriem gate, hot air balloons depart in the early morning, providing scenic flights over the Sossusvlei dunes.
Visiting Sossuvlei via Sesriem
The sand dunes at Sossusvlei are some 60km from the entrance the Sesriem gate of the Naukluft National Park, and the drive to the famous dunes will take about an hour.
The gate into Sesriem only opens at sunrise, so if you are staying outside of the park (which you will be unless you are staying at the Sossus Dune Lodge), you will have to wait until sunrise to begin their journey to Sossusvlei.
Never-ending views over the Namib at Sossus Dune Lodge, a stone's throw from Sesriem Canyon
Here's a list of the public holidays for 2014:
1 January 2014
New Year's Day
21 March 2014
18 April 2014
21 April 2014
1 May 2014
4 May 2014
25 May 2014
29 May 2014
26 August 2014
10 December 2014
Human Rights Day
25 December 2014
26 December 2014
Happy planning and happy travels!
Other links you might find helpful
The wild horses of Namibia have captured the imaginations of countless authors, photographers and wildlife enthusiasts. They can be found in the south west region of Namibia and they are truly a sight to behold.
Horses up ahead!
(image courtesy of Wild Horses of the Namib)
Wild horses: the myths and the truth
The wild horses of Namibia have been wrapped in mystery for many years. With various travellers, zoologists and historians trying to trace their origins for the last 100 years. As a result of the mystery several different stories have developed, and it is only recently that the truth about these animal’s introduction in to the wild has become known.
Horses on the outskirts of the Namib.
(image courtesy of Wild Horses and Mustangs)
There are many origin stories for these wild horses, some suggesting these horses were abandoned by German stud farmers, others claim that the horses survived a shipwreck and made their way into the interior of the country. But these popular theories have been recently dismissed and disproven and historians and zoologists now have the answer to the question of where these mysterious beasts came from.
Where do the horses come from?
It was 1914, and German and South African troops were doing battle across what was then called South West Africa. The German forces had begun retreating from the 10 000 strong South African battalion who were well armed and well equipped with over 6000 horses.
The South Africans had set up a semi-permanent camp in the Namib around a dug well to provide water to the troops and their horses. It was this camp that the retreating Germans decided to disrupt in order to try and delay the advancing South African troops.
(image courtesy of the Namibian)
A German military report makes the following observation: “In the morning of March 27, the tireless flight lieutenant Fiedler flew to Garub and successfully dropped bombs on the enemy camp amidst 1700 grazing cavalry horses causing great confusion.”
The bombs that were dropped would have scattered some of the horses and many of those animals would not have been recovered as the South African troops quickly pulled up stakes and pursued the German forces shortly after the bombs fell.
The horses that fled into the wild during these World War I skirmishes were supplemented by other escaped horses from stud farms around the region. Based on photographic evidence, a former mayor of Luderitz, Emil Kreplin, had been breeding workhorses just south of Aus in Kubub, and that some of these horses escaped the farm and eventually joined with the other horses who had made it into the wild in the region.
The wild horses of Namibia are sociable animals that tend to stick together.
(image courtesy of the Namibian)
The horses would have likely congregated around the region's mountains as there are many natural watering holes that can be found at the foot of the mountains.
Foal and mother in the harsh environment.
(image courtesy of African Bush Bird Tours)
How do they survive?
After diamonds were discovered at the nearby Kolmanskop in 1908 the German colonial authority decided to demarcate a massive area of land that was off-limits for anyone without the proper clearance. As a result of this the horses, who mostly escaped to the wild between 1914 and 1930, were able to live in a small area of land that was relatively free from humans.
These horses live in extreme conditions
The horses were also able to drink from the watering hole that the South African army had made and were thus able to stay hydrated in the parching desert heat.
Then, in 1986, the mining company who had the rights to mine the area for diamonds turned over the land on which the horses were living, previously called Diamond Restricted Area 2, to the Namibian government for inclusion in the Namib Naukluft Park.
The horses are now free to roam large tracts of land free from human interaction
What is the best way to get to the horses?
If you want to see these majestic beasts your best chance will be heading to the small town of Garub. The little town of Garub is 20km west of Aus which is the main town in the region.
Horses investigating our parked car on the B4 toward Garub.
A small observation deck has been built inbetween Garub and Aus that visitors can use to look out on to a watering hole that has been constructed for the horses. Horses, gemsbok (oryx) and ostriches often frequent this oasis and seeing all three in the same space is truly a magical experience!
Oryx, ostriches and wild horses all drinking from the watering hole.
This shelter is easy to find as it is just off the B4, 20km outside Aus, and is well sign posted.
The lookout point is sign posted once you turn off the B4.
(image courtesy of Wild horses and Mustangs)
If you want to stay in Aus for a few nights then look out for our post all about Aus and the things you can do there whilst visiting this hidden gem of Namibia’s southern region.
Wild horses at sunset.
(image courtesy of Cheryl Korff, via Panoramio)
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Visitors to Namibia’s coastal region often head to Swakopmund for its stunning dune coast which is flanked by the magnificent Atlantic Ocean. Here adventurers can experience the thrill of whizzing down a dune on a sand board or quad biking their way over the sandy peaks.
The seemingly hostile and uninhabited Namib Desert
Swakopmund is known as the adventure capital of Namibia, whilst the aptly named Namib, meaning vast and empty, is known as one of the oldest deserts in the world. Just looking at the arid landscape, you would never think it was home to a teeming, dynamic ecosystem of specialized tiny animals and resilient flora and fauna. The eye-opening “Living Desert Tour” is such a fascinating experience because it reveals the Namib’s many hidden treasures to those who go on it.
The ever enthusiastic and entertaining guide, Chris Nel from Living Desert Adventures
Started in 1997 by Chris Nel, Living Desert Adventures offers an educational day tour through the sand dune deserts of coastal Namibia. The trained guides enthusiastically introduce visitors to the resilient insects, arachnids and reptiles that call the Namib home.
Can you spot what creature is lurking in the grains of sand?
Photo courtesy of Chris Nel from Living Desert Adventures
What you can expect on the tour
The tour starts at 08:00 (with the guides collecting you from your place of residence) and lasts from 4 to 5 hours. Participants will be introduced to conservation practices in the area, the unique geological structure and a brief overview on how the desert was formed.
You will hear about the “muesli” and “milk” that gives life to the arid landscape’s residents, the “little 5” and all manner of other interesting facts. The informal, fun presentation style of the guides was a wonderful bonus.
The real gems of the tour of course are the tiny animals that the guides are able to coax out of hiding to introduce to the guests. On your tour you will definitely be meeting a few of the deserts best known residents, so here are some crib notes on these wonderful creatures so you know what to expect.
The Namib Dune Gecko:
This web-footed gecko is endemic to the area and, being nocturnal, can usually be found on the compacted wind side of a dune where it feeds at night. It comes in a variety of colours, but its webbed feet, large fixed lens eyes and transparent skin give it a beautifully unique appearance. If you are lucky, you might even catch it cleaning its large eyes with its long tongue.
The Namaqua chameleon:
This large, squat champion of the desert is one of the fastest chameleons in the world. It has an amazing colour range which goes from basic muted colours when it is angry or trying to attract heat, or brighter reflective colours when it is trying to reflect the sun in the heat of midday. The Namaqua chameleon, like other chameleons can also swivel its eyes in both directions at the same time.
The Sidewinder or Peringuey’s adder:
If you are luck you may just catch sight of one of the smallest adder species in the world, known as the “Dune Adder”. It has eyes strategically placed on top of it’s head, which allow the snake to conceal itself under the sand whilst still surveying the surroundings for prey. If you pay close attention on your trip you should catch a glimpse of its distinctive side-winding tracks on some of the dunes.
Honourable mention should also go to the shovel snouted lizard, Fitzsimon’s burrowing skink, the Dancing White Lady Spider and the wide variety of Tok Tokkie Beetles.
The Dancing White Lady Spider who mesmerized us all with her dune cartwheeling and karate-like moves
Some tips for the tour
Bring along sunglasses and a hat- it is the desert after all!
Have a camera ready if you’re a keen photographer. These tours are a great opportunity to capture some memorable “Little Five” photos.
Remember that the tour is suitable for children too- the guides are especially good with getting younger kids involved and interested.
The Importance of Ecosensitive Tours
The Living Desert Tour is all about education and sustainable tourism. Guides take great care to ensure that desert animals are returned unharmed to their environment and are undoubtedly sensitive to the delicate ecosystem of the Namib.
The final part of the tour includes a scenic dune drive, also conducted in an eco-sensitive way using dedicated paths and ensuring the area is minimally disturbed.
If you’re interested in doing the Living Desert Tour, you can get all the info you need to make a booking from the contacts listed below. It should be noted that this a popular activity and you should book in advance if you want to avoid disappointment.
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