Namibia is a land full of adventure. From its churning seas, to its sand swept deserts there are loads of different ways thrill-seekers can get their adrenaline fix. This blog post is the first in a two-part series that will provide you with all the information you need to know about what extreme activities you can take part in across the Land of the Brave this year.
Rostock Fly-in (June –TBC)
The Rostock Ritz Desert Lodge is a luxury lodge in the ancient Namib Desert close to the iconic Sossusvlei. The lodge is a popular destination for people who are exploring the Land of the Brave in a light aircraft and every year the Ritz holds an annual “Fly-in”. The “Fly-in” consists of groups of privately owned planes that make the trip to the lodge to compete against one another in a series of airborne events.
The entrance to the picturesque lodge.
(Image via the Rostock Ritz Desert Lodge)
In previous years the Fly-in’s challenges have included “pot landing”, “bomb dropping” and a navigation exercise that required pilots to follow the trail of famed geologists Henno Martin and Herman Korn as chronicled in Martin’s quintessential book on Namibia: “The Sheltering Desert”.
Contestants arriving back from their challenges.
(Image via the Rostock Ritz Desert Lodge)
So if you have your own small plane, or know someone who does, then be sure to get hold of the staff at the Rostock Ritz to make a booking, their details are directly below.
Reservation: +264 81 258 5722
Fax: +264 88 616 556
Lodge: +264 64 694000
The Rostock Fly-in typically takes place in June every year so be sure to book your place as soon as possible.
Photo opportunities abound at the Rostock Fly-in.
(Image via the Rostock Ritz Desert Lodge)
Koës Rally date (July – TBC)
In the first week of July, rallying enthusiasts descend upon the small Kalahri village of Koës. Their goal? To race against each other in one of the most unique and wild DIY rallying events in the world. You can read more about the event here and here.
The rally is a chance for some weird and wonderful vehicle to kick up some dust.
(Photo by Jacobus Blaauw via Facebook)
The rally is a must-see event for any petrol-head that is in the area around this time of year. Entries are open to the public and no previous rallying experience is needed. Take note though, you will have to bring your own vehicle. This rally is not a scenic drive through the desert. Contestants will be up against some serious terrain and competition.
If, this sounds like a bit too much for you, and you would rather be a spectator then you can visit Koës while the rally is underway and take in the local fare and enjoy the races from the safety of the spectator areas.
For more info on the rally contact Bonsai Combrink at the Koës Hotel on: (+264) 063 25 2716.
The Koes Rally is really a one-of-a-kind event.
(Photo by Annette Erasmus Schoeman via Facebook)
Windhoek Light Fish River Ultra Race (July 11 – 12)
The Fish River Ultra is one of the most gruelling trail running competitions that you can do in Namibia. It is a 96km trail through the spectacular Fish River Canyon, the second largest canyon in the world. The trail follows the extremely popular canyon hiking trail.
The Stunning Fish River Canyon.
(Image by Marius via I Love Ultras)
The trail takes about five-days to do when done at a regular hiking pace but since 2013 trail running enthusiasts have been doing the root in under 10 hours. 2012’s winner, Ryan Sandes, finished the race in an astonishing 6 hours and 57 minutes!
No pain no gain!
(Image via Trail Running)
If 96km’s sounds a bit too much for your likings then fear not. The organisers have organized a “lite” version of the race that will take contestants on a 65km circuit through the canyon.
For full course information, entrance fees and a full history of the event click here.
Scenic views, and challenging trails.
(Image via Events Nam)
The Namib Desert Challenge (July 21 - 25)
The Namib Desert Challenge is a 220km race through the Namib-Naukluft National Park- the park being home to some of Namibia’s most spectacular desert landscapes. The trail will take you through the Sesriem Canyon and up two of the world’s largest sand dunes, Dune 45 and Big Daddy.
A runner takes on the Big Daddy.
(Image via Namib Desert Challenge)
The race is particularly awesome because some of its trail will take contestants through parts of the popular park that are often not open to the general public.
Warming up before the start of one of the stages.
(Image via Namib Desert Challenge)
The race this year is on the 21 – 25 of July and entries are selling like hotcakes. Currently (May 28th) there are only 20 entries left. So if you are interested in this highly regarded and challenging run then you best get a move on! You can register for the race here.
Contestants charging down the dunes.
(Image via Namib Desert Challenge)
Wispeco Otjihavera Experience MTB Marathon presented by FNB (30 - 31 August)
The Otjihavera Xperience is a mountain bike race that covers just over 70km’s of scenic, rugged and challenging terrain in the Otjozondjupa region in central Namibia. The race has been run for the last eight years and its increasing popularity year on year is testament to the dramatic and panoramic trail that the race traces.
(Image via Rock and Rut)
The route takes riders through several of the area’s farms, and the farmers’ contribution to the race’s success is part of the charm of the event. The local communities not only allow access across their lands to the cyclists, but the locals also set up water stations along the way for the thirsty contestants.
The scenic dunes of the Naukluft National Park.
(Image via Wikicommons)
This year’s Otjihavera Xperience will take place on the 30th and 31st of August and entries opened on the 17th of April. Spaces are sure to fill up quickly so be sure to book as soon as you can.
For a detailed description of the route, and to register as either a solo competitor or as a two-person team, click here.
Cyclists preparing to set out from the Midgard Country Estate.
(Image via Midgard Country Estate)
Looking for more adventure? Then check out our follow-up post which will tell you all about the up and coming events from September to December in 2014...
Also, check out these three posts on some of Namibia’s year-round adventure holiday activities.
Extreme Holiday Mecca
|Three Airborne Adventures
It’s that time of year in the Southern Hemisphere where summer begins to leave and winter starts knocking at the door. In Namibia, autumn (or fall) is a particularly beautiful time of year. The weather is mild and there a whole host of activities and events for you to keep you entertained.
Sossusvlei in autumn.
Autumn in Namibia
In autumn the colours of Namibia come out in full force. Puffy white clouds, crystal clear skies and the deep red of the desert sands combine spectacularly to provide any photographer with enough backdrops to fill a thousand photo albums.
The land meets the sky in spectacular fashion during this season.
(Image via Tok Tokkie Trails)
Late rains sweep through the usually arid countryside and provide photographers with a unique chance to get shots of the Land of the brave as these powerful, but brief, storms sweep through it.
Lightning at night near Gobabis.
The temperatures during these months are mild with daytime temperatures rarely exceeding 30 degrees Celsius and nighttime temperatures seldom dropping so low as to cause discomfort. The wind dies down on the coast, while the southern regions cool off, and in the central parts of the country seasonal rains often refresh the landscape that has been baking in the summer heat. Autumn then is truly a ‘goldilocks’ season in Namibia.
Not too hot, not too cold… Everything is just right in Namibia during autumn!
With all these factors in mind, let’s take a look at some activities that we recommend you try do while visiting Namibia in autumn.
Walking in the desert
Deserts are, as you all know, very hot during the day and extremely cold at night, but the mild autumn temperatures mean that explorers have the perfect opportunity to go out into Namibia’s deserts without having to deal with blisteringly hot days and freezing cold nights. Below are a few operators that offer some of the best guided desert walks in Namibia.
Explore the desert by foot.
(Image via Tok Tokkie Trails)
Tommy has been running tours of the Namib just outside Swakopmund since the 90’s. On Tommy’s Living Desert Tour he takes guests on a journey through the seemingly empty dunes near the bustling coastal town. Focussing on the smallest creatures this tour will highlight the amazing variety of desert-adapted animals that call the Namib home.
Tommy with one of the little critters that live in the harsh desert.
(Image by Wendy Kaveney)
Tommy not only focuses on the animals that live in the red sands of the dunes but also on the plant life and the landscape itself. His Welwitchia/Moon Land Scape Tour is definitely worth checking out if you have the time to spend the full day trekking around the dunes.
Based in Swakopmund Chris Nel’s Living Desert Adventures also takes guests on a tour of the dune belt near Swakopmund. Chris’ focus is on the so-called “Little Five” which includes the Palmato Gecko, the Cartwheeling Spider, and the Shovel-Snouted Lizard, the Sidewinder Snake and the Namaqua Chameleon. If you’re lucky then you may catch a glimpse of all five!
The Palmato Gecko, probably the cutest of the Little Five.
(Image via Living Desert Adventures)
This is a locally run company that gives guided tours in and around Sossusvlei and the NamibRand Nature Reserve since 1991. Tok Tokkie specialises in putting visitors in touch with the fragile ecosystems of the Namib Desert at once giving guests the opportunity to take in the beautiful surrounds and learn about the need for conservation in these fragile environments.
Check out their itineraries here for a detailed description of the different tours they offer and you can choose which one best suits you.
Get in touch with the Namib and its contrasting surrounds.
(Image via Tok Tokkie Trails)
The favourable weather conditions in autumn make for excellent angling opportunities on the coast line of the Land of the Brave. Fishing in Namibia is very highly rated and there is an avid community of fishermen within the country.
The Skeleton Coast in particular is one of the most talked about fishing spots in Southern Africa and people come from all over the world to try catch a few of the ocean’s finest there. The 200km stretch of coastline that is Dorob National Park is completely open to anglers, as long as you have a valid fishing permit.
Coastal fishing on the Skeleton Coast.
(Image via Planet Sea Fishing)
Here is a great guide to fishing in Namibia if you are interested in planning a dedicated fishing trip. While here is a list of fishing safaris ranging from day excursions to multiple night adventures that one can embark upon.
Getting on a bicycle and touring around Namibia is a great compromise between driving and walking through the country. You get to cover greater distances than by foot, while still being close to the natural surroundings. There are several companies that run guided cycle tours through out Namibia and cycling pretty much anywhere in Namibia in these mild months is sure to be a worthwhile experience.
||Mountain Bike Namibia
This is a local company that offers shorter six day tours as well as a massive 4-6 week tour that includes the must see locations of Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, Damaraland, Kaokoland and the Etosha National Park.
Cycle Namibia specialises in tailor made tours to suit all skill levels and tastes. Have a Look at their website to find out more.
||Bike Tours Direct
This internationally run company offers a 17-day cycling safari that is not to be missed.
You should know by now that the weather is your friend during autumn in Namibia. This means it is an excellent time to strap your backpack on and head up some mountain trails. We have chosen two hikes that would be spectacular to do during this time of the year.
Hikers setting off on an adventure.
Fish River Canyon
In the south of Namibia one can go on the epic Fish River Canyon hike. There are various options ranging from day hikes to a mammoth five-day camping hike. You can read more about these hikes here. Note that you are not allowed to hike into the canyon unaccompanied by an official guide as it has been deemed to risky to explore the canyon without an expert.
If you’re into hiking, don’t miss the opportunity to see this canyon.
The Waterberg in the central northern region provides visitors with somewhat more leisurely hiking options. As opposed to the Fish River Canyon hike explorers can walk around at their own leisure in the Waterberg Plateau Park.
You do not need a guide with you and you can pick up a map of the various trails at the NWR reception at the entrance to the park. Read more about the walking/hiking trails you can explore in the park here.
The trails are clearly marked and easy to follow.
Be advised though, it is never, ever, a good idea to go hiking on your own and you should always take someone with you no matter how simple a trail seems or how well you know the route.
There it is! Several reasons why you should spend some time in Namibia during autumn. If you don't have plans to come to Namibia already, but want to, then know that if you plan your adventure for this time of year you are sure to have an amazing time.
The autumn sun setting behind a lone windmill.
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
Namibia is a very, very big country and driving from each location to amazing location can take hours. As a result of this, many intrepid locals have set up small rest camps along the national roads where travellers can break their long drives and rejuvinate. These lodge-style establishments can be found all over Namibia, and in this post we’re going to tell you what you can expect from a rest camp and where you can find a few of them.
Rest camps are character filled and unique and each one has something different to offer explorers. Above is a picture of Roy's Rest Camp where we spent a night
Our rest camp experience
After travelling up to Etosha for some game viewing, we were next going to visit Rundu. We decided we would rather break our long drive with a stay at a rest camp. After looking at the map and the available rest camps along the B8 we eventually settled on a place called Roy’s Rest Camp.
The entrance to Roy's Rest Camp
The accommodation at your typical rest camp is simple and clean and Roy’s is no exception, but each rest camp in Namibia also has its own character and vibe. Roy’s Rest Camp, for example, has been painstakingly decorated by its owners.
Derelict classic cars and all manner of Namibian inspired homemade décor can be found hanging in the trees, at the restaurant and in the rooms.
We found this old car just by the camp's reception.
Our stay at Roy's was very typical of a rest camp in Namibia. The staff are friendly and interested in your stories and always have time to sit around and chat about what's going on around the camp and the country as a whole. Places like this afford you an opportunity to swap notes with other travellers and get some ideas on what to do while you are in Namibia.
What you can expect from a rest camp
These small camps are unpretentious and unassuming and the people who run them are almost always friendly, welcoming people. Rest camps can also be excellent place to meet up with fellow travellers and maybe make a few new friends by sitting round the fire or poolside.
Rooms are typically simple, clean and comfortable
Some of the rest camps have other unique features such as farm tours and bird walks, or even game viewing, and so it is always a good idea to ask at the camp's reception if there are any recommended activites for visitors to experience while staying at a particular rest camp.
Another beautifully rusted out car at Roy's Rest Camp
Some of the camps are self-catering and others have a more typical travel lodge setup. The whole point of a rest camp is to allow a weary traveller to lay down their head for a good night’s rest so that in the morning they can carry on with their journey refreshed and impressed.
Many of the rest camps you will find in Namibia will give you the option of either staying in built chalets, or camping in your own tent. Roy's Rest camp is one such place that offers both, but it is not the only one. So, if you and your travel buddies are up for some outdoor camping then a rest camp may make even more sense for you as you travel through the vast countryside of Namibia.
A short list of rest camps in Namibia
Below is a list of several rest camps situated around the country. As already mentioned, rest camps can be found all over Namibia, so when you are planning your trip consider breaking up some of the long distances and travel days.
Roy's Rest Camp
Roy’s Camp is perfectly situated on the B8 main road from Grootfontein to Rundu, 55 km north of Grootfontein. At ideal stop over to Northern Namibia, Zambezi (formerly known as Caprivi) and Bushman land.
Brandberg Rest Camp
Located in Damaraland, the Brandberg rest camp has a restaurant, bar, pool and internet facilities.
The camp also offers guests some climbing, exploring and hiking activities.
Ombo Rest Camp
70km North of Windhoek on the Hochfeld road, Ombo Rest Camp has a restaurant but has self-catering chalets as well.
This camp is unique in that it has a wateringhole on its property for game and sunset viewing.
Kamanjab Rest Camp
3km from the village of Kamanjab this quirky camp has a restaurant, bar and can be reached via a nearby landing strip for private planes.
This camp has unique game watching oppurtunities and is home to several friendly giraffes.
Quiver Tree Forest Camp
13km Northeast of Keetmanshoop the Quiver Tree Forest Camp has a swimming pool, a choice between either self-catering or you can use the a la carte restaurant.
Near the camp are incredible geological formations, birdlife and a veritable forest of quiver trees.
Khorixas Rest Camp
Situated nearby the Damaraland capital of Khorixas this camp has everything you need to relax when you are halfway thorugh a long journey.
The surrounds in this part of Damaraland are famed for unusual geological formations and ancient rock engravings.
As mentioned above this is not a complete list of rest camps in Namibia and no matter where you are travelling in this wide open country you should be able to find a rest camp where you can split up your journey and have an extra mini-adventure.
Each little place that you find in Namibia has something unique and interesting about it and these small establishments give you a chance to experience some of that first hand.
Hiking in the Fish River Canyon
Words and pictures by Roderick MacLeod
I woke up after spending a night in the Fish River Lodge knowing that my day would be a busy one. I had signed up for a full day hike into the second largest canyon in the world: the Fish River canyon. The hike would be a ten-hour affair; five hours into the canyon and five hours to get out of the canyon before dark settled on the land.
As you can expect the day started early. Breakfast was served at 5:30am and despite the hour everyone was in high spirits.
Dube, one of the guides at the lodge.
The night before the hike I had had a chance to chat to some of the Fish River Lodge’s staff about the hike and what I should expect. The response was always along the same lines: It is a tough hike and should not be attempted by the frail or lazy. A good pair of shoes is an absolute must and a healthy pair of lungs will, of course, help. The Fish River Lodge, as part of the full-day hike package you can purchase, provided me with water and food for the duration of the hike.
Into the Canyon
Once our guides for the day (Ben and Desmond) had introduced themselves to us we set out for the point at which we would begin our descent down into the canyon.
Our vehicle was left perched on the canyon's rim.
We would see it as a dot, many hours later, looking up from the canyon floor.
An hour after beginning our descent I noticed how spectacular the formations in this canyon are. The dried up river beds, the gullies, the outcrops of strangely sculpted cliffs are all a treat for anyone with an interest in natural beauty. It is incredibly interesting to witness the changes to your surroundings as you descend into the canyon for the first time.
Rain-sculpted and sand-blasted, a face emerges from the cliff...
A long dried-up river bed
A gully in the morning sun.
On account of the many different landscapes in and around the Fish River canyon there is a varied collection of wildlife. The chances of sighting a few of these creatures increases when you are on foot. The park is home to many mountain zebra, various antelope, eagles and even a few rhino. Unfortunately I did not see any of the rhinos. I did however find traces of their activities on the path we were using.
Rhino dung on the hiking trail.
Naturally created hiking trails
Many visitors at the lodge spoke of their encounters with the mountain zebras of the region. The reason why people have encountered so many of these animals is because the trails that I and everyone else hikes on are in fact the selfsame paths created and used by the animals. There is a distinct effort on the part of the park officials and lodge owners to keep the hike as natural as possible.
When hiking the Fish River Canyon you will literally walk on the paths the local animals use...
There has been no clearing of boulders or cutting of trails. This means that when scaling up or down the mountain you have to figure what the best route will be. Since the rocks in the canyon are frequently breaking off the cliff faces and rolling down the slopes no two hikes into the canyon are identical.
The Half-day hike viewpoint
After three or so hours of hiking we came to a type of plateau which was about half the way down into the canyon.
We had reached the halfway point of the half-day hike, which meant we were one quarter through the full-day hike. We could see the river and the canyon floor below us. We were then told by Ben (our guide) that we would be heading further down the canyon and further along the river toward our destination: A natural rock pool in which we could have a refreshing dip before turning around and heading back out of the canyon.
View from the half-day hike turnaround point.
Below to the left is the Fish River.
Between the half-day hike turnaround point and the rock pool was the part of the hike I found to be the most treacherous. The landscape suddenly flattened out and i found myself walking on cracked rock and around small thorny shrubs. Constant attention was needed to avoid spraining an ankle or twisting a knee.
Ben surveys the harsh beauty of the canyon surrounds.
Your prize for making it through these trials is an hour of relaxation at the rock pool. After 4-5 hours of non-stop hiking this rock pool becomes more than just a pool, it becomes an oasis. Water cooled rocks and shade from the surrounding cliffs will give you all the comfort you need after having spent hours in the arid heat.
The seemingly bottomless rock pool at the floor of the canyon.
Onward and Upward
After we had relaxed sufficiently at the rock pool we picked up our bags once more and headed back along the path we came down on.
My hiking companion preparing to leave the rock pool behind.
The hike was nothing short of glorious. I was constantly struck by the massive beauty of the canyon. From the moment I stood atop the canyon to when I was seated on its floor, to when I once again stood atop its cliffs I was filled with a sense of wanderlust and excitement. The hikes and hiking options offered by the Fish River Lodge make it easy to say this is the perfect spot for just about anyone who wants to go hiking in the Fish River canyon.
Even our guide, Ben, had to take a few breathers on the way up.
How to get there - Where to stay
The Fish River canyon is one of the largest canyons in the world and it can be found in Namibia’s Southern Karas region near the South African/Namibia border.
As with most places in the South of Namibia the best way to get there is via the small town of Luderitz. The drive from Luderitz to Fish River canyon is a lengthy, but relatively straight-forward drive. A car capable of dealing with rocky dirt roads is strongly advised.
Almost the entirety of the canyon is now a protected nature reserve and there are several lodges one can stay at around the canyon. It should be mentioned that the Fish River Lodge is the only lodge that is perched directly on the rim of the canyon, the other lodges are a little bit removed from the canyon.
If you wish to hike in the canyon you will need a guide as private hikes are no longer allowed since numerous tragedies have befallen ill-prepared private non-sanctioned groups of hikers.
Most of the lodges offer guests a variety of activities to choose from. So if there are people unwilling or unable to hike, do not fear. Activities in the Fish River canyon range from scenic drives to horse back safaris so check each lodge out and decide what is best for you and your traveling companions.
Here is a list of some of the places you can stay at near the Fish River Canyon:
Namibia has several deserted and abandoned regions. This entry is about one of them.
Journey to the Sperrgebiet
Our day started at the Nest Hotel in Luderitz where we met our tour guide for the day. He would be taking us on a two person tour of the Sperrgebiet.
The road was rough, very rough. A 4x4 is an absolute necessity when visiting this part of Namibia. If it were not for our excellent little 4x4 mini-van then we would have gotten stuck numerous times. Eventually we got to the entrance of the Sperrgebiet, beyond lay Pomona and the Bogenfels.
The Sperrgebiet checkpoint
The Sperrgebiet is an area of land on the west coast of Namibia that was specially set aside for diamond mining. Even though only 5% of the Sperrgebiet’s 26 000km2 is used for mining today access to the whole area is strictly controlled. Checkpoints like the one our tour guide took us through are the only manner in which people can enter and leave the area without incurring massive penalties ranging from fines to jail time.
A signboard warning trespassers of various penalties
Once we were through the checkpoint we were treated to the vastness of the Sperrgebiet. There is almost no human life in this area as the diamond mining operations in this part of the Sperrgebiet have been winding down for years now.
Pictured above: Vastness
Pomona's satellite settlement
After an hour of driving from the checkpoint we noticed some buildings on the horizon. Our guide informed us that the buildings had been constructed to provide basic services to people of Pomona. This outpost was responsible for providing the mining town with fresh water and other such necessities.
An abandoned storage shed
A waterpump was housed within this building
An old building looking out over the road toward Pomona
The train station
Further down the dirt road we came upon a train station which had once been used to receive and dispatch goods to and from Pomona. Since the first motorcar only arrived in Pomona in 1917 the people of the isolated mining town had relied on trains to deliver basic goods in the early years of the town's settlement. Now, however, the train tracks lie in ruin and the loading station is being slowly swallowed by the desert.
Our van on the buckling tracks
One of the old station buildings
On the second floor of the loading area of the station
The loading area is packed with rusted and sandblasted pieces of machinery.
Arriving in Pomona
Eventually we got to the site where Pomona once stood. Looking at this place it was hard to believe that Pomona was once a town where people were able to live. All that is left are crumbling buildings, broken ceilings and abandoned bits of machinery.
...and abandoned machinery
The town was the center of an extremely productive region of the Sperrgebiet. Over 4 million carats worth of diamonds were discovered and processed by the German Diamond Company in Pomona and over 800 people at a time called this remote outpost home. By the 1940’s the diamonds had become much harder to find and it the town was later completely abandoned. All that is left now are quiet buildings and a peaceful graveyard overlooking the Atlantic ocean.
One of the graves in Pomona's cemetery
A failed settlement
To get to our next destination we were taken passed another site of abandoned buildings. Our tour guide told us that this site was in fact the first (failed) attempt to settle in this part of the Sperrgebiet.
Two chimneys that used to be part of a large canteen for the miners
Brutal winds made this site totally uninhabitable and the people who first settled here simply up and left, leaving even their beds behind.
The desert winds and sand are slowly eroding these traces of human settlement
from the Sperrgebiet
We ended off our day tour of the Sperrgebiet with a visit to the mighty Bogenfels. Bogenfels literally means “rock arch” and it is truly an impressive sight. Standing over 55 meters tall this massive rock formation is a perfect example of the impressive things you can find in Namibia if you are prepared to go out of your way.
On the right of the giant arch a ship is sailing out to sea.
Looking along the cliff-face from the top of the Bogenfels
How to get there
First, you will have to get to Luderitz. Luderitz is a charming seaside town located near Kolmanskop. You can fly into Luderitz's airport on Air Namibia or drive to Luderitz from Windhoek on the national road network.
Currently only one company does a tour in this region of the Sperrgebiet. They are called Coastaways and they are located in Luderitz. Our driver/guide was friendly and knowledgeable and he made sure we had a great experience. Coastaways offers several different tours of the surrounding areas. Visit their website for more details.
Why you should go there
A tour to the Sperrgebiet is something everyone visiting the South of Namibia should try and do. A key feature of the Sperrgebiet's appeal is how quiet and peaceful it is. There are no massive crowds and thus it is very easy to become absorbed in the uncanniness of the sights on this tour. It was amazing to see the contrasts of the Sperrgebiet. Its sights range from flimsy man-made structures of diamond to naturally sculpted geological wonders.
The view from the top of the Bogenfels...
and my travel buddy taking a photo
The Waterberg is a vast and tremendously steep plateau in Central Namibia near the town of Otjiwarongo. The Waterberg plateau has stood fast and has silently watched as the land around it has been submerged in water, choked in massive sheets of ice and eroded over the millennia. The plateau is made of a much harder rock than all that surrounds it and as result it now rises 200 meters above the surrounding savannah.
The symbolism of the Waterberg Plateau is important to note. It has stood against time’s greatest tests and remains steadfast. It is fitting then that this plateau and the national park that sits atop it now stand steadfast in the battle for the conservation of some of Namibia’s most endangered species.
The Waterberg Plateau seen from the savannah.
The plateau and 405km2 of the land around the plateau were declared a national park in 1972. The plateau’s steep cliffs make it an extremely difficult region to access so the government at the time decided to designate the plateau as a space for the preservation of endangered species. In this newly formed park it was felt that at-risk and endangered species could recuperate and eventually flourish safe from the threat of poachers and human encroachment.
A view of the surrounding savannah from the top of the plateau.
The government officials were right. In the Waterberg Plateau Park populations of black rhinoceros, Cape buffalo, and antelope such as tsessebe, sable and roan are all on the increase. These species are being brought back from the brink of extinction thanks to the geological features of the plateau and the never failing hard work and dedication of the park officials.
Black rhinos are some of the most endangered animals in Namibia and the world and their proliferation in the Waterberg is one of the major conservation success stories in recent times. There are only about 3,610 Black Rhino still left in the wild and thanks to programs such as those run in the Waterberg Plateau Park Namibia has 1,750 of them. The Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism does regular censuses in the Waterberg but keeps the numbers confidential to deflect any potential interest from high-level and well-organized poachers.
Black rhino taking a dip in the Waterberg.
(Image courtesy of Africa and Beyond)
You may not drive, but you can walk
Access to the Waterberg is strictly controlled and is only possible through a series of checkpoints. As a result one cannot simply hop in one’s car and drive around the Waterberg Plateau Park. If you want to drive through the park you will need to book a place on one of the twice daily safaris the park offers (see below).
The Waterbeg Plateau Park is however accessible in ways other national parks are not. A visitor to the park can choose from any of the many walking trails found all over the park. These trails crisscross the plateau and extend from its base to its summit. A map of the trails can be found at the NWR reception near the entrance of the park.
Map of the park's many walking trails.
(Image courtesy of African Reservations)
The big advantage of being able to walk through the park is that you are able to experience the wildlife in a way that is totally different from other national parks in Namibia. By foot not only do you get to get up close to some of the animals that live in this park but you also get to experience the varied and beautiful flora of the park.
Our guide Makondjo had an expert knowledge of the local flora.
Weeping Wattles, Kalahari Christmas Trees and the protected Leadwood Tree, can all be found in the park, growing alongside the trails and even on the face of the plateau.
Much of the plateau's face is dotted with trees like this one.
There is even a chance that on one of these walks you will come across some of the mammals that have taken up residence in the park. Kudu, cheetahs, leopards and water buffalo are just four of the 26 species of large mammals that can all be found in the park. If you are attentive (and quiet!) you may spot and/or hear some of these animals as you traverse the park on foot. Keep a look out for tracks in the sand as you make your way along the trails and you may get lucky.
This dik-dik was kind enough to pose for us as we made
our way along the Mountain View trail.
The bird life of the Waterberg is nothing short of astounding. With over 200 species of birds it is a birdwatchers dream. Numerous raptors such as peregrine falcons and tawny eagles are found in the park and chances are high that you will see one up close. Various vultures, including the critically endangered Cape vulture nest within the park's boundaries. According to our guide Makondjo the best walk for avid bird-watchers is the Fig Tree walk.
Follow these signs for the Fig Tree walking trail.
All the walking trails are all clearly marked by route markers and none of the trails require you to be an expert hiker. Being in good physical condition is advisable but many patrons of the park, young and old, can navigate most of the trails with ease. If at any point you feel the going is getting too tough then simply turn around and head back the way you came.
When on any of the trails up the plateau just follow these painted feet.
For those who are more adventurous (and are in better shape) than most check out some of the longer multi-day hikes that the reserve has to offer.
Getting to the top of the plateau is easy, leaving the views behind is not
If walking and hiking is not really your thing then fear not! You can take a guided safari drive led by the resident game rangers. There is both a morning and a late afternoon drive. All you have to do is let the NWR reception know that you wish to book a place on one of these drives.
Giraffe seen from the road whilst on the late afternoon safari drive
The drives include a visit to some of the park’s seven watering holes. These watering holes are specifically designed to be non-intrusive areas from which to watch animals in their natural environment.
Looking out of a watering hole hide deep in the park-
patience and silence are needed if you want to capture some of the rarer game
The Waterberg's multifaceted history
The Waterberg’s attractions are not limited to its flora and fauna. There are both anthropological and archaeological sites of interest as well. The Waterberg was the site of a major battle during the Herero uprising against the German colonial forces. There is a graveyard near the entrance to the park which commemorates soldiers lost on both sides of the conflict. The exact location of the park is on the map you can pick up from reception.
A little harder to find are the dinosaur footprints found in the surrounding area. You will need a guide in order to find these and enquiries in this regard can be made at the NWR reception.
(Image courtesy of Richard Desomme via Panoramia)
You can stay at the NWR lodge or the private Waterberg Wilderness lodge both these lodges have the advantage of being located in the national park. The NWR lodge also has a rich history closely associated with the early German settlement in the area and is definitely worth checking out. Many of the buildings found in the park are from the early 1900's. Besides these two options there are many other options that will put you within striking distance of the park as well.
The Waterberg Plateau Park's NWR run dining hall is a former police station that has been
reconditioned and aesthetically preserved
Why you should visit the Waterberg
The Waterberg’s unique blend of flora and fauna, and its sociological, anthropological and archaeological points of interest make it a must visit for anyone touring around Namibia. It is a bastion of conservation and relaxation. It is also a hideaway from the crowds of the bigger and more over-visited safari spots in Namibia. This park is suited for the traveller who is looking for something a little out of the ordinary on their journeys around Namibia.
A massive tree that has grown into the rock and formed a natural slide
This month, our theme is Landscapes - but we're well aware that there's more than one way to view Namibia's "endless horizons". There are some sights you need to get that little bit closer to - and others that can only truly be appreciated from the air.
Here's a roundup of different ways you can get around Namibia - for those who are fit and fearless, and those who seek calm and comfort.
Namibia's harsh terrain means that to really immerse yourself in the landscapes, there is often no option but to go on foot. Whether summiting the dunes at Sossusvlei, scaling the cliffs of Spitzkoppe and Waterberg, or following the course of the Fish River through the world's second largest canyon, a good pair of hiking boots will get you closer to the flora, fauna and geology of this diverse country.
Quad biking in the NamibRand Nature Reserve. Photo: Zachary-Cy Vanasse, TravelHOT News
The soft sands of the desert are a dangerous obstacle for even the most experienced 4x4 drivers. In contrast, they are simply a playground for anyone on a quad bike! First-time bikers can get to grips with their vehicle on the flat sand before ascending into the dunes around Swakopmund or the Namib Desert, and get a kick out of cruising past oryx, fairy circles and even the ocean. Namibia promotes eco-quad biking with set routes through the dunes, to minimise the damage on the surrounding environment and avoid disturbing wildlife.
Self-drive through the dunes
While much of Africa is only open to tour groups, Namibia welcomes private vehicles. Its excellent road network and numerous car hire options mean that a self-drive holiday is a fun, simple way to soak up Namibia's varies landscapes at your own pace. Stop when you like for a picnic or photo shoot, and even camp under the stars to have the scenery all to yourself as far as the eye can see.
Horseback riding takes place across Namibia - taking in landscapes such as the Orange River and Fish River Canyon in the south, the Atlantic Ocean and seasonal Swakop River, the wilds of Damaralans, and the dunes of the Namib-Naukluft National Park, among others. Some tours are thrilling safaris - taking riders past elephants, giraffes, rhinos and even wild horses. Tours can be epic, multi-day adventures, or relaxed half-day treks, depending on your preference and experience. Whatever you choose, it's sure to be memorable!
Boarding a light aircraft. Photo: Zachary-Cy Vanasse, TravelHOT News
Travelling by light aircraft is not just an efficient way to get from A to B in such a vast land, it's also an enjoyable activity in its own right. A flying safari is the only way to really comprehend the endlessness of the Namib Desert, and to dicover the wrecks and abandoned mines along the Skeleton Coast. Gliding as low as 130 metres above Namibia's coastline, passengers can see flocks of flamingoes, giant colonies of Cape fur seals and watch the waves crash right into the dunes.
Cycling through the Namib, Photo: Namibia Individual Travel
The cycle bug has bitten in Namibia - locals love going on long rides into the wilderness, and cyclists from around the world make their way to the Namib for the gruelling and ever-growing Desert Dash competition. You can battle out the harsh terrain and punishing climate on a mountain biking tour of the land. Or take a two-wheel stroll through the lively streets of Katutura. Most cyclists prefer to bring their own equipment (it's pretty easy to arrange this with your airline) but you can rent a bike if you prefer.
Check out CycleTech in Windhoek for cycling supplies and news
Mountain Bike Namibia offers cycling safaris around Namibia
Katatura tours offers guided cycle tours through the culturally and historically rich township just outside Windhoek
Canoe and Kayak
Sea kayaking is possible in the lagoons around Walvis Bay and Swakopmund, allowing you to paddle away from the coast and take in the landscape at your own pace. Alternatively, canoe down the Orange River between Namibia and South Africa, or the Kunene River between Namibia and Angola. The exceptionally brave can raft here, near the gorgeous panorama of Epupa Falls.
Dolphins off the coast of Namibia, Photo: Pack Safaris
If trekking, kayaking and driving seem too much like hard work on your holiday, kick back on a boat tour and see the landscape change as you sip a glass of sparkling wine and enjoy a plate of oysters. Tours take place near Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Luderitz, allowing you to take in the marine landscape complete with dolphins and pelicans, as well as viewing the dunes, sand spits and lighthouses from a new perspective.
Namibia is a country of almost-superlatives. The second-least densely populated country in the world is also one of the newest, and is home to some of: the largest dunes, the darkest skies, the oldest cultures, the biggest conservation areas in Africa, the world's last rhinos and the most complex languages on the planet - to name but a few!
In this weekly blog series we explore some of Namibia's extremes, and share with you practical information on how you can come and discover them for yourself.
Taking on Big Daddy
Sossusvlei is surely Namibia's most iconic landscape. The rust-red dunes, bleached white pans and deep blue sky are instantly recognisable, and symbolise the country's vast, dry, uninhabited expanses. The dunes here are some of the highest in the world, and the tallest in this area - at a whopping 325m (1,066ft) - is the appropriately named Big Daddy.
The more popular - and widely photographed - Dune 45 is just 80m high, but people still like to climb the monster Big Daddy for two main reasons: firstly, because it overlooks the surreal landscape of Dead Vlei, a white pan filled with the dark fossils of camelthorn trees, and secondly because climbing Big Daddy gives you ultimate bragging rights.
Two adventurers climb a massive dune.
Embarking on your climbing expedition
It's not for the faint-hearted. Climbers need to start early - and round here, early means waking at 4:30am. This allows time to reach the park gate when it opens at sunrise, and then make the 65km drive to Sossusvlei in a 4x4 over the soft sand. An early start also displays the dunes as their most picturesque. The rising sun causes one side to glow a fiery red, while the other is entirely in the shadows. It truly is a paradise for even the most amateur photographer. As the sun soars higher in the sky, the landscape appears to flatten as the shadows disappear.
If the early wake-up call has left you feeling dizzy, ascending Big Daddy's crest will really make your head spin! It takes an average of 50 minutes to reach the first plateau - which rewards adventurers with awesome dune panoramas, a peek down into Dead Vlei, and gorgeous photo opportunities.
Climbers take on Big Daddy
Continuting to the second peak requires stamina, bravery and an extremely large bottle of water. It takes at least another hour with the sun now high in the sky and not a spot of shade in sight! But of course, the views from the top are astounding, and if you reach the summit, you have truly conquered one of nature's harshest giants.
Now comes the reward - running down the soft sand of the slipface. Two hours of endurance to the top - five mintes of sheer pleasure bouncing down to the the bottom! The adrenaline rush will give you enough energy to take a stroll around Dead Vlei for some photos, before a well-earned lunch at a shady picnic spot.
Running down Big Daddy (left); Climbing Big Daddy offers an unusual view of Dead Vlei (right)
Big Daddy is the tallest dune in Sossusvlei but not in the Namib Desert - that honor belongs to the giant 383m Dune 7.
In the Nama language, "Sossus" means "a gathering place for water". "Vlei" is Afrikaans for "a shallow lake".
The dunes of the Namib were created by sand being carried on the wind from the coast. The wind in Sossusvlei itself blows from all directions meaning the dunes are known as "star" dunes - as they cause the sand to form a star shape with multiple "arms". This wind pattern also means that the dunes hardly move.
The sand here is five million years old. It is comprised mostly of tiny grains of coated in a thin layer of iron oxide, giving the Namib its distinctive red color.
An aerial view of the dunes at Sossusvlei gives a sense of scale
The park gate is just past Sesriem, and is open between sunrise and sunset. From here, the 65km drive to Sossusvlei takes about an hour.
At the base of Dune 45 - 45km from the gate - there is a small parking area and a dry toilet. Sossusvlei has a larger parking area with more toilets and a picnic area. There is no water here, so bring plenty.
The route beyond this parking area (another 4km to Sossusvlei) can only be covered in a 4WD vehicle. Alernatively, there is a 4WD transfer service, or you can walk.
The climate here is extreme, even in winter. Visitors should bring at least two litres of water, sunscreen, a sunhat, sunglasses and long-sleeved shirt. Be aware that the sun is also reflected upwards from the sand!
Read a local painter's perspective on Sossusvlei and see a photo gallery of the region.
Don't fancy scaling one of the world's highest dunes? Take a look at Gondwana Collection's 360 degree panorama of Sossusvlei instead!
One of Namibia's most iconic desitnations, the Fish River Canyon, is more than just a must-see travel destination. It is an adventure and a challenge. For years, the 84km trail that descends through the canyon has served as a race course for elite runners.
The Fish River Challenge Race invites athletes from all over the world to tackle extreme conditions and terrains. In 2003, Namibians Russell Paschke, Charlie du Toit and Coenraad Pool set a record time of 10 hours 54 minutes to complete the run.
Today, that record has been shattered by ultra trail runner Ryan Sandes who finished in 6 hours and 57 minutes. Read more about Ryan's accomplishment here.
Fish River Canyon is the second largest natural gorge in the world, and the largest in Africa. Set in a harsh, stony plain dotted with drought resistant succulents, such as the distinctive quiver tree or kokerboom, the canyon is a spectacular natural phenomenon.
Formed over 500 million years ago, Fish River Canyon was created by the collapse of the valley bottom due to movements in the earth’s crust. It drops vertically by half a kilometer without any warning. As with most rivers in Namibia, Fish River is generally dry except during the rainy season, from January to April.
Unlike Ryan, you may choose to explore Fish River Canyon at a more leisurely pace. The Fish River Canyon Hiking Trail is generally a four-day, 86km expedition open from May to September. Even if you're not planning on racing through, hiking the trail still requires a doctor’s approval. With no services except for at the beginning and end, it’s obviously not for the faint of heart.
To book a trip to the Fish River Canyon, contact Namibia Wildlife Resorts.