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What to do in Windhoek

  
  

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.

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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.

Independence Avenue

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.

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The Christus Kirche.

Katatura Township

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.

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Katatura.

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.

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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.

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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”.

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Arts and crafts...

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...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.

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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.

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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.

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Picturesque- Parliament Gardens in Windhoek.

Visit the Edge of Namibia's Namib Desert

  
  

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. 

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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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The individualised rooms are...

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...literally built...

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...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.

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DIY camping at its finest
.

Geisterschlucht Cabin

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.

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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.

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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:

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Accommodation, namibia hiking, Activities, Adventure, desert, trip planning, history, wild horses, namibia horses, self drive namibia

Accommodation, namibia hiking, Activities, Adventure, desert, trip planning, history, wild horses, namibia horses, self drive namibia

Namibia's southern regions have so much to offer- so don't miss out!

The Wild Horses of the Namib

  
  

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Dueling horses.
(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.

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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.

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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.

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 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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

 

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Wild horses at sunset.
(image courtesy of Cheryl Korff, via Panoramio)

 

More on this topic

Read about the desert adapted rhinos of Namibia

Download our adventure travel planning guide

Read about the Desert Adapted Elephants

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Luderitz- Exploring Namibia's Historic Diamond Town

  
  

The small town of Luderitz is located in the South of Namibia and if you are lucky enough to have some free time on your holiday, then you should definitely go on a tour of it and its surrounds. From quaint old German-style architecture, to beautiful wide-open skies and crystal clear seas with white beaches, Luderitz is a small town with a lot to see.

sign
Welcome to Luderitz!

Arriving

The first great thing about Luderitz is that it has its own airport. Flights go to Luderitz from Windhoek once a day, and getting a ticket is usually not a problem.

One can also drive from Windhoek to Luderitz. It's a straight shot along the B4 and will take you about 6-7 hours to do.

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The flight into the isolated town, over the desert sands, was amazing.

The Nest Hotel

Once in Luderitz I made my way to where I would be laying my head down for the duration of my trip. I was staying at the Nest Hotel, which is the perfect spot to stay if you feel like having all the creature comforts of modern living.

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This was the view from my room- it was spectacular all day long!

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The Nest Hotel in the twilight.

Take your time

Luderitz exists as a town largely thanks to the diamond industry in Namibia, and to this day diamonds continue to be an important part of the town's economy. And with the railway being refurbished and new buildings going up all the time, the future is looking bright for this sometimes forgotten town.

Most travellers go to Luderitz just to use it as a stepping stone to other locations in Namibia's South, but doing this would be a waste of an opportunity to do some exploring. The coastal town has enough going on to keep a busy adventurer happy for a good few days.

Colourful streets, colourful buildings

But today we will concern ourselves with the past and of particular interest is the unique architecture of Luderitz. Colourful buildings built during the time of German occupation line the streets, and businesses more than a hundred years old can be found on some of the streets.

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Rows of brightly coloured houses can be found all over the seaside town.

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A shot of some of the local businesses.

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Barrels- the towns friendly watering hole.

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House Groenewald.

Historical sites

The town also has several historical sites, which are worth visiting. There is a wealth of information on the town’s history and you can find this information at any tourist centre or hotel in Luderitz.

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 A memorial for those who died fighting for their land.

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Plaque honouring Heinrich Vogelslang, Luderitz's first pioneer.

A short drive outside of town and one can find Dias Cross, which is a must see if you are in Luderitz. The site marks the location of where Bartholomew Dias landed in Namibia. Tourists can now visit this spot and enjoy the delicious cake and coffee on sale at the small café run nearby the site.

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The foot bridge leading up to the historic site.

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 Dias Cross, erected where the explorer landed in 1488.

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A modern lighthouse overlooks Dias Cross and Grossebucht.

Beaches near Luderitz

The beaches near Luderitz are also quite spectacular. White sands and shallow waters make these beaches perfect for picnicking and sunbathing. The fact that there are so few people in this part of the world only helps you appreciate the isolated beauty of the locations around Luderitz.

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An abandoned ship at Grossebucht.

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On our way to Agate Beach we had to obey the sign and not enter
the area still designated for diamond mining.

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Agate Beach-
Hundreds of agates lie on the shore and can be taken home and cherished.

Discover Luderitz

Luderitz is the gateway to the South of Namibia, and when staying in Luderitz it is very easy to visit such attractions as Kolmanskop, Pomona, Fish River Canyon, Klein Aus and many, many other places that are of interest to anyone looking for a bit of adventure.

So when you go to Luderitz, do not forget to stick around a bit in the town and take in its sites. It is a quaint, friendly place, unique and unlike any place you have stayed in.

The pictures above are by no means an exhaustative list of things to do in Luderitz. If you like exploring hidden gems, and finding out more about the rich history of one of the oldest towns in Namibia, then get yourself down to this small town, and get exploring!

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A view of the old harbour.

Celebrating the Heroes of Namibia

  
  

On August the 26th 1966 the first shots were fired in Namibia’s war for independence at the battle of Omugulugwombashe in Namibia's central Northern region. It would take 23 years for Namibia to achieve independence but it is these first acts of armed resistance that are being commemorated on Monday 26th August. Heroes’ Day is celebrated every year in Namibia in an effort to never forget the sacrifices and efforts of all the proud Namibians who fought for freedom and self-determination.

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 The Unknown Soldier at Heroes' Acre

These days the holiday is used to foster national pride and to stress the importance of togetherness in Namibia. Namibia has several diverse cultures living within its borders and presidents often use the 26th of August to remind everyone in Namibia, and the world at large, just how remarkable and peacefully all the different cultures in Namibia co-exist.

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Three Himba children laughing
(image courtesy of Nigel Pavitt)

Namibia’s Heroes’ Day is a time for all Namibians to reflect on how far the country has come since attaining its independence from South Africa in 1990. Rather than focussing on the lives lost needlessly in a justified struggle for independence from a white minority government, Namibia focuses on the positive aspects of its post-independence reality. In recent years the spotlight has been put on to current citizens’ Namibian hero. This typifies the Namibian spirit of endeavour and a national psyche of reconciliation with a view to the future instead of dwelling on the past.

Heroes' Acre

The Heroes’ Acre just outside Windhoek is a monument to the fallen soldiers and citizens of Namibia. The monument aims to honour the lives of those Namibians who may have otherwise been forgotten through the passage of time. There is a statue of the unknown soldier and seating for about 50 000 people for when events are held in its amphitheatre.

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A flame burns in memorium for those who have been lost

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A tourist makes his way to the Unknown Soldier

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Heroes' Acre seen from its paved square

Heroes' Day 2013

This year the annual celebrations will be held in the Omusati region where the war for independence began in 1966. The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology has predicted that over 50 000 people will attend the ceremonies being held. This year the highlight of the ceremony will include the unveiling of a new statue of Dr Sam Nujoma to celebrate the ex-president’s integral role in fighting for Namibia’s independence.

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Founding President Sam Nujoma (left) greeting the late Colonel John Otto
Nankudhu during the 2009 Heroes’ Day commemoration

(image courtesy of the Namibian Sun)

The planned ceremony will also celebrate the role of everyday Namibian heroes and heroines who all contribute to making Namibia the wonderful, peaceful and harmonious country it is. Men and women such as Cgunta Khao//Khao who at great personal risk helped to save a tourist form a bushfire in 2012.

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Cgunta: A true Namibian hero recovering from his burns in hospital
(image courtesy of the N/a'an ku sê Foundation)

Namibians across the political, social and economic spectrum are expected to honour the day. There are even groups in the United Kingdom that will be holding events for Namibian ex-pats looking to honour the spirit of their country. So if you are a homesick ex-pat reading this blog then take a moment this Monday to remember just exactly what make Namibia and its people so unique and wonderful.

Namibia, namibia tourism, namibia travel, namibia independence, namibia history, Sam Nujoma, SWAPO, PLAN

The Heroes' Acre monument stands proud against a bright blue Namibian sky


Five Things to do in Downtown Swakopmund

  
  

Swakopmund is known as Namibia's adventure tourism capital - but in between surfing down sand dunes, kayaking with seals and quad biking across the coastal desert, it's worth taking a day to explore some of the town's more urban pleasures. Here's five of our favourite:

1. National Marine Aquarium of Namibia

National Aquarium of Namibia, Swakopmund

Main tank at the aquarium, where sharks swim above your head

The newly-renovated attraction showcases the marine species that thrive in the South Atlantic's chilly Benguela Current. The centrepiece is a large aquarium filled with fish and sharks, and the walk-through tunnel that allows visitors to get scarily close to these fearsome creatures.

Colourful panels give information about Namibia's fishing industry and local species such as Cape fur seals. There is a tank containing rays, and at 3pm each day the fish are fed. Try and visit on a Tuesday, Saturday or Sunday - and you'll see divers in the large aquarium feeding the sharks by hand!

  • Open: Tuesday - Sunday, 10am - 4pm

  • Closed: Mondays, Christmas day and New Year's day

  • Feeding: Daily at 3pm

  • Feeding by divers: Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays

2. Living Desert Snake Park

Though feared by many, snakes are actually surprisingly hard to spot in Namibia. So it'll be a relief for serpent fans to know that many of Namibia's native species can be seen - and photographed - in Swakopmund, at the Living Desert Snake Park. This compact reptile house has aquariums containing numerous venomous and non-venomous snakes, as well as geckos, scorpions, and even a couple of huge monitor lizards. Stuart Hebbard, who founded the Snake Park almost two decades ago, is happy to chat about the various species he cares for, and visitors can see the snakes being fed each Saturday.

Hebbard hopes to move the Snake Park to a new, larger location this year, including a walk-in cage allowing guests to get up close to the safer species! Watch this space for more information.

Swakopmund Snake Park

Western diamond-backed rattlesnake at Swakopmund's Living Desert Snake Park

  • Open: Daily from 9am-5pm

3. Swakopmund Museum

This museum, founded in 1951, has some of the most in-depth exhibits about Namibia's flora, fauna, geology, archaeology culture and modern history - all under one roof. The wildlife room exhibits stuffed specied which are almost impossible to see on safari - such as the aardvark and golden mole. Fossils and meteorites are on show in the geology department,and Namibia's many diverse ecosystems are explained in the botanical department.

Ancient culture is explored in the archaeology room, with well-preserved pots and centuries-old jewellery. Contrast this with the exhibits exploring Namibia's contemporary culture - with body decorations, weaving and clothing from the Himba, San and other communities.

Cultural exhibit at Swakopmund Museum

Himba cosmetic boxes on display at Swakopmund Museum

  • Open: Daily from 10am-5pm

  • Entry: Adults: N$ 25, Students N$20, Children (aged 6-15) N$10

4. Karakulia Weavers

Take a trip to this workshop on the outskirts of town to see the wool of the karakul sheep being spun, dyed and woven into intricately patterned wall hangings and rugs. The talent of the weavers is astounding - as they create patterned abstracts resembling Namibia's dunes, African rock art designs or wildlife scenes on the huge hand-operated looms.

The workshop was founded in 1979, and it has now developed an international reputation. The craftspeople can make custom designs to order, and if you don't have space in your suitcase for a full-sezed rug, they will reliably ship your purchase safely to your home.

Karakulia's staff benefit from training, employment and adult education sessions.

Karakulia Weavers, Swakopmund

A skilled weaver works on a rug design at Karakulia

  • Address: 2 Rakatoa St (nort-east of the town centre)

  • Email: info@karakulia.com.na

5. Kristall Galerie

A unique way to spend your time in Namibia - at a crystal gallery. With exhibits to please the young and not-so young, Kristall Galerie houses the world's largest crystal cluster, estimated to be 520 million years old! Standing 3 metres tall, it took five years to excavate from the Namibian earth. The gallery also has a scratch pit - where you can sift for semi precious stones - and a replica of a mine.

Those looking for souvenirs will love the Gem Shop - selling rough gemstones as well as unique jewellery and carved artworks. Visit the Craft Area to see these pieces being created.

Kristall Galerie, Swakopmund

The replica cave. Image from Kristall Galerie's Flickr page.

  • Open: Monday-Friday 8am-5pm, Saturday 8am-1pm

  • Address: Corner of Tobias Hainyeko and Theo-Ben Gurirab Avenue

     

More Information:

Find the perfect place to stay in Swakopmund with our accommodations guide.

Get some ideas about more adventurous exploits in the region - download our Adventure Travel Planning Guide.

Discover other cities and towns in Namibia.

EXTREME NAMIBIA - One of Africa's LARGEST Concentrations of Rock Art

  
  

This is the last of our EXTREME NAMIBIA blog posts! In this weekly series we have explored some of our country's extremes, and shared with you practical information on how you can come and discover them for yourself.

In the bleak expanse of Damaraland, huge red sandstone boulders are piled high against deep orange cliffs - a dramatic sight even before you take a step closer and discover what has been etched onto the surface of these rocks. This is Twyfelfontein - home to over 2,500 unique engravings (some estimates are as many as 5,000) and numerous paintings, believed to date back some 6,000 years. Twyfelfontein has attracted people for millenia thanks to the presence of water. The Khoekhoe - ancestors of the San - named the site /Ui-//Ais, meaning "permanent spring". The current name, Twyfelfontein, means "doubtful spring" in Afrikaans, suggesting a less reliable source of water.

Twyfelfontein is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and must-see for any visitors to Damaraland, as the engravings have much to teach us about Namibia's earliest inhabitants, their beliefs and the wildlife that was found here.

Twyfelfontein

Reading the Stones: The Art of the San

At first glance, the engravings and rock paintings found at Twyfelfontein are similar to prehistoric rock art found around the world. Figures, footprints, strange geometric shapes and animal-like figures cover the stones, telling the story of hunter and prey. But what is unique about Twyfelfontein is that the ancestors of the people who created these works are still living. Although life has changed for them, they still share similar beliefs, rituals, hunting techniques and understandings of the world around them - allowing us a unique insight into the meaning behind the rock art, and what our ancestors were trying to say.

Here are some of the stories behind one of the largest rock art sites in Africa.

The San are able to put themselves into trances by means of dancing and hyperventilation. This is often carried out by a shaman, who will perform various acts while in this "spirit world", such as healing and making rain. Much of the rock art is believed to be depictions of what the shaman saw while in the spirit world. This is also why many of the engravings are positioned next to fissures and crevasses - it was believed they were entrance points to the supernatural world.

One of the most famous figures in Twyfelfontein is the Lion Man. This lion has five toes on each foot (instread of four), and at the end of his bent tail is what looks like a human hand. The Lion Man represents a human who has turned into a lion while in the spirit world. A giraffe with five "horns" is also believed to be a Giraffe-Man. However, the four-headed ostrich is believes to be a very early example of "animation"!

Twyfelfontein Lion Man 

You may be confused by the images of seals, dolphins and penguins! However, these creatures were never present here; instead, the San travelled over 100km to the coast to collect salt, and drew what they saw while there.

Twyfelfontein seal

Some of the engravings may have been used to educate - children could learn to track animals by looing at the footprints etched into the rocks, and engravings of pregnant animals - such as the "Dancing Kudu" - indicated which ones not to hunt. An early example of conervation, perhaps?!

Twyfelfontein Facts:

  • The sandstone rocks here are around 180 million years old. When fissures developed and they separated from the main cliff, they were left with almost perfectly flat faces - making them ideal for engraving and painting.

  • The engravings were discovered by topographer Reinhard Maak in 1921. He also discovered the famous White Lady painting at Brandberg.

  • The San inhabited this area until the 1930s - when they were moved on by Damara herdsmen.

  • Twyfelfontein became Namibia's first UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.

Practical Information:

  • Twyfelfontein is open from 8am-5pm, visitors in summer should aim to arrive early in the morning as it cann get very hot and there is no shade. This is also the best time for photography. Entry is N$30 for adults and N$25 for children.

  • A 30-minute trail near the visitors' centre can be completed independently, though there is no information about the engravings. Longer trails must be completed with a guide (included in the entrance fee).

  • Visitors should bring a hat, walking shoes, sunscreen and a long-sleeved shirt.

  • Sites of interest near Twyfelfontein include the Organ Pipes,Burnt MountainDoros Crater, and the Petrified Forest.

  • Nearby accommodation includes Twyfelfontein Country Lodge, Camp Kipwe, Madisa Campsite and Mowani Mountain Camp.


Twyfelfontein Rocks!

  
  

describe the image, Twyfelfontein (meaning "doubtful fountain"), is a massive, open air art gallery. With over 2,000 rock engravings, Twyfelfontein represent one of the largest and most important rock art concentrations in Africa. In June 2007 this striking natural red-rock gallery of tumbled boulders, smooth surfaces and history etched in stone was awarded World Heritage Site status, making it Namibia’s first and only UNESCO World Heritage Site to date.

The engravings are estimated to be up to 6,000 years old, and it is believed by many that their creators were San medicine people or shamans, who created their engravings as a means of recording the shaman’s experience among the spirits while in a trance. Among the most celebrated of the rock engravings at Twyfelfontein are a giant giraffe, a "lion man" with a hand at the end of its tail, and a dancing kudu.

35 percent of the revenue received from tourism through entrance fees at the Twyfelfontein World Heritage Site is shared with members of the local community to help them meet their basic needs. As a result, not only do tourists to the area benefit from local insight; local people are also made aware of the importance of preserving their cultural heritage for long-term benefit.

Such culture heritage preservation can be found at the nearby Living Museum of the Damara. This traditional Damara project is the only one of its kind, and the possibility to experience the traditional Damara culture in this form exists nowhere else in Namibia or in the world. Here the visitors have the unique opportunity to get to know the fascinating traditional culture of the Damara, thus contributing to the preservation of the culture as well as to a regular income for the Damara community that built the museum.

Learn more about Namibia’s unique cultures here.

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