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8 Things Namibia Taught Me

  
  

Namibia is a land of adventure and spectacle. Amazing natural parks, free-roaming wildlife, and iconic open spaces can inspire anyone. WWF Travel's Director Elissa Leibowitz Poma recently joined WWF's Chris Weaver in Namibia and came back with a few lessons that she originally posted on the WWF Travel Blog:

1. Black rhinos have a more sensitive disposition than white rhinos. Among several reasons why, according to Jeff Muntifering of the Save the Rhino Trust in Namibia, is the fear of being hunted. White and black rhinos alike have been poached for decades, but black rhinos, which are more solitary than white rhinos, appear to have passed along knowledge of that practice in their genetic code as a survival mechanism.

2. The San click languages spoken by some bushmen is quite difficult to pronounce. A language originating with the hunter-gatherers of southern Africa as they traversed their ancestral lands, the languages and various dialects are still spoken by about 100,000 people in Namibia and Botswana (and small groups in Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe). The one I tried learning consists of four click styles, depending on the placement of your tongue in your mouth. The clicks themselves weren’t so hard to form, but connecting them to words twisted my tongue in knots! (See a pronunciation guide to practice.)

3. Giraffes are the best models in Namibia. You could be driving along a road, nothing around you but sand and rocks, and then all of a sudden a giraffe neck and head pops out from behind a grove of trees. The giraffe would hold your gaze, nibbling on some leaves but intently watching you from beneath impossibly long eyelashes. (They’re that long for a purpose, by the way: To keep insects, debris and sunlight out of their eyes.)

4. There must be a better word to describe a springbok’s leap than “pronk.”Springboks and other gazelles exhibit this behavior when they’re being pursued by prey or otherwise feel a need to get out quickly. It’s an elegant, ballet-like move that allows the springbok to gain extra distance, and surely the motion deserves a more elegant, ballet-like word.

5. You must succumb to the dust. Namibia is a desert. It’s hot, it’s dry - Arizona seems like a rain forest in comparison. So you must accept the fact that the dust will coat every inch of you - covering every centimeter of your skin and clothes, coating each strand of hair, lining the inside of your nose. Instead of resisting it, I  embraced it. It made me feel like a part of the magnificent, stark landscape.

6. It’s hard to eat game after watching it all day. Game meat is a way of life in Africa, and ostrich, zebra, kudu and other mammals frequently show up on menus. I recognize the realities of the world, and I’m not a vegetarian in “real life.” But for me, there was something quite difficult about watching dapper oryx walk across the valleys all afternoon, then mustering any desire to eat a steak of it for dinner. I was surprised by my reaction, actually. I stuck with pasta and veggies.

Ochre body paint made by Himba

7. The adornments that Himba women wear all have practical purposes.The Himba are a semi-nomadic group in the Kunene region of northern Namibia who have maintained a traditional tribal lifestyle. The women we met in a small village were coated head to toe in otijze, a paste made of butter, ash and the natural pigment ochre. The coating gives them a rust-colored, shiny glaze, which not only beautifies them in the Himba way (the rich red color symbolizes blood and life), but also provides sun protection. Likewise, women wear beaded anklets, to prevent snake bites.

8. I have a new appreciation for asphalt. After spending hours each day in a vehicle bumping along dry riverbeds, rock-strewn trails and paths formed by elephants, I hereby declare I will never complain again about potholes in Washington, D.C.

To learn more about how you can have an experience like Elissa's in Namibia's Conservancies, click here

What should I pack for my holiday in Namibia?

  
  

So you've decided to take a magical holiday in Namibia. You've planned the route, booked the rental flights, the rental car in waiting for you in Windhoek. Now you have just one more dreaded activity before your adventure begins...you have to pack! Luckily, we're here to help with a list of 10 essentials for your winter holiday in Namibia.

IMG 4387 cropSun hat - Winter days are clear and sunny.

Sunglasses - Namibia's gravel roads give off quite a glare.

Sunscreen - The cool air can be deceptive and your skin can still burn.

Warm jacket - The desert can get quite cold once the sun goes does, so bring something really warm for the cold, clear evenings.

Gloves, scarf and a beanie - These will also help with the cold on those early morning game drives.

Hot-water bottle - Great for keeping warm at night and relaxing those strained muscles after a day of hiking.

Layers of clothing - Namibia has dramatic differences in temperature during the day and night, so bring a t-shirt and jeans for the warmer days.

Namibia hotelSwimming costume - Yes, really! You can swim at lodges up north where temperatures remain higher than the rest of Namibia.

A journal - For recording you experiences!

A rich body cream - Winters are exceptionally dry with low humidity. Baobab oil is a great organic product that can be picked up in Windhoek if needed.

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Be an Ecofriendly Traveler in Namibia

  
  

Conservation is a cornerstone of the Namibian experience. Here are a few steps you can take as a traveler to help ensure the sustainability of Namibia's wildlife and natural resources.

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Personal - Bring or buy biodegradable toiletry products for use while camping, to ensure that you leave no harmful chemicals behind.

Driving - Switch off your vehicle's engine while viewing wildlife - it saves on fuel, fumes and noise, and prevents disturbance to other game-viewers.

Camping - Take away everything you brought with you and camp only in designated campsites.

Lodging - Switch off the air conditioning and lights every time you leave your room. Keeping curtains and windows closed during the day helps to keep the room cool in summer. Opening windows and curtains in winter lets the warm, fresh air in.

Katutura marketShopping - Don't accept plastic bags for your groceries. Plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to disintegrate and become 'plastic dust' - they never truly biodegrade. Bring a soft fabric bag for buying groceries or even use your backpack/daypack.

Eating - Buy organic vegetables and eggs where possible. The biomarket on Uhland Street in Windhoek is a good place to find these products. Its open every Saturday from 8:30am - noon - treat yourself to fresh coffee and homemade cakes in the cafe!. Nearly all game meat you will find in Namibia will be free-range, organic and local.

10 Tips for Photographing Local Cultures

  
  

A highlight of any visit to Namibia is meeting the local people whose culture may be vastly different to your own, but whose warmth makes you feel quite at home. However, photographing local people is a delicate thing, and we want to offer ten quick tips to properly prepare you.

  • It is illegal to take photos of men and women in uniform, except when they are performing in a public parade or similar. Taking a picture of a police officer on duty is thus out of the question.

  • Ask your guide to break the ice. If you’re planning to take photos of people in their private surroundings, it is always best to have a local guide to take you around, converse with the people and overcome the barrier of photographer versus subject.

  • Always ask before you photograph someone. Not everybody likes to have his or her picture taken, so to avoid conflict, ask first. When in a crowd, it is easy to take a photo of someone with them not noticing, but in less populated areas, it's insensitive to just snap away.

  • Some people will expect payment for having their photo taken. This includes the Himba and Herero who still dress traditionally. They spend a lot of time and effort on their appearance and if you “steal” their image without payment it may land you in a bad position. Best is to agree on a price before you take the photo.

  • Young children are often fond of being photographed, but it’s always best to ask a guardian or parent first. Taking photographs of children without permission from their parents might land you in big trouble.

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  • Older people might be more hesitant to have their photo taken. Once again, friendliness and patience will get you far. If the subject seems unwilling, have a chat with him or her, maybe show him some of your other photos, let them warm up to you, and then ask again.
  • If you take a photograph of someone, show it to him or her afterwards (when shooting digitally). Many people don’t own cameras and is amazed by the possibilities of technology. This gesture will also make them warm up to you, which might result in you getting an even greater photograph.

  • If possible, send a printed copy of the photo to the subject. Those who live in rural areas without camera equipment will really appreciate it. But don’t make empty promises. If you’re not sure if you’ll ever get to send the photo, rather not make the promise.

  • When taking photos at a cultural village, at a cultural performance, or on a pre-arranged photographic tour, it is not necessary to ask for permission. To be on the safe side, check with your guide or local companion first.

  • When on an organized tour, many photo opportunities have been pre-arranged, making it easy for you to just snap away and leave the formalities to your guide. Ask your guide about this if you’re not sure.

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