The experts agree: Namibia is the destination to travel to this year. Vast, safe and extraordinarily beautiful; this must-visit country appears on: “Fodor’s Go List 2015”, “Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015”, “The Independent’s Top 10 Travel Destinations for 2015” and “The Financial Times Insiders’ Guide to 2015 Holidays” (to name but a few).
So why Namibia? And why now? The reasons given vary: the 21st of March marked Namibia’s 25th anniversary of independence from South Africa, the country is a sustainable tourism success story with almost one fifth protected by national parks, some fantastic new camps and lodges have recently opened up, and a couple of years ago Namibia’s unique coastal desert was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
And here are a few reasons of our own:
#1 World’s Tallest Sand Dunes
Climbing to the top of the magnificent Sossusvlei sand dunes (photo: Kulala Desert Lodge)
The iconic dunes of Sossusvlei glow a rich red in the early morning light. It’s a magical feeling standing at the foot of these towering dunes the tallest of which, Big Daddy, rises to around 325m from the valley floor! Set off early and climb to the top for incredible views out over the sea of sand.
#2 Waterhole Wildlife
Waterholes are at their busiest during Etosha's dry season (photo: Little Ongava)
Namibia has a number of excellent reserves, but for sheer abundance of game you simply can’t beat Etosha National Park. Sit quietly at one of the park’s many waterholes and watch herds of springbok, zebra and giraffe come and do - you've got a good chance of seeing lion too!
#3 Dazzling Night Skies
This image of the Milky Way arcing over a quiver tree forest was captured by Florian's Photographs
At night Namibia’s clear desert skies are lit by millions of stars. Wrap up warm and sit under the bright blaze of the Milky Way, counting shooting stars as they streak across the sky. Many lodges also have telescopes or offer star talks, pointing out various constellations with a high-power laser.
#4 Dramatic Landscapes
The combination of colours at Deadvlei makes for dramatic photographs (photo: Little Kulala)
Namibia is big sky country with wide open spaces and so many incredible landscapes. Be sure to take in the Fish River Canyon (the second largest canyon in the world), as well as the vast saltpan and skeleton-like camel thorn trees of Deadvlei. If you enjoy photography, you’ll be in seventh heaven!
#5 Desert-Adapted Wildlife
Desert-adapted elephants have larger feet for walking on sand (photo: Skeleton Coast Camp)
Namibia’s starkly beautiful Damaraland is home to one of the world’s few populations of desert-adapted elephants. Smaller than regular elephant, these herds are constantly on the move and during the dry season can be seen digging for water - which they can smell up to a metre underground.
#6 Romantic Escape
Plenty of space with no one around, and one of the rooftop star beds at Little Kulala.
If you’re looking for some time away to reconnect, then Namibia is definitely for you. Pick from a selection of small, exclusive lodges many of them offering romantic extras such as a sunset picnic for two or cosy star bed where you can snuggle down under the starry skies of the Namib.
#7 Unforgettable Activities
A guided quad bike safari across the dunes of the Namib Desert (photo: Serra Cafema Camp)
Days in Etosha focus on game drives in search of rhino, elephant, cheetah and lion; while in Sossusvlei you can go on a dawn hot air balloon safari – drifting over the desert as the colours bleed into the landscape. A number of lodges also offer quad biking, and if you visit coastal Swakopmund you can pick from a list of adrenaline activities that includes sandboarding and sky diving.
#8 Remote Luxury
Wolwedans Dunes Lodge has beautiful tented suites with sides that roll up to let in the desert views
If the word ‘remote’ conjures up images of basic tents and cold showers, think again! Namibia has a fantastic range of luxury accommodation with air-conditioned suites, crisp white linen, fine cuisine and (should you want it) your own plunge pool. After all, if it’s good enough for Brad and Angelina …
#9 Panoramic Views
Fish River Lodge has a mesmerising view from its perch on the edge of the Fish River Canyon
Namibia is one of the least densely populated countries in the world, and there’s a wonderful sense of freedom that comes with all that open space. Most lodges look out across vast plains, and have wooden decks where you can sit in silence; no modern-day distractions just uninterrupted views.
#10 Hands-On Conservation
Track black rhino on foot led by a conservationist or visit the AfriCat rehabilitation centre
The World Wildlife Fund granted Namibia the “Gift of the Earth Award” in recognition of its conservation efforts linked to responsible tourism. Stay at Desert Rhino Camp and set off on foot with trackers from "Save The Rhino", or visit the excellent predator rehabilitation centre at Okonjima.
#11 Traditional Cultures
Experience an authentic cultural interaction with the local Himba people (photo: Serra Cafema Camp)
Depending on where you stay you may have the opportunity to visit a bushman village or Himba settlement. The Himba are a semi-nomadic people, following grazing for their goats and cattle. Your guide acts as a translator, giving you the chance to find out more about their way of life.
#12 Getting Around
Flying between camps gives you a bird’s eye views over the sea of sand known as the Namib Desert
Namibia’s road conditions are generally good (by African standards) although distances can be daunting! If you have the money, then you can easily fly between camps: a holiday highlight in itself as you marvel at the size of the Namib Desert with its wave upon wave of sand.
#13 Thriving Marine Life
The waters around Walvis Bay are home to a colony of Cape Fur seals (photo: Pelican Point Kayaking)
The icy Atlantic has a rich marine life. Explore Namibia's wild coastline from Walvis Bay (a half-hour drive south of Swakopmund): flamingos feed in the shallow lagoon, you can kayak amongst thousands of seals or take a boat cruise out to see dolphins, pelicans and (in season) whales.
#14 Bring the Kids
Namibia has activities that will keep kids entertained and earn them instant bragging rights
Namibia is a popular choice for a family holiday: most of the country is malaria-free, there’s a good selection of kid-friendly accommodation, and fun activities such as sand boarding and quad biking. Just remember if you plan to drive that distances are vast, so try to avoid long days on the road.
#15 Sunrises and Sunsets
Sunset drinks surrounded by the colours and stillness of the desert (photo: Damaraland Camp)
In Namibia sunrises and sunsets are celebrated. At these times of day the colours of the desert are at their most vibrant, and there's nothing like the soft dawn light casting its warming glow on sand dunes or toasting the sunset amongst the orange and purple mountains of Damaraland.
#16 Ancient Rock Art
Twyfelfontein is one of southern Africa’s most important rock art sites (photo: Doro Nawas)
Namibia has a number of important rock art sites including Twyfelfontein, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here you’ll find sandstone boulders etched with images of people and animals. There are at least 2,500 engravings in the area; one of the largest concentrations of rock petroglyphs in Africa.
Sound like your kind of place? Read more about the regions within Namibia or browse our recommended luxury tours and safaris for more travel inspiration.