Surround Yourself With Wildlife & Thread Through Africa’s Beautiful Deserts in Namibia, South Africa

By Rashmi Wickramasinghe | 27, Sep, 2018
Surround Yourself With Wildlife & Thread Through Africa’s Beautiful Deserts in Namibia, South Africa

Named after its oldest desert – the Namib – Namibia is sheer African nature at its best. Often referred to as ‘Africa for beginners’, this beautiful country will delight the inner adventurer in you!

With majestic sand dunes as tall as mountains, to bizarre plant life and the incredible wildlife sustaining themselves in the arid desert conditions – Namibia boasts a unique landscape. Namibia is a vast expanse of remote plains where ancient tribes of people resided next to the wild, with cities which illustrate its German colonial history.

Have you been wondering how to plan a trip to Africa? Why not start with Namibia first, this article will give you an insight on what Namibia has to offer, may it be its mesmerizing deserts, wildlife or activities.

Starting off with Namibia’s deserts:

1. The Namib

The Namib is a coastal desert referred to as the world’s oldest desert; it is also regarded as a world heritage site. It is a vast expanse stretching over 2000 km; Namib translates to a ‘Vast place’.

Welwitschia

The Namib boasts a number of unique flora and fauna which have adapted to fit in with the desert climate. You will come across certain marvels like the Welwitschia plant, which is a living fossil only found in the Namib Desert. If you are lucky you will spot a herd of desert Elephants, or even the graceful Oryx gazelle.

It is within this desert that most of Namibia’s attractions lie, from the scenic sand dunes of the Sossusvlei to the shipwrecks of old at Skeleton coast, the Namib will offer you plenty to explore!

2. The Kalahari Desert

Covering an expanse of 360,000 square miles through Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, the Kalahari Desert which translates to ‘the great thirst’, is not a desert in the strictest sense of the word. This desert receives about 5–10 inches of rainfall annually; it is also part of the Kalahari Basin and other wet areas!

A little fun fact: The Kalahari desert composes of the world’s largest expanse of sand dunes in the world! But isn’t the Sahara Desert the largest desert in the world? It is, however, sand dunes only make up 15% of its 9,200,000 km.

Consisting of many plant species with some like the Camelthorn being endemic to the region, this desert has open woodlands in the wetter northern and eastern parts. In the more drier southwest part of the Kalahari vegetation is sparse however, you will find the Hoodia cactus in abundance. Hoodia cactus has been used by the San people for centuries to ease thirst and hunger during long hunting trips in the desert.

The Kalahari Desert is home to many species of animals, but the ones that stand out are the Meerkats and the Oryx gazelle.

3. Sossusvlei

The Sosusvlei translate to ‘dead-end-marsh’ and refers to a salt clay pan which resides in between tall red sand dunes.

The sand dunes of Sossusvlei are famous world over for their vivid shades of pink and orange due to a high concentration of iron and, oxidation. The oldest dunes have the iconic reddish hue it is famous for, most of these dunes are the highest in the world rising to about 200 metres in height. The tallest of them all is the ‘Big Daddy’, standing at a height of 325 metres, whilst the tallest dune of the Namib Desert rises at 388 metres.

It is one of Namibia’s main tourist attractions as watching the sunrise from the Sossusvlei dunes is a dramatic display of light and shadow touching the dunes, making for incredible photography! Hiking up the sand dunes is similar to hiking in snow, however it will leave you breatheless, but, you will be rewarded at the top with a stunning view of the area.

Another iconic landmark of the area is the Deadvlei where two blackened acacia trees stand against the stark white salt pan surrounded by the orange dunes. This used to be an oasis with several acacia trees, however, once the river that fed the oasis changed course the area dried up, leaving behind the dramatic dead acacia trees.

The Deadvlei is a dramatic and surreal landscape and has been photographed many times and has also played as the setting for many films and videos.

4. Damaraland

Damaraland is one of Namibia’s most scenic places. However, the region’s name has a tragic history; Damaraland was the old apartheid term for the area as Damara people were relocated there during the 1960s.

However, this unique landscape has many attractions, like the glorious rock formations in Spitkoppe, witness some of the first human engravings in Brandberg and Twyfelfontein, and the Petrified Forest which is said to be a million years old!

Damaraland is home to Black Rhinos and Elephants, they offer special safaris from which all proceeds go the conservation of these animals.

5. Skeleton Coast

Picture Credit: Info Namibia

It is the northern part of the Atlantic coast, Namibian bushmen called it ‘The Land God Made in Anger’, whilst Portuguese sailors called it the ‘The Gates of Hell’. In 1944, John Henry Marsh published a book called ‘Skeleton Coast’, which chronicled the shipwreck of the Dunedin Star. 

Due to popularity of the book the name stuck, and the region has been called Skeleton coast ever since.

This peculiar area of Namibia is famous for its treacherous fogs which have caught unwary ships by surprise resulting in their demise. Close to the graveyard of shipwrecks lie lazy brown Cape seals at Cape Cross sunbathing and frolicking on the beach.

Travel Itinerary across Namibia

Namibia is a vast country with a lot offer, so it cannot be covered within a few weeks or even a month, and you must be wondering on how to plan a Halal trip to Namibia. 

This Namibia travel itinerary covers all the essential spots you need to visit in the country and it’ll only take two weeks! Also remember that it would be wise to have your own vehicle, a 4WD would be ideal to make sure you efficiently cover this complete Namibia road trip itinerary.

So buckle up folks!

1. Begin Your Journey at Windhoek

Begin your journey at the capital of Namibia, Windhoek. The capital is a thriving modern city with everything you would need, restaurants, malls and even some worthy sightseeing spots. 

Though it may not have much Halal-friendly restaurants – Garnish being the recommended Halal restaurant – all other restaurants in the area serve vegetarian options so you don’t need to worry about food. Refer the Tourism Board of Namibia for the best dining options.

Garnish Indian Restaurant

Address: 28 Trift Towers, Trift Street, Ausspannplatz Windhoek, Namibia
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday, 11:30am – 9:30pm
Contact: +264 61 258119
Email: info@garnish.com.na
           garnishrestaurant@hotmail.com
Website: www.garnish-restaurant.com

Namibia Tourism Board

Address: C/O Haddy & Sam Nujoma Drive, Private Bag 13244, Windhoek, Namibia
Contact: +264 61 2906000
Email: info@namibiatourism.com.na
Website:  www.namibiatourism.com.na

2. Surround Yourself With Wildlife at Erongo and Okonjima (3 to 4 Nights)

Picture Credit: Erongo Wilderness Lodge, Namibia

After Windhoek head over to Erongo and spend a night or two at the Erongo Wilderness Lodge, a highly acclaimed retreat with great mountain scenery, wildlife views and birdwatching combined with environmentally friendly architecture which has been created to complement nature.

Picture Credit: Okonjima

Follow this up with a two night stay at the Okonjima Nature Reserve, the epicentre of the AfriCat Foundation which protects Chettahs and other big carnivores rescued from human – wildlife conflicts that occur throughout the country. They offer guided tours and even let you volunteer to help with the cause – giving you a chance to be part of something great!

Erongo Wilderness Lodge

Address: Erongo Wilderness Lodge Conservancy Omaruru, D2315, Omaruru, Namibia
Telephone: +264 61 23 9199
Email: info@erongowilderness-namibia.com
Website: https://www.erongowilderness-namibia.com/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ErongoWildernessLodge

Okonjima Nature Reserve

Address: PO Box 793, Otjiwarongo, Namibia
Telephone: +264 67 314 000
Email: info@okonjimalodge.com
Website: okonjima.com

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AfriCat Foundation

Website: www.africat.org

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3. Etosha National Park (3 Nights)

Picture Credit: Etosha National Park

Drive over to Etosha National Park, regarded as one of the world’s greatest wildlife viewing venues! This is a wildlife park which will bring the animals to you, all you have to do is park your car next to one of the many watering holes and watch as lions, elephants, gemsbok and other creatures arrive in hundreds!

It is recommended that you stay here for 3 nights to get the full experience.

Etosha National Park

Website: www.etoshanationalpark.org

4. Damaraland (3 Days)

South west of the Etosha National Park is where all of Namibia’s dramatic, spectacular scenery resides –in Damaraland!

Spitzkoppe

Dedicate a day each to Damaraland’s highlights – Twyfelfontein, where you can witness rock engravings, Brandberg, the great pink granite which houses some of the finest remnants of African prehistoric art, and, Spitzkoppe, home of the ‘Matterhorn of Africa’.

5. Cape Cross, Swakopmund, and Sossusvlei

Swakopmund

Spend a day at the beach watching the seals in Cape Cross, try sand boarding near Swakopmund – another modern city which mixes the old with the new and looks more like a holiday town along Germany’s North Sea!

Sossuvlei

Take the route via the Sesriem Canyon for a 2 night stay at Sossuvlei to witness the glorious sand dunes! Be sure to watch the sunrise from the top of a dune and watch how the light touches the pink, orange and red sand dunes.

End your journey at Windhoek.

Bonus tips

  • Also be aware of all Namibia tours on offer, to not miss out on a great opportunity and experience!
  • Make sure you fill up your tank at every gas station you meet
  • Get yourselves a Namibian SIM cardTN mobile or MTC (best option) as you will not see a soul during your drive in most areas therefore it important that you have some knowledge about the vehicle you are driving incase it runs into problems while on the road
  • When staying at a lodge let them know of your dietary requirements beforehand as they would be prepared accordingly. It is also easy to prepare your own snacks to eat while on the road, you can easily find groceries in Windhoek and Swakopmund
  • Cover up your electronics (smart phones, laptops, cameras etc) with weather resistant covering as sand will surely get into every nook and cranny of your devices

Namibia is a must visit destination and should be on anyone’s list! Be sure to visit all of the places mentioned above and take many photos or even write your own Namibia road trip blog and share with us on the HalalTrip App!

Take in the surroundings and make amazing memories!

Happy travels!

An introverted old soul who loves writing, reading, art, music, food, and cats.