Protecting the Himba people of Namibia is a must.
We ought to work out ways to preserve the Himba culture and helping it thrive again.
Traveling abroad to meet different cultures is definitely one of the main aspects of international tourism. However, before including the visit to isolated tribes such as the Himba people to your itinerary, it’s important to ask yourselves how you can travel responsibly to meet them without jeopardizing their habits, traditions and cultural heritage in general.
Another thing that – as responsible travelers – you need to think about before traveling to distant lands to meet tribes is whether your visit can bring benefit to the local population. You should only embark on the trip if so.
Make sure to read my post “The Complete Guide To Becoming A More Responsible Traveler.”
In this post, I will suggest the best ways in which responsible travel can help protect the Himba people in Namibia. Before doing so, let me tell you how my group and I went about approaching the Himba people, and give you some background information the Himba culture.
The Himba people live a semi-nomadic lifestyle
What You Need To Know About The Himba People Of Namibia
Namibia culture is a surprising mix of tribes and ethnicities, counting about a dozen ethnic groups. The most well known tribes to international travellers are the Himba ones, probably because of their very interesting appearance and customs.
The Himba people live in the north-western part of Namibia. Many of them still live a traditional, semi-nomadic lifestyle, sharing their very simple villages with their goats which are the main source of food and wealth in general.
While Himba men spend most of their time outside of the villages looking after the cattle, Himba women are the ones in charge for the village, where they cook, clean up and look after their many kids.
Himba women go topless, only wearing handmade, traditional jewelry and a pretty simple leather skirt. Other distinctive features are their hair, braided and covered in red mud and butter, as well as their skin, covered in a paste made of ochre, butter and spices.
The Himba people are semi-nomadic and they move according to the rain. Whenever there are heavy rains, they will follow them. But heavy rains haven’t come in a long time and people as well as their animals are suffering. Tourists however can visit Namibia in any season. This means they can help – it is just a matter of picking the right way to travel.
Himba people hardly have access to healthcare and they wish to receive medicines. This is a sensitive topic, because most of them can’t read and it wouldn’t be responsible to just leave medicines in the village: children could easily access it, and nobody would really know what they are for, making it very risky.
It’s not just about the photos: make sure to get close to the Himba
Approaching The Himba People Of Namibia
There are many ways to visit a place and the idea is to pick the most responsible one, the one that supports the local community and doesn’t bring any damage.
On March 2019 I visited Namibia with Nomadic Tribe, who handpicked a local operator working in a way that supports the local population in many different ways. During this trip I had the chance to meet Himba people in different locations, before stopping and camping at a Himba village for a few days to really get involved in the village life.
GOOD TO KNOW: You can view and book their tours via the newly launched Nomadic Tribe app – currently available on iOS.
During the 5-days-long journey all the way up to the border with Angola – where our small group of researchers was going to stop for the Himba village experience – we mainly stayed in the wild thanks to a local backup team, following a strict “zero-impact” camping style, not leaving anything behind.
For 2 nights we stayed in a self-catering, simple yet lovely lodge run by locals within the Orupembe conservancy, called Etaambura Camp.
Not far from this lodge is a Himba village, so we invited the Himba chief of the area and his sister for dinner to ask them directly about their views on tourism. I can’t think of a better way to get right, unbiased answers!
The Chief’s name was Uapenga and his sister’s one was Uatambauka. We sat together at the table of our lodge and after introducing each other we started asking questions. With the help of our backup team we were able to translate and understand each other.
We were told that some tourists help and some others don’t, and that it’s important to promote responsible tourism: community campsites provide support for the Himba people, especially in the last few years with severe droughts.
When we stayed at the Himba village we were told that only 1 person before us actually stayed there with the Himbas in history, and it was a National Geographic reporter. This doesn’t mean that the Himba people never see visitors, but sadly it means that most tourists are not truly interested in spending time with them.
We were told that most of the time all visitors do is take photos and some of them even avoid physical contact with the Himbas, which they find offensive.
During my trip to Namibia with Nomadic Tribe we aimed to meet the Himba people and get to know them as much as possible, spending some time with them and not just passing by to snap some photos – a shameful behavior also known as “human safari” – as most tours do.
With the help of the local operator we achieved our goal in a way that not only didn’t bring damage to the Himba people, but also positively impacted their protection and culture, thanks to the right choices made in the preparation process.
You can have a positive impact on the lives of the Himba of Namibia
14 Ways In Which Tourists Can Help The Himba People Of Namibia
People are different, not better or worse. Responsible tourism doesn’t have the presumption of “helping.” The goal is to positively impact the protection of the local culture and environment.
If you really want to make sure you have a positive impact on the Himba people of Namibia as a traveler, there are a few things you can and should do. The following is a summary.
Pick an ethical local operator
First of all make sure to pick an ethical, local operator, and even before starting the trip sit together, explain what you are expecting from your trip, and decide how to do it with the guide’s suggestions.
Pick campsites or lodges that give back to the community
The money paid by each guest at Etaambura Camp – more than 6.000 Euros in 2018 alone – goes to the local conservancy which is run by locals who spend the money within the conservancy. Also, the Orupembe conservancy is owned by Himbas. In other words: make sure to stay in places that give back to the community.
Approach your final destination slowly
Make sure to approach your final destination slowly, getting to know the territory first, its geography, understanding its history and gathering all the information you need about the local tribes thanks to your guide before actually meeting them.
Think about landing in Namibia without knowing anything about the country and its tribes, and going straight to a Himba village for the night. Wouldn’t it be awkward, rough and too intense for both you and the Himbas? Would you even know what to say and how to act?
The golden rule for gifting is to stick to things that are familiar to and needed by the Himba people. The village we visited was in need for durable pottery – some women were cooking in tin cans! – and containers in general, preferably not plastic ones for obvious reasons.
Other things that the Himba people will appreciate are covers and fabric in general, against the cold desert nights.
As for food, the best things to take to a Himba village are maize flour, rice and clean water.
Buying local products helps local families, avoids unnecessary heavy luggage (hence extra C02 emissions) and makes sure that you find exactly what the Himbas would buy: familiar food.
In case you’re wondering what exactly to buy, be reassured that a knowledgeable guide knows what is best to bring and what is needed at a specific time. You will also need the guide to help you with the shopping for translation purposes.
Goats are excellent presents for the Himba
A goat is a good gift
Livestock is the main source of livelihood for the Himba people. You may think that it’s easy to have food when you have a flock of goats, but this is far from the truth. Animals must be fed, watered and taken care of, plus killing a goat a day would leave the Himba villages without any food source – not even milk – and this would lead to starvation.
Ask your guide for guidance in buying a goat from a farmer nearby the Himba village. This will be an appreciated gift which will became the dinner for the whole village.
Learn some Himba words
Going back to the language topic, I suggest you to learn some of the language before arriving to the Himba village – your guide will surely be happy to help you with that. What a huge pleasure it will be to make some conversation, although very simple, with the Himba people in their own language. They will be surprised and happy about it.
Bond with the people
A responsible way to visit the Himba tribe or any tribe in the world should include some sort of bonding with the people, and most of all a lot of respect. Get close to them. Don’t be afraid of touching the children, of holding them!
Get off the beaten path
Namibia is a wonderful country which is becoming more and more popular within the traveling community. In order to avoid the exploitation of certain areas make sure to go off the beaten path, where you will meet virtually zero other travelers. Not only this is pleasant as you will have the whole place to yourselves daily, but also with your “zero-waste” camping you know you will not be bringing unnecessary damage to the environment.
Himbas need medicines and better access to healthcare
As I have said before, the Himba needs medicines but many of them can’t read. Make sure to leave yours to the manager of the lodge who knows the Chief personally and can read and bring medicines to the nearby villages only when needed. Also, make sure to recommend the manager to help the Himba people reaching the clinics if needed, as pills alone are not a solution.
Don’t leave money
If you want to leave something to the Himba village please don’t let it be money. The Himba people have no currency and money doesn’t belong to their traditions. It is risky to give money because it may be used it in turn to buy things that don’t belong to their traditions either.
Don’t bring candies
Although it looks like a harmless and kind gesture please consider not bringing candies to the Himba children. They don’t need unnecessary sugar (like all of us!) so why bringing something so addictive to their lives?
Avoid bringing plastic
Try to avoid plastic wrapping as much as possible. There are no trash cans in Himba villages and all waste ends up directly into the environment – or burnt, which is not a good idea with plastic!
Beauty rituals in the Himba community
Ask permission to take photos
Himbas are generally happy to be photographed, but it’s always good to ask permission before taking photos. This definitely falls under the “respect” category.
Final tips on positively impacting the Himba of Namibia
To sum up, don’t force your vision, don’t “teach.” Travel is all about learning. You have the chance of learning from one of the most interesting tribes in the world. Listen to their stories, observe their habits. You may be one of the last lucky people to witness such a way of life so embrace it.
Why? Because global warming may not affect our western life much, but it’s making a huge difference for people like the Himbas who depend on rains to live. The effect of our actions are reflected here.
Be responsible, always.
Further readings about Namibia
Make sure to read my other posts about Namibia:
This post has been written by Giulia Cimarosti, an incredible photographer and travel writer who agreed to cover for me during Nomadic Tribe trip to Namibia. I wish to thank her for her incredible work and for all her insights.
Legal Disclaimer: Giulia was a guest of the Nomadic Tribe during her trip to Namibia and was thrilled to be one of the first to test this itinerary. Needless to say, the views expressed in this post remain hers.
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Luderitz, Namibia. If there is a place you shouldn’t miss on your trip to Southern Africa, this is it. Between the Namib Desert and the South Atlantic coast (by far the most inhospitable one of this part of the world), this town leaves many a visitor puzzled. Because frankly, it is plain weird – though in a good way, obviously.
This small town of just 18000 people has a lot to offer to those who venture there. Colonial architecture makes it look like it’d be more in place somewhere in South Bavaria (and that’s why it’s called Little Munich) – but we are in the middle of the desert. The Art Nouveau buildings give it a quirky look.
Add to this the wildlife sightings and the beyond interesting surroundings and you’ll get why this is an unmissable destination.
In this post, I highlight the things you shouldn’t be missing when visiting Luderitz. Before I do so, however, let me first share some background information on how this lovely town came about.
Kolmanskop can be easily visited from Luderitz
Some Background Information On Luderitz
The first European to arrive in the area where Luderitz was founded was Bartolomeu Dias. It was 1487 and he named the bay where he stopped Angra Pequena (small bay) and erected a cross on a stone to indicate the exact point where he landed.
In the 18th century, the Dutch started looking for precious minerals, but weren’t very successful. Subsequent expeditions in the area established that there was a very rich wildlife and activities such as whaling, fishing, seal hunting and even guano-harvesting were started. That’s how Luderitz was first founded.
It was in 1883, when Heinrich Vogelsang bought the bay Angra Pequena and the land nearby on behalf of Adolf Lüderitz, that the city got its name. The city expanded thanks to the efforts of the Herero and Nama prisoners who were held in a concentration camp located on Shark Island and created in 1905 during the Herero Wars.
In 1909 diamonds were first discovered in the area of Kolmanskop, near Luderitz, and the city started to prosper.
After the German population was forced to leave once World War I was over and the trade in diamonds started to shrink, Luderitz started losing importance as a trading harbor. Nowadays, the town has become a popular tourist destination.
Continue reading to discover the things to do and see in Luderitz.
A dismantled power station in Luderitz Peninsula
7 Great Things To Do In Luderitz
Admire the colonial architecture and Art Nouveau buildings
Luderitz is packed with excellent examples of colonial architecture and Art Nouveau buildings, and a quick walk around town will unveil the best kept buildings.
Among the ones you shouldn’t miss there are the Deutsche Africa Bank building, which was built in 1907 and is the most important colonial building in town – we well as a national monument.
Located on Diamond Hill there’s Felsenkirche, or Rock Church, a vertical gothic style church that was consecrated in 1912. This is another national monument, recognized in 1978. It can be easily spotted from Luderitz Nest Hotel.
More colonial and Art Nouveau buildings include the Gluck Auf, built between 1907 and 1908 to be the mansion of a lawyer who worked for the diamond companies in the nearby Kolmanskop. It was declared a national monument in 2014.
The Goerkehaus was built between 1909 and 1911 to be the house of Hans Goerke, who also worked for the diamond company (he was a manager). Like the others, it is a national monument.
Lastly, there are the Kreplinhaus, built in 1909 and home of the first mayor of Luderitz, Emil Kreplin; and the Railway Station, built in 1904. Both of them are national monuments.
See the other side of Luderitz
Namibia became independent from South African in 1990, and like its neighbor country it has several townships. Even Luderitz has its own, and it is an interesting place to visit. I am always thorn when I have to write about visiting them, because there is an element of voyeurism in visiting a place where poverty is predominant. But if done on a good tour and with an excellent guide, it can be a great way to get a better understanding of the local way of life, of the relationship between the various communities living in a said place.
The living conditions in Luderitz township vary from one place to another, with some people making an obvious effort and accepting government aid and housing to improve their living conditions, and others simply living in poverty and below acceptable standards in improvised huts.
Kolmanskop is the most interesting place to visit near Luderitz
Perhaps the highlight of a trip to Luderitz is visiting Kolmanskp, a ghost town which is at just 10 km, in the middle of the desert. The town was founded at the beginning of the 20th century, then diamonds were found in its surroundings. It was small yet very wealthy and with state of the art infrastructure.
Kolmanskop was completely abandoned when it was determined that extracting diamonds in the area was no longer profitable – more places were discovered in South Africa that were far more suitable. People living there had to leave their homes taking whatever they could with them.
Kolmanskop can be visited on a guided tour, typically lasting around 45 minutes. After the guided tour, you are free to walk around and take photos for as long as you want.
In Kolmanskop you’ll be able to admire the gorgeous mansions – some of them still well kept and with pieces of furniture, some completely taken over by the elements; the post office; a general store with bottles and glass windows and other objects of the time; a bowling alley which still functions; a restaurant and a train station. As the guide will explain, there used to be a cart that went around the town, taking the people living there to the various places.
Take care to also notice the small buildings in the distance (you won’t really be able to go there): these housed the workers who were quarantined before leaving Kolmanskop. The quarantine was practiced to avoid them leaving after having swallowed diamonds.
To discover more about Kolmanskop, make sure to read this post by National Geographic.
Make sure to pay a visit to Diaz Point
Fight against the wind at Diaz Point
One of the nicest places to visit near Luderitz is Diaz Point, which is at about 18 km from town. This is the place where Bartolomeu Dias placed a stone cross, which is still visible today. You can walk up via a narrow wooden causeway, which has definitely seen better days. The views of the Atlantic Ocean from up there are marvelous, and if you look closely you can even see seals resting on some of the rock formations nearby. Make sure to bring a jacket as the wind in this part of Namibia is fierce!
Admire wildlife at Luderitz Peninsula
If there is one thing Namibia is famous for that’s its wildlife, and Luderitz Peninsula, near Luderitz, is a great place to admire various species. The area is fantastic for birdwatching – the best sight is that of pink flamingoes who frolic here to feed on the shrimp that live in the clean waters of the region.
See the sunset from the pier at Luderitz Nest Hotel
Luderitz glows at sunset. Several places in town offer great views of the sunset – there is a spot where lots of vans and camper-vans park from where you can get nice views. However, I think the best place to enjoy the beautiful light as the sun goes down is the pier right next Luderitz Nest Hotel, which overlooks the bay. If you are lucky enough to stay there, you may even get a room with a direct view of the balcony.
Eat the delicious seafood
Most of the food you’ll be eating in Namibia is meat – take it as a warning if you are vegan or vegetarian: your options outside of Windhoek are very limited. Thus, Luderitz will come as welcome change as you’ll find a few, excellent restaurants where you can enjoy very good, fresh fish and seafood. Among the recommended places there are the Portuguess Fisherman and Penguin Restaurant, which is located in Luderitz Nest Hotel.
Pink Flamingoes in Luderitz Peninsula
Practical Tips To Organize Your Trip To Luderitz
When to visit Luderitz
Compared to the rest of Namibia, thanks to the fact that it is right by the ocean Luderitz is quite humid. It may be a welcome change from the incredibly dry air – depending on how you feel about humidity. The weather is mostly dry, with sunny days year round. The warmest months are March and April, the coldest ones June and July. The busiest months are April, August and September. I visited in June and even it was windy but pleasant during the day, and just chilly at night.
Where to stay in Luderitz
Luderitz is fairly small but there are a couple of good accommodation options. I don’t recommend camping, as the Atlantic current means that it gets cold and very humid at night. These are the best places to stay in Luderitz:
How to get to Luderitz
There are two main ways to visit Namibia: on an overland guided tour (I recommend those run by Wild Dog Safaris) or independently, with a rented 4×4. In both cases, it takes around 8 hours to drive to Luderitz from Windhoek, but chances are you’ll be arriving from a different, closer place such as Keetmanshoop.
Luderitz has a small airport at about 9 km from town, with three weekly flights to the capital. There are some combis (minibuses) that connect Luderitz to the capital, but there is no set schedule.
Other useful information
Make sure to also get a good travel insurance for your trip to Namibia and southern Africa. Get yours here. Check out my post “Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.”
For more readings about Luderitz, you can check one of these books:
If you are planning a trip to Namibia and Southern Africa, you may find these posts useful:
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Deciding what to wear on safari is easier said than done. The weather in Africa is nothing like one would expect: most people think that this part of the world is constantly warm, if not unbearably hot. Nothing could be more farther from reality. Africa, especially southern Africa, does get quite cold, indeed!
I visited Southern African between May and June, in what is winter in the southern hemisphere. I traveled for 5 weeks across the region, concentrating on South Africa, where I visited Cape Town, Stellenbosch and Johannesburg, Botswana and Namibia and with a quick stop in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. I went on 3 different safari trips and I realized the importance of knowing what to wear for safari.
Indeed, there are some items that need to be on any packing list for Africa, as they are simply essential. This post highlights what to wear on safari and includes a packing list for Africa.
I admit that I didn’t always blend in with the background on my trip to Africa – I was not sure about what to wear on safari
What To Wear On Safari – The Ultimate Packing List For Africa
What To Wear On Safari
When deciding what to pack for a trip to Africa, and especially when thinking about what to wear on safari, there are a few things need to be kept in mind. My general tip, which I actually apply whenever I have to pack for any place I am traveling to, is to pick items that can be easily mixed and matched together in terms of colors, in order to create a good number of outfits with just a handful of things and which, with the right accessories, can be used either as day-wear or as evening-wear.
The main things to consider when deciding what to wear on safari are comfort, ease, temperatures, colors and style. Let me go through these important factors in more details.
Both men and women can look stylish on a safari, and yet stay comfortable. The main recommendation I have on what to wear for safari is to pick clothes that are breathable, neutral and that can adapt to the changing temperatures throughout the day.
Another thing to consider is that safaris hardly involve any physical exercise – most of the day is spent sitting in the car, looking for animals. Yet, getting on and off the jeep for the occasional bush stop, or to stretch the legs, calls for comfortable attire. Keep this in mind when thinking about what to wear on an African safari.
One thing to remember when picking what to wear on safari is that driving around the bush all day in an open car, one is bound to get covered in dust. T-shirts, pants and whatever else one may be wearing are bound to get dirty. After all, Namibia is mostly a desert and the bush of Botswana is also mostly sandy.
Yet, especially if camping in Botswana, and even more so when in Namibia, there are no laundry facilities. Thus, when deciding what to wear on a safari in Africa, remember to bring items that can be easily hand-washed and that are quick dry. Cotton is by far the best material, as well as technical one that dries in no time.
When deciding what to wear on safari, keep in mind the temperature changes throughout the day
There is a common misconception that all of Africa is warm, if not even hot, throughout the day and night, and year round. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I realized this on my first day on a safari, where, after a full afternoon admiring wildlife in Botswana, the temperatures started dropping as soon as the sun started to set. This is an important factor when deciding what to wear on safari.
Remember that game drives are usually timed to follow the lifestyle of animals. This means that the typical safari will have two game drives per day: one starting soon after sunrise, before the animals find a hiding spot from the afternoon heat; and one in the late afternoon – with some private game reserves allowing drives to linger on after dark. Thus, when deciding what to wear on safari, it is important to wear layers.
A good packing list for Africa will include plenty of cotton shirts to wear during the day, and a few sweaters and a light jacket to wear in the early morning hours and in the evenings. I also recommend bringing a scarf, a hat and gloves.
I love bright colors, but when deciding what to wear for safari, I had to set my personal taste aside. When on a game drive, it is important to blend in with the bush as much as possible. It is recommended to wear neutral colors, such as khaki, beige, taupe or grey. Black and dark blue are thought to attract the African tse tse flies, whereas predators identify red with wounded animals. With the amount of dust in the bush, white is hardly recommended as it gets dirty very easily.
Picking what to wear on safari doesn’t mean being a fashion victim or mocking Maryl Streep in Out of Africa. But being dressed for the occasion (by which I mean being comfortable, fresh during the day and warm at night) is important.
The safaris I did in Botswana and Namibia were completely different one from the other. The one in Botswana was a luxury safari. However, I went mostly camping in Namibia. Either way, there was no need for me to wear anything fancy at night for the evening meals: a pair of nice pants and a nice top usually did the trick. My packing list for Africa was made of informal, easy to wear items.
When thinking about what to wear on safari, remember it does get cold in Africa
The Ultimate Packing List For Africa
Now that I have clarified what to wear on safari and all the things that need to be considered, it is time to compile a good packing list for Africa, with all the essential items that should be taken.
Clothes and shoes
Having considered what to wear on safari, here’s a selection of the clothes I recommend taking:
A good camera is a must in any packing list for Africa
First of all, remember that a safari is a photography extravaganza kind of trip. I don’t think I have ever taken as many photo on any given day as I did when I was in Africa. Any packing list for Africa has to include a good DSLR camera – sorry, but not even the best compact camera will do here!
Here’s what my packing list for Africa included in terms of photography gear:
- Nikon D3300– I find it fairly easy to use and I took some amazing photos with it.
- 70 / 300 mm lens – it’s the minimum I recommend, it reaches quite far for fantastic wildlife photography.
- 24 / 70 mm lens – for all around photos.
- 10 / 20 mm lens – for wide angle photography. This is great to capture animals and landscape during great migrations.
- A spare battery and extra SD and CF cards and a wallet to keep the memory cards organized – the last thing I’d want after such an intense photographic experience is loosing my cards for not having kept them stored in a good place!
- A cleaning kit – to keep my lenses clean.
- iPhone– I used it to take short spontaneous videos.
- Vrikoo camera vintage shoulder bag – I love all its pockets and compartments for the camera and the lenses.
- A pair of binoculars – perfect to spot wildlife even when it is hiding in the bush.
Picking the right bag for a trip – any trip – is important. The good news is that a safari isn’t a challenging kind of trip in terms of the amount of walking and carrying around bags there is to do, whether on a luxury safari where butlers are going to handle the luggage, or on a budget one where the distance between the truck and the tent is very limited.
The one thing to keep in mind, however, in the case of a budget adventure safari like the one I did in Namibia, is the size of the tent. The last thing one wants is to have a bag that is so big to the point that it doesn’t fit in the tent, especially when this is shared with someone else.
Therefore, when thinking of a packing list for Africa, make sure to limit the number of things to carry, and keep the weight and volume to a minimum. Packing smartly is the way to go.
In terms of bags, I recommend one of these:
- Osprey Ariel 65 – this is the backpack I normally use on all my trips, and it came with me to Africa. It’s big enough to carry what to wear on safari, and very comfortable to walk around. Light packers may go for something smaller, such as the Ariel 55. I don’t recommend anything over 65 liters.
- A medium size soft duffel bag – it can be more easily stored in a truck and it takes less space in a tent; plus it’s big enough to take what to wear for safari.
I do not recommend a hard suitcase, as this occupies too much space and it is generally too heavy (something that has to be considered even on luxury safaris where there are occasional flights on small planes to move from one game reserve to the other).
A good day pack is a must in any packing list for Africa
A good day pack is fundamental on any trip. This is where I normally carry things such documents and whatever I may need during the day, such as snacks, water, tissues, hand sanitizer, sunblock and that much needed extra layer of clothes for when the temperatures drop at the end of the day.
Here’s my favorite day packs:
- Osprey Daylite – it’s my favorite day pack. It’s small enough to be comfortable, yet it can carry a lot of stuff thanks to the internal and front pockets.
- A Daypack– a good size day pack that works perfectly as hand luggage and it’s just the perfect safari color. It matches what to wear on safari!
Keeping everything organized
Packing smartly means knowing where everything is in a bag, and storing items so that they can be found easily. Quite important when in Africa, especially if the space in a tent is limited and there is not much time to decide what to wear on safari.
Here’s what I recommend using:
- Packing cubes – they help to keep clothes organized either by color, clothing type or even outfit. They are perfect to easily find what to wear for safari.
- Dry bags – to be honest, I find that large ziploc bags do the trick whenever I am traveling with my Osprey backpack. They take even less room than packing cubes.
- A good toiletry bag – I like those that have multiple pockets and zips and that can be easily hanged.
- Another small purse – I always have an extra purse where I keep any medication (prescription or emergency) I may need during the trip.
Have you ever been to Africa? Do you have any further recommendations on what to wear on safari? Anything to add to this packing list for Africa?
Make sure to read my other posts for packing tips:
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Those who are planning a trip to southern Africa but don’t have a budget to splurge should definitely consider camping in Namibia. It’s a fun way to travel around this gorgeous country and visit all the most interesting places, and at the same time get close to the amazing nature. I would actually say it is one of the nicest things to do in Namibia (to check the rest, go ahead to read my post).
I spent two full weeks touring the south and the north of the Namibia with Wild Dog Safaris. It was the trip of a lifetime. During my tour of Namibia, I mostly camped. It was an incredible experience, and I wholeheartedly recommend it. Yet, there’s a bunch of things that I wish I had known before camping in Namibia.
This post highlights everything one should know before camping in Namibia, in order to make the most of it.
Camping in Namibia: the best way to enjoy the country
27 Things To Know Before Camping In Namibia
The camping sites are actually great
I must admit I have never been a big fan of camping. I tried it in Italy when I was a broke teenager and the camping sites were so crowded, the facilities so dirty, that I gave up after a few times. However, camping in Namibia is different.
Some sites are located near major tourist attractions, so the sites get quite a few visitors who also are on a Namibia safari. These are nice places: they typically have very good facilities (toilets and showers); a bar and a basic restaurant; a shop for basic groceries and souvenirs, and at times even a pool to hang out.
Other sites are more isolated, and in lovely settings. During my tour of Namibia, I had the chance to sleep at the incredible Okonjima, at the Africat Foundation campsite, and truly enjoyed the starry sky at night. Likewise, the sunset views over Damaraland at the Madisa campsite are incredible.
Everything is spotless
One of the reasons I am generally reluctant to camp is that campsites tend to be dirty. However, after having hiked the Inca Trail in Peru and having endured the worst possible toilets one could think of, I feel I am pretty much ready for anything. The good news, however, is that camping in Namibia doesn’t have to be a dirty experience. Toilets are pretty much spotless, and all showers have powerful hot water, for that much needed shower at the end of the day.
On a tour of Namibia, it is easy to realize how dry and dusty the country is
It is very dusty
Speaking of a much needed shower at the end of the day, one thing to know before going on a tour of Namibia is that it is a very dusty experience. Whether traveling by bus, by car or, even worst, by motorbike, expect to get covered in dust every single day – there’s simply no escaping it.
It is very dry
The main reason why Namibia is so dusty is that it is very dry – as it is easy to notice during Namibia tours, most of the territory is either a desert, or semi-desert. In order to keep hydrated, it is necessary to drink copious amounts of water. I consumed more than 2 liters per day!
Another thing to keep in mind in such dry conditions is that the skin gets dry, to the point that hands crack! I recommend to those who plan to go camping in Namibia to pack a good hand cream, and a moisturizing lotion. As it gets cold at night and in the tents, the best lotions are those that can be applied “under the shower”: quick and easy to use. Almond oil may be the best option.
Tap water is actually safe to drink
With regards of drinking water, the good news is that tap water in Namibia is safe to drink and available in all camps. My recommendation to those who are thinking of camping in Namibia is to make sure that they carry a good bottle with a filter (just in case) that they regularly fill up, and buy large bottles (ie 5 liters) to carry for long journeys, when they won’t come across a shop or a fountain to refill.
Be prepared for the long drives
Whether planning to drive or joining a guided tour of Namibia, one thing to be prepared for are the long drives to move from one attraction to the other. Distances in Namibia are huge, and on any given day quite a bit of time will be spent driving or sitting in the car / bus. Chatting, listening to music, reading a book (unless driving, obviously) are all good ways to pass the time.
In any case, when covering long distances on a Namibia safari, the landscape is actually quite interesting and regularly stopping for photos will help time pass a bit more quickly.
Things to keep handy during long drives on a Namibia tour are:
Giraffes won’t come to the sites, but when camping in Namibia keep in mind animals do roam freely
Animals roam freely
Much like when camping in Botswana, whenever camping in Namibia one should expect wild animals to roam freely around the camp, usually at night. On my very first night in the Kalahari, I got out of my tent at 2:00 am to go to the toilet and found two lovely white donkeys wandering around among the tents. When I was in Sesriem, a jackal dove into the garbage bag we had left hanging outside.
There’s less mosquitoes than one would imagine
It may well be that I went on a tour of Namibia during winter, or that I mostly visited dry areas (the one with most water was Etosha, and even then it really wasn’t wet at all), but other than during my first night at Bagatelle camp in the Kalahari, I didn’t see many mosquitoes in Namibia. Either way, I do recommend carrying a good mosquito repellent with DEET and a bug / mosquito spray for the tent, just in case.
It is pleasantly hot during the day
I did my tour of Namibia during what is meant to be its winter, in June. The weather was nice and sunny throughout my trip, and the temperatures rose up to 26 and even 28 degrees Celsius during the day. This is to say, that even in the winter it is pleasantly hot during the day, but since it is dry it never feels overwhelming.
Pack and dress appropriately: it’s the best thing to do when camping in Namibia
But it gets terribly cold at night
Namibia is mostly a desert and semi-desert land. What this means is that, as in any proper desert, the days are dry and quite warm, but the temperatures drop dramatically at night. In other words, it is very cold at night. The first night during my tour of Namibia was freezing, with temperatures dropping to 0 degrees Celsius. It was impossible to sleep.
Those planning to go camping in Namibia must make sure to be properly equipped for the cold nights. As a minimum, I recommend bringing along a heavy duty sleeping bag and thermal underwear, as well as a warm hat to wear during the night.
A hot water bottle is a good idea
Yes, using a hot water bottle at night, let alone carry around one while traveling, may feel a lot granny – like. But trust me, when camping in Namibia, it will provide some much needed comfort and warmth during those cold cold nights. It saved me from many sleepless nights.
And so is a flask
One would never appreciate the real value of a flask until going on a tour of Namibia. I used mine to keep my coffee hot and ready for the early mornings, so that I’d have something to warm me up as soon as I got out of the sleeping bag, and a much needed dose of caffeine to start the day.
Forget about a late night
Late nights are not a thing when camping in Namibia. The typical day starts very early, moments after sunrise (and at times even before then), and once dinner has been eaten, the lack of electricity and the long day that has just passed call in for an early night.
Expect to see many amazing places on a tour of Namibia
And about sleeping in
There’s no such thing as sleeping in when camping in Namibia. Between the cold temperatures and the long day ahead, waking up early is a given. Considering that lights are typically off at 9:00 pm or so, even a 6:00 am wake up call means getting 9 good hours of sleep. I wish I got that much at home!
Gloves are very much needed
Having heard that the temperatures drop down dramatically at night, I brought a pair of gloves to keep my hands warm. It turned out that, when camping in Namibia, gloves come in very handy in order to undo the tents in the morning, as the hooks are quite hard to undo without. I recommend a pair of heavy duty ones.
And so is a headlight or torch
Carrying a torch when camping in Namibia is a must. It is needed as soon as the sun goes down, to go around the camp (though camping sites in the most touristic areas are illuminated, the ones in the most remote places don’t have any light!), and to have at least some light in the tent.
The sky is as starry as it gets
Wherever there is a desert, the complete lack of clouds and humidity in the sky mean that star gazing reaches a whole new level. I noticed this in the Atacama Desert, in Chile, and I experienced the same in Namibia. Any average night, when camping in Namibia, is a good night to do some star gazing.
One a tour of Namibia, everyone has chores – including helping with meal preparation
Everyone has chores
A typical day during a tour of Namibia with Wild Dog Safaris (and, from what I have seen while camping in Namibia, also with other tour companies) starts nice and early. Members of the group are asked to clean up and undo their tents (I became a pro at this after a week!) and pack up everything before they are invited to have breakfast.
Everyone is expected to contribute to the smooth running of the tour, helping the packing and unpacking process and setting up and putting down the tents; everyone is expected to wash dishes and give a hand in meal preparation, at least at lunch time (lunch is usually on the go).
Whenever camping in Namibia, the first thing to do upon arriving at a new camp and being able to enjoy the sunset, have a drink or a shower, is setting up the camp. Guides are actually very good at organizing the day in order to arrive at the camping site when it is still bright and early and there is time to do everything without having to rush.
There are no washing machines
I am not a big fan of chores, whether at home or when traveling. I am always thankful for laundry service at hotels. Camping sites in Namibia don’t have laundry facilities, so it goes without saying that during a tour of Namibia it is necessary to do some hand washing. I recommend packing clothes that are easy to wash and quick dry (though the weather is so dry that this is hardly ever an issue).
All meals are al fresco
Literally, I should add, given it can be so cold! When camping in Namibia, all meals are consumed outside. Breakfast and dinner are typically eaten around the fire, whereas lunch is a more simple (though at the same time filling and healthy) pic-nic style meal.
Expect long driving days when on a tour of Namibia
The chefs can cook
On Namibia tours with Wild Dog Safaris there always are a guide and a chef who does pretty much all of the cooking. And cooking he can! Expect to eat earthy portions of stews and fantastic barbecue.
Fresh fruit and vegetables shouldn’t be taken for granted
Although on any tour of Namibia dietary requirements are accommodated, one thing that is often lacking is fresh fruit and vegetables. It’s understandable: shopping is done at the beginning of the tour, and once or twice during the tour, and only so much can be stored in the fridge.
Though most camping sites have a small shop that sells groceries, it’s hard to come across fruits and vegetables there. A good thing to do before setting up for camping in Namibia is to stock on fruit that is easy to store, such as apples, or even dry fruit, for the much needed fiber and vitamins.
Forget about the internet
Camping sites in Namibia are usually meant to have some sort of wifi, but for one reason or the other this never works. During my two weeks tour of Namibia I hardly came across any internet, and for someone like me who is online 24/7 on a daily basis, this was a welcome change.
It’s a great opportunity to make new friends
Camping in Namibia is a great chance to meet like-minded people. Whether on a guided tour or on a self drive, camping sites are perfect places to meet other travelers with whom to share an incredible sunset, a drink and a chat.
Expect fantastic sunsets on any tour of Namibia
Tipping is recommended
This is obviously valid for those who plan to join a guided tour of Namibia. The guide and the chef work really hard to ensure the smooth running of the tour, so a decent tip is appreciated!
It’s ok to stay in a hotel every now and then
Though camping in Namibia is a great experience, I won’t hide the fact that it can be very tiring. A good thing to do during a tour of Namibia is to spend a night in a hotel every now and then. Luderitz and Swakopmund, two of the cities that are typically visited, are good places to do so and have a decent selection of hotels.
Make sure to read my complete guide to Luderitz and A Great Guide To Swakopmund, Namibia.
The best hotel in Luderitz is the Luderitz Nest Hotel, which has lovely room facing the ocean and a fantastic restaurant that makes the most delicious seafood. Click here for the best prices and here for reviews.
In Swakopmund, Prost Hotel is centrally located and close to the waterfront. Rooms are spacious and there’s a great breakfast buffet. Click here for the best prices and here for reviews.
When back in Windhoek, it is nice to treat oneself to a good room. This is a selection of the nicest places to stay in the city:
Packing smartly is essential
Those who plan to go camping in Namibia need to pack light yet smartly. Carry only what’s essential, make sure to have a good selection of comfortable and versatile clothes, and bring a few other important items. For a complete guide on what to wear in southern Africa, check this post.
Here’s what I recommend packing for a tour of Namibia:
- 3 pairs of khaki pants. I took my Kuhl Kliffside Air Cargo and my Kliffside Convertible pants. I also had my Mova Zip pants, they are super comfortable to wear after a long day on the road.
- A pair of shorts. I love Kuhl Kontra.
- 4 cotton t-shirts, best if in light colors. I love Kuhl Tate, Inara and Sona.
- A few long sleeves shirt, to wear when it gets colder. I am a fan of Kuhl Trista Hoody and Alva Thermal. I also brought my Kinsley Flanner.
- 2 sweaters. I wore my Lea Pullover and my Nova whenever it got cold, either at night or in the early morning hours.
- A light yet warm jacket. I wore the Firefly Hoody.
- A scarf and a hat. I wore the hat at night, even as I slept.
- A pair of thick gloves, and not only because it gets cold!
- A pair of walking shoes and a pair of sandals or even better a pair flip flops to get in the shower and to wear around the camp.
- Eco-friendly toiletries and mosquito repellent. Bug spray for the tent is a bonus.
- A very good moisturizing oil, better if it can be used in the shower. I love almond oil.
- A large quick dry towel.
- A torch or headlight for the night and in the tent.
- A good sunblock and lip balm
- A day pack where to carry around a camera – I shot with my Nikon D3300 and lenses. I recommend taking at least a 70-300 mm. I also had my iPhone to shoot short videos. Carrying binoculars may be a good idea too.
- A plug adaptor, for in Namibia sockets are different from those of Europe and the US.
- A hot water bottle. It may be granny-like, but it makes the sleeping bag nice and cozy.
- A heavy duty sleeping bag and a liner.
- An inflatable pillow.
- Clothes’s line and clothespins for laundry.
- A water bottle and a water filter, since tap water is safe to drink, this is a good way to care for the environment.
- A flask, to keep coffee hot!
- Ear plugs, because it’s inevitable that someone snores and the tent doesn’t provide much protection against the noise.
Even when camping in Namibia… it’s ok to get a hotel room every now and then!
How to get to Namibia
Hosea Kutako International Airport, is Namibia main airport. This is located at about 45 minutes east of Windhoek, Namibia capital, which is a good starting point for tours of Namibia. There are direct flights to Cape Town and Johannesburg with South African Airways and Air Namibia, which also flies to Gaborone, in Botswana. There also are direct flights to other countries in Africa, and some intercontinental flights too.
It is possible to get to Namibia by bus – this is the most budget friendly way to travel across the continent. There are Intercape Mainliner bus services to and from Cape Town, Victoria Falls, and Johannesburg. The same can’t be said about Botswana: in order to get to Namibia from Botswana it is necessary to take a mix of local buses and taxis, with no real departure or arrival times.
Those who are driving across Southern Africa can cross the border in the northwest of South Africa, at the Vioolsdrift/Nordoewer land crossing. There are also other land crossings between Namibia and South Africa. These include: Mata Mata, Rietfontain, Nakop, Onseepkans, Sendelingsdrif, and Alexander Bay. It is fairly easy to
Traveling around Namibia
Namibia is a fairly easy country to visit in Africa for those who want to go on an independent tour of Namibia. It is possible to rent a car, better if a 4×2 (click here for some good deals), and drive around. It may not be a good idea for solo travelers: distances are wide and the desert hard to cope with, and I would not like the idea of being stuck in the desert with nobody to help.
Solo travelers should consider joining a guided tour of Namibia. Wild Dogs runs great tours and they are very budget friendly. They also provide help in organizing self guided tours.
Whichever way one decides to travel, I recommend getting a good travel insurance when planning a tour of Namibia. You can find a good one here.
When to visit Namibia
Namibia can be visited at any time of year. I went in June, and it was hot and dry during the day, but very cold at night. My sister went in October, and she experienced the same. Those planning to go camping in Namibia have to keep the weather conditions in mind.
Have you ever been camping in Namibia? What did you like the most about it?
Further readings about Africa
Are you planning a longer trip to Africa? Check out my other guides:
Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of Wild Dog Safaris during my tour of Namibia and I wish to thank them for the incredible time I had and for finally teaching me how to put up a tent. Needless to say, the views expressed in this post are mine.
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There are many more things to do in Namibia than one would expect. This southern Africa country is incredibly vast, yet it marks as the second less densely populated country in the world, dominated as it is by the desert. Needless to say, the landscape is beautiful and one of the best ways to visit Namibia is on an overland trip that goes to both the north and the south of the country.
An overland tour of Namibia provides the opportunity to discover the best nature, wildlife and culture that the country has to offer. I went on a 2 weeks overland Namibia safari with Wild Dog Safaris and it was a memorable experience. I fell in love with this incredibly underrated African country, and I wish to visit it again soon.
This post highlights some of the unmissable things to do in Namibia. Keep in mind this list is not exhaustive, as I have only spent 15 days in the country and didn’t get to see some of the places to visit in Namibia such as the Caprivi Strip. Also, hint: it’s possible to enjoy all of them, and to get to all the places to visit in Namibia, while on an overland Namibia safari with Wild Dog.
Doing a Namibia safari is a must when in Africa!
35 Simply Unmissable Things To Do In Namibia
Do An Overland Safari
I suppose this is the most obvious of all the things to do in Namibia. Doing an overland Namibia safari is a great way to get to know the country, to see its amazing landscape, to meet other like minded travelers and to live plenty of adventures. I did one with Wild Dog Safaris and it was a fantastic experience that I wholeheartedly recommend. I actually went camping in Namibia (read more about my experience camping in Namibia here).
Taking a photo under the Tropic of Capricorn sign is one of the things to do in Namibia
Take A Cheeky Photo At The Tropic of Capricorn
Ok, this really isn’t a must at all. But while there, why not? One of the silliest yet most fun things to do in Namibia is taking a cheeky photo under the sign that marks the Tropic of the Capricorn. I had done this years ago during my first trip to Argentina, so I didn’t want to miss out while on my Namibia safari.
Enjoy A Sunset Game Drive In The Kalahari
There’s nothing quite like a good game drive. I did a few while in Botswana and sure enough I jumped at the chance of doing one in the Kalahari. In fact, a sunset game drive in the Kalahari is one of the nicest things to do in Namibia. My game drive started at Bagatelle Kalahari Game Ranch, and during that I could admire several species including kudus, impalas, oryxes, jackals and ostriches. The views of the desert at sunset were beautiful (and the fact I was enjoying a glass of wine had nothing to do with it, I promise!).
Be Mesmerized By The Desert Sky
The best places in the world to look at the stars are all in the desert. I learned this when visiting Atacama, in Chile. With so much of its surface covered by desert of semi-desert, with no clouds ever obstructing the view and little to no light to disturbi t, it is quite obvious that one of the top things to do in Namibia is admiring the stars.
On my very first night of my Namibia safari, which I spent camping in the Kalahari, I was speechless as I admired the moon rise in the sky and then completely illuminating the deserta round me. The starts never looked so bright.
Brace Up Against The Cold Night In The Desert
Speaking of desert, on the the things to do in Namibia is being prepared against the cold. My first night camping in the Kalahari was mostly sleepless. I honestly thought I was going to freeze in my tent as it was so cold (the temperatures got down do 0 degrees Celsius in the middle of the night). I wasn’t properly geared for the cold that night, I surely had underestimated the weather. After that first night, I successfully devised several ways to keep the cold away at night.
Check out my post on what to wear in Africa for a full packing list and detailed tips on what to carry.
One of the most interesting places to visit in Namibia is the Mesosaurus Fossils Site
Visit A Mesosaurus Fossil Site
One of the most interesting places to visit in Namibia is the Mesosaurus Fossil Site right outside Keetsmanshoop. The best part of it is that the man who takes visitors around, explaining enthusiastically what each fossil used to be and the various research project and excavations in the area, is the same person that, as a child, actually found the first fossils in the area.
Quiver Trees are what to see in Namibia
Admire The Quiver Trees
Quiver trees are one of the most unique sights in Africa. To be fair, they are not trees at all: they are a type of aloe that dot the landscape of Namibia and that, for as common as they are here, are one of the world’s rarest flora species. Needless to say, admiring the quiver trees is one of the most unique things to do in Namibia.
Classic cars are scattered around the country: photographing them is one of the most fun things to do in Namibia
Photograph Classic Cars In The Desert
Who doesn’t love vintage cars? I have seen many of them when I visited Cuba, but this is not the only country in the world where old Ford and vintage Chevrolets, as well as vintage motorbikes complete with side cars can be admired. Classic cars are scattered around the desert in Namibia, and in fact one of the nicest things to do in Namibia is taking photos of them. I saw many of these cars in the desert near Mariental.
Stop the traffic – it’s one of the things to do in Namibia
Cause A Traffic Jam (Or not)
Much like with the photo of the Tropic of the Capricorn sign, one almost stereotypical photo to take in Namibia is while sitting or standing in the middle of the road, with absolutely nothing or nobody around. I know, it has been seen many times before. Yet I could not resist the temptation of sitting down to see how little traffic this country gets. It’s one of the stereotypical yet unmissable things to do in Namibia.
The Fish River Canyon is one of the unmissable places to visit in Namibia
Explore The Fish River Canyon
One of the unmissable things to do in Namibia is exploring the Fish River Canyon, or at least admiring it from above, where the views are simply astonishing. This is supposed to be the second largest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon, measuring 170 km in length, 27 km in width and almost 500 meters at its deepest. There are many hiking trails around the area.
One of the nicest things to do in Namibia is watching the sunset in Luderitz
Luderitz almost feels like it doesn’t belong to Namibia. This lovely small coastal city would look more in place in Bavaria, for its colonial style buildings are right in style with those of a traditional German town. The city is right in the middle of the desert, and faces the ocean – be prepared for some splendid sunset views. The surrounding areas are wonderful to explore (more about this later) and it is a great place to gorge on delicious seafood. This is one of the unmissable places to visit in Namibia.
Make sure to read my complete guide to Luderitz.
If you need a transfer to Luderitz from Windhoek, check here.
Visiting a Township is one of the things to do in Namibia
See The Other Side Of Luderitz At Its Township
Namibia used to be part of South Africa until 1990. This means one obvious thing: apartheid was a thing here too. One way to discover a bit more about the troubled past of this incredible country is by visiting one of the townships that are scattered around the country. The one in Luderitz is a good one for this purpose. I’d recommend going as one of the most interesting places to visit in Namibia.
Diaz Point is one of the places to visit in Namibia
Get Up To Diaz Point
Diaz Point is at about 18 km from Luderitz and it makes for a nice visit during a tour of Luderitz Peninsula. The wooden causeway isn’t exactly in good shape, yet walking all the way to the top is fairly easy and once there, the views of the Atlantic Ocean and of the marine life (it’s possible to spot seals) incredible. Easy to see why visiting is one of the top things to do in Namibia.
One of the nicest things to do in Namibia is seeing the pink flamingoes
See The Pink Flamingoes In Luderitz Peninsula
During a Namibia safari there’s many chances to admire wildlife. Not far from the city of Luderitz, pink flamingoes can be found. They are a common sight for me, as there’s many of them in Sardinia. What’s unique in this case is that it is possible to get quite close to take incredible photos – though keep in mind that making a lot of noise or walking up to them too quickly will make them fly away.
Kolmanskop is one of the top places to visit in Namibia
Wander Around The Ghost Town Of Kolmanskop
I have a passion for abandoned cities. After visiting Chernobyl when it was covered in snow, I was definitely keen to explore Namibia’s ghost town, Kolmanskop. Located at a mere 10 km from Luderitz, the city was founded at the beginning of the 20th century, when diamonds were found in the area, and later on abandoned when it was no longer profitable to extract them. Since then, the desert took over the city, which however remains well preserved. Visiting this eerie place if one of the things to do in Namibia.
Kolmanskop can be visited every day, on guided tours that last around 1 hour (but visitors can stay as long as they want for photos and to explore the area on their own), from 9:00 am to 1.00 pm.
Seeing the wild desert horses is one of the things to do in Namibia
See The Wild Namib Desert Horses
The fact that horses can live and thrive in the desert gives a good idea of how much these animals can adapt to the environment. There’s around 150 horses that live, divided in small groups, in the desert of Namibia, supposedly descending from the animals that were abandoned by the Germans after World War I. Seeing them is one of the nicest things to do in Namibia. They can be easily spotted on an overland Namibia safari while driving from Luderitz towards Sesriem.
Take In All The Desert Views
I guess this should come as a given, since most of the landscape in Namibia is arid. Just make sure to be aware of this when planning a trip to the country. I surely love the desert so to me one of the top things to do in Namibia is spending hours at end admiring the views.
Here are some great tour options for the Namib Desert:
Enjoying the sunset in Sesriem – one of the things to do in Namibia
Admire The Sunset From Sesriem Dunes
Speaking of desert, Sesriem is one of the nicest places to visit in Namibia, and any good Namibia safari should go there. One of the nicest things to do in Namibia is walking up the dunes in Sesriem to admire the sunset. It is a rather sandy experience, and walking on the sand can be quite tiring, but it is worth the effort: the light is simply splendid.
Sossusvlei is one of the unmissable places to visit in Namibia – make sure to go at sunrise
Admire Sunrise From Dune 45 In Sossusvlei
There’s nothing quite like seeing the sunrise in the desert. Among the most incredible things to do in Namibia there’s walking all the way up Dune 45 in Sossusvlei to take in the beautiful light of sunrise. Keep in mind that the access point to Sossusvlei is Sesriem Campsite, whose gates are opened for non-guests at sunrise – keeping in mind that it is a 45 minutes drive to get there, those who are keen on seeing sunrise from the dunes should consider spending the night at the camp for privileged access to the area.
Here are some tours that include Sossusvlei:
Hike Up Big Daddy Or Big Mama
While Dune 45 is the most popular one to hike in Sossusvlei, other dunes are equally beautiful and even more challenging. One of the most fun things to do in Namibia is hiking up the Big Daddy, which with its 325 meters is the highest one in the area. Another challenging one is Big Mama, located nearby.
Do Not Bag Up Desert Sand
I have yet to understand what the deal is with bagging sand from around the world and taking it home. Tourists do it in Sardinia all the time, and get fined when caught (sand is protected here). Besides, what do people do with it once they are back from their travels? I have seen several tourists do it in Sossusvlei, although this is a highly protected area and a UNESCO site and bagging sand is forbidden. This definitely is not one of the things to do in Namibia.
Check out other ways to be a more ethical tourist on my post “The Complete Guide To Becoming A More Responsible Traveler.”
Walking around Deadvlei is one of the top things to do in Namibia
Walk Around A Dead Trees Forest In Deadvlei
The most iconic images of Namibia are probably those of the seemingly petrified trees of Deadvlei. Located at around 6 km from Sossusvlei, these trees are not petrified at all. Indeed, they are simply dead – they have been so for 900 years. The combination of hot and dry air is such that they do not decompose. The contrasting colors of the black tree trunks, bright orange sand and the intense blue sky are such that this is an incredible place to walk around and take photos: this is one of the ultimate things to do in Namibia. Try an ATV tour around Deadvlei to see them.
Hike Around Sesriem Canyon
Sesriem Canyon isn’t as majestic as the Fish River Canyon, but it’s a nice place to spend a couple of hours when in the area, and a good location from where to admire sunset. I recommend it as one of the places to visit in Namibia.
Africat is one of the coolest places to visit in Namibia
Visit The Africat Foundation At Okonjima
Feline lovers should mark down Africat, in Okonjima: visiting this conservation center is definitely one of the nicest things to do in Namibia. Okonjima used to be a cattle farm that regularly lost calves to leopards. It was created in 1991 with the intention to rescue the many large carnivores that had been trapped by other farmers. Since 1993, 1080 predators have been rescued, with 85% of them being released back into the wild.
Since 2010, Africat and the Okonjima Nature Reserve are used as environmental education and research center, and as a rehabilitation center for captive carnivores. There is a campsite on the ground where it is fantastic to spend a night or more, as well as many hiking and mountain biking trails and plenty of activities to make it one of the nicest places to visit in Namibia.
Try either this 2-Day Okonjima camping tour or this 5-Day Okonjima & Erindi Self-Drive Safari Tour to see the Africats.
Etosha is one of the places to visit in Namibia to admire wildlife
Admire All The Wildlife In Etosha National Park
Speaking of wildlife, Etosha National Park is a must stop on any overland Namibia safari. The park is vast, and there’s plenty of opportunities to see animals. On a lucky day, it is possible to spot various antelopes, zebras and giraffes, elephants, lions, hyenas, cheetahs (I was lucky to see one with 3 cubs), ostriches and even rhinos.
Here some great tour options to enjoy Etosha National Park:
Walk Up To Okaukuejo Waterhole In The Middle Of The Night
If visiting Etosha is one of the unmissable things to do in Namibia, so should be walking up to the Okaukuejo Waterhole. Sunrise and sunsets are great times to see animals drinking or bathing at the waterhole, but even the middle of the night is a great time to do so. I walked up at around 4:00 am, all bundled up in my warm clothes (other visitors carried their sleeping bags there) and with my flask of hot coffee and listened to the lions call. It was incredibly peaceful and truly enjoyable!
I am not sure that visiting a Himba village is one of the things to do in Namibia
Visit A Traditional Himba Village
To be completely honest, I am not sure that visiting a traditional Himba village should be one of the things to do in Namibia. Sure enough, learning about the traditional way of life of this indigenous group is interesting. These people have managed to survive to date with very little water. They are famous for putting red clay on their skin and hair, to protect from the sun and pest, and their traditional source of income is animal (usually cows, but also goats and sheep) farming.
But for as interesting as this traditional way of life is, I am always a bit wary about the spectacularization of an entire group of people, especially when this relies on money coming from tourism in order to survive and the traditional economic means are no longer viable to survive.
Is it worth preserving at all costs a culture that appears to be dying out, or changing? One of the biggest points of my research on culture and cultural identity in the years I worked in academia is that culture is ever changing, and not a fixed thing, and that just because a group embraces modernity it doesn’t mean that its traditional culture has died. I guess the point I am trying to make is that yes, the Himba villages are some of the places to visit in Namibia – but when going, ask yourself a few questions.
Make sure to read my posts “13 Ways To Help The Himba People And Culture In Namibia” and “Everything You Should Know Before Visiting The Himba Tribe In Namibia.”
Eat The Best Apple Pie In Solitaire
Lovers of pie, beware! On the way from Sesriem to Wolvis Bay there’s Solitaire, nothing more than a settlement, really. What’s important about it, and what makes stopping here one of the coolest things to do in Namibia, is that there is a vintage general store and petrol station, with plenty of classic cars ready to be photographed, and a bakery that makes the most delicious apple pie in the continent. It’s a pleasant place to stop, stretch the legs and refuel on gas and energy.
Admire The Highest Mountain In Namibia
With its 2573 meters, the Brandeberg is the highest mountain in Namibia and a fantastic sight when driving through Damaraland on a Namibia safari. Known as the Fire Mountain, hiking it is one of the coolest things to do in Namibia. There’s many trails going to the top, but as they are quite hard it is better to hire a guide to get there.
Twyfelfontain is one of the most interesting places to visit in Namibia
Discover The Rock Engravings At Twyfelfontein
One of the nicest places to visit in Namibia is the Twyfelfontein rock engravings that date back to around 6000 years ago. It is thought that the engravings are the work of hunter gatherers that used to live in the region. The site is UNESCO protected since 2007.
Enjoy The Sunset In Damaraland
Sunsets in Namibia are stunning – I have said this before. The ones in Damaraland are unmissable. One of the top things to do in Namibia is to climb up the rock formations that can be found in Damaraland, a drink at hand, and enjoy the view as the sun goes down. The crips air, the silence, the light make it a memorable experience.
Visiting the fur colony is one of the nicest things to do in Namibia
Visit Cape Cross Seal Colony
Visiting the seal colony of Cape Cross is one of the things to do in Namibia. There’s around 100000 seals that live in the colony, and watching them getting in and out of the water and fight for their territory is definitely fun. These animals are very vocal, so expect it to be noisy. And make sure to take a scarf or something to put around your nose: the smell is overwhelming!
Although visiting the Cape Cross colony is a must when in Namibia, there are a few things to keep in mind when doing that. This post by How Dare She helps bring clarity to the issue, but let me sum it up here for as much as I can. This is a very large breeding colony, and when the pups are born the population goes as high as 210000 seals.
Namibia is one of the very few countries (actually, just 2 at the moment: the rest have finally changed their ways) in the world that is still infamous for culling the seals. Though the seals are free to move, come and go as they please, and they are not fed or enticed in any way to stay in the reserve, every year around 80000 seal pups are clubbed to death. According to the Namibian authorities, this is done for the purpose of “sustainable seal harvesting.”
Most countries have come to terms with the fact that they can no longer argue that killing seals has a positive impact on fish stocks and that there’s a need to control the population of seals. They can no longer hide that there is nothing responsible in this practice and that the harsh reality is that they make a lot of money from the seal pelts and oils that they (illegally) export to the rest of the world.
So, with all this in mind, why would visiting a seal colony be one of the things to do in Namibia? For the simple fact that it is a way to get to know about the issue, and to convince the local government that there is a great monetary value in protecting the seals for tourism purposes.
The Skeleton Coast is one of the places to visit in Namibia
Drive Along The Skeleton Coast
Any good Namibia safari goes along the Skeleton Coast. Shipwrecks are scattered along the coast, giving it its name. What’s most impressive is that here, the sand dunes get all the way to the Ocean. This is the only area of the country where the sun doesn’t shine all day and the air isn’t terribly dry: in fact, it can be quite hazy!
If you want to visit both the Skeleton Coast and Damaraland, check out this 4-day tour.
Visiting Swakopmund is one of the things to do in Namibia
Swakopmund may well be the most fun of all the places to visit in Namibia. This small city located on the Atlantic coast is a fantastic place for any adventure sports lover. There’s plenty of things to do – sand boarding, sky diving, walking in the desert are just a few of them. To top this off, the restaurant scene is fantastic, with a great selection of places to enjoy the most delicious seafood. Visiting is one of the unmissable things to do in Namibia.
Here are some tour options if you want to visit Swakopmund:
Make sure to read my post “A Great Guide To Swakopmund, Namibia.”
Spend A Night Out In Windhoek
Fair enough, Windhoek certainly isn’t the most interesting of capitals. Most travelers use it as a base to start their Namibia safari, and end up spending a few nights there. The good news is that there’s a few good places to hang out. One of them is Joe’s Beer Home. A favorite of the locals, tourists go there to try exotic meats such as kudu and zebra. Personally, I don’t think this is one of the things to do in Namibia. But to each their own!
Here are some nice tour options for Windhoek:
Windhoek has a good selection of places to stay. Here are my favorite ones:
Tours in Namibia
If you’d rather go on a group tour to Namibia, there are a lot of great options and some also include neighboring countries as well.
- Wonders of Namibia – In this classic, NatGeo-inspired tour, you can spend 10 days circling Namibia. The tour includes Windhoek, Etosha NP, Paimwag, Twyfelfontein, Swakopmund, Namib-Naukluft NP, and Sesriem. Check here for more information
- Cape & Dunes Overland – Choose either the southbound (14 days) or northbound (13 days) direction through Namibia and South Africa. The tour will take you to Cape Town, Cederberg, Gariep River, Namib Desert, Fish River Canyon NP, Swakopmund, Spitzkoppe, Etosha NP, and Windhoek. Check here for more information
- Discover Namibia & Victoria Falls – This 12 day tour covers mostly Namibia — WIndhoek, Etosha NP, Palmwag, Twyfelfontein, Swakopmund, Namib-Naukluft NP, and Sesriem, but it also goes to Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls. Check here for more information
- Classic Cape and Namibia Adventure – If you have a bit more budget, you can enjoy this 12-day tour that begins in Cape Town, goes through Lambert’s Bay, Gariep River, Fish River Canyon NP, Namib Desert, Swakopmund, Etosha NP, and ends in Windhoek. Check here for more information
- Southern Namibia Tour – This tour will go through the Kalahari Desert, Quiver Tree Forest, Fish River Canyon, and Kolmanskoppe over 7 days. Check here for more information
- 6-Day Dunes and Wildlife Tour from Windhoek – For something even more outdoors, try this tour which will go through Etosha National Park and salt pan, Skeleton Coast, Namib Desert, and more. Check here for more information
How To Get To Namibia
The main airport in Namibia is Hosea Kutako International Airport, which is at about 45 minutes east of Windhoek, the country’s capital. South African Airways runs direct flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg. Air Namibia also has direct flights Gaborone, Botswana’s capital. There also are direct flights to other African countries, and some intercontinental flights too.
One of the nicest things to do in Namibia is getting there by bus, which is possible to those that already are in Southern Africa. This is the most budget friendly way to travel across the continent. Intercape Mainliner runs services to and from Cape Town, Victoria Falls, and Johannesburg. Traveling to and from Botswana is not nearly as easy: it is a mix of local buses and taxis, with no real departure and arrival times. As it was so uncertain, I resolved to fly from Maun to Windhoek via Johannesburg.
One of the coolest things to do in Namibia is self-driving. It is possible to cross the border in the northwest of South Africa, at the Vioolsdrift/Nordoewer land crossing. Other land crossings between Namibia and South Africa include: Mata Mata, Rietfontain, Nakop, Onseepkans, Sendelingsdrif, and Alexander Bay. It’s also possible to cross easily from Botswana, Zambia, and Angola. I’d try renting from Hertz, you can check locations in Namibia here.
Traveling Around Namibia
Namibia is one of the easiest African countries to travel around. One of the nicest things to do in Namibia is renting a car, better if a 4×2 (click here for some good deals), and drive around. Keep in mind that I do not recommend doing this to solo travelers: the driving times can be very long, the desert hard to cope with, and in case of emergency there’s hardly other cars around to ask for help. Sure enough I don’t like the idea of being stuck in the desert with nobody to help me!
Thus, especially if traveling alone I recommend joining a guided tour. It certainly is one of the top things to do in Namibia. Wild Dogs runs fabulous tours, that are very budget friendly. They also provide help in organizing self guided tours.
Whichever way one chooses to travel around the country, getting travel insurance is a must do in Namibia. You can find a good one here.
When To Visit Namibia
Namibia is a great place to visit at any time of year. I went in June, and it was pleasantly hot (but never unbearable) and dry during the day, and very cold at night. My sister went in October, and she told me the same thing. Sure enough, one of the best things to do in Namibia is being prepared for the weather and layering up, especially at night.
Have you ever been to Namibia? What are the things to do in Namibia that you enjoyed the most?
Further readings about Africa
Are you planning a longer trip to Africa? Make sure to read my posts:
Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of Wild Dog Safaris during my trip to Namibia and I wish to thank them for the incredible time I had. Needless to say, the views expressed in this post are mine.
Pint it For Later!