Dawn’s light breaks over a thousand-foot dune. Stepping out of your 4x4 and into the world’s oldest desert, you marvel, yet again, at the vastness of the surrounding landscape. You’re in Namibia, a country whose name means “area where there is nothing,” but so far this hasn’t rung true. Between the wild Skeleton Coast, the game-rich Etosha National Park, and the burnt-orange dunes of Sossusvlei, you’ll find yourself in constant awe of the rugged mountains, vibrant wildlife, and boundless open spaces calling to be explored. Let the Namibia adventures begin!
Namibia is a country in Southwest Africa, where you’re more likely to see an elephant than a person and a star rather than a street light. As one of the last entrances into the great African frontier, this diverse and beautiful landscape is a mecca for thrill-seeking adventurers from around the world.
A great place to start your adventure travel in Namibia is the capital, Windhoek. Worth seeing in its own right, the city is also a launchpad into the uncultivated wilderness surrounding it. If you need to rent a buggy or charter a plane, this is the place to come.
While the Sahara gets all the cred, the Namib is actually the desert that’s been around the longest. Not only that, it’s the only desert in Africa where elephants, rhinos, giraffes, and lions roam freely. Rural areas like this one are some of Namibia’s biggest draws, and offer stunning hikes and some of the best off-roading in the world.
On the western edge of the desert is Swakopmund, a small city steeped in German influence and ripe with adventure. You can rent quad bikes, go skydiving, and even let the wind choose your destination on an early morning hot-air balloon ride. You may even go as far as Moon Landscape, a rocky, barren area that so resembles the moon, it’s starred in many a movie as such. It’s the next best thing to actually traveling to the moon in a hot air balloon.
Moving northward, you’ll come to Etosha National Park, a wild game reserve that boasts over a hundred species of mammals, birds, and reptiles. Scientists and rangers are working hard to protect endangered species, and if you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the recherché black rhinoceros. If not, the waterholes around the edge of the park’s immense salt pan almost guarantee you’ll spot a thirsty wildebeest or two.
Adventure Travel in Namibia
The wild, rugged landscape means adventure travel programs in Namibia have a lot to offer. People come for the untouched and unspoilt wilderness, and stay to squeeze one last drop of adventure from the myriad of programs available. Whether you’re driving, hiking, or seeing the country from above, there are countless ways to get the most out of your adventure travel in Namibia.
Safaris can be one of the most personal ways to experience the country; with rustic accommodations you’ll not only spot zebras, elephants, lions, and cheetahs; you might even be mistaken for one! Wildlife are not used to seeing people, so it’s entirely possible that some furry, four-legged critter might approach you and give you a good sniff.
Another place worth seeing is Sossusvlei, a remote area known for its burnt-orange dunes and spiritual serenity. Hiking and off-roading are both popular ways to explore this area. For something more challenging, head to Fish River Canyon, where there is trekking to test even the most intrepid among us.
One of the most extraordinary experiences is the chance to spend time in a native Himba village. This living heritage tour illustrates a way of life long since decimated in other parts of the world. See how people hunted, prepared food, and made clothes before the advent of modern technology, then paint yourself red and get your grass skirts twirling as you join in for traditional song and dance at night.
To avoid the heat, plan to have adventures in Namibia in winter months when the temperatures range from 68°F to 75°F and skies stay a consistent blue. Otherwise, the summer months of November to March see temperatures soar past 100°F on a regular basis. Ouch!
Costs & Affordability
If you’re ready to pack your bags for adventure in Namibia, you’ll be happy to know it’s a relatively cheap destination. The joy of this country is, after all, not in what you can buy, but in what you can see, do, and feel. Most adventure travel programs in Namibia include accommodation, meals, drinking water, park entrances, camping fees, guides, and in-country orientation and training. That leaves airfare, personal spending, and insurance up to you.
If you’re traveling on your own, or have some free time on either end of your adventure tour, you can expect to pay prices similar to those of surrounding African countries. An average dinner should be around $10, and a bottle of water is under a dollar. For longer stays, you may start to notice that the cost of living is significantly higher than that of just passing through; a lot of foods and other items from daily life are imported, and monopolies in certain business sectors make things like electricity quite high. Keep this in mind when thinking about the length and type of stay you’re looking for, and learn to live like the locals.
Accommodations & Visas
When traveling through Namibia, the country itself will begin to feel like home. Not because you’ll know the neighbor down the street or speak the language, but because with very few people around, the crew you’re with and the things you carry will become a portable home so in-tune with your surroundings that you’ll start to feel like wherever you lay your hat is, indeed, your home.
Accommodations are rustic, but that’s the way you’d want it here. The camps and lodges provided by your adventure tour will be small and intimate, and offer a basic, yet fulfilling, style of living. Meals will often be cooked over a fire, and beds will probably be under the stars.
You most likely won’t need a visa if your stay is under 30 days (check out GoAbroad’s Embassy directory to see requirements for your country), but you will need a passport that is valid for six months after your planned departure, and that has six completely blank pages in it. Upon entry in the country, you will get a Visitor’s Entry Permit that you will need to show at your port of departure.
Benefits & Challenges
When you ask a Namibian what their favorite thing about Namibia is, you invariably get one of two answers: the people or the wilderness.
The people are warm and peace-loving, and have created their own identity in a land that could easily dwarf them. Instead, they are proud of their country’s diverse landscapes and are happy to share them with visitors. Under their expert guidance, you’ll be able to see huge areas of land untouched by human hands, and have the privilege of seeing something very few have ever laid eyes upon.
The ubiquitous grievance among Namibia-goers, however, is… it’s HOT! Not only is this difficult to deal with on a personal level, it also means that a lot of stores close early, and that people generally take their time getting things done. This won’t cause a problem if you plan ahead— just be aware if you need something urgent! And maybe don’t go photo-hunting for zebras during midday in December ( ← keep in mind the seasons are flipped!).
When you step off the beaten track, you won’t find the nothingness Namibia was named for. You will, however, find nature at its finest, and a people who have created and nurtured a deep connection with each other and the land. Nothing will feed your spirit more than the sense of comradery you will build exploring the sun-scorched deserts, volcanic mountains, and open plains with your small group of adventurers. In the words of a native Himba, “We love one another, we walk together.” And now you can, too.