|Country Information & Lifestyle|
Watch the sun rise over the desert dunes
Namibia, officially called the Republic of Namibia, is a country in southern Africa on the Atlantic coast and shares borders with Angola and Zambia to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south.
Namibia has a colourful and turbulent history and in the mid-19th century German missionaries opened up the interior paving the way for traders who came later. The annexation of the country by Germany in 1884 accounts for the distinctive German architecture and traditions.
Namibia is a country of compelling beauty, abundant sunshine and a feeling of unconfined space. With its unspoiled landscapes and large variety of game Namibia is one of the larger countries in Africa and draws an increasing number of visitors from various parts of the globe.
Namibia is the first country in the world to include protection of the environment and sustainable utilisation of wildlife in its constitution. About 15.5% of the country has been set aside as National Parks and in these areas rare and endangered species of animals, birds and plant life are preserved and protected. Most of the African game species are well represented in Namibia with the largest concentration in the Etosha National Park.
In general Namibia has a dry climate with the exception of the high rainfall area in the far north east. The country is regarded as a semi-desert country where droughts frequently occur. The summer day temperature can reach up to 42 degrees C, while night winter temperature can reach as low as -5 degrees C and rain usually falls in the summer.
The capital of Namibia is Windhoek, an attractive, bustling, cosmopolitan city situated in the Central Highlands and surrounded by hills and mountains. The city centre is characterised by historic German colonial architecture and imposing modern structures.
As capital cities go this is one of the safest and most relaxed in Southern Africa and the German influence is not only apparent in the architecture but is also evident in the food and locally brewed beer. Sauerkraut and polony are available on the menu among seafood from the west coast and venison or game steaks from the hinterland.
Dominating the skyline is the striking German Lutheran church, Christuskirche, a mixture of Art Nouveau and neo-Gothic design, and the Titenpalast, or Ink Palace, the parliament building from where the sparsely populated country is governed. The railway station is a Cape Dutch edifice dating back to 1912 and Independence Avenue is a pleasant tree-lined place with fountains and walkways providing a relaxing ambience among the modern buildings of the central business district.
Namibia has always been a country of superlatives. Dragon's Breath is the largest subterranean lake in the world, Hoba meteorite is the biggest ever found, Gibeon meteorite shower is the largest ever discovered and the Namib Desert is the oldest desert. It is also the only desert in the world that harbours elephant, lion, giraffe and rhino and Namibia has the largest free-roaming cheetah population in the world, an estimated 2,500.
The Central Plateau runs from north to south bordered by the Skeleton Coast to the north west, the Namib Desert and its coastal plains to the south west, the Orange River to the south and the Kalahari Desert to the east.
The Namib Desert is the oldest and most arid desert region in the world and in the Nama language "Namib" means "vast", a description perfectly situated to the miles of barren landscape stretching endlessly along Namibia's Atlantic coastline.
The northern Namib is called the Skeleton Coast, an intensely mysterious, inhospitable area of treacherous rocks and sand banks, dry gravel plains and isolated, flat-topped mountains. The bleak wilderness is especially eerie when blanketed in the thick coastal fog that is brought about by the collision of cold sea air with the searing heat of the harsh interior.
Sailors washed ashore from shipwrecks over the centuries soon became the skeletons that the coastline was named after, having no chance of survival in the pitiless wastes of the Namib Desert. Its appeal lies in the untouched quality, the colors and changing moods of the vast landscape, and the incredible adaptations to the desert habitat of its flora and fauna.
The southern Namib forms part of the Namib-Naukluft Park, one of Africa's most interesting and diverse nature reserves and is characterised by an endless sea of orange sand dunes and the famous Sossusvlei dunes, the highest in the world. Emerging from the desert stretch, and situated along the coast, is the charming little seaside resort of Swakopmund often described as "a slice of Germany on the edge of the desert" full of German character and old world charm.
The Bushveld is found in north eastern Namibia along the Angolan border and located adjacent to the Bushveld in north-central Namibia is one of nature's most spectacular features: the Etosha Pan. For most of the year it is a dry, saline wasteland, but during the wet season, it forms a shallow lake covering more than 6000 square kilometres. The area is ecologically important and vital to the huge numbers of birds and animals from the surrounding Savannah that gather in the region as summer drought forces them to the scattered waterholes that ring the pan.
The Kalahari Desert is perhaps Namibia's best known geographical feature. Shared with South Africa and Botswana, it has a variety of localised environments ranging from hyper-arid sandy desert, to areas that seem to defy the common definition of desert.
The Etosha National Park, "the great white place of dry water", is a vast area of shimmering mirages and saline desert, savanna and scrubby woodlands situated 435 km north of Windhoek. Its unique landscape is characterised by an immense flat white salt-pan, a shallow depression that is dry for the greater part of the year and covers about 25% of the park.
Open all year round and accessed either by road from Otjiwarongo or Tsumeb or by light aircraft, it is possible to see antelopes, cheetahs, elephants, gemsboks, giraffes, hartebeests, impalas, kudu, leopards, lions, rhinos, wildebeests, zebras, springboks and the endangered black rhino around the many waterholes scattered throughout the park.
The Owambo is a collective name for a group of tribes in northern Namibia and southern part of Angola. There are eight tribes in this group all with their own dialect and the tribe is traditionally headed by a hereditary chief. The Owambo's Supreme being is Kalunga but he is not actively worshipped since he is seen as being largely not involved in everyday affairs.
The Herero migrated to Namibia several centuries ago and are traditionally a cattle breeding people. Today they number around 100,000 and according to legend they came from "a country of mountains". They believe in a Supreme being called Omukuru("the Great One") or Njambi Karunga. They majority have been converted to Christianity. The women of the Herero tribe are very distinctive with their voluminous Victorian-style dresses and colourful headgear.
The Damara are one of the oldest groups in the country and are around 90,000. They cultivate corn and vegetables with livestock production.
The Kavango are close relatives of the Owambo and number around 140,000 in five tribes, each lead by a chief assisted by a headman. It is a society still largely believing in magic, witchcraft, ancestor worship and the evil powers of Shadipinyi, the wicked servant of Nyambi. They are famed for their expressive wood carvings.
The ancient tribe of Himba(Ovahimba),relatives of Herero, are an extraordinary people who have resisted change and preserved their unique cultural heritage. One of their most interesting rituals is the ritual of fire. The "okoruwo"(fire)provides contact between the living and the dead which is necessary for harmonious living and keeping the ancestors happy. It is kept alive until the death of the headman. When this happens his hut and the fire is destroyed and his family dance, mourning throughout the night, before his burial, everyone says to him, "Karepo nawa"("keep well).
The Bushmen(San),total around 27,000 and they are hunter-gatherers occupying the most remote areas of the east of the country and Kalahari desert in Botswana.
The white population is around 75,000 of which 25% are German 60& Afrikaans speaking and the rest English and Portuguese.
Namibia will simply take your breath away! With her enormous variety of scenic beauty, abundance of wildlife, and people who are heart warming and friendly, this land of wide open spaces will capture your heart.