This guest post is brought to you by travel blogger Stacey Ebert of The Gift of Travel.
South Africa’s Kruger national Park and Tanzania’s Serengeti jumped off the pages of all our books while we were ‘travel’ dreaming of Africa. I had already dreamt of ‘moving it’ with Madagascar’s lemurs and dipping my toes in the Indian Ocean off of Zanzibar’s beaches, but what we found surprised the both of us.
As part of an around the world honeymoon, my husband and I spent five weeks in Africa (and have since returned to visit Kenya & Tanzania). We journeyed to Egypt, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, & Zimbabwe. Each having a culture and beauty all its own, the most astounding and memorable was Namibia. Filled with some of the kindest people, beautiful landscapes, endless sand and incredible wildlife, it didn’t take us long to fall in love with this country.
We could return countless times to Namibia and continue to be amazed. Spending time in the presence of the red-painted Himba tribe, the indigenous San people and the locals who treasure their serenity and lifestyle-we were moved by each story. Genuine spirits, kind hearts and tradition are coupled with ever changing wildlife, national parks, and a colorful landscape of endless sand, sea and surf.
Today, when others ask where we’d most likely return to in Africa, we choose Namibia. The scenery is constantly changing with each kilometer more engaging than the next. Time stands still and spirits soar while each experience is memorable. If you get the chance to visit Namibia, take it. Your journey will be filled and your heart warmed.
Here are just a few of our most unforgettable memories that we share when asked, “What should I do when I visit Namibia?”
Fish River Canyon: Venture into the Vista
The second largest canyon in the world (1st being Arizona’s Grand Canyon and 3rd South Africa’s Blyde River Canyon) is a sight to behold. Colors of tans, beiges and yellows fill the contoured edges with darker ones below. Lean at your own risk as there are no railings around the entire rim of the canyon. Pepper trees, which look like pointed cacti, are found near the edge amidst loose rocks and endless pebbles. There are three rivers that run inside the canyon and the picturesque landscape is incredible. Since tours into the canyon take approximately five days, our voyage took us on a hike around part of the rim. Each step led to a new vista, different perspectives and yielded beautiful photos.
If road tripping: (**Road Tripping Tip: Always be sure to carry extra water, flash lights (torches), snacks and clothing-depending on season; you never know when you’ll have car trouble and how long it will take someone to get to you**)
A quick stop at Café Van Der Lee in Solitaire will find Moose McGregor. Long before the famed mention in Ewan McGregor’s Long Way Down, Scotsman, Moose McGregor has been a fixture to locals and travelers around the world. Known for the best apple strudel around, Moose himself chats, poses for photographs and assures you that no one does strudel like he does.
Swakopmund: Providing Perspective at all Points
If you’re looking for a seaside resort town in Namibia, this is where you’ll find it. With the large scale flamingo population lounging in Walvis Bay, Swakopmund has sandy beaches, restaurants that overlook the sea and heaps of extreme activities often visited by Angelina Jolie and her brood. By all means, come for some excitement and a dip in the sea if you want to relax. However, there’s a completely contradictory side to Swakopmund available to those who seek it. A Township Tour will take you through sights that are the antithesis of wealth, freedom and ease. A township (an area set up for the Namibian black population during South African Apartheid rule) still exists today. ‘Houses’ made out of container siding, cardboard and leaves line the streets adjacent to others that have roofs, walls and indoor heating and plumbing.
Although thankfully, legalized apartheid is long gone, the evidence remains ever present. A journey through this township introduces travelers to local tribal elders who share their story in the click language through a translator. There’s a visit to a medicine woman’s home with specific explanations of herbal medicines still in use today. This trip provides time to try your hand at a new language, traditional foods in an original setting and a chance to interact with children and adults in a school, community and local village. Both the town and the tour provide perspective changing attitudes and life-lessons far beyond that of a traditional classroom.
Etosha National Park: Chalets, Campsites & Creatures
You could hear a pin drop when we drove through the gates and saw our first elephant. Our speechless party drove to our campsite passing the three pools, snack bar, restaurant and bar before arriving at our spot. Just paces away from our tent, is in my opinion, by far, one of the best features of the entire park- a watering hole. It’s a floodlit water hole that is continuously active. Here you can sit and watch the animals in their natural habitat. They have patterns and times that they visit with the rhino arriving at 9pm each night. Sit and gaze. Zebra, elephants, oryx, springbok and giraffe all come to play and drink.
After watching in awe for a while, everyone sits in silence. Clicks of the cameras are all you hear. It’s hard to imagine this is real and right in front of you until you hear the animals call to each other or feel the droplets of water as the elephants splash. Be sure not to leave your shoes outside your tent, or your friendly black-backed jackal might just run off with a new play toy throughout the night. (**Friendly suggestion: Bug spray, bug spray, bug spray**)
Soussevlei: Dynamic Desert Dunes
Massive, vibrant, desert and hot are just some of the adjectives that describe Soussevlei. With every inch the sun rises, the temperature increases exponentially. By 9:00am of our morning climb it was close to 40C in the bright desert sun. Dune 45 is the only sand dune open to climbers. Light color & weight clothing, bug spray, sunscreen, hats and shoes are recommended to trudge the delicate red sand to the top. Upon arrival at the pinnacle you look out on an endless sea of sand peaks that could be lightly burnt meringues atop the largest pie ever eaten. Elongated shadows angle down the sides of the dune as you make your way up and down. Look closely and you’ll see tiny sand critters joining in on your journey leaving infinitesimal footprints in their wake.
Most hikers took the same path up & down, but we chose to venture down the side of the monstrous dune. Scalding hot sand hit every crevasse and as it crept higher and higher up my legs I plopped in the sand holding my bare feet up (looking like a flipped tortoise) just to cool my burning tootsies. With the help of my inhaler, I made it to the top and with well earned callouses on my feet, I made it down. These are the dunes have seen thousands of travelers’ feet and a photo session with Angelina Jolie. Breathtaking doesn’t do them justice. The red sand stuck in your pockets and toes is without question, worth it.
For us, each visit to Africa has been incredible. To those who ask about our travels we typically respond, “Africa gets in your soul, and stays there”. Namibian people, landscapes, wildlife and culture have left a huge impression. We learned more about this land in a few short days than any textbook could teach in a lifetime. We can’t wait to return to Namibia, and hope you too get the chance to experience her beauty first-hand.
Have you been to Namibia? Would you like to go? Tell us about it in the comments below.