Places of Interest
world legendary Skeleton Coast is an area of
significant contrasts, and is named because of the
skeletons of many ships that were wrecked along its
coastline. This striking area with its interesting
past is one of the main draw cards for tourists to
Namibia. Dare to visualise a greater contrast than a
desert alongside a roaring ocean. The unimaginable
occurs at Namibia’s northern seaboard where the
perimeter of the Namib Desert pushes headstrong into
the cold waters of the South Atlantic.
Portuguese sailors referred to this wasteland of
white sand ‘the coast of hell’. Later it became
known as the Skeleton Coast, because of the
miserable fate of castaways from ships that were
ship wrecked here through the centuries, destined to
endure scorching heat, clammy mists, total isolation
and very little drinking water or shelter. The area
includes the National West Coast Recreation Area
north of Swakopmund and the Skeleton Coast Park from
the Ugab River north to the Kunene.
One of Namibia's main attractions is the clay pans
of Sossusvlei, in the Namib Desert, surrounded by
magnificent ochre sand dunes. The sand dunes of
Sossusvlei are often referred to as the highest
dunes in the world. Various arguments are made in
support of this claim, reaching more than 960ft
(300m) they are an incredible sight of endless
rolling shapes and sharp wind-sculpted crests. The
have been developed over a period of millions of
years; their forms are continuously changing, rising
and falling at the mercy of the relentless wind.
The best time to view Sossusvlei is at sunrise; the
colours are strong and constantly changing, allowing
for wonderful photographic opportunities. The midday
heat is intense and best spent in the shade while
sunset also offers excellent photo opportunities of
shifting sand, stretching as far as the eye can see.
The most striking pan is Dead Vlei, an enormous
concave depression of dry cracked mud scattered with
ancient camel-thorn trees. The pans are only ever
filled with water after the occasional heavy
rainfall, which only occurs every few years. The
solid clay layers hold the water for a long time,
providing a habitat and sustenance for countless
water birds and a drinking hole for animals.
Swakopmund is a delightful little seaside town in
the heart of the photographic Namib Desert.
Frequently described as 'a slice of Germany on the
edge of the desert', it has numerous fine German
colonial buildings and a noticeably German
character. Amid palm-lined streets, seaside
promenades and fine accommodation for all budgets,
Swakopmund is Namibia’s most popular holiday
destination, and its pleasant summer climate and
decent beaches attract surfers, anglers and beach
lovers from around the globe.
Besides the region's food specialties of rock
lobster, fish and Swakopmund oysters, customary
German fare, including sausages and pastries, can be
enjoyed. The stretch of coast linking Swakopmund to
the Atlantic Ocean is particularly known for its
angling, and the surrounding dunes of the desert
provide many opportunities for sand boarding, quad
biking and paragliding.
natural beauty of the Spitzkoppe is impressive; an
island of bald granite peaks situated in an endless
grassy plain that is visible for miles around. The
Groot Spitzkop is often referred to as the 'Matterhorn
of Africa' because of its resemblance in shape, and
it is one of Namibia's most famous mountains. Rising
to a altitude of about 1800 metres, the Spitzkoppe
not the Namibia's highest mountain, nevertheless,
due to its striking outlines, is regarded as the
most well-known mountain in the country.
The massive granite rocks were formed hundreds of
millions of years ago due to volcanic activity and
successive erosion that has resulted in interesting
rock formations and memorable outlines, which
beckons to be explored. The area is also renowned
for its spectacular sunrises that turn the rocks
from pale orange to flaming gold. In close proximity
are the Little Spitzkoppe and the Pontok Mountains.
The area is a delight for climbers, although only
experienced and well-prepared mountaineers with
adequate equipment should attempt the Spitzkoppe
Bushman paintings can be found in various places,
many in the "Bushman Paradise" under an overhanging
rock wall. Bird life is represented by several
species one of these is the Herero Chat one of most
beautiful birds in the area.
Fish River Canyon
The Fish River canyon, located along the lower
reaches of the Fish River, is one of the most
striking natural beauties in the southern part of
Namibia. It formed primarily during the pluvial
times - a rainy climatic era - millions of years
The canyon originates near Seeheim and ends at Ai-Ais.
The Canyon has a depth of up to 550 metres affording
it the status of the second largest canyon in the
world, before the Grand Canyon in America. The vast
gorge meanders along a distance of approx. 160
kilometres through the fissured Koubis massif all
the way down to Ai-Ais. It cuts deep into the
plateau which is today dry, stony and sparsely
covered with hardy drought resistant plants such as
succulents. The river flows occasionally, usually
coming down in flood in late summer, and when it
ceases to flow it becomes a chain of long narrow
pools on the sandy rock-strewn floor of the chasm.
At the lower end of the Fish River Canyon, the hot
springs resort of Ai-Ais provides a sanctuary in the
deserted rocky wastes.
The canyon is the home of some small resilient
mammals such as rock-hopping Klipspringer Antelope,
little and Baboons. Other wildlife include Kudu,
Leopard and Mountain Zebra, whose spoor you might
come across, but are unlikely to see. The sights are
mind-blowing a photographers dream.
Etosha National Park
National Park is one of Southern Africa's finest and
most important Game Reserves. Etosha Game park was
declared a National Park in 1907 and covers an area
of 22 270 square km, and is home to 114 mammal
species, 340 bird species, 110 reptile species, 16
amphibian species and, one species of fish.
Etosha, "the place of dry water," is one of the
great, and sparsely enjoyed, wildlife experiences
remaining in Africa. The park is dominated by a
massive mineral pan, which form part of the Kalahari
Basin, the floor of which was formed around 1000
million years ago. Formerly a vast lake fed by the
Kunene River, the pan dried up thousands of years
ago when the river waters chose a new course leaving
a huge depression of salt and dusty clay behind.
When it rains the pan only holds water for a short
time, attracting thousands of wading birds including
impressive flocks of flamingos. The permanent
springs along the edges of the Etosha Pan draw large
concentrations of wildlife.
Etosha is big game country, elephants and giraffes
travel the land, and the rare black rhinoceros puts
in a frequent appearance. Both species of zebras
graze the park outnumbered by antelope which include
springboks, gemsboks, red hartebeests, blue
wildebeests, elands, kudus and the elusive
black-faced impala. More fortunate visitors will see
leopard and cheetah.
Namib Naukluft Park
Namib Naukluft Park is one of the largest national
parks in Africa about 50.000 sqkms, covering much of
the central Namib Desert and the Naukluft Mountains.
Most parts of this vast area are not accessible to
man. One can only visit a small stretch north of the
Kuiseb river: the Naukluft Mountains and the
Sossusvlei in the central dune fields. The Naukluft
Mountains with their jagged rock massifs and deep
riverbeds rise up to 1000 metres above the
surrounding area, the highest peak reaches 1949 m,
making it a hiker's paradise.
The park is home to some of the rarest and peculiar
plant and animal species in the world, including the
Welwitschia Mirabilis, large lichen fields and
Hartmann's Mountain Zebra. The highlight of a visit
to the Namib Naukluft Park is a trip to the
Sossusvlei. It lies within the Central Dune Namib,
which is, with an area of about 32 000 sqkms, the
largest part of the park. The famous Sossusvlei sand
dunes at 300m, are the highest in the world,
towering over their nearest rivals in Arabia, and
just begging to be climbed barefoot.
A few gravel roads cross the northern section and
another leads into the middle dune area and Sesriem
canyon. Apart from road travel the only way to
appreciate the splendor of the park is by light
aircraft on a scenic flight from Walvis Bay/Swakopmund.