Living Desert

Namibia is a vast country wedged between two deserts – the Namib in the west and the Kalahari in the east. The role of water, or the lack thereof, has played more than its fair share in the physical and human development of the country. The country has only 5 perennial rivers and all of these are located on the borders leaving a thirsty mass of land in between. Each of the 13 official ethnic groups, dominated in numbers by the Owambo, have successfully found their way to adapt to this harsh environment.

The deserts of Namibia are not like other deserts. Except in the most extreme reaches, they are inhabited by a variety of both man and beast, and, whilst the landscapes are awesome, this is what makes them so appealing to visitors. Namibia is larger in size than France and Great Britain combined, with a population of little more than 1.8 million. It has one of the lowest population densities in the world. Furthermore, its inhabitants gravitate towards the wetter region in the north east. The resulting swathe of open space and blue sky is often difficult for foreigners to contemplate!

The Etosha Pan is Namibia’s best known landmark on the tourist map, with its vast, barren salt pan in the middle and its surrounding open plains pock-marked with waterholes and good concentrations game. West of Etosha is Damaraland with its rare and endangered desert rhinos and elephants. Then, for the more adventurous travelers, comes the Skeleton Coast, one of the planet’s most isolated places. Here you will see soaring dunes, dramatic canyons, salt pans, seal colonies, ghost towns and shipwrecks. Some way to the south is the Namib Desert, and in particular Sossusvlei – one of the most remarkable landscapes anywhere in the world. At Sossusvlei you will see stunning red dunes said to be the highest in the world, rising over 300 metres above the plains below. Growing in popularity with visitors is the Epupa Falls in the north on the Kunene River. The Caprivi area in the north-eastern corner also offers various river-side accommodation largely frequented by tiger-fishing enthusiasts. Towns in Namibia often have a strong Germanic influence in the architecture because of the Country’s colonial history. Many are worth a visit including the capital Windhoek and the coastal resort of Swakopmund.