Namibia, in Southern Africa, is a nation that boasts remarkable natural attractions such as the Namib Desert, the Fish River Canyon Park, Etosha National Park and the Kalahari desert. Thanks to both a wealth of indigenous cultures and a tumultuous colonial history, its people speak nine different languages, including some of the Khoisan languages which include the 'clicks' that present an enigma to most native English speakers. It is also one of the few places in Africa where German, although not official, remains a commonly spoken language, while Afrikaans, shared with its southern neighbour, is also prevalent.
Spread throughout Namibia on an amazing scale, game parks and nature reserves constitute some 18% percent of the country's available surface area. Some, like the huge Etosha National Park, focus primarily on wildlife, while others like the Namib-Naukluft Park and Fish River Canyon are more landscape oriented, their natural beauty easily upstaging the game. Regardless, these parks represent a network of Namibia's most sought-after tourist destinations and often include a wide-range of adventure, camping, hiking and wilderness activities.
Namibia is a land of astounding natural beauty. To truly appreciate the country, you need to get out in the countryside, either on a tour or by renting a car, and take in the deserts, the mountains, the villages and everything else that Namibia has to offer.
Namibia was colonized by Germany in the late 19th century. Colonial control was established by private interests before the German Reich itself got involved as Bismarck was rather skeptical of colonial endeavors. German business and colonial interests, among them Adolf Lüderitz, tried to co-opt local rulers into their schemes and to that end signed treaties of varying honesty and even-handedness. One treaty famously mentioned a strip of land from the coast several "miles" inland to be handed over to the colonizers. What the treaty failed to mention was that the British miles of roughly 1.6 km wasn't what the Germans meant - they insisted upon much larger "Prussian miles" that were obscure even then and entirely unknown to the locals.
Despite the vast distances in Namibia, most people get around by land, and not air. Namibia's primary routes are tarred, and secondary routes are well-graded gravel. An all-wheel drive vehicle is not necessary to reach the major tourist destinations except Kaokoland and the Skeleton Coast. Driving at night is very dangerous because there is a lot of wildlife on the roads. Traffic drives on the left. Namibian roads eat tires and chip windscreens. Always check your spare and inspect your tires often. If someone overtakes you on a gravel road, drive as far left as possible and slow down to avoid being hit by flying stones. The road edges can be soft, so take care.
Service stations can be a fair distance from each other, so it pays to get a map showing where they are located to plan your trip. If you are on the back roads of Namibia, it's always wise to stop and top-off your tank when you see a service station. Most service stations in towns accept credit cards, and many have ATMs available. However, in the countryside you might have to pay cash.
Since Namibia is similar to South Africa, if you're used to travelling in one country, travelling in the other country is quite easy. However, there are some subtle differences. For example, in South Africa a non-white person may choose to speak English rather than Afrikaans (as a political choice) whereas among Namibia's mixed-race population (who call themselves 'colored' in Namibia and South Africa) Afrikaans is a proud part of their culture, and many people still speak German. Overlooking these differences isn't going to cause offense, but they're handy to know.
Namibia still has plenty of African wildlife to see and is one of the countries where all of the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, buffalo) can be seen in the wild. There are also some local subspecies, such as desert lions, desert elephants and the Hartmann's mountain zebra, which are adapted to the harsh desert climate. Grazing animals like gemsbok, ostrich and springbok are also common. Namibia's national parks are an excellent starting point and one of the most famous is Etosha National Park in the north. The park surrounds the Etosha salt pan, which attracts animals, particularly in the drier winter months, because it is a source of water in a very dry land. Other notable spots to view wildlife are Waterberg Plateau Park, the parks of the Caprivi and the remote Kaokoland.
National parks in Namibia:
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