My passion for photography has taken me to some of the most fascinating places in the world and most recently to Namibia. It is often described as one of the most scenically magnificent countries in the African continent and a top destination for adventure travellers and lovers of wildlife. Places like the Namib desert (the oldest desert in the world) or the world famous Etosha National Park are just a few examples of Namibia’s endless natural wonders. Namibia has also included the protection of the environment in its constitution. In fact about 14% of its landmass are national parks, and this is one good reason why Namibia is best explored by car.
Etosha National Park
The first destination on our itinerary was one of Southern Africa’s top game viewing destinations and one of my favourite places in Namibia. In the language of the Ovambo tribe, Etosha actually means ‘great white place’. About 16,000 years ago, the Kunene River flowed all the way down from Angola to Etosha, forming a large lake. Once the river dried up, it left the largest salt pan in Africa. It was my first time going on a Safari and even though I wouldn’t have considered myself a big fan of animals, I absolutely enjoyed the experience. Discovering the wild animals in their natural environment was just very different from anything you could experience in Europe. It was fun to explore the park in our own car and being able to escape the masses around the Anderson gate and Okaukuejo camp by driving to the outskirts. My favorite and definitely the most unique accommodation was the Dolomite camp in the western part of the park. A stunning campsite located on top of a hill, overlooking a vast area of the national park and a waterhole just beneath (be careful though: the lack of fences around the camp sometimes attracts wild animals at night). I enjoyed the variety of game that was available in the restaurants and campsites in Etosha. From Ostrich to Oryx, Kudu, Springbok and Zebra, I worked myself through the menu. My favourite meat was Ostrich filet – very lean and extremely tasty.
Another incredible place to visit in Namibia is Sandwich Harbour. British explorers named it after Naval leader, John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich in the 18th century (he was supposedly the inventor of one of today’s most popular food creations). Meanwhile, the large dunes that define Namibias beautiful coastline, have buried the harbour under tons of sand. The only reminder of its existence is the beautiful lagoon that still lies like a jewel between the dunes and the Atlantic ocean. Sandwich Harbour is about 2 hours away from Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, one of the biggest ports on the African west coast. The region’s extreme weather conditions, with only 10 millimetres of rain per year, have created one of the most incredible sceneries in the world. The drive down to the harbour leads through the Namib Naukluft Park and requires serious 4×4 skills as there are no official routes and only locals know how to get you safely over the dunes to the harbour.
As we entered the park, we came across large groups of flamingos and birds, with sometimes several thousands of them gathering along the beach. In November, cape cross is one of the most famous viewpoints in Namibia to see the seal colonies during the breeding season along the skeleton coast. The name of Namibia’s coast originates from the many whale and seal bones that once covered the shore from the whale industry. Today, it is covered with thousands of shipwrecks caught by offshore rocks and Namibia’s infamous fog. The skeleton coast officially ranges from the Kune river in Southern Angola to the Swakop river in Northern Namibia. Only few parts are open to the public as there are still many restricted mining areas in the north of the country.
Since distances in Namibia are long and there are only a few accessible roads into the desert, there is no better way of exploring it than by plane. There are several charter companies that will take you over the best parts of Namibia’s deserts: The Namib Naukluft Park and Sossusvlei – an unforgetable experience. The dunes of Sossusvlei are Namibia’s most popular tourist destination, together with the famous trees of deadvlei. Back on the ground, we didn’t know that we could only see the famous sunset and sunrise over the dunes by staying overnight in the only camp inside the national park. Thankfully it was low season and we were able to change our accommodation last minute. It was my birthday when we drove out to the dunes in the early morning and it turned into an unforgettable experience. It took us about 90 minutes to climb the 1,200 feet dune called ‘big daddy’, from where we enjoyed the breathtaking views over Sossusvlei in absolute solitude for more than 1 hour before the first tourists arrived. The off-road driving through the sand on the way to Sossusvlei was challenging but lots of fun. I had been warned that driving too slowly or using the breaks may make the car sink into the sand, so I put foot whenever possible.
The experiences on this trip have inspired me to discover more of Southern Africa. Next time, I am keen to do an overland tour from Northern Namibia through Damaraland to visit the Hiba tribe and explore the untouched land in Southern Angola
For more compelling adventure stories by Mat Hauser, visit his official website, Where is Mat?, and follow him on Instagram. To share your own travel stories with him, feel free to contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org