If you decide to visit this otherworldly part of the African continent, Namibian author Olga Levinson's words will undoubtedly ring true, “This is a strange land, engendering a love that goes beyond all logical reasoning. For it is a hard country, and will always remain so; hard and uncompromising: it nevertheless has an inexplicable appeal…the spell of the country holds the traveller, and he can never forget what he sees.”
QUICK GUIDE TO NAMIBIA: Visa-free travel for South Africans
For all its desolate expanses and winding open roads, Nambia is never boring. So if you're yearning to escape the corridors of your city offices, this 4x4 adventurer's favourite, is the antidote. Why not try one of these 3 top routes, traversing its western coastal regions of Swakopmund through the spellbinding arid north-east, contrasted against the watery confluence of the Caprivi Four Corners region.
Here are three possible routes to map-out when planning your next adventure:
The Arid Eden Route
Stretching from Swakopmund in the south to the Angolan border in the north, the Arid Eden Route includes the previously restricted western area of Etosha National Park, with the majesty of free-roaming animals, extreme landscapes, rich cultural heritage and outstanding geological formations putting this on many a traveller’s bucket lists.
As one of the last remaining wildernesses, the Arid Edin Route is remote yet accessible - with attractions including Spitzkope, Brandberg, Twyfelfontein and Epupa Falls.
Must see and do:
Twyfelfontein World Heritage Site
Visit one of the largest concentrations of petroglyphs or rock art in Africa at the Twyfelfontein World Heritage Site. The Brandberg has Namibia's highest peak at 2 574m and is home to the White Lady, a San Painting. The White Lady was first believed to be Isis, as known from artworks of Pharonic Egypt, and that the figure bore resemblance to artworks of the classical Mediterranean cultures. The painting is in fact not of a lady, but is a medicine man or shaman of importance and is a fine example of San Rock Art.
Himba and Damara culture
Learn more about Namibia's traditional cultures such as Himba and Damara. In the Himba culture a sign of wealth is not the beauty or quality of a tombstone, but rather the cattle you had owned during your lifetime, represented by the horns on your grave.
Elephants of Etosha Salt Pan
The Etosha Pan covers a total area of is 4 730 square km and developed through tectonic plate activity over about ten million years; The desert-adapted elephants of the Kunene region rely on a little as nine species of plants for their survival while in Etosha they utilise over 80 species. The western gate of Etosa, known as Galton Gate, is named after the British explorer Sir Francis Galton (a cousin of Charles Darwin) who travelled extensively central and northern in Namibia from 1850 to 1852. The gate was previously closed to the public, but now gives access to a previously restricted area of the park;
The elephant population in Etosha has grown substantially over the years. In 1954 as little as 26 elephants were counted while there are over 2 500 today. This is largely as a result of a series of boreholes that were drilled to attract them from surrounding farms.
See desert adapted wildlife such as elephant, rhino and lion in its natural environment and how communities take ownership of their natural assets in communal conservancies.
Fairy Circles" in the Marienfluss
The circular "Fairy Circles" in the Marienfluss is actually caused by termites that kill the grass by eating the roots, causing the water to stay in the ground for years at a time. The termites literally swim in watery sand, sustained by water and whatever organic material is left there until the next rain and the next round of new annual grass. Plants stick their roots just inside the circle to get water, but not far enough to tempt the termites, causing barren circles on the landscape;
Spot Sptizkoppe and Erongo mountains
Welwitchia links Namibia’s premier coastal holiday destination, Swakopmund with the wildlife spectacle of Etosha National Park. The well-maintained gravel road passes by some of the most spectacular landscapes and attractions in Namibia. Dominating the landscape enroute is the towering Sptizkoppe and Erongo mountains. The mountainous in south attract both mountain bikers and rock climbers while less adventurous hikers can experience this wilderness at a more leisurely pace.
Ancient clusters of Palmwag
This routes links oasis settlements and springs through a part of the Himba tribal heartland. Palmwag is a cluster of ancient palm trees under which small herds of elephants congregate in the river vegetation.
Local tour operators also offer walking tours to find the last free ranging black rhinos in the area. Further north, the six fountains that resulted in the establishment the historic settlement of Sesfontein brings life the arid Hoanib valley.
From the western gate of the spectacular Etosha National Park and its teaming wildlife with another Namibian highlight the two major waterfalls on the Kunene River. The route traverses Mopani shrubland while skirting the Etosha Park fence for some sixty kilometres.
Opuwo, the main center in the Himba heartland and is a necessary refuelling and supply stop before heading off into the rugged mountain complexes of the Baynes and Zebra Ranges. The experience takes you all the way to the Epupa waterfall, one of the truly unspoilt natural wonders of Africa.
Visit ancient riverbeds, craters and a petrified forest on your way to yid oasis in the desert. Interestingly "Epupa" is a Herero word for "foam", in reference to the foam created by the falling water.
Towering over the red sand dunes of the Namib Desert, this 4-star lodge offers an outdoor pool and a dining terrace overlooking a floodlit waterhole.
In stone lodges on the edge of the Etendeka Plateau, rooms at Grootberg Lodge offer far-reaching views. With an outdoor pool, it is run by an organisation that aims to improve local welfare.
Situated in the Etendeka Concession Area at the foot of the Grootberg Mountains, this rustic and eco-friendly camp features tented accommodation, an outdoor pool safari opportunities.
The Omulunga Palm Route
The Omulunga Palm Route is not only the gateway to Angola but also links the remote and desolate northwest region (the Arid Eden Route as mentioned above) to the lush water ecosystem of the Four Rivers Route (Kavango and Zambezi regions).
This route showcases Namibia's heartbeat through traditional and contemporary Ovambo culture and local tribal royalty. Here you can gain a different perspective on Etosha National Park by entering through the north-eastern gate at King Nehale (within King Nehale Conservancy);
It is located along the northern border of Namibia and stretches from Ruacana in the west to Nkurenkuru in the east and is named after the distinctive palms that accent the desolate landscape, called Omulunga in Ovambo.
Must-see and do:
Visit Oshakati open market
The Oshakati open market is said to be the biggest in the country and is an important part of the town's economic infrastructure. The open market is a cultural experience in its own right as travellers can buy anything from Mopani worms, traditional beer, local crafts and artefacts, and many other local delicacies.
Roof of Namibia
The Roof of Namibia Experience links the Kunene River at Ruacana Falls with the Okavango River along the Angolan border. The route leads through numerous pans and flooded channels known as oshanas that move southward from Angola towards the Etosha salt pan.
Travellers will enjoy the feeling of a rural landscape interspersed with a bustling urban landscape. Those with a keen interest in Namibia’s recent history can enjoy attractions such as the Outapi War Museum, Ombalantu Baobab Museum and the Eenhana Shrine.
King Nehale Experience
The King Nehale Experience takes travellers along a journey through the colourful towns of Oshakati, Ongwediva and Ondangwa and the starkly contrasting rural villages that surround it.
Travellers will have the opportunity to visit the Omugulugwombashe National Monument, Uukwaluudhi Royal Homestead, Uukwambi Kings Monument, Oshakati Open Market, Ongula Traditional Homestead, Nakambale Museum and Lake Oponono.
Protea Hotel by Marriott Ondangwa
located in the heart of Namibia, 92 km from the Etosha National Park. It offers modern rooms and an outdoor pool with sun loungers.
Anot Guest House
Located just a 5-minute drive from the Ondangwa city centre, Anot Guest House features a restaurant and a 24-hour front desk. Free Wi-Fi is available in all areas.
The Four Rivers Route
The Four Rivers Route comprises an unusual water ecosystem that gives life to rich and rare wildlife, birds and culture, while being affordable to visitors who feel nourished in its presence.
This is watery confluence of four countries Namibia, Botswana Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The name is derived from the four river systems that flow through the Zambezi (formerly the Caprivi) and Kavango regions, namely the Zambezi, Okavango, Kwando and Chobe Rivers.
The unusual water ecosystem created by the rivers is one of Southern Africa's best kept secrets and is home to over 430 bird species, free-roaming wildlife and numerous culturally rich villages and attractions. This route stretches from Nkurenkuru in the North East through the Zambezi Region (former Caprivi Strip) to one of southern Africa's most spectacular attractions, the Victoria Waterfalls.
Must-see and do:
Kavango Open Africa Experience
The Kavango Open Africa Route, is based on the riverine landscapes of the Kavango, its people, birds and wildlife.
The route roughly stretches 383km from Nkurunkuru in the west to Mohembo in the east and also provides access to the Mahango and Khaudum National Parks on the border of Botswana.
The beauty of this area was only discovered by explorers in the late nineteenth century and is still being discovered by tourists today.
The route offers an array of attractions and a diversity of culture and is a renowned birding hotspot. Other attractions that form part of the experience include the Mbunza Living Museum, Khaudum National Park, Nyangana Mssion, Andara Mission, the Okavango River System and Popa Falls as well as Mahango National Park.
Immersing yourself in the Caprivi Wetlands Paradise
The Caprivi Wetlands Paradise epitomises the appeal of Africa with wildlife and communities living side-by-side.
The area is renowned for its successful Community Based Natural Resource Management programme that allows communities specific ownership rights and allows them to protect and sustainably utilise their wildlife and other natural resources. This can be seen first-hand when crossing the Okavango River into the Bwabwata National Park.
Travellers will immediately realise this is not a typical park as approximately 5 000 people live in the park and derive benefits from its natural resources. It is not until you reach the Kwando River with its more densely vegetated riverine woodlands that you are likely to spot herds of elephant. The area is also known as Namibia’s birding paradise.
It has varied habitats including broad-leafed and acacia woodlands, mopane forests, riverine forests, grasslands and floodplains, and therefore boasts more than 400 species of birds.
Sunset at Four Corners
Four Corners Experience stretches from the Ngoma border post, through Chobe National Park in Botswana to the mighty Victoria Falls that are shared by two countries, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Along the way travellers will have glimpses of the Zambezi River before reaching the Chobe River as it merges with the Zambezi at the confluence. Seeing the abundant wildlife of the area come to drink at sunset on the banks of the Chobe River is one of the best experiences southern Africa has to offer.
The final destination on this experience is the famous Victoria Falls, or Mosi-oa-Tunya (the smoke that thunders), Africa’s biggest spectacle of water and a sight not to be missed. Anyone with a passion for wildlife, birds and fishing will return home with a thousand pictures and wealth of memories to share.
The main attractions that form part of this experience include Chobe National Park, Victoria Falls and the Four Corners Baobab on Impalila Island.
The peaceful and secluded Impalila Island Lodge is situated in Namibia on an island at the confluence of the mighty Zambezi and Chobe Rivers, at the meeting place of four countries (Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia & Botswana).
The area is the eastern most tip of the Caprivi Strip - from the air an amazing mosaic of waterways, floodplains and bushveld - on the ground exceptional bird life, game-viewing and assorted vegetation - and in the waters outstanding fishing opportunities.