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Why Namibia should be on your Travel Bucket List

JOURNAL > AFRICA > Why Namibia should be on your Travel Bucket List

After months spent indoors daydreaming of holidays, we think about what travel might look like after lockdown and why Namibia might just be our top pick to avoid the crowds. Now is the time to venture off the beaten track and explore the epic landscapes, colourful culture and superb wildlife of this beautiful and diverse country.

With summer holidays around the corner and lockdown restrictions slowly but surely beginning to ease up, many of us are starting to think about what is in store for us over the next few months and whether we dare dip our toes into the pool of travel. What will travel look like as we learn to live with this evermoving virus? There are those of us who are not quite ready to face the crowds at Heathrow airport and would rather stay closer to home, perhaps opting for a country retreat in Cornwall instead. But for those of us ready to bite the bullet and dive back in, do we value different things as we consider our holiday plans? Are we ready to go back to the teaming crowds of Rome’s Piazzas di Spagna or the hustle and bustle of the souks of Marrakech? As countries around the world begin to reopen their borders and encourage tourists to return in hope of rebuilding their economies, I reflect on what travel means to me now and what I would look for in a luxury adventure in a post covid-19 world.

When first told to stay in our homes in order to keep ourselves and others safe, my initial wanderlust took me to my favourite corner of Europe, Andalucía. I craved that background hubbub of noise as locals and tourists alike cheerfully drank cerveza and picked at croquetas in the delightful Spanish afternoon heat. I so desperately wanted to feel part of life and realised how much enjoyment I had received from simply watching the world go by, soaking up every sound, smell and sight that I had so naively taken for granted before. A friend of mine told me over one zoom call that she also shared these feelings and admitted she suddenly longed to be in one of London’s rowdy pubs, shoulder to shoulder with strangers and friends alike. How infantile it seemed, instantly wanting something you took for granted as soon as it had been taken away from you.

Fast forward three months and for many, the shared mindset has shifted. As horrific as this virus is, there is no doubt that it has forced us to appreciate the slower pace of life; the smaller everyday joys and above all, the beauty of nature that is always around us. After weeks of lockdown restrictions in place and fewer people and cars around, it turns out that for many of us, what we crave is something entirely different. Now, as I spot the uncommon sighting of an airplane overhead, I think about Africa (as I often do) and realise that where I’d most like to travel to, once all of this is over, is the remote and unbelievably beautiful Namibia. With a population of 2.5 million people living in a country roughly 3.4 times bigger than the UK, there is more than one good reason why Namibia is a tempting option for travel next year and beyond.

I was fortunate enough to spend nearly three weeks in Namibia in March 2019 in order to check out some of the incredible lodges that are popping up across the country. The luxury travel sector in Namibia is playing catch up with its neighbours in Southern Africa and in the last few of years some of Africa’s most exciting lodges have emerged, including Natural Selection’s much spoken about Shipwreck Lodge and Hoanib Valley Camp. The first half of my trip was spent exploring Etosha, Damaraland, Kaokoland and the Skeleton Coast with a private guide, whose knowledge of the country, wildlife and culture was invaluable to my experience. In Swakopmund, a seaside town colonised by the Germans in 1892, I hired my own vehicle and continued south to Sossusvlei and the NamibRand Nature Reserve, before returning back up to the country’s capital, Windhoek. Each location offered something very different, yet they also all had something noticeably in common. The scenery throughout was staggeringly beautiful.

My job has allowed me to travel to some of the continent’s most remarkable locations, but nothing quite prepared me for the raw, dramatic landscapes of Namibia. From the shimmering salt-pans of Etosha National Park to the rust-red sand dunes of Sossusvlei, it was impossible not to stop for a photo at every turn in the road and soak up the intense earthy colours of reds, oranges and browns. The harsh scenery of the Skeleton Coast was perhaps the most striking with its haunting beauty. They say a flying safari is the best way to see this notoriously inaccessible corner of Namibia. Only from the skies can you truly grasp the full magnitude of this hostile yet mesmerising environment with its towering dunes, barren shores and crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean. There is no debate as to why this corner of Namibia acquired such an eerie name. Furthermore, the lack of accessibility to the Skeleton Coast means that there is only one permanent lodge (the formerly mentioned Shipwreck Lodge) in the Skeleton Coast National Park itself. So, whether you are flying or driving, you can be pretty certain that you are unlikely to encounter a single other person other than those staying in the lodge. Talk about social distancing.

The vast majority of experiences within the country can also be relatively secluded, providing you have the right guide. One of my most memorable days was in Damaraland, an area characterised by rugged rock formation, ancient bushmen rock art and desert-adapted elephant and black rhino. I was told by my guide that today we would be tracking the desert elephant, an activity that could take the best part of the day and even then, the desired result was not guaranteed. There are no national parks in Damaraland, leaving the elephants to roam freely, often covering distances of up to 70km a day in search of food and water. This was not a game drive in Etosha and I certainly wouldn’t be ticking off the Big 5. In fact, though lion, cheetah and giraffe also inhabit the area, it was quite possible that the only pictures I would be taking would be of the spectacular mountainous scenery – which in actual fact was entirely worth coming for alone.

Fortunately, I was in good hands. My guide was an expert in the movements of desert elephants and unlike my experience in game reserves elsewhere, he was not relying on walkie-talkies or indeed following the vehicles from other camps. Through his superb knowledge of these gentle giants and highly skilful tracking skills, we were able to enjoy a viewing of these gracious creatures in complete solitude. It was like nothing I had experienced before. The elephants were more inquisitive than the savannah elephants I am used to, and it was an absolute joy to watch the younger males show off and play only metres from our vehicle. It was the most humbling wildlife experience I have witnessed, in a country that would not usually be so well acknowledged for its game viewing.

Namibia isn’t going to offer you the same experience as a safari in Botswana or Kenya. What it does offer is other-worldly landscapes, ancient cultures and incredibly rewarding wildlife experiences. As one of the least densely populations on earth, there is no better time to visit this land of endless horizons, natural beauty and fascinating culture. Few other places will make you feel as though you are the only person on earth.

About the Author

About the Author

"I started travelling to Africa as a young and ambitious golfer in 2002 when I headed to South Africa’s beautiful Eastern Cape for a few months. It was there that a now 20 year (and counting) love affair with the continent began."



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