Namibia has some of the worlds most spectacular desert ecosystems and wildlife and contains a wide range of landscapes, creatures and peoples. Its stark, magical beauty and diversity of culture make it an arid, spacious paradise. Richly coloured sand dunes, vast plains, savannahs teeming with African game and rugged mountains make up the serene landscape between the inhospitable Namib Desert and the escarpment of the interior plateau.
Namibia is the first country in the world to incorporate "Protection of the Environment" into its national constitution. This law protects around 15% of Namibia's land area from commercial or agricultural development, and designates these areas as National Parks. Enforcement and general administration of these areas comes under the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. With proper management, this should ensure the future of Namibia's wildlife and associated tourist industry.
Along its entire length, the vast shifting sand dunes of the Namib Desert spread inland for 80 to 130km (50 to 80 miles). In the interior, the escarpment of a north?outh plateau slopes away to the east and north into the vast interior sand basin of the Kalahari. To the west is 1280km (795 miles) of some of the most desolate and lonely coastline in the world. The port of Walvis Bay, situated roughly halfway down Namibia? coast, was returned by South Africa to Namibian jurisdiction in February 1994.
Windhoek, the charming capital of Namibia, is found in the central highlands. The city is tranquil and scenic with an atmosphere which blends the flavours of German, English and Dutch colonists with the native African cultures. Windhoeks streets are alive with the colour of Namibias people and cultures. Its sights include the three Windhoek castles, built between 1913 and 1918, and the State Museum at the Alte Feste and Windhoeks city centre also has the sprawling gardens of Zoo Park. The government seat is the beautiful and historic "Ink Palace".
Etosha National Park is one of Africas premier reserves in that it remains, to a large extent, free of human influence. This large park covers over 8500 sq. miles. of the northern landscape that contains dry woodland, mixed scrub and mopane savannah around the central feature, the Etosha Pan (a dried-out saline lake) which is surrounded by grasslands and bush that support a large and varied wildlife. This pan is a silvery depression, remnants of an ancient lake, with the full effect of mirages and dust devils.
The edges also have springs that attract animals during the dry season and the park has a concentrated and diverse wildlife population. The eastern region experiences more rainfall, and has denser bush than the north-eastern grasslands. Etoshas centre is known for its huge elephant population, while Zebra, blue wildebeest, springbok and gemsbok also roam the plains, lions are also common. The Black-faced impala and Damara dikdik are distinctive to the area and black rhino can also be found in the western regions of the park.
Damaraland is the large region east of Skeleton Coast named for the Damara herders who inhabit the region. The Damaraland Wilderness Reserve is a privately operated area full of beautiful, arid and mountainous scenery. Wildlife can be sparse, but is uniquely adapted to the arid landscape. Desert elephant, black rhino, lion, desert-dwelling giraffe and Hartmanns mountain zebra inhabit some of the reserve.
Fish River Canyon is a huge landmark whose size and grandeur is exceeded only by the Grand Canyon. The canyon follows the Fish River to the Orange River, which then flows to the Atlantic. Varied and unusual wildlife and vegetation complement the spectacular scenery and an abundance of red aloe gives an otherworldly feel to the landscape. Rock dwellers like mountain zebra, rock rabbits, baboon, klipspringer and ground squirrels inhabit the area and Kudu and leopard are also present, but are more elusive.
There is a main hiking trail that is relatively strenuous taking about four days and covering fifty-three miles, it negotiates rocky, desert terrain and passes pools and sulphur springs.
The Caprivi Strip is the region of Namibia bordered by Botswana to the south and Angola and Zimbabwe in the north. The area has three reserves: Mudumu, Caprivi and Mamili. Mudumu and Mamili reserves are very similar to Botswanas Okavango Delta. Unlike many other Namibian parks, these allow open vehicles and walking safaris.
Mahango Game Reserve is a scenic landscape of floodplain and savannah with lush vegetation, dotted with striking, majestic baobob trees. The park surrounds the Kavango River and is adjacent to the Caprivi Reserve. The wildlife has adapted to the relatively moist surroundings and includes elephant, bushbuck, reedbuck, impala, tsessebe, kudu and the rare sitatunga, there are also spectacular birds like the fish eagle, and wattle and crowned cranes. The Caprivi Game Reserve features lechwe, sable antelope, hippo, roan antelope, buffalo and crocodile, as well as a variety of waterfowl. Mudumu National Park contains floodplains, bush and islands similar to the Okavango and wildlife includes a variety of the species also seen in the other north-eastern parks. Mamili also has similar terrain and animals.
Southern Namibia has a beautiful region that combines the former Namib Desert and Naukluft Mountain Zebra parks. This is one of the world? largest parks, and is also known for diamonds. The Namib-Naukluft National Park contains a diverse landscape including desert savannah, grassland, mountains, lagoons and sand dunes. The park surrounds the Kuiseb River, which naturally separates the lower gravel plains from the southern deserts. Mountain Zebra, gemsbok, springbok and ostrich roam the region and the dunes house unique creatures like the shovel-nosed lizard, the golden mole and the translucent Palmato gecko.
The Namib is one of the world? oldest and most spectacular deserts. The hostile environment still houses the prehistoric Welwitschia mirabilis plant, which has been known to survive for up to two thousand years. The Sandavis area includes the coastline and bays where fresh water seeps under the dunes and runs into a saltwater lagoon. The mountainous landscape of the Naukluft region has many picturesque rock formations and a variety of beautiful hiking trails. Mountain zebra, rock rabbits, klipspringer, black eagles, baboon, cheetah and many other creatures inhabit the area.
Swakopmund is the resort town that is in the centre of Namibias coastal region. The town is located between the Skeleton Coast and Namib-Naukluft parks and surrounded by the spectacular Namib Desert. It has some beautiful German colonial architecture, and is lined with greenery and colourful flowerbeds.
This spectacular and treacherous coastline is dotted with the skeletons of shipwrecks and beached whales. The Skeleton Coast Park covers the seashore as well as the wind-sculpted sand dunes and canyons of the Namib. The icy Benguela Current flows from the Antarctic and encounters the dry desert air off this coast creating a thick fog bank that penetrates inland areas.