Natural Namibia – Beaches, Deserts and a Canyon
When Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie chose the southern African nation as the birthplace for their first child, Namibia became front page news. Although it had long been a destination popular with Germans, playing host to a celebrity childbirth helped to put Africa’s youngest nation (until south Sudan is officially recognised) firmly on the safari and overlanding map. Now that the word is out, Namibia is fast becoming one of the most popular destinations in southern Africa.
Within 5 minutes of entering the country we were treated to the view of a male lion relaxing in the sun on the side of the road, followed by the rich wildlife of Etosha National Park the following day.
An abundance of colossal rock formations dot the Namibian countryside rearing up at the most unexpected intervals, they look as if they are transplants from Utah or parts of the Australian outback. This could easily be Marlboro country.
At Spitzkoppe in northern Namibia, we camped at the base of one of several red craggy peaks in the vicinity. When sunset came they glowed like red coals, blushing violently as the moon rose into the perfectly clear sky.
A day later, we were driving through peroxide blonde grassland and white sand contrasting starkly with the endless blue sky. It was here that we spotted our second African snake in the wild, a large black spitting cobra, slithering across the road. As our vehicle trundled past the Naja Nigricollis Woodi reared up at us inflating its hood. Though incredibly dangerous, the sight was strangely compelling; a stunning and contrast to the white glare of the sandy road.
Traversing the country we made our way to the Atlantic at a point where small white dunes tumble into the sea. It was hard to believe that just a month before we had been paddling in the Indian Ocean off Zanzibar on the other side of this vast continent.
Later we visited Cape Cross Seal Reserve a breeding ground for 50,000 seals which have commandeered the coastline (the stench was so awful that we got a nasal warning a couple of kilometres before we actually arrived at the site!).
Naukluft National Park must, however, take the award for the most impressive landscape we saw in the whole of Namibia, if not Africa. We camped just down the road from the gates so that we would be able to get in before the temperature soared. That morning, we carefully dragged our tent before putting it down so that we could dislodge any scorpions which might have been hiding under our warm groundsheet (after the spitting cobra and witnessing a scorpion being burned to death in the campfire by locals, we were beginning to take these precautions more seriously).
When the gate opened at 6:30 am we entered a wonderland of massive sand dunes of Sossusvlei. The dunes are static – the heavier sand which they are composed of means that they only move a few centimetres each year, rather than changing positions overnight as is possible in the Sahara. Some of them are over 300 metres and as we found out that morning, climbing them is exhausting work.
Our final destination in Namibia, before the Orange River and the ‘new’ South Africa, was Fish River Canyon. Although it is the world’s second biggest canyon, most people we have met have never heard of it. Unfortunately, a few fatal heart attacks and other emergencies heralded a decision by the authorities to ban day hikers, so we were not able to descend into the monumental chasm, but walking along the lip of the crater gave us a couple of hours to admire it from several angles.
If only we had had the good sense to stay there a day or two more rather than proceeding to the Orange River where we spent three days waiting for a permit to enter our final destination on the African continent, South Africa…