The Republic of Namibia is a vast, sparsely populated country situated along the south Atlantic coast of Africa between 17 and 29 degrees south of the Equator. With its surface area of 824 268 square kilometres, Namibia is the 31 st largest country in the world. It stretches for about 1 300 km from south to north and varies from 480 to 930 km in width from west to east.
Once governed by Germany and South Africa, Namibia has been independent since 1990. Germanic influence can still be found in the country’s well-maintained towns, roads and rest camps. Namibia is peaceful and vast country with a diverse cultural background and history, enormous stretches of wide open spaces, a richness in wildlife. The population of Namibia is one of the lowest in the world and the distances travelled between towns sometimes seem to be endless, yet fascinating.
Essentially a desert country, Namibia offers contrasting landscapes. The Namib Desert is a vast swathe of high dunes and desolate plains with an awe-inspiring sense of space. The thorn bush savannah and rugged mountains of the central plateau give way to the majestic Fish River Canyon in the south. In the north of the country, landscapes range from the dense bush and open plains of the great Etosha Pan, to woodland savannah and lush vegetation. Etosha National Park, the third largest in Africa, owes its unique landscape to the Etosha Pan, a vast shallow depression edged by waterholes to the south which guarantee rewarding game viewing. These attractions relentlessly draw travelers to this intriguing destination, the unspoilt wilderness of Namibia.
Demographics and Stats
Despite significant cultural differences and considerable ethnic stereotyping, there is a widely shared orientation to the nation, particularly among young people, who are more likely to travel through the country for economic and educational reasons. Urban areas, large workplaces such as mines and fisheries, and secondary and tertiary schools are multi-ethnic sites where people are creating new ways of interacting across ethnic boundaries. Soccer is extremely popular among men of all ethnicities, and the national team is followed closely and is widely discussed.
Namibians are a charming people, and if you venture into the rural areas you will often find that Namibians are curious about you. Chat to them openly and you will find most to be delightful. They will be pleased to help you where they can, and as keen to help you learn about them and their country as they are interested in your lifestyle and what brings you to their country.
Informal roadside markets are treasure chests filled with interesting souvenirs. The crafts and designs vary from the south to north of Namibia – every African tribe displaying a flair for a different art form. These handcrafted items are usually made from the natural resources that are readily available in this stark landscape.
In the south of Namibia, rugs and karosses made from goat and springbok skins are common, however in northern Namibia where the landscape is transformed from desert to bushveld, beautifully woven baskets, woodcarvings, clay pots, wooden toys, musical instruments, items for the home and soapstone sculptures are available.
The Namibian Dollar (NAD; symbol N$) is in note denominations of N$200, 100, 50, 20 and 10.
Coins are in denominations of N$5, N$1, 50 cents, 10 cents and 5 cents.
It is linked to the South African Rand (R) on a 1:1 basis (South African Rand = 100 cents). The South African Rand is also acceptable as currency in Namibia.
The national airline is Air Namibia (SW) (website: www.airnamibia.com.na). Windhoek (Hosea Kutako International Airport) is 42km (25 miles) from the city.
There is a modern deep-water harbour at the Walvis Bay. There is also a small port at Lüderitz.
TransNamib StarLine runs a train from Windhoek to Upington, just across the border in South Africa. However, the service is slow and there are no onward trains from Upington to other South African destinations.
A tarred road runs from the south through Upington in South Africa to Grünau, where it connects with the tarred road from Cape Town. The Trans-Kalahari Highway links Walvis Bay and Windhoek with Gaborone, Botswana and Gauteng, South Africa. The Trans-Caprivi highway runs through the Caprivi strip and via Botswana into Zimbabwe.
Intercape Mainliner runs comfortable overnight services from Windhoek to Cape Town four times a week, as well as services to Johannesburg and Pretoria via Upington. It also runs a service to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (close to the border with Zambia). The Johannesburg/Pretoria route connects with a direct service to Gaborone, Botswana.
A yellow fever certificate is required for all travelers arriving from infected areas. Travelers should ensure their polio vaccinations are up to date as there was a Polio outbreak in July 2006. There is a malaria risk in the northern region during the rainy season, from January to April. Travelers to Namibia should take medical advice at least four weeks prior to departure.
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Rainfall occurs exclusively in the summer months, between November and February, when heavy thunderstorms can be expected. Summer is very hot and the Namib Desert should be avoided at this time as temperatures are often above 104°F (40°C). The coast is cooler and often foggy. The best time to visit is during the winter months from March to October (April and June are preferable) as days are warm and dry, and wildlife easier to spot as they tend to congregate at waterholes. Nights can be very cold with frost.