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Content – Travel Guide Namibia

Fast facts about the country

Namibia is not only a wildlife destination, it is blessed with some of the world’s finest landscapes and wide open spaces. Hot Air Ballooning at dawn over the Namib Desert, hiking along the Fish River Canyon one of the largest canyons in the world, climbing to the top of a dune in Sossusvlei to view the endless fiery red sand–sea, and watching game cross the massive shimmering Etosha Pan, are all considered highlights of a visit to Namibia. If you add the remoteness of the infamous Skeleton Coast, sand–boarding some of the biggest dunes in the world and the majesty of Spitzkoppe, you’ve just scratched the surface of this amazing destination.

The Country

Namibia lies in Southern Africa with the South Atlantic Ocean to the west and bordering the neighbouring countries Angola and Zambia to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa in the south.

Windhoek is the capital city, with a population around 330,000 it offers all the amenities of a modern city whilst maintaining cultural vibrancy and colour. The Herero name is Otjomuise, “place of smoke” that refers to clouds of steam prevalent in the 1700’s when the area of Windhoek was a swampy valley with lush tropical vegetation and hot springs, visiting Windhoek now with its semi–arid landscape and cloudless winter skies, it’s hard to imagine its swampy history. The origin of the name Windhoek is still uncertain though stories abound. A 1960’s guide book says it derives from a Cape farm called Winterhoek but that’s probably a myth as there is no such farm (nor one recorded), oh and it’s not very windy either... so, the uncertainty continues.

Geography: Size 824,268 sq km, slightly more than half the size of Alaska or nearly 4 times the size of the UK. The terrain is mostly high plateau with the Namib Desert running along the West coast and the Kalahari Desert in east. Namibia has a desert climate, it is hot, dry and rainfall is very sparse and erratic. The highest point is mount Konigstein (2579 m), in the Brandberg Mountain range.

Population

Approx 2.5 million people live in Namibia,(2011), it is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world with a population density of just 2.4 people per square kilometre. Life expectancy is around 51 years. Population rate is growing at 2.6% per year over the past 15 years. It is estimated that 21% of the population is believed to have HIV/AIDS. Literacy rate is just over 84%. The exact population of Windhoek is difficult to define at any time due to continual growth of informal settlements as people flock from rural areas to the city but it is now thought to have recently broken through the third of a million mark (approx 330,000).

Flora & Fauna

Namibia has abundant wildlife and is one of Namibia’s main tourist attractions – there are 240 mammal species with 14 endemic species, over 20 antelope species, a wealth of small mammals including mongoose, ground squirrels and jackals, and less common species some of which as nocturnal and solitary such as aardvark, and the honey badger. The Namib Desert is world–renowned and home to a large number of endemic dune–dwellers especially lizards including 30 endemic species.

Large mammals: include elephant, rhino, buffalo, giraffe and predators such as lion, leopard, cheetah and hyena.

Endangered mammals: include wild dog, cheetah, black rhino, lion, puku, oribi and waterbuck. Namibia is the only country in the world able to boast an increasing number of free ranging black rhino. Visitors to Namibia are able to gain first hand involvement in black rhino conservation by joining tracking teams as they monitor black rhino populations by vehicle and on foot through the stunning landscapes of Namibia. In many countries, lions are in decline, yet Namibia’s population is again increasing. Re–establishing natural ranges through the communal conservancies has enabled Namibia’s lion population to flourish, increasing five–fold since 1995. The establishment of huge conservation areas by encouraging land owners to form Cooperatives has allowed the wildlife populations to roam free and restore the natural checks and balances found in nature

Namibia has also been selected as a finalist in the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards organised by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). Its ongoing efforts, progressive policies and willing partners have led to the establishment of the communal conservancies. Namibia is the first country in the world to incorporate the protection of the environment into its constitution. Around 15% of Namibia’s land is protected including virtually the entire Namib Desert coastal strip. The tourism sector has played an important role in encouraging change and Namibia has been recognised as a leading contender in sustainable Eco–Tourism, wildlife and habitat conservation. Government backing and firmly established conservation beliefs have led to increases in "truly wild" wildlife populations.

Birding: There are over 887 species of birds recorded in southern Africa, 676 occur in Namibia. Around 500 breed locally, the rest migrate. There are 11 endemic species with over 75% of world populations found in the country. Special endemics include Damara tern, Monteiro’s hornbill, Herero chat and rockrunner. The summer months bring the migrants and in particular endangered species such as blue crane can be found in Etosha

Flora: The plant–life in Namibia is represented in 14 vegetation zones, while Namibia is a desert country there is still a wide variation in vegetation. The zones include desert, semi–desert, mopane, mountain, thorn bush, highland, dwarf shrub, camel–thorn, mixed tree and shrub savannahs, forest savannahs and woodlands along with expanses of grasslands. There are around 200 endemic plant species and over 100+ species of lichen, 120 species of trees, and a living fossil plant – the Welwitschia mirabalis

Conservation & Conservancies

Namibia North–West game count is the largest road–based game count in the world. Conducted on an annual basis it monitors the increasing wildlife populations giving the most accurate statistics and up to date information available and is one of the most important tools in Namibia’s ongoing conservation work. Namibia also boasts the greatest number of conservancies and emerging conservancies in the world. With 16% of the land area set aside and managed by communal conservancies – the largest ANYWHERE in the world, the addition of Government Conservancies and Private Conservancies means that around 40% of Namibia is now conserved making it one of the World’s top destinations for all those interested in conservation and enjoyment of seeing animals roaming free.

Economy

The country’s economy is based on agriculture, fishing, mining and tourism being the main sectors. Agriculture is based around beef and meat production, dairy, along with poultry farming, and fruit production – as much of the country is desert there is limited additional produce and many food stuffs are imported. Mining is geared around uranium, diamonds and other minerals, zinc, copper, stone (granite/marble) etc. Diamonds are some of the highest quality globally placing the country sixth–highest in the world by value, with gemstones such as tourmaline, granite, sodalite, amethyst, rose quartz and agate as some of the fine gemstones.

Top travel tips and other general stuff

Seasonal tips for travel – when to visit

Namibia is a pretty big country so its sometimes difficult to get the perfect time for the whole country – below we have indicated ideal times to visit in regions but there is never a bad time to come – every season has it’s benefit

Remember, that climate change has affected every country and Namibia is no different, in rainy season you may be lucky to get rain but it’s not unusual to have 2–3 weeks with nothing or unusual weather patterns – below us just a guideline

• The best time to visit Windhoek and surrounds is between May and September, when it is cool and dry. In the rainy season from November to March it is hot and somewhat humid, sometimes with heavy rains. December to January is the main school holiday season in Namibia, when much of the population heads to the coast, and some of the smaller shops and restaurants in the interior might be closed.

• If you’re visiting southern Namibia and the desert areas surrounding Sossusvlei, perhaps try to avoid the summer months, as temperatures can be extreme. The period between May and September is considered more comfortable for visiting, but keep in mind that in winter, especially at night, it can be cold. If you do decide to travel during the summer months and the desert has been lucky to experience rain then the covering of grasses and flowers, or the filling of Sosssuvlei is spectacular

• The climate at Lüderitz and the southern coast is hospitable from February to May, but quite cool and misty year–round, and particularly windy in August.

• The best time to go to the coastal areas of Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and Henties Bay, is during the summer months of October to March as the weather is pleasant compared to the hot interior. When the dry easterly winds blow, however, it can also be very hot.

• The northern Skeleton Coast has much the same moderate weather, with mist, wind and very little or no rain all year round. For fishing enthusiasts, this area is best visited between November and March.

• In Kunene, the best time to visit is from May to August, as it is dry and cool. The summer months bring extremely high temperatures and occasionally flash floods, as most rain falls between January and March.

• Etosha is Namibia’s premier game viewing destination and the best time to visit is from April to September when the temperatures are considerably cooler, especially at night. It is also regarded as the best time for game viewing, as many animals gather at the waterholes to drink. For bird–watching, on the other hand, summer is the best time to visit, as migratory birds flock into the park after the summer rains. When game viewing during rainy season visitors need to drive around to explore the park and savannahs in search of game rather than sit and wait for game to come to visit a waterhole, some of the plains game give birth during these months and becomes full of young animals and in turn that brings predators

• Temperatures are hot and humid in the northern regions of Kavango and Zambezi during summer months, but this is also the best time for bird–watching. Rains and seasonal flooding might make it difficult to travel here, as some of the roads might be inaccessible. It is advised to check the condition of the roads before embarking on a trip particularly travelling on gravel. The winter months from April to October are the best time to travel to the Zambezi Region for game viewing, as it is much cooler and drier, with practically no rain.

• Overall, April and May are pleasant months in Namibia. This is usually when the last rains of the season fall, the air is fresh and free of dust, and the land is green, vibrant and full of new life.

• During the winter months from June to August the country cools down and nights can become quite cold. As it becomes drier, game migrates to the waterholes, and is easier to spot.

• By September and October it warms up again and game viewing in most areas is at its best, although there’s often a lot of dust around and the vegetation has lost its vibrancy.

• November is a highly variable month. Sometimes the hot, dry weather will continue, at other times it might be humid, the sky will fill with clouds, and the first thunderstorms and rains might occur – great for photography

Travel document tips

Passport & Visa Information: It is the clients’ responsibility to ensure that they have allowed adequate time to obtain necessary visas in advance if they require them. Visas are not required if you are a holder of the following passports: – Australia, New Zealand, Britain, most EU countries (please check if you are not sure) and USA (passports are stamped with a visa upon entry). Holders of passports other than those nationalities mentioned should check with their travel agent/government travel advisory regarding visa requirements as each client is held responsible to ensure that they have the appropriate documentation for entering the country. You may be refused entry to Namibia if you need a visa issued prior to arrival. In recent months (late 2019) new visa regulations came into place to enable further countries purchasing visas on entry but recommend you still check prior to travel. Please ensure you provide Chameleon with the correct passport information prior to arrival – passport number, full name as per passport, date of birth and passport expiry date

Travelling with children Travelling with children in Namibia/Botswana requires an unabridged birth certificate – please ensure you bring the necessary documentation. If you are in transit only to Namibia or any other country; SA immigration has advised on the following: South African regulations regards a child as any person under the age of 18 years. It is applicable to all nationalities departing from and arriving in South Africa. The unabridged certificate should be submitted during the transit visa application process and both the certificate and visa should be carried on person whilst travelling. Further documentation is required if there is just 1 parent or if they are travelling with guardians. South Africa also imposed this regulation though they seem to have relented on it, our recommendation is to be prepared

Additional documents – if renting a vehicle you will need your driving licence – either written in English (so the police here can check it), or an international licence. When driving a rental car carry the original documents the company have given you – if you are crossing the border to one of our neighbouring countries you will also need a cross–border letter to give you authorisation to take the car out of the country.

Transport & travelling around

Public transport is not available to get visitors to the majority of tourist destinations – hop on a scheduled tour, hire a vehicle and self–drive, or enjoy a private–guided safari, if your budget allows then a fly–in safari is another way of getting around the country and exploring but there are no “cheap–flight” options so be prepared to dig a bit deeper in your pocket if you like travelling by plane

International flight options are available from regional destinations such as South Africa and Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe), there are also several international airline choices from Europe and Qatar

Tips for when you arrive in Namibia: When booking a private–guided or self–drive tour with Chameleon, you’ll be met by an experienced travel consultant who will go through the itinerary with you, hand over a welcome pack with itinerary, map, local sim card and small guide book, as well as answer any last–minute questions you may have prior to the start of your adventure. We offer 24hour back–up to assist with you when you are on–the–road

Language: The official language is English, though Africaans is more widely spoken, German is also spoken, along with 16 further languages and dialects.

Money Namibia: The currency in Namibia is the Namibia Dollar, which is fixed to and equals the South African Rand on a 1–1 basis. The dollar and SA Rand are the only legal tender in Namibia and both are used freely, however the Nam dollar is not legal tender in South Africa and we recommend that you exchange your money prior to departing Namibia.

Banks are found in most towns, and are generally open from 09h00 to 15h30–16h00 on weekdays and 08h30 to 11h00 on Saturdays. They are generally closed on Sundays and public holidays. Always advise your bank that you are travelling outside of the country as they might block your purchases if they have not been informed. Bureau de Change are often open until 17h00

Credit Cards: Visa and MasterCard are generally accepted in shops and restaurants in towns and many lodges. Use of credit cards may incur an additional fee. Occasionally lines may be down and services not available particularly in remote destinations and payment will need to be in cash. Recommend you advise your bank prior to leaving home so they know you are travelling and to expect transactions – it’s not unusual for a bank to block a card if they haven’t been informed to protect you from what they believe could be a fraudulent transaction

Cash: South African rand can be purchased in advance. The Namibia dollar is not an international currency and therefore can only be obtained in country. Cash is available at ATM machines using credit card and pin number. There is FX bureau upon arrival at International Airport for those arriving by air along with 2–3 ATM machines (inside and outside the terminal) Recommended Currency for Exchange: USD is readily exchanged in Namibia and GBP/AUD to a lesser extent. No USD notes prior to 2004 and not all places will accept USD100 notes – take smaller denominations. Take your money in a combination of ATM cards and cash

Important Information

We strongly recommend you check your government’s travel advisory for up–to–date information and advice about your destination. Whilst Southern Africa and much of East Africa are stable countries, it will give you current information regarding safety and security, health, safety and security, as well as often local laws and customs.

Travel Insurance: As part of the Terms and Conditions to Chameleon Holidays and Travel, it is essential that all clients purchase comprehensive travel insurance. Your insurance should be inclusive of full medical cover including costs of emergency repatriation to your home country, and cancellation and strongly recommend covering for loss, damage, theft of personal luggage and belongings, personal injury, accident or illness. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate insurance and have read and understood the full terms and conditions of this policy to ensure you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on your trip.

Health Precautions: We recommend that you consult your physician or a travel centre prior to your safari departure, as there are a few health matters that require attention. Here are some guidelines but please remember we are not medical practitioners and recommend you contact your Governments Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and discuss with your doctor about the current situation – as a guideline only and general recommendation. Do not underestimate the dangers of heat exhaustion/heat stroke Many inoculations are not regarded as necessary for Namibia but we recommend being up–to–date with standard vaccines

Tips on what to pack

Packing Checklist: Neutral coloured casual clothing (shorts/long trousers, shirts/t–shirts) for everyday wear, bright colours or white are not suitable for game viewing in game walks or open vehicles; stout shoes (with soles thick enough to protect against thorns and for walking) or robust trainers with good traction soles, light jacket or jumper (summer time), warm jumper and jacket (winter time), light spray jacket when travelling between Nov–April. In winter thermal underwear is useful at night as it does not take up much space and can keep you very warm on those cold winter nights around the campfire. If you are staying in luxury lodges please note that evening wear is generally still casual when out of the cities. In some of the “camps” particularly the more luxurious ones, most will have a range of safari clothing to buy if necessary. As a general rule when travelling in an open safari vehicle (this is likely in some camps/lodges if you are joining their optional activities or on a “fully inclusive” style safari) where you are not travelling in the same vehicle throughout your trip – particularly in winter it will be colder than you anticipate so warm clothes are essential

Other items: sunglasses; torch; prescription glasses or spare contact lenses if needed (note with dusty climate contact lenses may not be suitable); personal toiletries; small first aid kit and malaria prophylactics if required; any personal medication; insect repellent; sun lotion; lip salve; credit cards/visas/money/tickets/passport and insurance details; binoculars; refillable water bottle

Photo equipment: waterproof or dustproof bag for camera

Dietary Requirements: For those with food allergies or other dietary requirements we need to be notified well in advance on the Booking Form with all information regarding food you can eat and cannot eat. Some foodstuffs are not readily available here so we do recommend that those guests who are gluten allergic should bring wheat alternatives from there home country. Diabetics should also carry snacks for between meals. Vegetarians can be catered for but it’s normally a limited/restrictive menu lacking the range of many western countries, there is limited vegan style food (vegan burgers/sausages etc are found in supermarkets but many lodges will lack inspiration) Western style food is served along with an occasional African dish in the lodges or prepared by your guide if you are on a mobile camping trip. In major towns and cities there is generally a good choice of restaurants

Water: All tap water in Namibia has been purified or comes directly from boreholes and is safe to drink. Tap drinking water is generally safe to drink but bottled mineral water is easily available at shops and rest camps should you prefer to drink this, at some lodges it is provided

Booking your trip: When you’ve found inspiration with our website, send us your enquiry or contact us directly to help plan your trip. Once we have created a perfect itinerary and you are happy to proceed, we will need to make bookings on your behalf and will require a non–refundable deposit, as well as completion of our terms and conditions. Just remember that Namibia, despite it’s size does have a limited amount of lodges and bed–space so early planning is recommend to ensure you get the choices you prefer. Once everything is booked, and deposit paid, a confirmation is sent to you, along with pre–departure information to help you with further planning (or shopping) in preparation for your adventure. Balance is generally due 6 weeks prior to travel. We have different ways for you to pay for your convenience from on line exchange for free, EFT or via Nedbank transaction – your consultant will help you with the easiest way.

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