From the seemingly endless sand dunes of the Namib Desert to the tropical wetlands of the Caprivi Strip, Namibia is a country of epic landscapes, bountiful wildlife and few people. Its greatest assets are the rugged Namib and Kalahari deserts, which support a surprising diversity of fauna including rare black rhinos, cheetahs, elephants, springbok and vast flocks of ostriches.
Namibia can be a harsh and unforgiving land, and nowhere is this more evident than along the Skeleton Coast. A windswept wasteland of dark green scrub and calcified sand dunes, it is littered with the rusting carcases of ships washed ashore by the merciless Atlantic Ocean.
It’s not all hostile. The area is also home to the colourful Himba people whose love of elaborate hairdos and jewellery have made them one of the most photographed tribes in the world. Their home overlaps another of Namibia’s natural marvels, Etosha National Park, which boasts an abundance of wildlife: everything from the tiny Cape sparrow to the magnificent African elephant can be found here.
Towns and cities are few and far between in Namibia, thanks to its low population. Even the capital, Windhoek, is not much larger than a medium-sized British settlement. But the city’s lively nightlife, colonial architecture, thriving culinary scene and excellent beer make it a pleasant place to while away a few days – even if the town planners did make a habit of naming roads after dictators. Anyone fancy a stroll down Robert Mugabe Drive?
Namibia’s second city, Swakopmund, is lighter on the dictator nomenclature, but none the worse for it. The coastal town has a sunny charm that is all its own. Appearing like a mirage in the desert, the city is home to palm-fringed beaches, a gorgeous collection of colonial buildings and a sizeable German-speaking population.
And just outside the city lie the rusting remains of the Martin Luther, an abandoned steam locomotive that tried to tame this wild land and failed – a metaphor, surely.