May 14th, 2012
Although the name of the place they're describing may have changed, these lyrics still capture the essence of Namibia's attraction perfectly. Falling in love with this often hot, largely arid and overall vast country is hardly ever at first sight. Especially if your first glimpse comes while swooping into Windhoek's Husea Kutako International Airport, with a whole lot of nothing stretching out on either side of the small runway: flat earth, Camelthorn trees and desert ‘bossies'. Not the most welcoming of landscapes, but let me just tell you, once you set foot on that honest and wholesome earth, it's hard not to feel a flutter of butterflies, the first stirring of a life-long love affair.
And if you're the type who longs for wide open spaces, endless skies, rolling desert dunes, rough seas, pristine wildness and the most down-to-earth people, prepare to fall head over heels over head again... especially while travelling in the Southern regions, like we did.
Surface area: 824 268 km²
President: Hifikepunye Pohamba
Official languages: There are 16 languages and dialects. English is the country's official language, however you will soon find that Afrikaans is the most widely understood, and German comes in a at a close second. There are a variety of local languages, depending on which region you find yourself in. In the south of the country, Nama is the most widely spoken, while Oshiwambo seems to rule in the North.
Regions: 13 regions, 13 ethnic cultures,
Population: A meager 2.1 million. Yes, I repeat, only 2.1 million people populate all those many square meters.
Population density: 2.2 per km²
Climate: The Namibian climate varies from arid and semi-arid to subtropical. With a great variety of rainfall from the dry south west to the tropical north east. It is largely a summer rainfall region. Even though the temperatures stay mild throughout winter, evenings can be a tad nippy, especially in the desert regions. The coastal regions are cooled off quite a bit by the Cold Benguela current that swirls by in the atlantic.
Amazingly whether you catch a flight from Cape Town, Durban or Joburg, and whether you're landing at Windhoek's Hosea Kutako Airport or in Walvis Bay, the trip will take you a quick and easy 2 hours (give or take)! So, if you're not one for long roads, hot cars and "when are we there?" this is definitely an option worth checking out.
Air Namibia, South African Airways and British Airways (via Kulula) are the three main commercial carriers flying from South Africa. There are 3 - 4 flights a day heading to Windhoek from Cape Town, and 0 - 2 a day heading to Walvis Bay. From Joburg to Windhoek, on average, there are about 5 - 8 flights a day, and to Walvis Bay there is only 1 flight a day. For more information on other airports and costs check out our flight booking engine.
Of course, if you want to start settling into the environment before you get there, flying Air Namibia comes highly recommended. Staff are friendly, meals delicious and the in-flight Flamingo magazine full of interesting facts and travel tips.
Although Hosea Kutako and Walvis Bay are the only two larger airports, Namibia is rife with landing strips, so if you're lucky enough to have an aircraft of your own, or know the right people, plan your trip more directly.
Piling into the car for a super long road trip is not everyone's idea of a fun holiday, but hitting the highway (or back roads for that matter) to Namibia is an absolute bucket list must! There is just something unbelievably freeing about packing the necessary and heading out into the endless desert plains of Southern Africa.
It does of course take quite a bit of planning, documentation and time... so to make it somewhat easier, we've rounded up the most important things you need to know.
Border posts: There are seven South Africa-Namibia border posts.
Mata Mata/Welverdiend - Crossing in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park; tourist use only. Open from 08:00 - 16:30 in summer and 07:00 - 15:30 in winter.
Klein Manasse/Rietfontein - On the R31, close to Hotazel on the SA side and Aroab on the Namibia side. Open from 08:00 - 16:30 in ummer and 07:00 - 15:30 in winter
Ariamsvlei/Nakop - On the N10, just outside Upington. Open 24 hours a day. (This would be your chosen route if heading from Gauteng and the central regions of South Africa)
Velloorsdrif/Onseepkans - On the R358 close to Pofadder. Open 08:00 - 16:30 in summer and 07:15:30 in winter.
Noordoewer/Vioolsdrif - On the N7 close to Springbok. Open 24 hours a day. (This would be your chosen route if heading from the Cape and southern regions of South Africa)
Sendelingsdrif - Pontoon ferry in the Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park; tourist use only. Open 07:00 - 00:00 in summer and 06:00 - 23:00 in winter.
Oranjemund - If you want to use this border post you need to apply for a Sperrgebiet permit at least one month prior to your arrival. Open 06:00 - 22:00 in summer and 07:00 - 23:00 in winter.
• Vehicle registration documents - uncertified ones are okay.
• A ‘ZA' sticker visible on your car.
• At least one emergency triangle per vehicle
And of course your passport! Luckily South African citizens do not need a visa to enter the country.
Cross border entry fee: N$220 per vehicle and N$140 per trailer.
Money and stuff
The Namibian dollar (N$) is fixed to and equals the SA rand. The rand is also valid for use in the country, so don't be surprised if the ATM spits out a mixed wad of dollars and rands!
And talking about ATMS... there are plenty of FNB, Standard Bank and Absa ATMs in Windhoek, which is great. But, if you are travelling to the rural areas make sure that you stock up on more than enough cash either before crossing the border, or before leaving Windhoek, Swakopmund, Walvis Bay or Luderitz. While smaller towns may have a Bank Windhoek ATM, not many have the full South African array, so avoid the bank costs, draw some cash and keep it safe.
What to see and do
While big 5 game viewing is unfortunately not on the cards for a trip in the southern part of Namibia, this desert terrain is rich in other wonderful sights and experiences.
View the wild horses of Garub
While roughing it can be a lot of fun, having a bit of luxury - and by luxury we mean a pool to cool off in and a soft bed to sleep in - at one point or another on a long trip is always nice.
We highly recommend checking out what Gondwana Collection has on offer. Within the Southern region Kalahari Farmhouse, Canon Lodge, Klein Aus Vista Desert Horse Inn and Namib Desert Lodge are all great options.
If you're unfamiliar with the country, and have some cash to spend on a proper guided tour, check out Abenteuer Afrika's website. And if it seems like a good deal, ask for guide Johann de Jager by name.