Damaraland is an ancient area of arid plains, deep chasms and dramatic red, rocky peaks, dominated by the massive Brandberg Mountain. With the Atlantic coast nearby, sea mists drift inland providing sustenance to various desert life forms and natural laws of food and water dictate the movement of the desert elephant.
Where: Erongo Region
Ideal for viewing: black rhino, desert elephant, springbok, white-tailed shrike, augur buzzard
Etosha is considered to be one of the finest sanctuaries in southern Africa. It is famous for its vast, dazzling saltpan with permanent waterholes, which attract a multitude of wildlife particularly during the dry winter. The neighbouring Ongava Private Game Reserve offers the attraction of tracking rhino on foot.
Where: Oshikoto and Oshana Region
Ideal for viewing: black rhino, black-faced impala, damara dik-dik, African elephant, lion
Excellent for: Just Conservation, Walking safaris, Vehicle safaris, Birdwatching
The Namib Desert is the oldest in the world and, with no light pollution and clear night skies virtually guaranteed, it is also one of southern Africa’s finest stargazing areas. However, the most remarkable sight is at Sossusvlei, where the world’s highest sand dunes tower more than 300m, offering great photographic opportunities.
Where: Karas, Hardap & Erongo Regions
Ideal for viewing: aardwolf, cape fox, gemsbok, springbok, lanner falcon
The Skeleton Coast is one of the most hauntingly beautiful places on earth and has everything from soaring dunes and plains to deep canyons, mountains, saltpans and freshwater springs. Light aircraft is the only way in, but provides stunning views of the shipwreck littered coastline and its remarkable natural features.
Where: Erongo & Kunene Regions
Ideal for viewing: brown hyena, cape fur seal, desert elephant, gemsbok, Hartmann’s mountain zebra
Combining perfectly with a safari in Zambia, Botswana, Namibia or Zimbabwe, the Victoria Falls are not only a wonderful place from which to begin or end a safari, but now offer enough interest to be a safari destination in their own right. The wildlife in the tributaries is active all year round, and the birdlife is also superb.
Where: Matabeleland North, Zimbabwe
Ideal for viewing: common waterbuck, African elephant, hippo, black eagle, Taita falcon
Excellent for: Vehicle safaris, River safaris, Birdwatching
Combining perfectly with a safari in Botswana, Zimbabwe or Namibia as well as Zambia, the Zambian side was once considered to be the ‘poor cousin’, by comparison with the views of the river and the falls that can be experienced from Zimbabwe. The two countries are linked by a spectacular iron bridge above the raging waters.
Where: Southern Province, Zambia
Ideal for viewing: Cape buffalo, African elephant, hippo, trumpeter hornbill, common waterbuck
The Africat Foundation is set high upon the edge of a rugged escarpment with beautiful panoramic views. The surrounding woodland is a birdwatcher’s paradise sustaining over 200 species and their cheetah project provides a fascinating insight to their welfare work and opportunities to track on foot or in game vehicles.
Where: Otjozondjupa Region
Ideal for viewing: cheetah, Hartlaub’s francolin, leopard, Monteiro’s hornbill, rockrunner
A hidden gem, the Caprivi Strip is a long, narrow strip of land stretching along the Okavango. Here the Zambezi’s tributaries form a complex system of waterways, islands and riverine forests – protected by parks and wilderness areas. It is rich in wildlife and makes an ideal combination with nearby Botswana or Zambia.
Swakopmund is a charming Germanic seaside town, from where there are many excursions. In particular, Walvis Bay has huge colonies of Cape fur seals and is a world-renowned sanctuary for over 160,000 resident birds, as well as a feeding station for around 200,000 waders and terns on their migration routes.
Along with the world’s oldest desert and highest dunes, Africa’s deepest canyon, some of its oldest cave paintings and earliest evidence of human civilisation, Namibia also has rich and varied wildlife.
This novel trip, which is self-drive as far as Kasane just inside Botswana, combines Namibia’s premier wildlife hotspot, Etosha National Park, with the lush Caprivi Strip which leads along the Kavango River into Botswana, then on to Chobe National Park before ending at Victoria Falls.
When to go
April and May bring green landscapes, fresh air and clear skies. Wildlife viewing is best during the driest spell in September and October before the rains from November to March.
Jan to Apr: Very hot with occasional violent thunderstorms
Oct to Dec: High temperatures and sporadic rainfall
May to Oct: Clear and sunny days, but cold at night
Jan to Feb: Plains game such as springbok and zebra give birth
Nov to Apr: Migratory birds flock to Etosha after summer rains
Mar to Apr: Best month for birding
May to Sep: Dry season: wildlife concentrated around Etosha’s waterholes
Jul to Aug: Predators visible around waterholes
Sep to Oct: Carmine and European bee-eaters in the Caprivi Strip
The magnificent canyon of the Fish River is one of nature’s dramatic spectacles – second only in size to the Grand Canyon. The enormous river gorge meanders for 161kilometres through the surrounding desert plains, reaching depths of over 550 metres. There’s great birdwatching here, and short scenic hikes are possible.
The pleasant, relatively modern city of Windhoek is Namibia’s capital. However for most nature and wildlife enthusiasts it is usually little more than an overnight stop that may be necessary due to flight timings, or en route to another part of the country.