Although not as well known as some of its African neighbours, Namibia is a gem for those in search of the wilderness. Namibia is a large, and sparsely populated country on Africa’s south-west coast, which has enjoyed more than a decade of stability since achieving Independence in 1990.

Namibia is a country of startling contrasts that straddles two great deserts: the Namib (after which it is named) is the oldest desert on the planet, and its sea of red sand lies along the Atlantic coastline, while in the eastern interior lies the Kalahari, a vast and sparsely vegetated savannah that sprawls across the border into neighbouring countries.

Over the years, there have been a number of cultural influences that have all added to the unique atmosphere of Namibia. At various times Germany, Great Britain and South Africa have all governed the territory, but it was with the eventual independence of Namibia that the country was able to develop its multi-cultural character and reinvent itself. There is a rich and colourful uniquely African vigour that now freely blends in with the European influences on architecture, food, customs and art, all merging to create a distinctive Namibian character.

All this is in interesting contrast with the expansive landscapes that surround the cities. The many national parks and game reserves boast a huge variety of wildlife in a kaleidoscope of differing environments:

The Etosha National Park, the third largest in Africa, owes its unique landscape to the Etosha Pan, a vast shallow depression of approximately 5,000kmĀ². A series of waterholes along the southern edge of the pan guarantee rewarding and often spectacular game viewing.

The Sossusvlei, Namibia’s famous highlight in the heart of the Namib Desert, is a huge clay pan, enclosed by giant sand dunes. Some of the spectacular hills of sand are, at a height of 300 metres, the highest in the world. Sossusvlei and the Namib Naukluft Park are very popular with photographers. The colours, shapes and contrast of the dunes against the clear blue sky are constantly changing from sunrise to sunset.

The Skeleton Coast is so named for all the ghostly shipwrecks that are beached on these remote and inaccessible white shores. Seals in their many thousands colonise lonely beachheads along the coastline. This 2 million hectare park is one of the most inhospitable and least visited places on earth and is best accessed by a fly-in safari.

Damaraland is arguably one of the most scenic areas in Namibia, a huge, untamed, ruggedly beautiful region. Here there are prehistoric water courses with open plains and grassland, massive granite koppies and deep gorges. Towards the west, the geography changes dramatically with endless sandy wastes, that incredibly are able to sustain small, but wide-ranging, populations of desert-adapted elephant, black rhino, giraffe, ostrich and springbok. These animals have adapted their lifestyles to survive the harshness of the sun-blistered, almost waterless desert spaces. Elephant move through euphorbia bush country, and can travel up to 70km in a day in search of food and water and unusually, do not destroy trees in their quest for food.

Kaokoland is one of the last remaining true wilderness areas in Southern Africa. Bordered on the south by the Hoarusib River and on the north by the Kunene River – which also forms Namibia’s border with Angola – it is a world of incredible mountain scenery, a refuge for the rare desert dwelling elephant, black rhino and giraffe and the home of the Himba people.

In Namibia astonishing contrasts are everywhere for the visitor to savour, enjoy and photograph.

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