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Namibia Holidays


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Namibia never fails to enthral its visitors, to charge the fantasies and imaginations of narrators in their efforts to aptly describe the many-facetted grandeur and harsh splendour of this desert country. So many words have been written and told, and still poets do not tire to invent attributes to do justice to its unique, ever-varying magnificence. Namibia is known for its contrasting landscapes. The desolate Namib Desert is said to be the oldest in the world, with its high dunes and awe-inspiring sense of space.

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  • Regions of Namibia

    Estosha Pan
    Etosha National Park is one of Southern Africa's finest and most important Game Reserves. Etosha Game park was declared a National Park in 1907 and covering an area of 22 270 square km, it is home to 114 mammal species, 340 bird species, 110 reptile species, 16 amphibian species and, surprisingly, one species of fish. The Etosha Park is one of the first places on any itinerary designed for a holiday in Namibia.

    Etosha, meaning "Great White Place", is dominated by a massive mineral pan. The pan is part of the Kalahari Basin, the floor of which was formed around 1000 million years ago. The Etosha Pan covers around 25% of the National Park. The pan was originally a lake fed by the Kunene River. However the course of the river changed thousands of years ago and the lake dried up. The pan now is a large dusty depression of salt and dusty clay which fills only if the rains are heavy and even then only holds water for a short time. This temporary water in the Etosha Pan attracts thousands of wading birds including impressive flocks of flamingos. The perennial springs along the edges of the Etosha Pan draw large concentrations of wildlife and birds.

    A San legend about the formation of the Etosha Pan tells of how a village was raided and everyone but the women slaughtered. One woman was so upset about the death of her family she cried until her tears formed a massive lake. When the lake dried up nothing was left apart from a huge white pan.

    The game viewing in Etosha National Park is excellent, the best time being from May to September - the cooler months in Namibia. Visitors to Etosha Game Reserve can expect to see many buck species, elephant, giraffe, rhino and lions. More fortunate visitors will see leopard and cheetah. There is a network of roads linking the three campsites and subsidiary roads lead to various waterholes.

    When it was originally proclaimed at the turn of the century the Etosha Park consisted of an area of 100,000 square kilometres. This was the largest reserve on earth but in the 1960's political pressure resulted in the Park being reduced to its current size.

    Fish River Canyon
    The Fish River is, at 650 kilometres, the longest river in Namibia. Its source lies in the eastern Naukluft Mountains and flows south-west of Ai-Ais into the Oranje.

    The Fish River canyon, situated along the lower reaches of the Fish River, is one of the most impressive natural beauties in the southern part of Namibia. It developed predominantly during the pluvial times - a rainy climatic epoch - many millions of years ago. With a depth of up to 550 metres, the Fish River Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world, before the Grand Canyon in America. The enormous gorge meanders along a distance of approx. 160 kilometres through the fissured Koubis massif all the way down to Ai-Ais. The canyon starts near Seeheim, is 161 kilometres long and ends at Ai-Ais.

    The Fish River Canyon probably formed about 500 million years ago. However, the gorge was not only created by water erosion, but also through the collapse of the valley bottom due to movements in the earth's crust.

    Because the Fish River is being dammed in Hardap near Mariental, it only contains a small amount of running water. In winter, during the dry season, the river bed is often completely dry or reduced to only the occasional puddle. However, after rainfalls in summer the river can become a raging torrent

    The Fish River Canyon has become a popular hiking destination. However, hikes require good physical health and should only be undertaken during the cooler winter months (between May and September). A permit from Namibia Wildlife Resorts in Windhoek must be obtained. The hike is 86 km in length and takes about 5 days.

    Much easier hikes, no less beautiful, are offered in the bordering private "Canyon Nature Park". The adjacent and also private "Gondwana Canyon Park" offers scenic hikes.

    Kolmanskop
    Namibia's most famous ghost town, Kolmanskop, is situated in the Sperrgebiet about 10km inland from Luderitz. In 1908 the railway worker Zacharias Lewala found a sparkling stone amongst the sand he was shovelling away from the railway line near Kolmanskop. August Stauch, his supervisor, was convinced it was a diamond. When this was confirmed, the news spread like wildfire, sparking a frantic diamond rush and causing fortune hunters to converge in droves on Kolmanskop. It soon became a bustling little centre with all the amenities of a European town - butcher, bakery, furniture factory, soda water and lemonade plant, four skittle alley (which you can have a go at bowling), a public play ground and even a swimming pool.

    The development of Kolmanskop reached its pinnacle in the twenties. The lifestyles, modes of dress and social attitudes of its inhabitants reflected those of Europeans in that era. At this time approximately 300 German adults, 40 children and 800 Owambo contract workers lived in the town. In spite of, or probably because of, the isolation and bleakness of the surrounding desert, Kolmanskop developed into a lively little haven of German culture, offering entertainment and recreation to suit the requirements of the affluent colonialists.

    Large, elegant houses were built, and the well-equipped hospital boasted Southern Africa's first X-ray machine. However, when richer diamond deposits were discovered further south, operations were moved to Oranjemund. Within a span of 40 years Kolmanskop lived, flourished and died. Today the ghost town's crumbling ruins bear little resemblance to its former glory. The stately homes, their grandeur now scoured and demolished by the wind, are gradually becoming enveloped by encroaching sand dunes. In 1980 the mining company restored a number of buildings and established and interesting museum which has now become a tourist attraction.

    After obtaining your permit at Luderitz Tours and Safaris, you can drive out to Kolmanskop and join a guided tour, which provides all the information about its history and the diamond industry today. After a short introduction and visit to the important buildings, you are allowed to explore Kolmanskop on your own.

    The Skeleton Coast
    The world famous Skeleton Coast is an area of remarkable contrasts, and is named because of the skeletons of numerous ships that were wrecked here. This beautiful area is one of the main drawing cards for tourists to Namibia.

    Portuguese seafarers called this wilderness of white sand ‘the coast of hell’. Later it became better known as the Skeleton Coast, because of the dismal fate of castaways from ships that were wrecked here through the centuries, doomed to endure searing heat, clammy mists, total solitude and little drinking water or shelter.

    The area properly includes the National West Coast Recreation Area north of Swakopmund and the Skeleton Coast Park from the Ugab River north to the Kunene.

    The Skeleton Coast Park extends nearly 500 km to the Ugab River in the south to the Kunene in the north and covers an area of around 16,000 sq.km. It is a remote area often covered in a blanket of coastal fog or suffering from cold sea breezes and this harsh climate has produced a unique ecosystem.

    The landscape of the Skeleton Coast ranges from huge sand dunes to deep canyons and mountain ranges, whose slopes are covered by a variety of plants which have adapted to the environment, such as the peculiar elephant foot plant.

    Animals found in the Park include gemsbok, springbok, ostrich, jackal, hyena, giraffe, lion and desert elephants. There are also huge seal colonies along the coast such as the one at Cape Frio. The birdlife is fantastic with flocks of sandpipers and other long beaked fishers, as well as short beaked waders, cormorants and Cape Gannets.

    The southern region of the park lies between Ugabmund and Terrace Bay. Very strict measures are taken to preserve the ecology of the Park, and entry permits for casual visitors are only available for day trips. Permits are available at the two entry gates (the Ugab River in the south and Springbokwasser in the north).

    The northern Skeleton Coast Wilderness between the Hoanib (Mowe Bay) and Kunene Rivers makes up nearly 70% of the Park. This region is strictly off-limits to independent travelers and land access is only via fly-in safari operated by the official concessionaire. A safari to this region would certainly be the highlight of any Namibian expedition.

    For those more interested in the shipwrecks found in the area, a visit to the Skeleton Coast on either one of the fly-in-safaris or alternatively the shorter day flight from Swakopmund is recommended.

    Accommodation in the area can be found either at Torra Bay or Terrace Bay. The fishing along the coast is spectacular and during the December vacations the campsite at Torra Bay is packed with fisherman. For those seeking more comfort Terrace Bay offers bungalows, but these are booked up far in advance, particularly during the Namibian summer holidays, as this is the Namibian Presidents favourite holiday spot.

    The Skeleton Coast seems to be in a world of its own. Whatever the reason, this piece of land was created to be so entirely different from anywhere else that comparisons are invalid. It is a part of Namibia that really must be seen to be believed.

    Sossusvlei
    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. Only after a heavy rainfall, which is a rare event in this area, does the vlei fill with water. As the clay layers hardly allow any water infiltration, a turquoise lake will remain for quite some time.

    The dunes of the Namib desert have developed over a period of many millions of years. It is thought that the vast quantities of sand were deposited into the Alantic Ocean by the Orange river. This material was subsequently moved northwards by the Benguela current to be dumped back onto the land by the surf.

    The coastal dunes developed as a result of this and were shifted further and further inland by the wind. Wind continuously reshapes the patterns of the huge dunes of the Namib desert. It timelessly forces the grains of sand on the flat windward slope upwards to the crest of the dune. Here they fall down in the wind shade. The leeward slope is therefore always considerably steeper than the windward side.

    The best time to view Sossusvlei is at sunrise; the colours are strong and constantly changing, allowing for wonderful photographic opportunities. The midday heat is intense and best spent in the shade while sunset also offers excellent photo opportunities at Sossusvlei.

    The second attraction of the area is Sesriem Canyon, which is only a few kilometers from the campsite, the entrance gate, and main Nature Conservation office. The canyon derives its name from the fact that early Afrikaner trekkers had to use six ('ses') leather thongs (a thong is a 'riem') so that their buckets could reach the water far below. The canyon begins as an almost imperceptible but nevertheless deep cleft in level, stony ground, and then widens until it finally flattens out onto the plain. Because it is so deep and sheltered, it often holds water well into the dry season - an invigorating sight in such a barren and stark environment.

    Swakopmund
    Swakopmund is surrounded on 3 sides by the Namib desert, and on the 4th by the Atlantic Ocean and is Namibia's busiest resort town and offers a huge array of activities, an interesting German heritage, and some of the friendliest people in Southern Africa.

    In December and January, the town is particularly busy during the Namibian school holiday periods so anyone thinking of travelling to Swakopmund then should consider booking their accommodation well in advance.

    Many of the locals are of German descent, and together with its beautifully preserved colonial architecture, the availability of German style beer, and the precise orderly manner which is evident everywhere, you would be forgiven for thinking you were in a small town in Germany and not on the edge of the Namib Desert.

    This effect is most pronounced if you are sitting in the excellent Swakopmund Brauhaus on a foggy or wet evening!

    For most overseas visitors the main attraction of Swakopmund is the huge variety of activities on offer.

    Particular favourites include scenic flights along the Skeleton Coast or over the Sossusvlei Dunes, dolphin and seal cruises, and quad biking or sand-boarding down the large dunes just a few minutes drive south of the town.

    Combine all this with beaches and promenades, some excellent restaurants, and a cooler climate that offers much needed relief from the baking hot days of the desert, and it is easy to understand why Swakopmund is such a popular holiday destination for Namibians and overseas visitors alike.

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