Your Epic In-Depth Travel Guide 2023
🖋️ By Deb … 🗓️ June 30, 2022 … 📁 Northern Namibia
Welcome to your in-depth, see-it-all guide to Northern Namibia. Namibia is an amazing and unique country to explore, and the northern area has some of the best sites.
If you’re hoping to see the iconic wildlife of Africa in Namibia, the northern area is the best spot for it. Etosha National Park, in particular, has the highest concentration of wildlife in Namibia.
When compared to the rest of Namibia, the northern section is less desert. You’ll find mountains, animals, and comparatively more greenery.
If you’re just starting your Namibia journey, you can find all the information you need about navigating the country and the best times to go here.
And if you’re planning on continuing south from here, find guides to Central, Southern, and Fish River Canyon areas, as well.
If you’re heading north, an all-encompassing Caprivi Strip guide can be found here.
Namibia has long distances to cover, and not a lot of public transportation. Fortunately, it’s a great place for a road trip.
Entry fees to the parks were raised in April 2021, so if you’ve visited Namibia in the past, you may notice a difference.
See the NWR’s press release regarding fee hikes here.
Or if you’d rather sit back and have an experienced guide point out all of the wonders, even just for a day trip, try one of the excellent tours below.
Table of Contents
Northern Namibia Map
Northern Namibia Guide: In Depth
There’s so much to see in Northern Namibia. If you have to pick and choose which sights you have time to see, here’s what you need to know.
One of the most prominent, dramatic, and most photographed landmarks in Northern Namibia is Spitzkoppe. Nearby are the Pontok Mountains.
Spitzkoppe, the highest of these eroded granite peaks has an elevation of 1728 metres (above sea level), and a prominence of 700 metres (above the surrounding terrain).
The inselbergs are over 120 million years old, giving testament to the staying power of granite.
The name means “pointed dome”, in German, and it’s known as the Matterhorn of Africa. It’s definitely one of the hidden gems of Namibia.
But it really isn’t hidden at all. You can’t miss it – the tall peak and the Pontoks can be seen rising from the dusty landscape for miles.
Like many of the natural landmarks around Namibia, a part of their appeal is the way the light plays on the peaks, the surrounding hills, and the river valley below.
Sunrise and sunset are the magical hours when it comes to the best of these light contrasts and shadow patterns.
These are mystical sights to see, making this area a photographer’s dream.
Fact: Spitzkoppe has appeared in several films, including 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and 10,000 BC (2008).
And aside from the visuals, there are several trails for all skill levels through the smaller surrounding hills and to the top of Spitzkoppe.
These make for a great day of hiking , and the views from the top are spectacular.
Spitzkoppe has also long been a favourite for hard-core rock climbers. It was first climbed in 1946, and is still a well-loved spot.
A guide is required for the more difficult hikes. If you’d like to take a guided hike, ask about hiring one at the entrance when you pay the fee.
In addition to the trails and the view, the area is home to more than 37 cave paintings.
Bushman’s Paradise is the site of an historical San settlement. The cave contains several excellent examples of the rock art of the area.
Unfortunately, tourism hasn’t been kind to these treasures, and they’ve been damaged badly by vandals.
However, if you’d like to see it, just follow the road from Spitzkoppe along the base of the Pontoks.
At the eastern end you’ll see a cable leading upward. Hang on and follow it up the short, steep climb.
At the end of the cable, you’ll find the paintings to the right under the overhang.
There are also guided drives around the area. I always find these worth the time, as there’s so much to learn about an area and its history from the local guides.
If you’d prefer to have everything arranged in advance, have a look at this great guided day tour!
If you love the area enough to camp out, you’ll be able to take advantage of Namibia’s second-to-none stargazing. You can thank the non-existent light and air pollution for the extraordinary visibility in the night sky.
If you’re visiting Spitzkoppe during the winter months, you get to see the stars at their best. The cloudless winter skies make sure there’s nothing in between you and those stars.
Spitzkoppe is a highlight for many people who visit Namibia. I recommend you stop in for at least a few hours.
Spitzkoppe is in the Engoro Region of Namibia, but is separate from the Engoro Mountain Range.
There are a few options in the area where accommodations are concerned:
- The Spitzkoppen Lodge has private chalets with covered decks.
- The Spitzkoppe Tented Camp has constructed tents with electricity and private bath and braai (bbq). There are campsites if you prefer, with private bath/shower.
- The Spitzkoppe Community Campsite is a more back-to-nature experience, with lots of space for everyone. You’ll have dry toilets and hot showers, and will camp among the caves and boulders. There is a restaurant and bar.
Spitzkoppe Entry Fee: N$150/per person, including conservation fee, and N$50/car per 24 hours. You’ll be given a rudimentary map of the area.
Getting there: You’ll come across some gravel and a few sandy patches, but a 2WD Sedan is fine.
- 278 km NW of Windhoek
- 152 km NE of Swakopmund
2. Brandberg Mountain
Brandberg is the German/Afrikaans/Dutch word for Fire Mountain. If you’re lucky enough to see this gigantic rise of pink granite at either end of the day, you’ll know the reason for the name.
The sunset, especially, creates a glow like embers on the western face of the massif.
The name is actually a direct translation of Dâures, the Damara name. If you arrive here in the summer, when temperatures can reach 50ºC, you may think it was so-named for a different reason.
The Harare name, Omukuruvaro, means mountain of the gods.
It’s wild and uninhabited, an isolated single piece of granite in its own ecosystem.
There are several remarkable things to note about Fire Mountain. First, it’s the tallest mountain in Namibia, reaching an elevation of 2573 m.
The highest point on Brandberg is Königstein, or king’s stone.
Second, the base of the entire granite massif is nearly round, with a diameter of over 30 km.
In addition, here you’ll find over 45,000 rock paintings. The majority of the art is in two ravines. Some of these paintings may be as much as 5000 years old.
These are the Numas Ravine and the Tsisab Ravine. The most famous painting is called the White Lady, in Tsisab.
It takes about 40 minutes of rough hiking to reach the painting. But if you’ve got the time, it’s highly recommended.
These cave paintings make the area an important spiritual one for the San Bushmen of the region.
If you’d like to do this 3-day hike to the top of Königstein, you need a permit and a guide. A booking also needs to be made at least 4 weeks in advance.
If you have trouble making a booking, your best bet might be to call the National Heritage Council in Windhoek at +264-61-244 375 (the included 264 is Namibia’s country code).
However, if you’d like to contact the Brandberg Rest Camp in Uis, you can have arrangements made for you.
The hike is likely to cost in the neighbourhood of N$1600 for one person.
Or you might like to take a shorter hike, see some rock art, and experience this part of Damaraland for the day. You can pay at the gate, and you’ll be given a guide.
You aren’t legally allowed to simply frolic around on your own.
There is some flora and fauna in the area, in spite of the climate. Aloes are not uncommon, and you may also see some cactus-like euphorbia or other succulents.
The rare black rhinos can sometimes be seen, and elephants, too, along with other animals – if you’re lucky.
Actually, the scorpion population enjoys great success at Brandberg. A little tip: Scorpions with large, thick tails are dangerous.
On the other hand, those with thin, small tails are likely harmless.
There are a few options for accommodations at Brandberg.
- The Brandberg Rest Camp in Uis isn’t fancy, but it has everything you need. They also offer a good selection of activities in the area
- The Brandberg White Lady Lodge has something for just about everyone. There are chalets, bungalows, and camp sites. The lodge even does game drives in the area.
- The Sorris Sorris Lodge is a Scandinavian-style lodge, with excellent food and heart-stopping views of Fire Mountain. Pricey but luxurious.
Brandberg Entry Fee: N$150/person, including conservation fee, and N$50/car per 24 hours
Getting There: Brandberg can be reached in a sedan, no 4×4 needed. Nearby Uis will be your base, and directions to Numas and Tsisab Ravines will be given by your accommodation.
3. Twyfelfontein (aka. |Ui-||ais)
Twyfelfontein is a red sandstone valley, and a veritable outdoor art gallery. The ephemeral spring running through it now sits under a cover, protecting the now occasional trickle of water from the sun.
With an elevation of 601 m, it’s home to over 2700 pieces of rock art, including engravings and a few paintings.
Some of these are estimated to be as much as 6000 years old. There are experts who claim that some of these rock engravings could be as many as 10,000 years old.
It is generally believed that many of the creators were San medicine people.
The site has earned international attention, and in 2007 was made Namibia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. In my experience, sites that have been granted this honour are always worth checking out.
There’s only one other in Namibia. It’s found farther south, in the Namibia Sand Sea, where the well-known Sossusvlei is located.
You’ll learn that they feel that the site forms an “extensive and coherent” history of hunter-gatherer communities over at least 2000 years.
Taken in its entirety, the collection of drawings, paintings, and petroglyphs (engravings) is a fascinating visual depiction of ancient life in this area.
Unsupervised hiking is no longer allowed in the Twyfelfontein area. This is an attempt to protect the rock art it contains.
Twyfelfontein is an Afrikaans word meaning uncertain spring. Locally it’s officially known as |Ui-||ais, a Damara/ Nama word meaning jumping waterhole.
• How to Visit Twyfelfontein
The Visitor Center will provide you with an expert local guide to accompany you around the site.
There are several routes to choose from, ranging from 30 to 8- minutes long. Remember that terrain is rocky and uneven, so you’ll want to watch your step.
You will also be responsible for your own water, so remember to bring enough. Come prepared too, with proper sun protection.
Do remember to tip your guide if you find them helpful.
• What Else to See at Twyfelfontein
In addition to Twyfelfontein itself, there are other spots nearby that are worth visiting.
In particular, the Living Museum of Damara is excellent.
Catch a glimpse into the traditional culture of the San and Damara people who’ve inhabited this region for thousands of years.
You’ll also be able to purchase local crafts, take a short bush walk, and visit a modern village.
Nearby is the Petrified Forest, which is actually not a forest but a collection of fossilized tree trunks. These were thought to have washed into the area some 280 million years ago.
It’s theorized that the trunks were covered in mud and sand, sealing them off from the air that would have caused decay.
A fascinating plant grows nearby, the welwitschia. These only grow in extreme desert conditions.
What looks like a limp pile of lettuce is actually only 2 leaves. Some of the bigger lettuce piles are up to 2 m across. These are believed to have been growing for 2000 years.
Obviously quite a slow grower, they don’t flower until they reach the tender age of 20 years. They aren’t edible by many grazers, and obviously have an extreme tolerance for heat.
About 15 minutes southeast from Twyfelfontein lies Burnt Mountain. This is a black hill of solidified lava flow, that looks for all the world as though it has been recently lit on fire.
It lies at the base of an 80-million year old volcanic ridge of various colours. The ridge is 12 km long and provides an interesting contrast with the even-older surrounding slate.
The Organ Pipes are just a few minutes from Burnt Mountain. These dolerite columns were formed over 150 million years ago, the result of liquid lava being forced through the surrounding slate.
Averaging about 4 m high, the columns do in fact resemble organ pipes. They are actually similar in appearance to the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.
There are several options for Twyfelfontein accommodation nearby.
- Camp Kipwe is lovely, set in among the rocks. They have bungalows and suites with meals. They also offer activities in the area.
- Mowani Mountain Camp is similar to Camp Kipwe.
- The Twyfelfontein Country Lodge has similar amenities to the previous two, with a pool and activities. It’s got a few years on it, though, and is a bit less expensive.
- Madisa Camp has campsites and overland campsites, as well as safari tents. One highlight here is their Elephant Tracking excursion. They have other activities as well.
Twyfelfontein Entry Fee: N$150/person, including conservation fee, and N$50/car per 24 hours.
Getting There: Twyfelfontein is not easy to find. The easiest way would be to find your accommodation first, and get directions from them.
Otherwise, find the town of Khorixas. It’s about an hour’s drive away. Take the road C39 for about 72.5 km. Take a left onto D2612. Drive 14.5 km, then make a right on D3254, and right again after 5.6 km at D3214. Follow the signs.
A sedan can make it on these roads, but again, make sure you have a spare.
- 322 km southeast of Etosha
- 435 km from Windhoek
- Roughly 120 km north of Brandberg, depending on where at Brandberg you’re aiming for.
Hours: 8 am to 5 pm daily
4. Cape Cross Seal Reserve
The Cape Cross Seal Reserve is one of the biggest Cape fur seal colonies in the world.
An estimated 100,000 seals flourish there today, and as many as 210,000 during the breeding season.
This happens during October. During this time you’re likely to see big bull seals duke it out over territory and girls, while those girls spend their days fishing to support the family.
In November and December, the pups are born, and the cacophony gets a little higher pitched. Seeing the beach covered with little squirming babies is an amazing experience.
The success of the seal colony is due in large part to the headland’s proximity to the Benguela current. The current provides an enormous quantity of fish for the seals. More than enough to keep 200,000 seals fat and happy.
The reserve is spread over around 60 km², giving everybody a little room to maneuver.
Like many species of wildlife in Africa, the seals have known some conflict with humans. Namely in competition for the fish.
Though the reality of the competition is subject to debate, this has resulted in an annual cull. This is in spite of the area’s status as a reserve.
The seals also have to contend with orcas and copper sharks after a snack. In addition, black-backed jackals and rare brown hyenas also prey on the pups, especially.
It’s no typical day at the beach for these guys.
TIP: the best time to witness the antics of thousands of seal pups learning to swim is at the beginning of March. They’ll look like little black Saltys in the water.
According to the rock art in the area, seals have called the Cape home for hundreds of years.
People didn’t settle here, though until 1895, when huge quantities of guano were discovered. Guano is the droppings left by fish-eating birds, and is an exceptional fertilizer.
Millions of tons of guano were shipped to Europe over the next 9 years. Very little evidence of this industry remains here these days.
But you can imagine that the area does have a distinct aroma, as well as a cacophony that only hundreds of thousands of seals can produce.
Aside from the seals, the area is also a great place for birders and botanists.
Fact: The name comes from the cross that was set in place here by explorer Diogo Cão. The cross, or padrão, claimed the area for Portugal in 1486.
Two likenesses of this cross can still be found there today.
There are accessible raised walkways around the reserve for visitors to use. Visitors are asked not to stray from these paths to get a closer look.
The area belongs to the seals themselves, who follow no rules. They may decide to get a closer look at you.
There are a few choices for accommodation if you decide to stay.
• Along the coast, at Miles 14, 72, and 108 are campsites.
The site nearest the reserve is far enough away to avoid most of the smell. However, it’s close enough to be able to see the seals at a distance.
The facilities are basic, with no water, and only drop toilets. There is also no gasoline available here. Enquire when you enter the park.
• About 5 minutes south of the reserve is Cape Cross Lodge. Also outside the smell zone, the seaside lodge has views, a restaurant, a museum, and a small shop.
There are suites, self-catering cottages, as well as campsites. Campers have electricity and braai(bbq) facilities, and access to the main lodge.
They also offer a variety of activities, including excursions to the Seal Reserve and area shipwrecks. These need to be booked in advance.
Cape Seal Reserve Entry Fee: N$150/person, including conservation fee, and N$50/car per 24 hours.
Getting There: Easy to reach off highway C34. A 4×4 is recommended for all travel along the Skeleton Coast, but they should be passable in a sedan also.
- The reserve is at the southern end of the Skeleton Coast. It’s a part of the National West Coast Tourist Recreational Area and Dorob National Park.
- 130 km north of Swakopmund (about 1.5 hours)
- 57 km north of Henties Bay
Hours: November 16 – June 30 8 am to 5 pm
July 1 – November 16 10 am to 5 pm
5. The Skeleton Coast National Park
Namibia has the distinction of being called stark, desolate, and unforgiving more than any other place in Southern Africa.
Here at the Skeleton Coast, it’s all that times a thousand.
The Skeleton Coast stretches for 500 km along the northern coast of Namibia. It begins at the Swakop River, which flows from the Khomas Highlands west through the city of Swakopmund.
It reaches north to the Angola border. However, sometimes the entire coastline of the Namib desert is referred to as the Skeleton Coast.
What is the Skeleton Coast?
The Skeleton Coast is an area full of the bones of past shipwrecks, past whaling, and even the bones of an old, collapsed oil rig.
In fact, the shipwrecks number over 1000, the oldest from the 1530s. Most have been obliterated over time by the pounding of the waves.
You’ll see one of the few remaining ships just before Hentiesbaai (Henties Bay). Here the modern wreck of the Zeila has bobbed forlornly in the surf since 2008.
But not entirely alone, as it now provides an ideal home for 3 different cormorant species.
It doesn’t sound very welcoming, I know. But it is a stunningly isolated and extreme part of this country, and I urge you to give it a day, at least.
Once you get here, you’re going to be pulled in, and may never want to leave.
An average of 340 days of the year, you’re likely to see the already-eerie coast blanketed by a thick fog.
This fog actually provides necessary moisture for a lot of the insects and plants along the Coast. This is important in what is the most arid place on planet earth.
The cause of the fog is the same cold Benguela current from Antarctica that draws the schools of fish that support the seals at Cape Cross.
The cold water meets the oven-warm air, and the dense fog is born.
You may also find a sandstorm blowing, and violent waves crashing on the shore.
The southern stretch of the Coast is a part of the National West Coast Tourist Recreational Area.
Inside the Ugab Gate of the park, about 200 km north of Swakopmund, you can explore the Ugab River Guided Hiking Route.
The hike takes in 50 km of hills and fields, lichen fields and caves. The route also passes natural springs, and any number of odd rock formations.
However if you want to do this hike, you have to be here at the right time.
From April to October, on the second and fourth Thursday of the month, the hike starts at 9am.
It ends the following Saturday afternoon. The hike is open to groups of 6-8 people, and has to be booked with the NWR.
At the time of this writing, their online booking system has been disabled. You can request booking by email at email@example.com.
Or you can visit the Swakopmund NWR office on Bismarck Street. If you’d rather call, the number is 064 402 172 .
If you get to any river beds a bit further inland, you might see some of the desert-adapted wildlife of the area.
These include black rhinos, giraffes and lions, baboons and springboks, as well as spotted and rare brown hyenas. Elephants may also be seen wandering the landscape.
FACT: The name “Skeleton Coast” comes from the title of the 1944 book by John Henry Marsh. The book tells the true story of the 1942 shipwreck of the Dunedin Star.
The northern section of the Skeleton Coast, beginning at Terrace Bay, is a designated wilderness area.
Self-driving is not allowed in past Terrace Bay of the Coast. From here you need to be a part of a guided tour.
It’s not cheap, but these trips can be some of the most exciting that you’ll take in this part of Namibia.
Even aerial access here is limited to a small number of tour operators. Most of these fly out of Windhoek.
Of the few options for tour operators available, Skeleton Coast Safaris is a great one. Alternatively, contact West Air or Desert Air directly.
The northern Skeleton Coast is dominated by giant white dunes. You’ll get an aerial view of these, as well as historic shipwrecks, and some of the most isolated coastline on the planet.
Near the banks of the Hoarusib River are the Clay Castles, created over the years from the clay gradually deposited in stacks and shaped by erosion.
The Agate Mountain Salt Pan is an oddly beautiful sight, which makes it a fitting landmark in this oddly beautiful landscape.
You’ll also get to see the large Cape Fria Seal Colony.
If you take a multi-day tour of this northern area, you may spend the night at the luxurious Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp.
There is also the very upscale Shipwreck Lodge about 45 km north of Möwe Bay.
• Skeleton Coast Surfing
Only since the year 2008, the Skeleton Coast has been a mecca for the most hard-core surfers.
Skeleton Bay, known by some as Donkey Bay, is considered by some to be one of the best left-hand breaks in the world.
Skeleton Bay is actually between Luderitz and Walvis Bay, and so not within Skeleton Coast National Park.
But, as the surfing world and many others consider this to be a part of the Skeleton Coast, I wanted to include it in this section of the Namibia Guide.
You can find the forecast and conditions here. If you’d like to join a guided tour to Skeleton Bay, contact Saltyjackal.
Not being a surfer myself, I can only urge you to be careful out there!
Entry Fee: If you plan to just drive through the park, you can get a free permit at the Ugab River Gate (C34) or Springbokwasser Gate (D3245) in the east.
You will have to enter the first gate between 8 am and 1 pm, and exit the next gate by 3 pm the same day. Otherwise you’ll just be turned away.
However, if you’d like to stay at Terrace Bay or Torre, you MUST book ahead. You’ll need a confirmation slip from the NWR office in Windhoek.
To book a spot at the Terrace Bay Lodge, run by the Namibia government, go here.
From the lodge you can watch for the fascinating, desert-adapted wildlife, hike the area, or simply sit in isolation at the top of the dunes and wait for sunset.
In this case, the Entry Fee will be N$150/per person, including conservation fee, and N$50/car per 24 hours.
Getting There: The Ugab River Gate, at the south end of Skeleton Coast Park, is on the C34 highway.
It’s an easy 200 km drive from Swakopmund to Ugab Gate. You’ll drive on salt road and on gravel.
There can be some sharp stones in the gravel. Make sure you have a good spare, preferably 2, and everything you need to change a tire.
Hours: See above.
6. Waterberg Plateau Park
Waterberg Plateau is a red sandstone mesa that rises up near the plains of the Kalahari, in eastern Namibia.
It stretches 50 km long, and 16 km wide, with staggering views from the 1650 metre altitude.
The park was created for the protection of some of Africa’s rarest and most endangered animals.
The area is a beautiful departure from the stark desolation that dominates so much Namibia. It’s a great stop for hiking and for wildlife.
Introduced to the table of the mountain and unable to make their way down, they live in safety on the plateau.
The best time of year for viewing the wildlife is July to September. Of course, this is when the park is most crowded.
There are several hiking trails that together let you experience botanical gardens, the plateau of the table mountain, and the sandstone kopjes of the area.
There’s also a History Path, 2.2 km, that will take you to the field where the Battle of Waterberg took place in 1904.
Fact: Waterberg is an Afrikaans word meaning water mountain. The name comes from the many springs that feed the life on the mountain.
The battle took place between German troops and the Herero people of Namibia.
You can choose from multi-day guided hikes, the longest of which is 50 km. Or take one of 9 shorter hikes from the camps around the base of the mountain.
Be sure to grab a map from the camp office when you arrive.
Some of these hikes are unguided. Others are led by experts in the local flora and fauna. These can be arranged at the camp offices.
What they all have in common is the natural beauty of the area. You’ll also have the opportunity to see the many species of plants and wildlife that are at home here.
Fact: Black rhinos have a prehensile lip, similar to a small finger. It allows the rhino to grab onto leaves and twigs. They have no front teeth, so rely heavily on their lips for eating.
Plant life includes more than 480 species, some of which are endemic to the plateau area.
Among the flora live baboons, hartebeest, and giraffes. There are several other species of rare antelope, as well as predators like leopards, cheetahs, and hyenas.
Cat sightings are rare, though.
You’ll also find a paradise for bird lovers. Bateleurs and Peregrine falcons share the sky with rock runners and Cape vultures. Even ostriches patrol the park.
Waterberg Park is also a haven for white rhinos, as well as the rare and endangered desert black rhino.
The fittest of visitors can actually go on a guided rhino-tracking adventure. You need to book this in advance with the Waterberg Wilderness Private Nature Reserve.
You can do this in person at the office. Or if you’d rather email, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call +264 (0) 67687018.
A more relaxing rhino drive is also offered. You can book one through the same contact info as above.
Guided games drives are also available – self-drive is not permitted – at the NWR office.
These are fantastic opportunities to put yourself in the hands of an expert on the area. You’ll get to learn about the local lifeforms and where to find them, and about the park in general.
There are also excellent Cultural Tours, given by the NWR and Waterberg Wilderness.
Whichever tour you choose, a local guide will join you in your car. You’ll visit a local Herero community, learn about their lives, their dress, and try some traditional cuisine.
NWR’s tour will last 2-3 hours and can be arranged at the camp office.
The Waterberg Wilderness outing is 5 hours long. You can book it in person at the office. Or email at: email@example.com. You can also call +264 (0) 67687018.
Waterberg Plateau has on-site accommodation options.
- The Waterberg Resort Camp has a double room, bush chalets, and campsites. There is also a restaurant, shop, swimming pool and other amenities.
- The Waterberg Plateau Lodge is on a high rock terrace on the Plateau with great views and all amenities.
- Other options can be found on the Waterberg-Wilderness site.
Waterberg Entry Fee: N$150/per person, including conservation fee, and N$50/car per 24 hours.
Getting There: Waterberg Plateau is a good drive in a sedan.
- 412 km east of Twyfelfontein on C39/C22
- 300 km northeast of Windhoek
- 320 km southeast of Etosha
Hours: Open 24 hours
• Big Cat Conservation
Not far from Waterberg are the Africat Foundation and the Cheetah Conservation Fund facilities.
Both of these offer really unique opportunities to learn about Africa’s big cats.
At CCF you can stay in one of their guesthouses and meet the resident cheetah.
Learn about the fastest land animal at their museum. They even have volunteer programs, giving you your own chance to contribute to the conservation of these animals.
The Africat Foundation is 122 km southwest of the park, on the Okonjima Nature Reserve.
This is a centre for the study and rehabilitation of cheetahs and leopards, both of which live wild on the reserve.
If you visit the foundation, you can take advantage of their many walking trails. One of these offers a window into the everyday, hunter-gatherer life of the Bushmen.
A highlight here is the night drive. So many of Africa’s creatures are most active at night. Here’s your chance to witness it.
7. Etosha National Park
The 22,270 km² Etosha Park has the highest concentration of wildlife in Namibia. It’s also the perfect spot for a self-drive safari.
This is especially true if it will be your first self-drive safari. A sedan is fine for driving through the park, as the infrastructure is good.
There are 6 main camps in the park, with accommodation options for all budgets. Some camps have pools, some restaurants.
If you plan to self-cater, I’d recommend stopping outside of the park to buy food. You won’t find much of a selection inside.
If you come from the south you may drive through the town of Outjo on your way. This is a good stop for groceries.
Some of the camps in Etosha have waterholes just outside the fence. This makes it easy to watch the wildlife, even after the gates are closed.
Okaukuejo Camp is popular for its flood-lit waterhole. This lets you observe the comings and goings of the animals anytime of day.
The best way to get the most out of Etosha, is to stay at as many of the camps as you time for.
NWR’s Map of Etosha is a great one for helping you navigate the park. It even has info on the birds and animals.
Fact: Etosha Pan is approximately 4,800 km² in size, and can be seen from space. In especially wet years, the pan fills with water to about 10 cm deep. It then can fill with as many as 1 million flamingos.
The map can help you keep track of the distance between camps, so you’re sure to make it to your next one on time.
Gates for the camps open at sunrise and close at sunset. Vehicles arriving back to camp after they’re closed are charged a fine to have the gates reopened for them.
For this reason, having waterholes just outside the game fence is priceless if you love to watch the animals.
While it is possible to see the Big 5 in Etosha Park, the chances of seeing a Cape Buffalo are extremely slim.
That being said, you have the chance for some spectacular wildlife sightings around the pan.
Fact: Etosha is the Ovambo tribe’s word for great white place.
The maps are available around Namibia, as well as in the park.
If you want to take advantage of the local expertise, the camps offer guided game drives in safari vehicles.
The guides have an awesome talent for spotting the smallest animals. They can also teach you things about the animals that you might never learn otherwise.
I especially like the nighttime game drives. This is when many of the animals are the most active. They tend to spend the heat of the day snoozing.
As I said, there are many options for accommodations in the park, and many outside the gates, as well.
Normally I recommend booking your stays directly through the NWR website. They have the most current availabilities.
However, at the time of writing, the website is disabled. You can get all of the information you need about the accommodation options from the site.
When you’re ready to book, check the site. If it’s still down you can:
- email the NWR,firstname.lastname@example.org
- call at +264-61-285 7200
- fax +264-61-224 900
Etosha Entry Fee: N$150/per person, including conservation fee, and N$50/car per 24 hours.
Hours: The opening and closing times of the gates change as the time of the sunset changes. If you make plans to arrive by 6:45 pm on your first night, you’ll be fine.
You can then find out the current closing times.
8. Opuwo and the Himba Tribe
The Himba people of Northern Namibia and Southern Angola are a semi-nomadic, pastoral people.
This means that they may move with their herds to follow the rain, so they always have access to water.
But they always return to their permanent homesites, where they grow and harvest crops.
They are one of the few tribes now in Africa who are still able to live by their ancient traditions.
The Himba are thought to be the last remaining nomadic tribe of Namibia. Their population is now approximately 50,000 people.
They are known for their appearance. The traditional clothing is what suits their hot and arid environment.
This consists of a skirt-like garment made of calf or sheep skin, and sometimes sandals made of cow’s skin or pieces of tire rubber.
Most distinguishable is the ochre paste, called otjize, worn on the skin and the hair. The paste is worn most often by women.
It’s a mixture of ochre pigment and butterfat, sometimes scented with an aromatic resin.
The mixture is thought to provide protection from the extreme climate, as well as from insect bites.
Otjize is also used by girls and women to coat the braids in their hair. It’s considered the epitome of beauty cosmetics, symbolizing the essence of life from the earth.
Even as the Himba people carry on in their traditional ways, they’re also a sociable people.
They interact with other ethnic groups in their areas, and can often be seen in their local urban supermarkets and healthcare facilities.
As well, some children attend urban schools, and young people have been known live away from their tribe.
An excellent example is the busy town of Opuwo, in North-western Namibia. The commercial centre of the region, it has a population of 20,000.
A visit to Opuwo is a great way to experience this culture for yourself. Aside from seeing the Himba people around town, the Ovahimba Living Museum is about 42 km north of town.
Fact: Ovahimba is the plural of Himba; Omuhimba is singular.
There are several programs for you to choose from. A 2 to 3 hour village tour will cost around N$300 per person.
You’ll get to learn about their day-to-day lives, their history, traditions, and dances.
You can ask questions and purchase a souvenir, if you like, made by the local Himba people.
The Museum is a great way to learn about this fascinating culture.
You can even spend the night if you choose. Accommodation can be had in a couple of places.
- The Omungunda Campsite is nearby and has indoor ablutions. They have various activities and will arrange tours at the museum.
- The Opuwo Country Lodge is 1 km outside town, and has options for various budgets. There is a restaurant and curio shop, as well as activities. They, too, can arrange tours at the museum.
Getting There: Opuwo is 440 km northwest of Etosha on road C35.
- 426 km north-east of Terrace Bay
- 733 km north-west of Windhoek
- 671 km north of Swakopmund
Hours: Open 365 days a year, from sunrise to sunset.
Summing It Up: Your Northern Namibia Guide
There’s so much to see in Northern Namibia. I hope you have the time to see everything you want to see. If not, you’ll just have to come back!
If you want to learn more before you go, find some interesting facts about Namibia. Or if you can’t wait to see how beautiful it is, check out some photos to feed your imagination.
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