Namibia isn’t the most well-known country in the world, but you’ll surely have heard about a few of its most famous things. We will explore what Namibia is famous for and explain why they are important and interesting.
From world-renown safaris to the Himba people Namibia is a fascinating country with much more to offer than one might initially think! It has vast deserts with giant dunes, one of the world’s largest canyons, some of the driest places on earth, and much more! Plus, as a country of extremes, Namibia is particularly interesting for geography lovers.
10 things Namibia is famous for
#1 Namib desert
The Namib desert not only names the country but also occupies a vast part of the Namibian territory. In fact, it extends outside Namibian territory to southern Angola and the northwest of South Africa. This is primarily a sand desert, consisting of a sea of sand dunes, some of which are huge (check next bullet)
While it isn’t the biggest desert in the world, it’s considered the oldest in the world, with estimated ages between 55 and 80 million years. It also contains some of the world’s driest regions, only challenged by the Atacama desert in Chile on both things.
#2 The huge sand dunes of Sossusvlei
You may have never heard of Sossusvlei, but if you have ever seen pictures of Namibia, you probably saw Sossusvlei. The sand dunes are enormous, some of them well above 300 meters, but they aren’t the biggest in the world.
The biggest dune is called dune 7 (1,256 feet -383 meters) because it’s the seventh dune after crossing the Tsauchab river. Other famous dunes are Big daddy (perfect naming, right?) and dune 45. Dune 45 is even said to be the most photographed in the world…
#3 Etosha National Park
Etosha is one of the most well-known safari destinations in the world, and it’s undoubtedly the most famous in Namibia. For those who want to enjoy a safari independently, it’s easily one of the best options in Africa. There are numerous accommodation alternatives in Etosha National Park, but also with restaurants, shops, swimming pools, viewing decks, and petrol stations. Luxurious camps in Etosha’s remote areas have now added top-end accommodation to the park’s offerings.
Etosha is somewhat unique in Africa, with a vast salt pan that can be seen from space. Yet, wildlife is abundant and gathers around waterholes making it very easy to spot. Etosha National park is incredibly easy to reach; you can roam the park looking for animals in a typical small park.
Four of the Five big five call home to Etosha National parks (there are no cape buffalos). Lions and Elephants are widespread, while the leopard is as elusive as usual and hides in the more dense areas. Black rhinoceros are one of the main reasons to visit Etosha as there’s a healthy population.
There are 114 mammal species in the park, including other big ones like cheetahs, giraffes, kudus, wildebeest, hyenas, mountain and plains, zebra, gemsbok, springbok, and eland. But it also has smaller species like the jackal, honey badger, bat-eared fox, ground squirrel, and the warthog.
#4 Small population and very sparsely populated
Namibia is well known for being very, very sparsely populated.
In 2018 Namibia had 2.4M inhabitants, but as it’s a vast country, the population becomes very sparse. It obviously helps that the land basically consists of deserts, particularly the Namib and the Kalahari.
In fact, it’s the second least densely populated country in the world, only behind Mongolia, with about three people for square Km. For comparison, the US has 34, china is 146, and Germany 232.
#5 Himba tribes
You may not know what the Himba tribes are, but if you see a picture of them, you’ll almost surely recognize them and their red skin.
The skin of the Himba is not actually red, but that color comes from the red ochre cream that they spread on their skin. You should note that only women do this. Men do not use the red cream thus don’t have “red skin.”
The red ochre cream is made from small ochre stone fragments that are late mixed with butter, heated, and applied to the skin. Apparently, this helps against the scorching sun while keeping the skin clean and moist. It’s even said that it blocks hair growth on the body. So that’s an idea…
#6 San People
Despite having a tiny population, Namibia has another famous people, the San people, also known as the bushman. You must have heard about them, as they are also very peculiar. The San people can also be found in Botswana, South Africa, and Angola, but they are mainly Kalahari desert people.
The bushman are considered the oldest inhabitants of southern Africa. They are well known for their very unique click language and their survival skills in a deadly environment. The San people lived in the desert in rock shelters as hunter-gatherers and without any pottery. Instead, they used eggshells and animal parts for storing liquids. Their ingenuity is incredible.
The San people made it into mass media a few times. Still, the most famous is clearly the comedy “the gods must be crazy,” where a Kalahari San group’s first encounter with an artifact from the outside world (a Coca-Cola bottle).
#7 Only german colony in Africa
Namibia has only very recently become independent. Until 1990 the country was governed by South Africa and usually referred to as Southwest Africa. So, if anyone talks about southwest Africa, it’s possibly talking about Namibia. Before South Africa took over, Namibia was actually a German colony called German Southwest Africa, from 1884 to 1915.
German rule in Namibia was anything but peaceful, with several rebellions by the native peoples that led to a war that culminated in the Herero and Namaqua Genocide, or Namibian genocide.
Despite being short and violent, German rule left its imprints. Many German names, buildings, and businesses are still present in Namibia, and about 30,000 people of German descent still live there. If you ever visit Swakopmund, you’ll enter a weird place where two very different things mix together, Germany and Africa. It’s like an Africa city with German traces and architecture.
#8 Fish River Canyon
The Fish river canyon is one of the most famous places in Namibia and the second most visited attraction in the country. Located in the south of Namibia, it’s the biggest canyon in Africa and the second in the world, only surpassed by the grand canyon in the US.
Fish river is 161 km long, 27km wide, and up to 500 meters deep. It starts in Seeheim and ends at Ai-Ais; after that, the river flows into the Orange River, which borders South Africa. According to archeologists, the canyon formation dates back 650 million years.
The canyon’s initial formation dates back 650 million years. Chains have been fit to help trekkers at steep points. Today there is also a very famous (among hikers) multi-day hike in the fish river canyon. It is said to be an arduous trek but also incredibly beautiful.
#9 Skeleton coast
The Skeleton Coast is another famous region in Namibia, or rather infamous! Stretching from South Namibia up to the Kunene River, this coast has been notorious for a long time. The bushman from the Namib called it “The Land God Made in Anger,” while Portuguese sailors referred to it as “The Gates of Hell,” so it cannot be good, right?
The coast has a constant and heavy surf on the beaches. It’s so strong that it’s impossible to get out of the beach through the ocean without an engine boat. It’s hard to believe, but the only way out is hiking hundreds or even thousands of Km through the sand desert!
Furthermore, the constant and dense fog combined with offshore rocks and the surf mentioned above meant many shipwrecks happened here in the last centuries. Yet, it holds an enchanted beauty with the sand dunes rolling to the sea, the fossil beds, strange vegetation, and lots of shipwrecks.
One of the things Namibia is famous for is its cheetahs and black rhino populations. The cheetah is considered a vulnerable species, but Namibia is fighting back.
Namibia holds the most significant cheetah population in the world. The cheetah is a fantastic animal, famous for being the fastest land animal on earth, reaching 110 km/h. However, it’s also one of the most endangered big cats, with its population decreasing 90% in the last century to only 7100 in the wild. Fortunately, Namibia still has about 3500 cheetahs and has been developing incredible efforts to save this remarkable big cat species. If you love this animal as much as we do, please look at the cheetah conservation fund in Namibia, and if you are planning to visit Namibia, don’t forget to include it on your trip.
In hindsight, Namibia is known for being a country of extremes, so the most famous things about Namibia are precisely that. The biggest, the best, the smallest… and probably that’s why so many people love it so much! At least we do.