During my long round trip, I listed these 15 Need to Know facts about Namibia to you! Because if you are planning a roundtrip to Namibia, there are of course a lot of highlights you absolutely must visit. But also knowing a bit more about the background of those highlights is of course also nice so I describe them in a bit more detail. I chose these Need to Know facts about Namibia, including a number of cities and national parks that you will definitely visit during your trip through Namibia! So read every Need to Know facts about Namibia in this blog!
For example, did you know that if you still have some South African Rand in your house you can take them with you to Namibia and use them as legal tender here? I didn’t know that before coming to Namibia and suddenly having a few Rand in my wallet!
Namibia gets its name from this oldest desert in the world. The Namib is estimated to be a whopping 80 million years old. I can’t even imagine it that old! The name Namib means open space, which of course says it all. I really like the desert and I have visited a few of them now…but I still can’t get enough!
The Namib is no less than 2000 km long, it runs along the coast of Namibia and inland in some places 150 km! Quite a stretch of sand, in other words!
Things you will see in the desert of Namibia…
Second least populated country in the world
I do think one of the most interesting facts about Namibia is that Namibia is the second least populated country in the world! This has been one of the reasons I chose Namibia as a destination for my Corona era trip. Purely for your complete information: Mongolia is ranked No 1. Also, did you know that Namibia is 20x the size of the Netherlands? So 20x the size of our little country and the population stands at about 2.5 million!!! This year a new census will be carried out I heard on the radio. Everyone was urged to let people in to get a good count. I am curious!!! After all, there are still plenty of people who really don’t listen to radio …
Yes, there were days when I only saw the people from the campsite or logde!
And on the way, of course, some gemsbok or giraffes!!
As many as 30 languages are spoken
The country’s official language is set to English. And that is, of course, very convenient because it means you can communicate with most people. Yet it is not the country’s most commonly heard language on the streets, as you also hear a lot of German but in addition you hear a huge number of click languages. This sounds so unreal to my ears … I sometimes have the radio in my 4-wheel drive set to a station with click language and find it so strange how people manage to do that. It seems super strenuous to pronounce all those words like that.
When I was on a bushwalk with the bushmen they tried their best to get me to pronounce words…. I can tell you it almost made my tongue cramp. You try…. It just doesn’t work, the tongue can’t go the right way or something…. Really very strange!
Also read the next Need to Know facts about Namibia
In the old days… Namibia was a German colony. When you go to Swakopmund, or you visit the town of Luderitz, you imagine yourself in a tropical Germany for a moment. Everywhere you look around you see German words and German architecture. Apart from that, you also hear a lot of German, there is a German radio station and most white people you meet are German-speaking but can speak perfect English.
I have seen some examples of the war in Namibia, I have seen pictures of concentration camps from before the First World War (1904 – 1908). Then the Germans were in Namibia and the Herero and Nama had to retaliate. (That what later happened to the Jews in the Second World War like concentration camps and experiments on people was already happening in Namibia then…Unbelievable!)
During this war, it was about the land of the Herero and the Nama, they did not want to give up their land…. I read at Fish River Canyon, at the beginning of my trip a whole piece about this battle in which Hendrik Witbooi (Nama) and Samuel Maharero (Ovaherero) played an important role. See this piece from NOS (Dutch Newsstation), to this day, the tribal struggle continues.
Youngest country of Africa
Namibia became independent with its own government only in 1990, making it one of the youngest countries in Africa. At the museum in Windhoek, I saw the background to this hard-won freedom. The SWAPO fought for years and after being exiled for quite a few years, …. came back in 1990 and there were elections!
Around 2500-3000 free roaming Cheetahs!
And still I find none!!! How can it be huh? I have driven thousands of kilometres and certainly paid attention but have not seen them. Of course, they have perfect camouflage in the landscape and you just have to look in the right direction at the right time in the right place…. So I wasn’t that lucky. I did see two cheetahs but these had been raised by a dog when they were found by a farmer near Quiver Tree. I was standing less than 2 metres from these beasts when they were being fed…thus not paying attention to their surroundings.
13 etnical tribes
There are several ethnic groups in Namibia such as the Owambo, Herera, San, Himba, Nama etc. Also, white people and half-breeds. I understand that discrimination among themselves is still huge here. It is certainly not just black to white or vice versa…but also the tribes among themselves sometimes do not give each other the light in the eyes.
I spoke to a Scotsman by origin in the Caprivi Strip who ran a resort. He was keen to allow locals to grow within his business and so he had trained two employees to become managers. Unfortunately, this didn’t work because people from their own tribe frowned on listening to them. They simply did not do what they were asked and life outside the company was made difficult for them. To the extent that they resigned as managers and were happy to go back to their old jobs. Such a shame!
Need to Know Facts about Namibia!
The Desert Elephant
This is elephant is not a separate breed but is an elephant adapted to the desert. It is slightly more compact and can go for a long time without water. Can walk up to 70km a day to get water. I tried to spot this one too, passing many signs telling me to look out for the elephant but alas. The only one I saw was Jimbo at Palmwag, an old male who always stops at Palmwag on his rounds through his territory.
Biggest meteor shower
The Hoba meteorite is by far the largest meteorite in the world that you can visit and see. You can see this one near Otavi / Grootfontein. Of course, when I was in Ghaub, I couldn’t resist visiting this huge lump of iron anyway…. Because yes, that’s all it is. It remains a unique place and therefore worth a visit!
Highest Dune in the Worl
Namibia has the highest dunes in the world! You have the famous Sossusvlei at Sesriem and before you reach Sossusvlei from Sesriem you drive past the famous Dune 45 on your left. Unfortunately, I drove right past it when I drove into the area just very early for the sunrise….but on the way back, I did stop there. This dune is no less than over 100 metres high!
Yoga Pose at Dune 45
And that’s not even the highest of this place!! If you go to Deadvlei, you know that place with those dead trees ( for 500 years!). Then in the background you can see a huge dune! This dune can be 300 to 400 metres high! Of course, it depends a bit on weather and wind but this one is huge! It is therefore called Big Daddy!
Then you also have Big Mamma which is even bigger than Big Daddy. This one is somewhere behind Hidden Vlei I was told by the guide who helped me after I left Hidden Vlei and got stuck there.…
Fish River Canyon
Fish River Canyon is the world’s second largest canyon! I did not know this need to know fact about Namibia! The canyon was formed some 350 million years ago and is 161 km long and 27 km wide and 550 metres deep!! What an overwhelming feeling it gives you when you stand at the viewpoint and look into the distance. It is deep, it is huge and cannot be grasped in 1 glance! It is quiet and in the distance I could hear the fish river flowing in the depths. When I was there it had rained a lot … yet I had expected more water in the river.
I sat there for a while and enjoyed the immense silence and the vastness of this amazing place!
Did you know that the gemsbok (oryx) and osprey are Namibia’s national symbols?
They are depicted on Namibia’s coat of arms. This is the new flag, in use after 1990 when Namibia became independent. The shield, the flag, is surrounded by two chamois and above it you can see an osprey. The gemsbok symbolises elegance, pride and courage and the osprey symbolises the north of the country with the water resources there, also symbolises the future of the country.
Skeleton coast gets its name from the whales that died there but also from the many ships that went down there. It is also called the largest burial site for ships. 500 km by 40 km deep stretch of coast in the Namib Desert. The ovahimba in the north of this stretch of coast used the whales’ huge bones to build their huts with I read somewhere!
I spent 2 days in this area and while staying at Terrace Bay, I was surprised by a lion’s footprint! Really, they still live there too! They eat from the little wildlife there is…and sea life; the fur seals. In addition, I saw many jackals walking! I didn’t see the lion, unfortunately!
I also saw several shipwrecks. The skeleton coast is quite ‘crowded’ with people…. Every so often I saw someone standing on the shore sea fishing! So it’s a man’s world there but I found it super interesting to see that too!
15 Need to Know facts about Namibia
Environmental law in the constitution
Namibia is the first country in the world to include environmental law in its constitution with the aim of ensuring the maintenance, survival of ecosystems and safeguarding essential ecological processes and biological diversity. How good is that? During my tour, I also drove from one conservancy to another. Everywhere, different animals or environments are protected for reasons that they are simply unique or would otherwise go extinct.
It has many advantages for the tourists who can nicely look around everywhere and visit a lot but I can imagine that it can be very inconvenient for the locals sometimes. Hunting is no longer allowed, by which I mean the San. In many places shepherds are not allowed to walk with their cattle while this is their way of grazing. They don’t have their own land like we are used to, but go out every day with their animals on the hot, so to speak.
Biggest concentration of Rock Petroglyph
At Twyfelfontein, you’ll find as many as 2,500 of them… When I was there, I was given a nice guided tour where a lot of facts were told to me. The place got its name because a spring there only occasionally had water… and was thus a questionable fountain. I was also told about the drawings that they acted as a map of the area but also as teaching material for young hunters. You see animals there with the footprint drawn close to them. So if you see that footprint and follow it, you end up with that animal.
You can also find rock drawings in quite a few other places. I also saw them at Spitzkoppe and you should go and see the White Lady if you are at Brandberg. And…I was there but chose to lie by the pool…. Choices 🙂
I saw the most amazing places during my roundtrip in Namibia. For a blog like this, you obviously have to make a selection of interesting facts about Namibia but I can tell you that I drove from highlight to highlight on this round trip. Later I will share my entire trip but in 2, 3 or 4-week chunks. I will see what is convenient. I was away for over 9 weeks so I could share 2 itineraries of both about a month that are doable for most if you really want to see and experience the country of Namibia!
What a surprising multi-faceted country – Namibia
Have you been to Namibia before? And…are you missing anything in this blog?
I’d love to hear from you!
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If so, you would make me very happy!