Although we admit that the Okavango Delta in Botswana is our favorite wildlife safari destination, we also consider the spectacular landscapes (including the world’s oldest desert!), to be the most unique setting in all of Africa.
Not Your Typical Desert
Namibia’s name of origin pays homage to the oldest desert on the planet, Namib. The harshness carved and imposed by this environment creates a rare wonder. A place where dunes mimic mountains, shipwrecks haunt the coast, and dead forests exist, this is no ordinary African safari experience. Despite its apparent desolation, we can earnestly say Namibia is one of Southern Africa’s best places for wildlife viewing and certainly the most alien. Here, you will see how desert-adapted animals thrive in a seemingly uninhabitable environment. Oryx, black rhinos, hyenas, jackal, elephants, and lions are just some of the desert-adapted animals that traverse this Mars-like landscape. Although the desert lion is elusive, Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp provides the best and most successful chance to find these lions.
Translated as “Dead-end Marsh”, Sossusvlei is where the dunes meet to stop the flow of the Tsauchab River. While the river rarely reaches the valley of these dunes, once in a great while an extraordinarily rainy season will fill the valley, creating an incredible juxtaposition of bold colors in this temporary watering hole: blood orange sand and various blue hues. When this does occur, animal visitors come from all over to witness this mirror-like lake!
Sossusvlei is traced by some of the tallest dunes in the world, some reaching as high as 1,300 feet, and also happens to be the largest conservation area in all of Africa. Expansive clay pans, red-rust dunes, bleach white sands, and a sky of a devastatingly blue hue paints a brashly bold and alien portrait. This atypical and ancient ecosystem is a photographer’s paradise, where one can catch the snake-like jagged shadows of these towering dunes at sunset or visit the Deadvlei trees. Once nourished by the Tsauchab River 9,000 years ago (!), the vlei trees sit as an ancient relic in an environment too dry for decomposition. Standing amidst 1,000-year-old plus vlei trees, you feel a deep reverence for the relativity of time as you peer at the skeleton of a changed landscape.
North of Windhoek and inland of the Skeleton Coast, Damaraland’s landscape is one of the lesser visited secret gems of Namibia. Flat-topped mountains, wind-cut cliffs, craters, and expansive valleys make for an ephemeral landscape. Once an environment flowing with rivers, the Huab, Ugab, Uniab, and Koigab rivers are now scarce and move sparsely through Damaraland. While appearing to be an unlivable location, underground water flows through Damaraland allowing not only for desert-adapted animals to thrive, but also ones large in scale, like elephants and giraffes. The same can be said for plant-life, forming luscious, green patches in the arid landscape. Damaraland is one of the very few places in Southern Africa where wildlife can be found outside of National Parks or private reserves that co-exist with rural villagers.
Skeleton Coast & Kaokoveld
Koakoveld is considered one of the harshest environments on the planet. However, its description and ominous nickname should not deter you to visit, not in the slightest. This is a place dotted with oddities and defies preconceived notions in this extreme environment. Where the shoreline hosts an impressive museum of shipwrecks and whale bones, life teems with a massive seal colony navigating through these relics. Even though the most reliable source of water derives from Atlantic fog, an array of incredibly adapted wildlife survive, from black rhino, elephant, springbok, giraffe, and mountain zebra. You will find this image nowhere else.