6 Reasons To Visit Namibia
This article was written by the Jill Nawrocki on behalf of Viator.com.
With only about two million people scattered across the expanses of its breathtaking savannahs, haunting deserts, and fertile deltas, Namibia is one of the least-densely populated countries in the world. Yet somehow this southern African nation that’s approximately the size of California still offers some of the greatest ecological and cultural diversity in the world.
With a modern capital city, comforting colonial-inspired coastline, and network of well-paved roads, accessing all that this beautiful country has to offer is incredibly easy—even for first timers. As a result, this coastal gem has quickly taken its place among the top spots to visit in Africa and become the perfect entry point into exploring this incredible continent. Here are some of our favorite reasons to visit Namibia.
The Language Barrier is Small
While about half of Namibia’s two million people speak Oshiwambo—one of the country’s 11 major languages—at home, English is actually the national language. When the country gained its independence back in 1990, the government hoped shifting to a more-widely spoken tongue would result in faster economic advancement. Whether this has been the case is still up for debate, but travelers to Namibia will find that even in some of its most remote regions at least a little English is often spoken. In larger cities like Windhoek and Swakopmund where German and Dutch influence was once great, visitors can easily get around speaking one of these languages instead. And while the presence of European languages makes navigating the villages a bit more manageable, the country has done well to preserve its own indigenous tongues. Travelers can still hear the clicking language across Damaraland and the far south, made famous by the Nama, Damara, and San people.
The History is Fascinating
Like South Africa, Namibia’s history is rich with stories of oppression and tales of triumph. From its early colonial days, when the Dutch and Germans ruled this nation formerly known as German South-West Africa and later, as only South-West Africa, its people have been tucked under a harsh and difficult rule. Whole tribes of people were collected and confined to specific regions of the country under German rule and historians have speculated that the model used by the Nazis in the Holocaust was tried and perfected on the people of Namibia during the Herero and Namaqua genocide. Later, when Namibia became a part of South Africa, the country fell under apartheid rule. As a result, white Namibians and German and Dutch residents were placed in wealthier “townships” and black Namibians were forced to live in areas known as “locations.”
Although this system of oppression no longer exists today, travelers to Namibia can still seem remnants of the nation’s difficult past. Monuments to German soldiers and bloody battles exist in many of the country’s larger cities, particularly in Namibia’s southern regions, and German and Dutch colonial architecture is the norm in places like Windhoek, Luderitz, and Swakopmund.
The Landscape is Beautiful
Namibia is home to some of the world’s most diverse landscapes. From the sweltering sands of the Namib and Kalahari Deserts to the unforgiving Skeleton Coast, fertile Okavango Delta and the rocky depths of Fish River Canyon, this is a country that has it all. The best part: its network of well-paved roads with practically zero traffic makes moving one extreme to another a breeze. Explore the vast savannahs of the south in Karas or Hardap. Or travel to the north, where lush green mango trees and tall grasses line the Okavango River. To the east, in Omaheke, travelers can cruise through the desert under the light of the blazing sun or head to Kunene where mountain passes lead to the land of the Himba people in the unique town of Opuwo.
Adventure Comes in Many Forms
All this diversity in landscape means there’s plenty for the outdoor adventurer seeking a new kind of thrill in Namibia. Avid hikers can pack up a bag and descend into the depths of Fish River Canyon, one of the nation’s most difficult multi-day hikes that dips across rivers and rocky passes with no escape from the blinding Namibian sun. Extreme sports enthusiasts can skydive from tiny private planes over the desert sands outside of Swakopmund or ride the sandy waves while boarding down the world-famous dunes near the coast of the Atlantic.
Travelers can take an evening game drive through the vast Etosha in hopes of spotting a lion pride in search of a kill, or head to one of the country’s well-kept lodges for the once-in-a-lifetime experience of hunting springbok in the bush. And while hiring a car, hopping a tour or traveling with a guide are easy ways to see this great nation, one of the most adventurous ways to get around is thumbing a ride from the side of the road, where friendly locals are often eager to offer a lift to visitors exploring the countryside.
The Animal Life Is Diverse
Namibia’s wildlife is as rich and diverse and its geography and its people. That’s because when the nation gained its independence back in 1990, it made conservation one of its top priorities. Etosha National Park, located in the northwestern part of the country, is one of Namibia’s most popular wildlife destinations. Its 22,000 square kilometers of protected land are home to hundreds of elephants, rhinos, giraffe, lions, kudu, and zebra that gather during rainy season at the park’s famous watering holes. Visitors can stay at one of the park’s incredible lodges, where western comforts meet life in the bush, or spend an afternoon driving through the grasslands of this reserve.
But Etosha isn’t the only place where the health and safety of Namibia’s wild animals reigns supreme. At the Cheetah Conservation Fund located just outside Otjiwarango, a team of expert staff led by American Laurie Marker, keep close watch over some of the country’s most beautiful felines. The center, which is a hub for research, education, conservation and habitat restoration, is also home to a number of cheetahs.
Namibia is also home to one of the largest seal colonies in the world. Located in Cape Cross, along the country’s Atlantic coast, the Cape Fur Seals have become one of the nation’s most popular—and unexpected—wildlife attractions. Travelers can tour by boat or kayak up close to these playful sea creatures while on a visit to Swakopmund.
The People Are Welcoming
Despite its history of apartheid and oppression, Namibia is full of diverse people who are warm and welcoming to foreign travelers. Whether it’s hitching a ride with a local from the side of the road, hunting alongside an expert game guide, or visiting a traditional Himba village in the northern region of Kunene, travelers will find Namibia to be a country with a big heart, a warm embrace, and a whole lot of hospitality.
3 Flash Sales You Won't Want To Miss!
We've just discovered three flash sales happening this week that you won't want to miss. Here's what you need to know. For ski lovers who are planning ahead Vail Resorts and RockResorts in Colorado, Lake Tahoe, Grand Teton National Park, Utah, and Jamaica are having a 96-hour flash sale starting Tuesday, Aug. 18th until 11:59 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 21st where you can save up to 50 percent on stays at luxury-style campgrounds, boutique hotels, and resorts. Sample prices include rates at The Lodge at Vail from $129 per night, rates at The Pines Lodge at Beaver Creek from $117 per night, and even a 60 percent discount at Half Moon, A RockResort in Montego Bay, Jamaica, with rates from $229 per night. If you currently have the Epic Pass, you're eligible for even more discounts—purchase the 2015-2016 season Epic Pass by Sept. 7th for $769 per person for access to unlimited skiing and snowboarding at 10 U.S. ski areas and select ski resorts in Australia and Switzerland. For a last-minute beach getaway Looking for the perfect autumn beach vacation? Grand Lucayan on Grand Bahama Island is having a 72-hour flash sale where you can save up to 50 percent on stays of at least two nights between Sept. 2nd and Nov. 15th as long as you book by Thursday, Aug. 20th. Rates start from $90 per night (with a two-night minimum-stay required) and you'll get a $125 resort credit to be used for dining, spa services, tennis, and golf (cart fees excluded). The best part: children ages 12 and under stay for free. For a quick trip to Milan Suddenly in the mood for Italian food or interested in checking out Expo Milano before it ends on Oct. 31st? Take advantage of this amazing flash sale from Emirates where you can score 2-for-1 airplane tickets to Milan when you book by 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 20th. Two people can fly round-trip from JFK to Milan $999 in economy class or splurge for two business class tickets for from $3,800 for both of you. Tickets must be used between Oct. 1, 2015 and Mar. 23, 2016. Plus, Milan was named one of Budget Travel's best places to visit in 2015, so get to it!
City Passes in Italy: Worth It or Not?
Tracking down amazing Real Deals is a big part of my job here at Budget Travel, and involves breaking down the details to make sure travelers are really getting the most for their money. I decided to apply the same logic when planning out my family’s first vacation to Italy—especially when we kept running into deals that sounded too good to be true. Take the city cards and passes for Florence, Venice, and Rome. The basic idea behind them: pay a lump sum and get access to museums, historic sites, and galleries—and sometimes city buses or metro—for a discounted price rather than buying all those tickets separately. Discounts and the ability to skip enormous lines? Sounds good to me. But are they really a good deal? I looked into it and here is what I found: Firenze Card (The Florence Card) Price: $80 per person. Where you can buy it: Through the website or at any of these participating attractions. How it works: The Florence Card covers admission at 67 of the city's museums, galleries, historical villas, and gardens as well as a three–day transit pass. It remains active for 72 hours, and the clock starts when you visit your first sight. One caveat: You can only visit each place once. So savor your time with David. The breakdown: Florence's two most popular museums, the Uffizi Gallery and Accademia Gallery, cost $25 and $9 respectively to visit. A three–day transit ticket costs $18 per person, so entrance fees to the two must–see museums plus the transit pass already brings you to $56. For just $28 more, you get free access to 65 more sights. The verdict: Deal! VeneziaUnica City Pass (The Venice Card) Price: $44 per person over age 30; $33 for those ages 6 to 29. Where you can buy it: Create your own card online with options that will make the most of your trip, whether you're planning to use public transit or just walk and see the various museums of Vence. You can also find the City Pass at any of these Hello Venezia ticket offices, at tourism agencies in the Mestre and Santa Lucia train stations, or at Marco Polo Airport. How it works: You’ll get admission to the Doge’s Palace, Jewish Museum, 16 Chorus Churches, and the city’s 10 Civic Museums, plus discounts on parking outside the historic center, tours, concerts, and at shops. Plus you can take your time—the card stays active for seven days. The breakdown: A regular ticket to the Doge’s Palace costs $27 and includes admission to the other 10 Civic Museums if you purchase the Museum Pass instead. A Chorus Pass will give you entry to 16 churches for another $13. Admission to the Jewish Museum is a mere $4 more, bringing your total to $44 without the Venice Card. For the same price, you'll have access to more museums and have seven days to use it. The verdict: Deal—if you're planning to museum-hop and see everything the Venice Pass has to offer. Roma Pass (The Rome Card) Price: $40 per person. Where you can buy it: Through the website or at any participating attraction. How it works: The Roma Pass covers entrance fees to your choice of two participating museums or archaeological sites, discounted admission to more listed sites, and free use of city transit. Most of the city's attractions are covered, but note that the Vatican Museums are not part of the deal. The breakdown: One regular ticket to the Coliseum works for two days and includes admission to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill for $26, while a three–day transit pass will set you back $18. For $4 less, you might as well take advantage of the discounts and access to another free museum. And you won't have to wait in line at the Coliseum and other typically overcrowded attractions. Which is priceless. The verdict: Deal! *Prices shown here are in USD, are based on one adult, and include taxes and fees when purchased online. Euro–dollar conversions are shown on xe.com from August 17, 2015, and may vary over time.
How rock bands save on lodging
More than 900 bands belong to Couchsurfing.com, a network of travelers looking to crash for free on strangers' sofas. Half of those musical groups joined this year, reports Spin. They're among the site's 470,000 members. Why do musicians like couchsurfing? Spin interviewed The Shackeltons, a post-punk band from Chambersburg, Pa., to find out. The band members say the site has saved them more than $5,000 on lodging costs during 109 nights on the road. But what the band likes best about the site is getting to meet interesting people. Some examples: A mother and daughter in Billings, Montana, who wanted to increase their "couch-surfing karma"; three art students in Fargo who cooked them a spaghetti dinner; and a father and son in Bismarck, North Dakota, who gave them three bottles of home-brewed kombucha tea. That would be music to the ears of a lot of budget-conscious travelers. [Spin] MORE RESOURCES Airbedandbreakfast is a site that enables anyone with an airbed (or couch or bed) to rent it out for the night.
Ready for a Day With No Cars in Paris?
Ever walked the streets of one of your favorite cities and thought, “I wish the cars would just disappear”? While we have nothing against the auto industry or the awesome road trips and scenic drives we take in our cars, the staggering burden of traffic in, say, Los Angeles, London, and New York can sometimes make finding your bliss nearly impossible. Francophiles, rejoice! On September 27, Paris is holding “Une Journée Sans Voiture”—the first “Day Without Cars” in the city’s history. How much of the city are we talking about? How about: nine arrondissements, including the Left Bank, the area around the Eiffel Tower, Place de las Bastille, and many other iconic bucket-list spots. We’re predicting that the absence of auto traffic will inspire a photographic Big Bang, with cameras and smartphones capturing the City of Light like never before. Will you be there?