15 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT NAMIBIA

by Kojo Pocu
Namibia

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are rumoured to have chosen Namibia as their honeymoon destination

– an excellent choice we say – though it may be a wee while before they manage to escape.

Here are 15 facts about the staggeringly beautiful African destination…

1. There’s a lot of space

The name ‘Namib’ translates as “vast place”, which is apt given that Namibia is one of the least crowded destinations on the planet. Only Greenland, the Falkland Islands, Mongolia and Western Sahara (in that order) have fewer people per square kilometre.

2. Nearly half of the country is protected

Namibia takes conservation seriously. In fact, more than 40 per cent of the country is under conservation management. It was also the first African country to incorporate environmental protection into its constitution. Hence its bountiful wildlife.

An aardvark in the Etosha National Park

3. It’s one of the only African countries that’s had a female leader

Namibia elected its first female leader in 2015. Saara Kuugongelwa is the country’s fourth prime minister and the only female leader on the continent. The first elected female head of state in Africa Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was the President of Liberia until January 2018, when she was replaced by former footballer George Weah. 

See More about Namibia’s Current President.

4. More cheetahs live there than anywhere else

If you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of the fastest land animal on the planet, Namibia is the place to go – for it is home to the world’s largest population of free-roaming cheetahs. Etosha National Park is probably the best place to see them, though eagle-eyed visitors might spot them throughout the country.

A cheetah stands atop a termite mound in Namibia

5. It has Hollywood connections

Namibia’s dramatic landscapes, which range from desolate deserts to shimmering salt pans, have been used as the backdrop for numerous big-budget blockbusters including 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) and Flight of the Phoenix (2006).

6. It was formerly known as South West Africa

The country became Namibia in 1990 when it was granted independence from South Africa, which had taken over the territory during the First World War. Prior to that Germany was in control, and they committed what is considered the “first genocide of the 20th century”, killing tens of thousands of Herero and Nama tribespeople during their brutal occupation. The German government formally apologised for the genocide in 2004.

Namibia
Etosha National Park, Namibia

7. The German’s inspired subversive tribal dress

In what is considered a mass act of subversion, some Herero men and women continue to dress like the German colonialists who tried to eradicate them. Tribesmen and women still cling to the 19th-century apparel of their suppressors in a bid to protest and raise awareness about their bloody history.   

Tribespeople dress in 19th century German outfits as an act of subversion 

8. There’s an intriguing story behind the country’s shape

Ever wondered why Namibia has that weird panhandle? Well, when the United Kingdom and Germany were carving up southern Africa they struck a deal: the former would give the latter what’s now known as the Caprivi Strip, in exchange for land elsewhere. The Germans accepted, believing the panhandle would give them access to the Zambezi River and a route to Africa’s east coast. There was just one problem: the world’s largest waterfall, Victoria Falls, lay in the way. The Germans, it transpired, had signed a bum deal.

9. It’s home to the world’s oldest desert

We’re talking about the Namib Desert, which, at 80 million years old, is the most ancient desert on the planet.

A youthful 80 million years old 

10. It has the highest sand dunes

Namibia lays claim to the highest sand dune in the world. Rising dramatically from the Namib Desert, the impressive mound – known, rather boringly, as Dune 7 – tops out at around 383m. As a point of reference consider this: The Shard in London is 310m tall.

11. And the largest underwater lake

Dubbed Dragon’s Breath Cave – on account of the humid air that rises from its entrance – this gargantuan grotto is home to the largest non-subglacial lake in the world. Discovered in 1986, the cave can, alas, only be explored by professionals because of its treacherous topography.

12. There’s an eerie ghost town

Once a well-heeled mining town, Kolmanskop was abandoned in the Thirties when the diamond rush took prospectors elsewhere. The Namib Desert slowly started to reclaim the middle-of-nowhere outpost, which is now a popular tourist attraction.

The town is slowly being reclaimed by the desert 

The Ghost town of Kolmanskop, Namibia

Check out Amazing things Namibia has to offer.

13. And a spooky Skeleton Coast

Few places provide such a stark reminder of the power of nature than Namibia’s Skeleton Coast; a brutal place where the roaring swell of the Atlantic Ocean crashes into the vast nothingness of the Namib Desert. The bushmen hunter-gatherers who once roamed light-footed over these bone-dry gravel plains and shifting sands called it “the land God made in anger”.

Shipwrecks are strewn across the Skeleton Coast, hence its name 

The coast here is littered with rusting shipwrecks, which were surrendered to the desert by the broiling swell of the sea. But pockets of it are being tamed – a luxury hotel shaped like a shipwreck is coming to the area soon. 

14. The capital has some interesting street names

The highways of Windhoek pay homage to both communist dictators and controversial African presidents with the likes of Fidel Castro Street and Robert Mugabe Avenue. Namibia indeed has amazing things to offer including names.

15. It looks incredible from space

The Namib is littered with impact craters, such as Roter Kamm – shown here – created by a meteorite the size of an SUV that struck between four and five million years ago. They look pretty awesome from space.

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