The Things You Should Know About Namibia
Located on the southwestern coast of Africa, Namibia is one of the driest countries on the planet. Around one million tourists visit the country every year for its dramatic desert landscapes, wildlife-filled national parks and colourful culture. But how much do you really know about the country? Did you know that ‘Namib’ means ‘vast place’, which makes sense given that it’s the second-least crowded country on the planet? From ancient desserts to skeleton coasts, we’ve cherry-picked some of the most interesting facts about Namibia here.
If you are planning a trip to Namibia, Here are 7 interesting facts about Namibia
1. Nearly half of the country is protected
Namibia takes conservation very seriously. In fact, it was the first country to incorporate environmental protection into its constitution. As a result, there are now countless community-based tourism initiatives providing social and monetary protection for communities and landscapes. More than 40% of the country is under conservation management. It is one of the only countries in Africa where wildlife numbers are increasing, with flourishing populations of cheetahs, lions, zebras, oryx and rhinos. That’s particularly impressive given that the country’s wildlife stocks had been almost entirely decimated during the 1980s due to drought, poaching and war.
2. It’s home to the world’s largest population of free-roaming cheetahs
It’s notoriously difficult to catch a glimpse of the fastest land animal on the planet, so for the best chance head to Namibia. The Cheetah Conservation is home to over 3,000 of them. Etosha National Park is another safe bet too.
3. Namibia is home to the world’s oldest desert
The Namib Desert, the country’s namesake, has been around for 80 million years. It’s the world’s most ancient desert. A few animals and plants have managed to adapt to life here, despite its unforgiving climates, such as mountain zebra, short-eared elephant shrews and Grant’s golden moles. South of the desert is much drier and the only animal able to survive in the climate is the gemsbok.
Speaking of sand, the country is also home to some of the highest sand dunes in the world. Given that they shift by nature it isn’t possible to get an accurate reading, but Dube Seven near Walvis Bay is thought to be the highest at 383 metres. If you’re keen to climb up one of the soaring sand dunes, try Big Daddy. it’s marginally smaller at 325 metres but it’s possible to clamber up to its peak.
4. Hollywood can’t get enough of it
The dramatic, desolate and romantic Namibian desert makes the perfect backdrop for some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbuster movies. Some of the most famous movies shot here include Flight of the Phoenix, Mad Max: Fury Road, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Samsara.
5. There’s a story behind its shape
Look closely at the country on a map and you’ll notice that Namibia has a little handle. Why? When the UK and Germany carved up southern Africa, they made a deal that the former would give the latter the Caprivi Strip in exchange for land elsewhere. Germany agreed, believing that this would give them access to the Zambezi River and, thus, a route to Africa’s east coast. It didn’t. Vicotria Falls aka the world’s largest waterfall was in the way.
6. It’s home to a huge graveyard for ships (and sailors)
Possibly Namibia’s spookiest sight, Namibia’s Skeleton Coast is one of the world’s most treacherous coastlines. Hunter-gathers called it ‘the land God made in anger’, which makes a lot of sense. The Portuguese nicknamed it ‘The Gates of Hell’. More than 1,000 have met their end here, due to frequent violent storms and dense fog. The Eduard Bohlen, a 310-ft cargo ship that ran aground in 1909, is one of the most famous shipwrecks in the area.
In cheerier news, Skeleton Coast is also home to one of the world’s largest seal populations – over 100,000 live here.
7. Namibia is home to the world’s largest underwater lake
Known as ‘Dragon’s Breath Cave’ due to the rising humid air at the cave’s entrance, this sprawling cave is home to the largest non-subglacial lake in the world. Cavers identified the cave in 1986. The lake measured close to two hectares (4.9 acres) and sits around 100 metres (330 ft) below the surface. No one knows how deep it gets, yet. Don’t expect to get any good ‘grams out of it though, it’s only accessible to professionals.