Packing for Namibia: Helpful Travel tips

It often isn’t easy to pack the right things for your next trip. A look at Namibia’s weather data shows that it constantly changes – between summer and winter, day and night, the country’s interior and the coast …are all very different. While it is hot in the desert every day of the year, it often cools down at night.

During the European summer months, it can freeze at night in Namibia. Namibians love the always fresh and cool climate of the coast, the region around Swakopmund is an especially popular resort. Thick clouds often cover the sky and the sun cannot warm the air as quickly as anywhere else.

Image: Lea Hajner

Image: Lea Hajner

What should be in your suitcase for your Namibian holiday and what can you leave at home?

Clothing

More layers are better than not enough. I had a thick Merino sweater for the flight in January and I wore it in Swakopmund quite often. In other places have a thin vest to wear in the evening. A thin, long trouser is the right attire for hikes.

Firm shoes & long trousers - Image: Lea Hajner

Firm shoes & long trousers – Image: Lea Hajner

Safari-Look or Africa chic?

If you are travelling along one of the self-drive safaris and have planned day trips, you might need to capture the entire safari look.

Safari drive

Safari drive

Thin shirts are practical (also against the sun), a hat, sun glasses (that stretch along the sides to protect your eyes from sand and dust) and shoes with a firm sole (thorn bushes are everywhere, without exception).

In the evenings, you can dress up if you’d like – but it isn’t necessary.

Sossusvlei

The best is to be at the gate by sunrise (when the park opens) and the cooler hours of morning will be in your favour.

 Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest

Shoes with socks are recommended, but you can manage the climb up Big Daddy, barefoot or with flipflops. However this depends on the heat of the sand, as soon as the sun is up it does not take long before the sand becomes hot enough to burn your feet.

Hiking in Sossusvlei - Image: Judy & Scott Hurd

Hiking in Sossusvlei – Image: Judy & Scott Hurd

Otherwise, things to keep in your backpack: at least 1 litre of water, snacks, a camera, hat and sun block.

The Cool Coast and Rainy Season

A rain jacket never hurts, in the rainy season anyway (even if the rain barely lasts a few minutes). At the coast it also protects against the wind.

A rain jacket - Image: static1.squarespace.com

A rain jacket – Image: static1.squarespace.com

Shoes

I coped well with light ankle-high walking shoes, sandals and a pair of ballerina pumps.

First-aid travel kit

This topic caused a lot of headaches. We finally solved it so that we didn’t take any prophylaxis and were fully committed to a variety of resources from home and from Namibia. By the way, the areas south of Windhoek have a minimal risk for malaria.

For mosquito protection in the supermarket in Namibia - Image: Lea Hajner

For mosquito protection in the supermarket in Namibia – Image: Lea Hajner

If you are sensitive, you will quickly get nose bleeds in the dry climate, nasal ointment helps. For sensitive eyes and contact lenses, eye drops work as well.

Traveling by car

The great distances between sights can be entertaining, fill the time with music and perhaps some or other audio book (get all this together before your trip).

Image: chroniclesofnamibia.com

Image: chroniclesofnamibia.com

We also always had a few soft drinks and snacks with us (Typical for Namibia: Biltong – dried meat of all kinds – dried fruit, nuts and crackers). Chocolate and Gummy bears will be cheaper if you bring them with you from home.

Adapter Worries
Namibia is one of those countries that does not offer a European plug and therefore you will need your own adapter. The best would be to bring one from home.

European adaptor - Image: www.ebay.com.au

European adaptor – Image: www.ebay.com.au

All the Gondwana properties offer European adapters in the rooms, but sometimes they only offer one and it is not beside the bed (i.e. pack enough cables and multiple plugs to suit all your devices).

WIFI and Cell phone Reception

WIFI is mostly available in the reception and main buildings of the Gondwana properties, but not always in the room. Cell phone reception is cool, a SIM card from MTC can be purchased directly in the arrival hall at the airport and the appropriate airtime and data packages as well.

Image: www.puresignals.com

Image: www.puresignals.com

All in all it costs not even 6€ for fourteen days. The phone reception is remarkably good and available almost everywhere.

Camera Equipment

Ambitious photographers – I would advise you bring along a 300mm zoom lens, I (with a 200mm and full-frame camera on the road) would have loved to have one.

Practical: a pair of binoculars! Also an adapter for your mobile phone, you can take amazingly good photos of animals. For night photographs and patient wildlife photographers: Tripod.

Recorded with iPhone and Swarovski binoculars + adapter - Image: Lea Hajner

Recorded with iPhone and Swarovski binoculars + adapter – Image: Lea Hajner

Also useful, is a small camera cleaning kit to clear away sand and dust in the evenings.

Money
A mix would be ideal: Euros, in small bills when needed, and a credit and debit card. ATM’s are available in many of the larger places, the charges vary 2-3€ depending on the bank. For petrol stations and permits to National Parks, you always need cash!

For refueling you always need cash - Image: Lea Hajner

For refueling you always need cash – Image: Lea Hajner

Lea Hajner is a Travel Blogger. On her Blog, Blog Escape Town she writes about outdoor adventures and lifestyle.  The thing she found most beautiful in Namibia, was to watch the sunset with biltong and a cold beer in hand.

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Why is it called the Skeleton Coast?

A rather threatening concept… associating the entire coastline with a skeletal formation. This was not done unknowingly though. The Namibian Bushman are said to have called the coastline ‘the land God made in anger’. Similarly, the Portuguese explorers referred to it as the ‘Gates of Hell’.

Rights to Paul van Schalkwyk

Rights to Paul van Schalkwyk

As Namibian citizens, we all know our little stretch of the Atlantic is not to be taken lightly.

With the cold Benguela current running so close to our coast line, pushing the cold air into the arid heat of our Namib Desert, what else can we expect? It is perfectly unique and therefore perfectly translates into pristinely Namibian.

Image: Pelican Point Kayaking

Image: Pelican Point Kayaking

As per its name, the coast is littered with a variety of skeletons, both animal and ship, and every now and again human. The coastline is known to be home of thousands of lost souls, one of the most prominent shipwrecks being the Dunedin Star.

"Namibia skeleton coast ship story"

Image: Namibia Tourism Board

A British liner that was beached by her captain in the 1940’s after apparently striking a reef. Another two ships were said to come to the Dunedin’s aid but sank in the process.

Image: Judy & Scott Hurd

Image: Judy & Scott Hurd

Every now and again the rough surf settles just long enough to reveal the ship’s sunken grave. And along the shore you will find the remains of the crewman whose last attempt was to bring the ship’s occupants ashore.

Rights to www.traveller.com.au

Image: www.traveller.com.au

Thousands of ships and lives have been claimed by this harsh coastline, but there is more to it than mere death and destruction.

Rights to www.namibiatourism.com.na

Image: www.namibiatourism.com.na

The almost 500km of barren wasteland is actually a Nature Park. And serves as the home to some remarkable creatures. As the park is laced with intersecting rivers, there is a fair chance of survival for those animals that have been able to adapt to the harsh environment.

Rights to freewheely.com

Image: freewheely.com

An entire colony of Cape fur seals can be found along a certain area of the coast. And yes, Elephants can also be found in the desert sand.

Rights to Luxury Safaris

Image: Luxury Safaris

When visiting the area you might also spot giraffes, lions, zebra, rhino and hyena. All these animals have found a way to survive in an area thought to be uninhabitable.

Rights to www.sunsafaris.com

Image: www.sunsafaris.com

The Skeleton Coast is also one of the only places in the world where one can experience the ‘roaring dunes’.

A unique combination of wind, air and sand cause a roaring sound that has been compared to that of a low flying plane. And of course one can never forget the remnants of the Diamond Mining town, Kolmanskop.

Rights to www.bbc.com

Kolmanskop – Image: www.bbc.com

 Kolmanskop - Rights to Judy & scott Hurd

Kolmanskop – Image; Judy & scott Hurd

This hard stretch of land may be referred to as the Skeleton Coast. However, realizing it as a treasure trove of natural and historic phenomena you cannot help but wonder maybe in this case ‘skeleton’ could be interpreted differently.

Rights to traveldigg.com

Image: traveldigg.com

Some cultures believe that skeletons and particularly skulls are symbols of bravery and courage in the face of death and danger. This is the quality that should be attributed to the Skeleton Coast.

A place of harsh and drastic environments and yet a place of life and a place of preservation for what was once lost but won’t be forgotten.

Rights to nmnh.typepad.com

Image: nmnh.typepad.com

Most of the coastline is considered a Nature Park and you will need permits to gain access. Although a great place to use as a headquarters for your travels is The Delight Hotel in Swakopmund.

If you have any stories or information about the Skeleton Coast, we invite you to share them in the comment section below.

Author – Jescey Visagie is a proud Namibian and is passionate about writing and language. Tag along for the ride as she tries to uncover new insights into Namibia and explores what the country has to offer.

Jescey Visagie

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Why Fairies visit Namibia…

We have all heard the term ‘fairy circles’ at one point or another. And as most of us do, you probably forgot about it soon after its mention. Well, who would not? The idea of small, winged creatures going around making little circles across arid regions is not exactly the most compelling thing to believe. No matter how exciting it sounds. Local mythology claims that these circles are foot prints left by the gods, or for the more daring, that they were caused by an ancient dragon who lives beneath the desert and whose poisonous breath kills the vegetation. Regardless of mythical origins, the fact that there are a series of circles scattered into the desert ground is a rather unique concept. What caused them? Why are they only in those regions? Countless questions come to mind when you start thinking about the idea.

Rights to Live Science

Rights to Live Science

Alright, so first off some basic background information… These circles are found mostly in Namibia, throughout the southern regions of the Namib, but have been found in Australia too. They are also not permanent, but can stick around for as long as 60 years. These strange circles have been the focus of study for quite some time now and two major theories were brought to light.

Fairy circles surrounding a sand dune - Image: Discover Wildlife

Fairy circles surrounding a sand dune – Image: Discover Wildlife

First up, the idea that these circles are caused by termites feeding on the grass located above their nests. This theory was supported by the fact that more than eighty percent of the circles investigated, had termite nests beneath them. This theory hit the rocks though, when fairy circles were found in the Australian Outback. And these Outback fairies did not make their circles over termite nests. In fact these circles did not have any termite nests in their vicinity. Instead, scientists thought that perhaps the circles are caused by the native grasses because they achieved surprisingly sophisticated levels of self-organisation in these harsh environments.

Termites - Rights to boricacid.net.au

Termites – Rights to boricacid.net.au

And in the early hours of 2017, ecologists from Princeton University say they have found the answer – it seems to be a combination of both! I won’t launch into complicated, scientific lingo but basically it is believed that these species are in constant conflict with one another because of the lack of resources. Meaning they do what they need to do to survive. In Namibia’s case, they believe the termites ate the roots above their nests, leading to the barren circles.  And the big patches of tried earth in the centre of fields, well same basic principle. Two conflicting termite colonies that have destroyed a section of the grassland.

Rights to www.cnn.com

Rights to www.cnn.com

And of course, there is another ‘but’ coming your way. The Princeton scientists set up a simulation of the Namib to test their theory. Results showed that while the termites aided in the development of the circles, they did not actually create them. As in the case with the circles in Australia. So the research continued…and they found that vegetation has quite a big role to play. When the regions are dry and water sources are scarce, the plants send their roots down much further so that they successfully compete against other vegetation. This competition causes large circles to form on the ground surface, which supports the theory to an extent.

Rights to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Rights to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

However, it has not yet been proven. In the end one concrete fact is that these circles are a symbol of the harsh environment of the desert. Or fairies really did create them and use them as dance floors at their parties – whatever sparks your imagination the most, works for us.

Rights to Pinterest

Rights to Pinterest

If you have any other information on these funny little termite spheres, we would really like it if you shared them in the comment section below.

Author – Jescey Visagie is a proud Namibian and is passionate about writing and language. Tag along for the ride as she tries to uncover new insights into Namibia and explores what the country has to offer.

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