“Only in Namibia” is the tourist board’s slogan. Only in Namibia can you see the ‘big five’ a day’s drive from an untouched coastline scattered with rusting shipwrecks and seal colonies, or climb the world’s tallest sand dune to look down on the world’s oldest desert. And only in Namibia will you queue in the supermarket alongside beautifully embellished Himba women.

“Namibia is fabulous value at the moment due to the weak dollar, which is linked to the South African rand”

STUART DOUGLASS-LEE HEAD OF PRODUCT, SAGA

Perfect 10

  1. Sunrise in the sand: Arrive among the dunes before sunrise, hike to the top of Big Daddy – the world’s tallest – and watch the dawn give way to a deep orange desert punctuated by bright-white mineral pans

  2. Get high: Take a scenic flight from Swakopmund over the Forbidden Coast and Sossusvlei. Nothing can prepare you for the stunning sights below: rusting shipwrecks and sand dunes that stretch from the ocean all the way into the Namib-Naukluft National Park

  3. Get low: For a challenge, explore the Martian-like landscape of Fish River Canyon on foot during a five-day hike

  4. Sleep among leopards: Enjoy hilltop luxury at Namibia Wildlife Resorts’ Dolomite Camp in Etosha, where you might hear leopards skulking between your cabins after dark

  5. Spot big game: Park up at a watering hole in Etosha and wait for the wildlife to come. Or take a night-time game drive to get another perspective on Namibia’s wild world

  6. Get stuffed: Delve into the delights of the Atlantic, from fresh oysters to expertly grilled fish at The Tug seafront restaurant in Swakopmund

  7. Get your game on: From farmed (not wild) oryx to kudu to impala, there’s fresh steak and cured meats galore

  8. See the stars: NamibRand Nature Reserve is one of the darkest places on earth, making it an exceptional spot for star-gazing, even for those without a telescope

  9. Meet the Himba: Whether you stop at a roadside stall or head into a supermarket in Damaraland, you’ll likely come across some of the ornately decorated Himba women

  10. See a seal colony: Dotted along the Namibian coast are hundreds of seal colonies. A sight – and smell – to behold, thousands of seals lollop on the sand and bob in the waters beyond

Only in Namibia

Sitting just north of South Africa and south of Angola on the western coast of Africa, Namibia is a land of surprise. The country’s social and political landscape has been shaped by periods of tough German and South African rule, much of which is reflected in Namibian life today: from the cuisine – try cream-laden German cakes and delicious cured meats – to the architecture in the coastal towns of Swakopmund and Lüderitz.

The draw for Namibia isn’t only its exceptional wildlife, although Etosha National Park is truly teeming with game and black rhino numbers are indeed increasing at an astounding rate in the northern Kunene region.

Namibia is the place to go for entirely unique people, experiences and landscapes: there are traditional tribes like the Himba and Herero, surreal scenery at Sossusvlei and Deadvlei, while the Fish River Canyon is one of the largest natural chasms in the world.

It’s a vast land with enormous variety and an ever-improving tourism infrastructure: the roads are well set-up for self-drive safaris and the Air Namibia run regular domestic routes connecting all corners of the country.

My Namibia experience

It was nearing midnight and my 04.00 alarm was weighing on my mind, but I simply couldn’t tear myself away. I stood in near-total darkness, completely silent, holding my breath and waiting to catch a glimpse of Namibian mountain zebras.

I was staying at Zebra River Lodge, a beautiful property with a boutique feel that’s built into the rocky hillsides around 400km from Windhoek. It was our first night in Namibia and after a dinner of succulent game steaks most of our party had retired, but I stuck around.

“The zebra were here late last night,” the landlady had told us. “They come to drink from our watering hole.”

Just as I was about to get an early night, I’d heard the thunderous rumble of hooves galloping nearby. There were no horses on the lodge grounds: it had to be the zebra.

The unmistakeable guttural huff of a zebra got my pulse racing and the occasional stamping of hooves had me hooked on staring into the navy night. Before I knew it an hour had passed. At 1.00 I decided to call it a night, feeling somewhat defeated and foolish, as if the zebra had been teasing me. But that was before I discovered the abundance of amazing wildlife encounters that was waiting for me in the rest of the country.

What the experts say

“Despite having no direct flights, the UK market is one of the fastest growing, with a 10% increase year on year in 2015.

“And the growth is set to continue, helped by a number of hotel openings within the four-star market, notably in Swakopmund, along with new eco-tourism openings in remote areas.

“And the growth is set to continue, helped by a number of hotel openings within the four-star market, notably in Swakopmund, along with new eco-tourism openings in remote areas.

“We have also seen an increase in average length of stays, which has now risen to over 17 nights, indicating that the UK is back to where it was when there was a direct flight route.”
SAMUEL HANCOCK, SALES AND MARKETING DIRECTOR, NAMIBIA TOURISM BOARD

“Namibia is easily combined with South Africa and Botswana, should customers wish to have a longer holiday.”
LUCY COOK, VISIONS HOLIDAY GROUP

What’s new

Accommodation: Chobe Water Villas, open for reservations from July 2016, is a new collection of boutique villas with unobstructed, 180-degree views of the River Chobe. Prices start from £607pppn (sharing).

Wilderness Safaris opened its latest addition in 2014: the beautiful Hoanib Skeleton Coast camp sits among the stark mountains and vast plains of the private Palmwag Concession just southwest of Etosha National Park. Fully inclusive rates start from £364pppn.

The Gondwanda Collection opened The Delight Swakopmund in November 2015. Rooms start from £42 per night.

Operators: Hands Up Holidays has introduced Namibia as a new destination for 2016 and has a 14-day ‘ethical luxury’ trip that will see travellers staying in eco-luxury accommodation while ticking off the country’s top sights. Guests will also be invited to ‘make a difference’ by helping to dig new water sources for elephants to reduce the risk of the animals being killed by humans.

Natural World Safaris is offering a new giraffe collaring conservation safari this summer. Visitors will assist a team of professionals in tracking and collaring giraffes. Prices start from £4,595pp, including a $2,500 donation to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation.

Trade initiatives: The Namibia Tourism Board is to run a number of trade campaigns and fam trips, and is in the process of revamping its online training programme, Namibia Know It All, which will launch in the summer with Travel Uni.

Where to book it

African Pride has a number of tours, including a 16-day self-drive option departing Windhoek and travelling through the desert, up the coast and back via Etosha National Park, priced from £2,822pp.

A 13-day Namibia and Botswana trip from Tucan Travel is priced from £839pp (no flights), is packed full with game drives, local encounters and sand dunes in Namibia after cruising down Botswana’s Zambezi river.