Though a dangerous beauty, attracting tourists to its hauntingly dilapidated ghost towns and mesmerising Skeleton coastline, travel to the north of Namibia and you enter the world of some of Africa’s greatest wildlife.
Elephants of Etosha
The vast white stretches of desert in northern Namibia conspire to form the largest chalky salt pan in Africa. Seen from space, Etosha Pan covers 4,800 square km’s, almost a quarter of the beautiful Etosha National Park. To survive these conditions, the elephants in the north have physically adapted - with a smaller body mass and proportionally longer legs- making them the tallest elephants in Africa.
To see 40 of these giant beasts emerge from the thicketed bush into the open is truly magnificent. No matter if a herd of zebras or a tower of giraffes are at the waterhole, every animal moves away to make room for these elephants as they approach. Staying at Onguma The Fort, enter the park from the east side at Von Lindequist Gate, and head for the Chudob water hole. During the afternoon, watch as the matriarchal elephants, along with their small babies, wade into the reeded waterhole for a cooling bath.
Leopards of Okonjima
With the AfriCat Foundation set up to protect vulnerable big cats, and with very knowledgeable and skilled guides, you will see leopard upon leopard upon cheetah at the Okonjima Nature Reserve. Though seeing the beautiful cats is almost guaranteed during your stay, you will get the full experience on your safaris as you look for other big game, such as the painted wild dogs, whooping hyenas and iconic Gemsbok.
Though there are four options of accommodation at Okonjima. I personally enjoyed the Plains Camp with its ode to its cattle-farming history and spectacular and completely private views over the grassed plains of the reserve. For a delicious breakfast, bypass the wide selection of cereals, breads and continental breakfasts and head outside to the gazebo-like kitchen to order the finest omelette in the country.
Namibia has a knack for turning something ordinary into something unique. A sub-species of the common impala completely isolated by the harsh African terrain, the black-faced impala was originally only found in north-western Namibia and south-western Angola, and was often close to extinction. Since the 70s, the antelope has subsequently been introduced to Etosha National Park, where it has started to flourish. These black-faced impala, as the name suggests, have definitive dark lines that extend from the nostrils to the top of the head, making for a beautiful photograph.
South-western black rhino
As one of the magnificent Big Five, the black rhino can be seen very easily browsing amongst the tall grasses when set against the eerie bleached-white backdrop of the Etosha salt pan. Though the black rhino is endangered, the Etosha south-western black rhino is only listed as vulnerable, having managed to adapted to the desert and survive the arid landscape. The Kunene region, in the north west, is home to the largest concentration of black rhino in the world that has no formal conservation status, making the north the best place to see the normally elusive and rare African beast.
With its abundant wildlife and fantastic Big Five sightings, there is plenty to see in northern Namibia, but the brightest and most exotic sighting is that of the greater flamingo. With up to 38,000 non-breeding birds observed at the coastal town of Walvis Bay, these flamingos make a bizarre sight, with knees that bend the wrong way and long necks that twist in a bone-breaking fashion. The best time to see these pale pink birds is in the wet season between November and March, so make sure you book the Pelican Point, as with unparalleled ocean vistas, watch as the flocks of flamingoes fly past the windows and feed in the nearby lagoons.
To see these desert-adapted animals, hit the road as you go on the ultimate self drive adventure through seas of rolling sand dunes, up the windswept Skeleton Coast, and across the endless Etosha Pan. Or if you would prefer a more cosseted holiday, take to the air on a luxury Namibia wing safari, witnessing some of the most stunning and inaccessible places on earth. Take a look at our Namibia holiday ideas below: