Soul-searching in the remote Namibian desert

Megan Wilkins


If solitude is what you seek, look no further than the Namibian desert - the perfect soul-cleansing sanctuary. Listen to the whispering dunes as they tell tales of ancient nomad tribes. Track the various creatures as they leave their tell-tale signs in the sand, while you drink in the radiant sunlight and warm air. In the evenings, bask in the glory of uninterrupted stargazing while the lions call to the ancestors.

Visit Africa’s biggest private nature reserve

The NamibRand Nature Reserve was born from a deep love for the Namibian ecosystem. German-Namibian businessman, J.A. Brückner, couldn’t stand the fact that farming took up most of the prime natural land in Namibia. So, he started buying farmland and converting it back to its natural state, to preserve the beauty and majesty he had come to revere.

One of his main stipulations, when he founded the reserve, was to keep the area as wild as possible. Thus, he strictly practices ‘soft tourism’ within his reserve, meaning that the number of guests in the luxury lodges and out in the park is limited. Not only does this reduce the human impact on the flora and fauna, but it also provides an exclusive wildlife experience for guests. The 172,000-hectare reserve offers animal sightings unlike any other.

Learn about the science behind the various sand types and ecosystems

Namibia’s landscape offers an array of natural phenomena found only in the region. If you’re a nature fundi with a passion for the unusual, you’ve found your haven. The Fairy Circles are one such phenomenon, found only in Namibia and which science has yet to explain. They are barren circles in an otherwise fertile area, ranging in diameter. Or, if you get tired of the red sands (unlikely), and you want a change of scenery, why not go to the moon?

Not the actual moon, no. But, just outside of Swakopmund, you’ll find the Moon Landscapes, an area of Namibia that looks like a different world. The craggy holes and colour of the earth conjure images of lunar landings and space exploration.  

Take an exhilarating 4x4 ATV tour of the largest sand dunes

If epic adventure is your goal, Namibia’s got you sorted. One thing that this desert is not short of is vast, mountainous dunes. And what goes well with dunes? Quad Bikes. The ATV tours of Namibia offer a vastly different experience of the landscape, as you can explore areas that would otherwise be inaccessible.

Fly up the dunes, chasing the wind, and each other, to get to the apex. Be warned, though. Once you get started, you’ll never want the day to end. Luckily, you’ll be able to sleep under the stars with an open fire while you dream of the next day’s adventures. 

Immerse yourself in the culture of the proud Himba people

Namibia is home to many different cultures, but none as fascinating as the Himba people. This tribe has maintained its ancient practices, living in rural areas and respecting their ancestors as they have for generations.

The tribe is most well-known for the red ochre that they spread over their skin and hair to protect themselves from the harsh African sun. They make their mask by crushing Hematite, mixing it with butter, and heating it with smoke. Another interesting tradition of the Himba women is the daily practice of smoke bathing. Being a desert, water is scarce in Namibia, so it was traditionally kept of necessary use only. The Himba people found a way to keep hygienic in a barren land, by mixing herbs and leaves with charcoal to create an antibacterial smoke that keeps them clean. 

Help save the native cheetah population by taking part in rescue and rehabilitation efforts

Research has found that nearly 20% of Africa’s wild cheetah population lives in Namibian farmland. This is a problem because the cheetah will attack livestock for food and the farmers will eventually shoot them. This common occurrence in Namibia led to one family saying that enough is enough. Thus, the Otjitotongwe Cheetah Guestfarm was born.

The owners work with farmers throughout Namibia on tracking and relocating cheetahs. They also take in injured cheetah, rehabilitating them and setting them free where they can. Those cheetahs that cannot be released live happy lives on the farm, helping the owners to educate locals and guests alike. On your visit to Namibia, we highly recommend booking a day-visit at the farm, where you can watch a live cheetah feeding and interact with the resident cheetahs. They’ve been known to give guests a lick and a cuddle or two. 

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