by Dr. Hu Berry (formerly Chief Biologist of Etosha & Namib-Naukluft Parks)
Namibia is rated as one of Africa’s top travel destinations. That’s a claim requiring supportive evidence. Fortunately, there exists an abundance of examples to substantiate this assertion. Where else can the traveller stand atop a dune that towers well over 300 metres above the surrounding desert floor, and glimpse a fraction of 34 000 km2 of the dune “sea” that stretches westward to the fogbound emptiness of the Atlantic shoreline?
East of this hauntingly beautiful area the Fish River Canyon beckons. Africa’s most amazing geological formation exposes 550 metres of water-eroded depth along a meandering 56 kilometres. The stratified layers tell a tale beginning 350 million years ago. Where ice glaciers once formed and later melted, the scene is now one of awesome desiccation, the eerie stillness relieved occasionally by the muffled rumble of the ephemeral Fish River in full flood.
Finding a certain measure of relief from this harshness, travellers can wend their way northwards to relax in the bustling, cosmopolitan atmosphere of coastal Swakopmund, where the dour determination of early German settlers and modern innovative development has resulted in a unique combination of Euro-African flavour.
Satiated with vistas of seemingly endless sand, sea and sky, turn eastward and inland. The emptiness gives way imperceptibly to sparse vegetation. Low bushes dot the landscape, becoming denser, and isolated mountain ranges jut their turrets into an azure, mostly cloudless sky. Enter the world of thorn savanna, an undulating land of seemingly endless bush, incised by dry riverbeds whose sandy beds hide the underground aquifers of life-giving water.
Continuing inland, we enter the giant Kalahari Basin, a scoured, natural depression that stretches across several southern African countries. Nestling in its northern extremity, is the Etosha Pan, a saline desert surrounded by a National Park of world repute. Few other African countries can equal its ability to provide the visitor with the visibility and viewability of wildlife at close quarters.
To those journeying southwards to end their visit in Windhoek, another surprise awaits. About 50 kilometres south of Otjiwarongo lies Okonjima, home of the Africat Foundation. A gravel road takes you 24 kilometres further west, past some unique road signs – a stout warthog reminds you to drive with care; a diminutive dik-dik prompts you to remember that animals have the right of way; a leopard tells you that Okonjima is its domain. Entering a valley that lies within the Omboroko Mountains, you feel removed from the frenetic world outside. A 25 000-hectare sanctuary for wildlife surrounds you. Whether you stay at Main Camp, Bush Camp or the luxuriously appointed Villa or Bush Suite, you will remember the staff’s helpfulness and experience AfriCat’s dedication to the cause of long term conservation of Namibia’s large carnivores. Sightings of free-living leopard, rehabilitated cheetahs and “welfare” lions provide you with lasting memories of how these graceful cats live under natural conditions.
The places described here are but a few of what Namibia has to offer you. Okonjima fits perfectly into this kaleidoscope of unique experiences. Many more destinations and landscapes await your first or your return visit to a country that can truly be described as a Gem in Africa’s crown.
To read the full article please visit the Okonjima website: why you should spend your next holiday in Namibia.