At once familiar and foreign, Namibia is both breathtaking and bizarre. On the one hand you have nature that is so beautiful and otherworldly it’s difficult to comprehend, while on the other you have time-warped human settlements that look like German absurdist movie sets.

Throw in some apocalyptic wind, an eerie coastal fog, preposterously expansive skies, kilometre upon kilometre of deceptive nothingness and the endless red, pink and gold folds of the oldest desert in the world, and you have a special kind of wildness that will steal your heart and change some part of you forever.

Be prepared to drive, a lot, sometimes on roads so empty you’ll feel like the last person on earth. But no matter how lonely you find the landscape, never, ever, think that there’s nothing to see…

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Flamingos take flight near Walvis Bay
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The otherworldly dune scape of Sossusvlei
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a warning sign in Luderitz
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The Keetmanshoop Hotel
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Moonrise
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Road crossing near Ai-Ais

On the Road: DECO highlights

Can’t miss experiences:

  • Spot a Welwitschia – a truly miraculous plant that, despite appearances, only has two leaves and can live for more than 2 000 years. The best way to see one is on what’s call ‘Welwitschia Drive’, 50km east of Swakopmund. The dirt road also offers incredible vistas of the barren, eroded valleys and hills of the ‘Moon Landscape’, as well as dead-looking bushes, and watch what happens.
  • Hike up on of Sossusvlei’s towering red sand dunes and watch the sun rise over the Namib – or spoil yourself to a trip in a hot air balloon.
  • Visit the evocative ghost town of Kolmanskop near Luderitz. Once a thriving, early 20th century diamond mining town, its deserted buildings are slowly being engulfed by dunes. Luderitz itself is a strange, pastel-coloured relic, and offers everything you’d expect of a small German town.
  • Look out for wild horses of the Namib on the plains around Garub, Between Aus and Luderitz.
  • Watch the pink and white flurry of thousands of flamingos on the waters of the Walvis Bay lagoon.
  • Explore the rock formations and caves of Twyfelfontein, which offer an abundance of prehistoric engravings.
  • Climb the large, granite rocks of the Spitzkoppe mountain, ‘The Matterhorn of Africa’, which rises dramatically from the flat landscape between Usakos and Swakopmund.
  • Get a healthy dose of perspective while looking over the immense gorge of the Fish River Canyon, the second largest canyon in the world.
  • Sleep under the stars in the desert somewhere, anywhere, at an official or unofficial campsite and experience the thrill of being utterly alone in nature.

First published in Issue 73: Text by Lin Murray, Photos by Adriaan Louw

For more discoveries and adventures, read here.