The Republic of Namibia is an amazing country located in southern Africa. It may be known for its vast desert and unforgiving climate but a trip here will show you that this country is breathtaking and has a little bit of everything, from water and swamps to arid desert that seemingly never ends. This is a welcoming country that offers a beautiful landscape as well as experiences with wildlife. Any wildlife and lion lover would not be disappointed with a Namibia safari.
Namibia Facts and History
Namibia has a colorful history that some people unfamiliar with African history may not be aware of. Originally this country was called South West Africa and it wasn’t until 1990 that Namibia won its independence. Similarly to South Africa’s history with the Dutch, Namibia was colonized by Germany.
In 1884 Namibia (South West Africa at the time) became a German territory and remained so until 1920. Namibia still continues to have much German influence which you’ll see when visiting, particularly by the names of some of the towns like Kolmanskop. From 1920 to 1990 Namibia was mandated by South Africa. Two areas of Namibia, Walvis Bay and Penguin Islands, were given back to Namibia four years after Namibia’s independence.
The Republic of Namibia is a thriving country and fairly low in population despite its size. The main reason for this is because a large portion of this country is desert. The Namib Desert is vast and harsh, yet home to many species of wildlife- including magnificent desert lions.
The Namib Desert
This desert is massive to say the least. It is over 30,000 square miles with 1,200 miles being coastline. That’s right- this desert’s western bored is the cold Atlantic Ocean. Wildlife aside, just seeing the amazing contrast between harsh desert and bright, blue ocean is enough to put a visit to Namibia on your “Must Visit” list.
Namib Desert is home to both very unusual and some common African wildlife species. There are few wildlife reserves in Namibia due to most of the land being uninhabitable by many of the large species, but there is one that is a must visit: Etosha National Park.
Etosha National Park
Etosha is Namibia’s biggest wildlife reserve and is over 8,500 square miles. It is located in northwestern Namibia and was officially labeled a game reserve in 1907. The Etosha is often referred to as the “great white pan” since the Etosha pan (a large salt pan part of the Kalahari basin) makes up almost 25% of this whole park.
Most of the larger mammals and other wildlife in Namibia live in the northern parts of the country as they are more hospitable. There are hundreds of species of animals in Etosha, including some very rare ones.
Some common species of wildlife you can find in Etosha include:
- African Elephants
- Gazelle (Impala, Gemsbok, Dik-Dik, and more)
- Cats (Lion, Leopard, Caracal)
More rare species include:
- White and Black Rhinos
A very large population of birds also live in Etosha, though there is no exact estimation of number of species. You can often see these however:
- Vulture Species
- Secretary Bird
- Various Pigeons and Doves
- Raptors like Eagles, Hawks, Falcons, Owls
- Herons and Cranes
- Ducks and Pelican
Spot Lions on a Desert Safari In Namibia
Namibia’s population of lions are mostly found in Etosha where many of the large grazers are found. These lions have adapted to this harsh climate and thrive in an area when other African lions would perish. Though exact population numbers are difficult to determine due to the landscape, study groups focusing on these lions believe there to be around 750, give or take. There are four main inhabited areas that these lions thrive- Etosha (high population), Kunene (medium population), Kaudom (high population) and Caprivi (high to medium population).
It is interesting to note that researchers believe that some of these prides of desert lions are quite nomadic in nature and will travel around these populated zones. For example, radio collars and visual tracking on lion prides thought to be living in only Etosha show they will travel to Kunene as well. There is only one area in which a nomadic lifestyle is not possible for desert lions – the Kalahari Game Lodge.
The Kalahari Game Lodge began development in 1998 in response to conflicts between large predators like the Namibian lions and local farmers. Lions are naturally tempted to prey upon livestock like cattle or goats since these animals are often slower and not so “predator-savvy” as wildlife. Unfortunately this easy meal doesn’t go well for the lions since farmers retaliate through poisoning or shooting in an effort to protect their livelihood. The Kalahari Game Lodge took on the job of reintroducing lions safely within their preserve which is fenced to prevent escapes. This lodge is also a great place for Namibia tours as it focuses on eco-tourism.
Aside from visiting the Etosha Park or the Kalahari Game Lodge, there is another location in Namibia in which you can find the mighty lion. The landscape at first may seem desolate and lifeless, and the name certainly contributes to this idea, but the Skeleton Coast is a must-see.
Skeleton Coast National Park
The Skeleton Coast is located in the Namibia Desert and runs 6,500 square miles long. Generally the entire coastline of the desert is referred to as Skeleton Coast. The area contained in Namibia is now the Skeleton Coast National Park and is protected.
The Skeleton Coast has an interesting history behind its name. Though the name was created by author John Henry Marsh in 1944, this coastline was referred to as “The Land God Made in Anger” but Namibian natives. Sailors who heard horror stories of shipwrecks on the coast also called it “The Gates of Hell”. Originally the name of Skeleton Coast was in reference to the skeletal remains of many whales and seals caught and harvested on shore in this area. While this bones are for the most part gone, the skeletons of wrecked ships are still on these shores.
There are some wildlife species who live in this park, for the most part in the northern half (which is officially designated at a wildlife zone). There are large seal colonies in this area as well as sea bird species. Going further inland through a desert safari you’ll find baboons, elephants, giraffe and gazelle species as well as many birds and small mammals. If you are lucky you may spot a black rhinoceros. Lions also inhabit this region and are fairly commonly seen.
Namibia is more than just a desert. It is home to a thriving population of desert lions, groups of endangered black rhinos and many other species of Africa’s toughest wildlife. The Namib Desert is a real sight to behold and to step foot in the world’s oldest desert is a humbling experience. Wildlife lovers will be in awe of this country while those who are just nature-lovers won’t be able to get enough of the landscape. Namibia simply won’t disappoint.