With breathtaking landscapes, beautiful desolate desert scenery and an abundance of wildlife; Namibia is a destination that will surely stun and inspire any visitor. Often overlooked in comparison to Kenya and neighbouring South Africa, the country is well worth visiting for its amazing national parks. A land of natural beauty, there are a multitude of incredible sights to see and tourists will quickly find themselves enamored with the stunning scenery on show. From trekking through canyons to driving through the national parks in Namibia and gazing out over the Namib Desert; this diverse and awe-inspiring country is sure to enthrall you.
For a small park, Mangetti has a lot to offer. Formerly dedicated to breeding rare and endangered species, it was transformed into a national park in the hope that it would attract tourists to the area. With an amazing array of animals within the park, it is certainly worth stepping off the beaten path and delving into Mangetti’s pristine and beautifully wild landscapes. In this biodiversity hotspot, elephants and rhinos roam the savannah and congregate at watering holes alongside a plethora of other animals both large and small. Home to the extremely rare wild dog, Mangetti feels like an unexplored corner of the world and basking in the wilderness feels like an adventure in itself.
Nestled away in the North-East of Namibia is the isolated and relatively small national park of Khaudum. Seldom visited by tourists, its remote location is perfect for people looking for a tranquil and peaceful trip into the wild. Untamed and unspoiled, the national park mainly consists of dry acacia forests and savannah with a couple of life-giving rivers that dry up outside of the rainy season. As the park is unfenced, the animals are free to follow their natural migratory routes and so come and go between the park and neighboring Botswana. With large herds of elephants, giraffes, lions, leopards and more; you are certain to have a great experience wildlife watching with the pristine nature all around you and just the animals for company.
The endless sands of Dorob National Park are sure to impress any visitor with their shifting swirling nature and natural beauty. Stretching before you, the sands compromise the central part of the Namib Desert that hugs the coast of Namibia. Although the dunes do make for some awesome exploring, the park has much more to offer with ancient San rock paintings and abundant fishing spots just some of the attractions that compel tourists to visit. With over 270 different bird species, the park also attracts birdwatchers who watch them flitter between the dunes and above the waves of the ocean.
Quite unique for a national park, Bwabwata actually has over 5000 residents living within its confines. As such, the needs of the people are also taken into account when managing, protecting and preserving the wildlife. With low-lying sand dunes, woodlands and floodplains, there are a number of ecosystems within the park that are home to a diverse range of animals. Located at a migratory crossroads between Angola and Botswana, the national park consequently has a varying number of animals that pass through it depending on the time of year. With elephants, buffalo and zebra populating the grasslands and crocodiles and hippopotami congregating around the rivers and floodplains; viewing them in their natural habitat is always a delight.
Visitors to this park must be really well-prepared as the lack of facilities combined with its desolate and difficult terrain makes it tough to navigate. For those who do venture here, however, the national park is well worth the effort and they’ll be amply rewarded in terms of all the amazing sights there are to see. The largest wetland area in the country, Nkasa Rupara really comes alive during the rainy season when the Kwando River floors and bursts its banks. During this period, lush vegetation abounds and a multitude of animals descend on the area. Made up of arid channels that suddenly bloom into life amid a series of lagoons and small islands; the wetlands certainly make for a memorable journey of discovery. Huge flocks of birds fly by overhead as large numbers of buffalo wade through and wallow in the water.
One of five national parks in the area, Mudumu National Park’s main draw is its pristine environment that flourishes when the rains come. Located on the Kwando River floodplain, it is drier than Nkasa Rupara and consequently easier to navigate. With abundant wildlife and home to a number of large predators such as lions and leopards, the park makes for some delightfully wild exploring. Large herds of elephants roam the park and, with over 430 bird species inhabiting the area, there is always something new to see. In recent years giraffes and antelope have been reintroduced to the park which only adds to the wealth of animals on display.
Billed as one of the world’s last wild frontiers, Skeleton Coast National Park’s name alone is full of foreboding. With skull and crossbones signs at times warning you to go no further, the park’s unforgiving nature and desolation does however make for some spectacular scenery. Husks of rusting shipwrecks line the coast and make for an eerie yet strangely picturesque scene. Broken on the coastal sands and partially submerged by the encroaching sand dunes, these ships are the main attraction of the park. The unforgiving climate of the cold and dangerous Atlantic coupled with coastal fogs and devilish currents all made the Namibian coast a treacherous stretch of water to navigate. Although visitors are attracted to the park due to its name and the unforgettable rusting shipwrecks, Skeleton Coast actually has a lot more to offer. The mountain ranges and gaping canyons make for breathtaking trekking and with elephants, rhino and lions in the park; you’re sure to never be bored when visiting this unique national park.
This expansive park is as nature was intended to be; wild, untouched and beautiful. Remarkably shut off from the world for over a century, Tsau //Khaeb is now reaping the benefits as its rich biodiversity and plentiful ecosystems attract, amaze and astound visitors. With a plethora of plant species, Tsau //Khaeb impressively accounts for 25% of the entire amount of Namibia’s flora. Its stunning landscapes consisting of sandy plains, gigantic rocky arches and mountain ranges make this a lovely park to explore. Discoveries are never far away and in this bountiful environment Oryx, Springbok and seals abound. What’s more is that just off the coast, whales and dolphins swim amongst the seventeen islands that the park also encompasses.
Originally created by the Germans to form a buffer against encroaching British interests, Namib-Naukluft National Park has expanded over the years to become the nation’s largest conservation area. Protected within its boundaries are some stunning sights that you just have to see if you’re visiting Namibia. With ancient archaeological sites dating back over 200,000 years, a wealth of abundant wildlife and mesmerizing otherworldly landscapes; this national park certainly has something that will appeal to everyone. Possibly the most famous sight in the whole of Namibia are the towering sand dunes at Sossusvlei. Under the perfectly blue sky, beautiful red sand dunes form a stunning backdrop to the withered and burnt black trees that emerge from the white sands down below. The mosaic of contrasting colors is indefinably remarkable and a must-see in the country.
The marvelous canyons at Sesriem are also fantastic to explore as are the mountain ranges within the parks. Like at Skeleton Coast National Park, a number of shipwrecks are dotted along the coast, testifying to the brutal and unforgiving power of the ocean just off the shore. Somewhat mirroring the ocean in terms of its harsh environment, the arid and dry desert is now home to some abandoned towns that make for interesting exploring, their former inhabitants having long moved away.
1. Etosha National Park Where to Stay
The most popular tourist attraction in the country, Etosha is widely considered to be Namibia’s best national park. With an impressive array of wildlife in the park, lucky visitors can catch a glimpse of the rare and endangered black rhino as well as the more common white rhino. At night, animals flock to the Okaukuejo waterhole and this makes for mesmerizing and unforgettable viewing; elephants and lions emerge into the illuminated area around the pool to drink in their fill of the freshwater. Meaning ‘Great White Place’ in the local language, Etosha was formerly part of a huge lake that has long since dried up. Now, the Etosha Pan is a dusty white color due to its saline nature. With herds of elephants and impalas kicking up the swirling dust and lions stalking through the savannah; Etosha will forever be etched in your mind.
Map of National Parks in Namibia