Will you be visiting Namibia and want to learn more about the country before travelling there? Or are you interested in learning some unique and fun facts about Namibia that most people don’t know? We’ve got you covered with this post.
Located in Southern Africa, Namibia is a sparsely populated yet fascinating country to visit. Vast open landscapes interspersed with red coloured dunes where wildlife can still roam free in their natural habitat make Namibia a country to visit again and again, at least it goes without saying for me. Over the years, I have visited Namibia numerous times and every time I discover something new. There are a lot of interesting Namibia facts that are worth mentioning and that are interesting to know before visiting the country.
Pictures sometimes can say more than words which is the case for this amazing country. So, have a look at these photos to inspire you to visit Namibia. You might also want to read about these interesting and useful things to know before visiting Namibia. So let’s see, what is Namibia famous for?
Post updated April 2020
Interesting facts about Namibia
Namibia is one of the youngest countries in Africa
Namibia only got independence from South African rule on March 21, 1990, making it currently the 3rd youngest country in Africa. Since 2015 the president is Hage Geingob, only the third president since Namibia gained independence.
Namibia is the world’s 2nd least densely populated country
With a population of nearly 2,4 million and a land mass of about 825000 km2, Namibia is the second least densely populated sovereign country in the world, after Mongolia. However, when driving around in the Southern part of Namibia it feels like there is no one around at all. Most of the population lives in the central and northern part of the country. The advantage with this lack of human habitation is that you come across incredible, breathtaking, unspoilt scenery and landscapes.
The Namib is the world’s oldest desert
The Namib desert stretches along the Namibian coast all the way up to Angola. It is estimated that the area has been dry for at least 55 million years, making it the oldest desert in the world. The Namib desert is a very inhospitable area, with sand dunes near the coast and gravel plains with mountain outcrops more inland making it one of the least populated areas in the world. It is also the only desert in the world where you can find large mammals like elephants, rhinos, lions and giraffes which means it is also a living desert.
Namibia is home to the Namib desert and the Kalahari desert
An interesting fact about Namibia is that the country is home to two large but very distinctly different deserts; the Namib desert and the Kalahari desert. They each have a different look and geological structure. The Kalahari desert is a semi-arid desert, covering parts of Namibia, South Africa and Botswana. It does get slightly more rainfall than the Namib desert and therefore attracts a larger variety of wildlife and supports different types of vegetation.
The coastal desert is on the Unesco Heritage List
The Namib Sand Sea is the only coastal desert in the world where fog influences the sand dunes. Since 2013 it is on the Unesco Heritage list. Animal as well as plant life in that area depend on the daily fog for survival. They have adapted in this harsh climate to survive on the little water provided through the fog. The fog is formed, mostly in the morning, due to the cold Benguela Atlantic ocean currents conflicting with the hot desert air. Most of the time the fog will disappear around noon. It is also unique because the dunes are formed with material that has been transported from the hinterland of Africa through the river systems as well as wind into the ocean and from there back onto the coastal region of Namibia.
Twyfelfontein has one of Africa’s largest amount of rock engravings
Twyfelfontein (Afrikaans for ‘spring of doubt’) became Namibia’s first Unesco World Heritage site in 2007. With over 2000 engravings, it has the largest single concentration of rock art engravings in Africa.
Fish River Canyon is the oldest canyon in the world
The Fish River Canyon is the oldest canyon in the world, and also the worlds second largest. The Canyon is over 500 million years old and was formed due to the collapse of the valley floor. It was further formed by water and wind erosion. It is located in the southern part of the country, not that far from the South African border and is one of the highlights to visit in Southern Namibia. I have been able to visit the Fish River Canyon multiple times and every time the scenery was breathtaking with a very tranquil atmosphere.
Sossusvlei has some of the highest sand dunes in the world
The sand dunes of Sossusvlei in the Namib desert are some of the highest dunes in the world. Dune 7 is the highest in the area measuring 383 meters. The most climbed one is Dune 45. Most people visiting Sossusvlei will climb Dune 45 to enjoy a spectacular sunrise. It is a challenging climb, especially early morning before sunrise, but really worthwhile. The main characteristic about the dunes in Sossusvlei is their red colour, caused by the presence of tiny iron ore particles that oxidised over time. By pure coincidence, Dune 45 is exactly 45 Kilometres from the main entrance gate. This is good to know if looking for it in the dark before your sunrise climb.
Largest amount of free roaming cheetahs
Namibia has the largest amount of free roaming cheetahs in the world. Over the years, the cheetah population has declined a lot worldwide, due to habitat loss, but also due to conflicts with local farmers. Namibia has put a lot of effort in to the conservation of cheetahs. Approximately 2500 – 3000 cheetahs are living in Namibia. Cheetahs are amazing animals, and with a top speed of around 113 km/hour they are by far the fastest land mammals on the planet. I recently managed to see a cheetah kill in the wild and what an experience. They are really fast. It was amazing to see how fast they close the gap between themselves and their prey.
The Namibian dollar is the legal currency
Since 1993, the legal currency is the Namibian Dollar (NAD). Previously, the South African Rand (ZAR) was used when they were under South African rule. However, the SA Rand is also still accepted as legal tender because the Namibian dollar is pegged to the Rand. The exchange rate is 1:1 and the currencies are just mixed in Namibia. However, the Namibian Dollar is not accepted anywhere in South Africa, so when you continue travelling to South Africa, make sure you spend or change all your Namibian Dollars in the country. Changing can be done for no commission at any shop or place that might have Rands. You can change Namibian Dollars in South Africa at an official Bureau De Change, but you won’t get 1:1.
Namibia is home to 13 different ethnic groups
Even though Namibia has a very small population, the country is home to 13 different ethnic groups. The Ovambo group represents nearly half the population. The most famous ethnic group are the Himba people, a semi nomadic tribe living in the north eastern part of the country. The Himba people still live according to traditional beliefs and culture and especially the woman are known for rubbing their skin with red ochre. The Himba villages are open for tourists to visit and get to know their culture. Another tribe you will see often is the Herero, where the woman wear the beautiful and colourful victorian dresses. To visit a Himba village should be on everyone’s list of things to do in Namibia.
English is the official language of Namibia
Even though a variety of languages are spoken amongst the different tribes and people, English is the only official language. When travelling in Namibia, you will hear it pretty widely spoken, although in many areas people will also speak German and Afrikaans.
Namibia has its own ghost town
Kolmanskop or Kolmanskuppe, located near to the town of Lüderitz, is Namibia’s most famous ghost town. Kolmanskop was established as a mining town when in 1908 diamonds were found along the coast in Lüderitz. The diamond rush led to the establishment of the town. When 30 years later the diamonds in that area were depleted, Kolmanskop became a bona fide ghost town. Currently Kolmanskop is one of the most beautiful and special places to visit in Namibia, especially for photographers at sunrise.
Gibeon meteorite shower
The Gibeon meteorite shower is the largest meteorite shower on earth. It took place in prehistoric times and covered an area of 275 by 100 kilometres in central Namibia. It was an iron meteorite. The early inhabitants of Namibia, the San or the Bushman, used the material of the meteorite to make weapons and tools. Some of the remains of the meteorite are on display in the city centre of Windhoek, the capital of Namibia.
First country to include the environmental protection into the constitution
Namibia is the first country to include the protection of the environment into their constitution. In fact, at 42%, Namibia is the country with the highest amount of area under official conservation management.
Brandberg is Namibia’s highest mountain
The Brandberg mountain is the highest mountain in Namibia. The highest point on the mountain is the Königstein, standing at 2573 metres above sea level. The word Brandberg is Afrikaans for mountain of fire, coming from the beautiful golden glow the mountain emanates when the sun is setting.
The Oryx is the national animal of Namibia and the African Fish Eagle is the national bird
The Oryx or the Gemsbok is native to arid areas and has learned to survive in harsh climate conditions where water is scarce and temperatures are high. While driving through Namibia you will normally see Oryx on the side of the road, or in places like Sossusvlei, apart of course from Etosha National park.
The wild horses of Namibia
It is fascinating to see the wild horses in Namibia and how these animals have managed to adapt and to survive the extreme and harsh conditions of the Namib desert. The origin of these horses is not really certain. When visiting Namibia, you can find these wild horses in the area of Aus on the road to Lüdertiz where they often come for a drink.
Finding Germany in Swakopmund
When visiting Swakopmund you’ll get the feeling you are walking around in a German town. The German influence is still very prevalent, with typical German style houses, coffee shops, pubs, restaurants and you will also hear quite some German spoken too. Prost!
Namibia is home to the elusive desert elephant
Namibia is one of the few places where desert elephants can still roam freely. They can be seen in the Kunene area in the north western part of Namibia. Desert elephants have adapted to live in these arid areas and only need to drink every few days, unlike the African elephant who still needs water everyday.
Namibia has been the setting for numerous movies
The breathtaking and unique landscape of Namibia has been the setting of numerous well-known box office movies, like Mad Max: Fury Road, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Cell, 10000 BC and The Flight of The Phoenix.
We often get asked the questions: What is Namibia famous for? What are some interesting Namibia facts? And what is Namibia known for? I hope that this post has provided a brief overview of some basic but interesting things that Namibia is famous for and that you learned more about Namibia as a country.
How many of these fun facts about Namibia did you already know?
You might also be interested in these related posts on our website:
- Best time to visit Namibia: Are you looking for the best month or season to visit Namibia and tips for each season?
- Stunning campsites in Namibia: Our selection of our favourite campsites and why you should visit them.
- Ultimate African safari packing list: A great packing list to enjoy and relax at your safari in Namibia.
- 25 Interesting facts about Botswana: Visiting Botswana and want to know more information about the country?
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Great article guys really enjoyed the read. Namibia is not somewhere i see alot of articles about. Loved the photo’s. My girls would love the animals and i would love the sand dunes and lanscapes.
Thanks a lot 🙂 Namibia is really a family destinations with lot’s of great things for kids. Most kids love the sand dunes as well, they can climb up and run (or roll) down again 🙂
Thank you Sabine I am reliving wonderfull moments spent in Namibia , I like that pic with the Oryx ,I remember seeing one out there when we where riding in Janis, it was on our way back from the Dune 45 ,great memories!
Hey Pierre, I will be writing more articles about Namibia the coming time, so keep on checking 🙂 Sossusvlei was such a great experience and pretty often I have seen Oryx there. Do you have any plans going back to Southern Africa any time soon?
Such a great article. I did not know any of these facts about Namibia. And each one of them makes Namibia such a precious country. \Your photos added to the mystique.
Thanks a lot! It’s always nice to get some extra facts about a country 😀
Namibia is not the most popular country, so it is not easy to find an informative post about it. Reading the article made me realize how little I knew about the country. Besides separation from South Africa and two deserts, nothing else came to mind. Thank you for an informative article that made me curious about learning even more. For example, having just 3 presidents (where the 3rd one started his term this year) is quite interesting. I wonder how staying in power for a relatively long time affects Namibian politics?
I am glad you learned something new about a beautiful and interesting country. Concerning the presidents, Sam Nujoma, the first president after independence served 3 terms of 5 years. Currently the president can only serve maximum 2 terms of 5 years. So there is a time regulation.
Thanks, Sabine :). Good to know and you kindly saved me researching time.
Great Post! I’m heading to Namibia this year and am grateful for your insights – as Elena has already mentioned, there are not too many informative posts out there on the country!
Thank you! & Happy Travels 🙂
Glad to have been able to inform you. There are some other posts and there will be more coming on the blog, so stay tuned. When will you be going to Namibia, which month?
I’ll be in Namibia at the end of August/beginning of September dependent on all being well with the safari. Can you sandboard on the dunes at Sossusvlei? Also, would you have any suggestions of things to bring to Africa for the local/tribes people? I’ve been trying to research whether or not it is appropriate and if so what would be best to bring – any advice would be appreciated.
Hi Vicki, you will have so much fun in Namibia 🙂 You cannot sandboard in Sossusvlei itself, it is a national park. But you can sandboard on the dunes in Swakopmund. It’s a lot of fun. You can do various activities in the dunes in Swakopmund, like quadbiking. What to bring for the local tribes, well, I would get some food supplies locally and hand that over to the chief of the tribe, as in rice, maizmeal, samp,… I would not give sweets or toys or something and also don’t hand over anything directly to kids. Respect the hierarchy and hand gifts over to the chief. But as said, if you want to give something, give something they use like local food supplies. You can find more info in local supermarkets 🙂
I knew only a pinch of these facts. Thanks for sharing all the others!
One remark though – Western Sahara is not a sovereign country 🙂
We think we have to visit Namibia! Your photos are certainly selling us on the country :-). We’d love to return to Africa – it’s a continent that gets under your skin. On a South African safari, we were blown away by seeing all the Big 5 (especially lions feasting on a poor impala). And in Zambia, the wild elephants were amazing to see. Ah, would love to see more free-roaming cheetahs in Namibia now…
Wow, it’s really special to see the Big 5 in 1 day and seeing lions feasting on an impala is even more special. Anyway, I can read you loved your time there 🙂
When we did our Southern Africa trip, we camped one night only on the Caprivi Strip. All it did, like your photos, is whet my appetite for more. Wow…15 times…impressive. I love your fact about the daily fog. Really interesting stuff.
Your photos are simply stunning! I admit, I didn’t know much about Namibia but your post has sparked my interest. I was curious about Kolmanskop so I read your post on it as well, it was fascinating 🙂
Namibia is a great country to discover. The first time I visited it I also did not know what to expect. In the meantime I’ve revisited the country countless times. So just give it a go one day 🙂
Your photo’s are amazing! I haven’t made it to Namibia yet but looks like a fascinating place to visit.
Not been to Namibia but it’s on the bucket list (as, interestingly enough, is Mongolia). This is all fascinating stuff on a country that can be largely overlooked with other, more widely visited African countries in close proximity to it.
I knew one or two things you’ve mentioned here, but most of it I didn’t, as the closest thing I’ve done to experiencing Namibia is drinking Windhoek beer, hehehe! Some really interesting stuff here – personal favourite tidbit is the fact there are 13 ethnic groups, with one group’s women wearing red ochre on their skin and another wearing Victorian dresses. What a contrast!
Great post and blog! I am hoping to go to Namibia, Botswana and South Africa later this year, so your blog has got me so excited and given me some great information and ideas!????
What an amazing write-up to highlight the sheer beauty of Namibia! Thank you for showcasing my beautiful country in such an amazing way.
Very cool! We can’t wait to visit Africa!
I loved Namibia and very much enjoyed how your post brought back great memories like the random oryx walking around…
Tha is for all this great information!! I had no idea Namibia had only been a country since 1990!! It’s actually super high up on my list and I’m hoping to make it there later this year. How was WiFi there? I’m a digital nomad so I need to work when I travel.
In certain areas the wifi is ok. If you stay in lodges, you probably will have some wifi, if you go camping however (which I highly recommend) you will not have wifi, or very slow. Just see it as a holiday and disconnect for a few days to be out in nature, I guess 😉
Maybe I can chime in here too. Like Sabine says, there is free WiFi around, but don’t expect break-neck speeds. However, there is actually very good cellular data coverage in Namibia if you have to stay connected, for work. Just pick up a pre-paid sim from the MTC network at your first port of entry and load some credit/data bundles. You can then top up at almost every supermarket/gas station in the country. These little portable Huawei WiFi routers are quite nifty.
However, a day or 3 without any connection whatsoever while staring at stars you’ve never seen before, especially in a place like Namibia can/will do wonders for your soul, trust me.
Namibia is still high on my bucket list for a road trip! Interesting info, some of which I never knew. Thanks for that.