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 facts about Namibia 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. You might also want to read about these interesting and useful things to know before visiting Namibia and before reading more about those awesome Namibia facts.
13 Interesting facts about Namibia
Namibia, one of the youngest countries in Africa
Namibia is one of the youngest countries in Africa. It only got independence from South African rule on March 21, 1990. It is currently the 3rd youngest country in Africa. Since 2015 the president is Hage Geingob, only the third president since Namibia gained independence.
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 scenery and landscapes.
Namib desert facts
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.
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 times 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, transported through the river systems as well as wind into the ocean and from there back onto the coastal region of Namibia.
Fish River Canyon is the oldest canyon in the world
The Fish River Canyon is the oldest canyon in the world, it is also the worlds second largest. The Canyon is over 500 million years old. The Fish River Canyon was formed over 500 million years ago 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.
Namibia Inspiration: 35 Photos to inspire you to visit Namibia
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.
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 the conservation of cheetahs. Approximately 2500 – 3000 cheetahs are living in Namibia. Cheetahs are amazing animals. With a 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.
Namibia facts – the Namib desert and the Kalahari desert
An interesting fact about Namibia is that the country is home to two large but very distinct deserts, the Namib desert and the Kalahari desert. They each have a different look and geological structure. The Kalahari desert is semi arid sandy desert, covering parts of Namibia, South Africa and Botswana. It does get slightly more rainfall than the Namib desert and therefore attracts a large variety of wildlife and supports different types of vegetation.
The Namibian dollar is the legal currency
Since 1993 the legal currency is the Namibian Dollar. Previously the South African Rand was used when they were still under South African rule. However, the SA Rand is still accepted as legal tender, since 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 money in the country.
Namibian people – 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.
What is the official language of Namibia?
Even when 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.
Kolmanskop ghost town
Kolmanskop, 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 cost in Lüderitz. The diamond rush led to the establishment of the town. When 30 years later, the diamonds in that area became depleted, Kolmanskop changed into a ghost town. Currently Kolmanskop is one of the most beautiful and special places to visit in Namibia, especially for photographers.
Gibeon meteorite shower
The Gibeon meteorite shower is the largest meteorite shower on earth. It took place in prehistoric times, but had 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.
We often get asked the questions: What is Namibia famous for? 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 your learned more about Namibia as a country.
How many of these fun facts about Namibia did you already know?
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