11 Fun Facts You Probably Don’t Know About Namibia

How many of these fun facts do you know about Namibia?

One of my favorite ways to extend my travels is to immerse myself in a place before I visit it. I do this by doing research, or reading books by local authors or books that take place where I’m going. By the time I step off the plane, it no longer feels totally foreign.

That’s exactly what I did before I headed to Namibia!

Namibia has always fascinated me, even though I didn’t know much. After doing some research I’m now even more excited!

Here are 11 Awesome Facts About Namibia:

1) Namibia is home to the world’s largest population of free-roaming cheetahs (~2500-3000).

more cheetahs live in Namibia than anywhere else
Cheetahs saw on my visit to a sanctuary.

I was lucky enough to see a few of them at the Cheetah Conservation Fund. What I enjoyed most was hearing them. Their chirp-like sound as they impatiently waited for lunch was not what I expected from a cat!

I especially loved hearing them. Their chirp-like sound as they impatiently waited for lunch was not what I expected from a cat!

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2)The country gets its name from the Namib Desert – one of the world’s oldest deserts.

Namib Desert
The Namib Desert is one of the oldest deserts in the world.

No one knows exactly how old it is but scientists have identified that sand has existed in the desert for over a million years! See the Namib Desert for yourself on this tour.

3)Namibia is the second least densely populated country in the world.

It has a population of ~2 million in a country that is twice the size of California.  Only Mongolia is less populous. The low population makes it an excellent place to see wildlife.

4)Would you visit a place in Namibia called the Skeleton Coast?

Named the Skeleton Coast for all the shipwrecks
Skeleton Coast

Named so in previous times for all the whale and seal skeletons lining the coast, there would have been a few humans ones there as well.  It’s famous for shipwrecks due to blinding fog.

Over 1000 ships met their end here.  The Bushmen refer to it as The Land God Made in Anger. Even the Portuguese refer to it as The Gates of Hell. But it’s not all bad news though. It’s also home to one of the world’s largest seal populations with almost 100,000 seals!

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5) Namibia was a German colony, then captured by South Africa in World War I.

It became independent in 1990.

6) Despite its low population, Namibia is still home to 13 different ethnic groups.

The Himba are one of 13 ethnic tribes in Namibia
A Himba child dancing.

That includes the Himba. They’re a nomadic and traditional people whose ways have changed little over the years due to their seclusion from outside influences.

The Himba only came into contact with Western influences a mere 15 years ago.  I was really looking forward to my visit to a Himba village. But had mixed feelings after my visit.

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7) Namibia is the first country in the world to incorporate environmental protection into its Constitution.

The result of this has been many community-based tourism initiatives that provide social and monetary benefits to the communities and authentic experience for visitors. It’s sustainable tourism at its best!

8) Namibia is one of only two countries in the world that has desert elephants!

They’re not a separate species, but the IUCN has identified them as a high priority.

They’ve adapted to their semi-desert environment by developing a smaller body mass, longer legs, and larger feet. That enables them to travel for miles across sand dunes to reach the water.

Heck, they’re even known to slide down the dunes to reach the water.  I searched for a video, but couldn’t find one.  Wouldn’t that be something to see!

You can find out more about desert elephants here. Note:  I didn’t see a desert elephant but I saw large herds of African elephants in Etosha National Park! You’ll definitely want to spend a few days in  Etosha and this tour makes it easy to do so. Or at the very least check out this 3-hour game drive.

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9) Did you know that there are two different styles of sandboarding? Namibia has both.

sandboarding in Namibia
Me sandboarding in Dorob National Park. It’s much harder than in looks.

The easiest, but perhaps scariest is lying down and heading down the dune headfirst.  You can reach a speed of up to 80km/hr!

The second is standing up, which is slower, but more difficult to master. I definitely preferred the head first version.  You’ll understand why after reading this post – hint – I was really bad!

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10) Sossusvlei Sand Dunes are some of the highest in the world. They’re one of Namibia’s most impressive sights.

hiking is an adventure on the sossusvlei sand dunes in Namibia
Hiking the Sossusvlei Sand Dunes

Big Daddy is the largest dune in Sossusvlei measuring ~325m and also visiting Dune 45, known as the most photographed dune in the world.

I learned that climbing up sand dunes is breathtaking, but exhausting, perhaps even more so than hiking up mountains! Check out this 3-day tour to fully explore Sossusvlei.

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11) Namibia is home to the world’s largest population of free-roaming black rhinos.

Namibia is one of only a few places on earth where you can see black rhinos.
Stalking a black rhino on foot.

I loved tracking this critically endangered animal and (gulp) did so on foot! 

Only afterward did I notice, when we were back in the jeep and ran into a pride of lions, that our guides were unarmed! It was one of the most incredible African wildlife experiences that I’ve ever had.

How many of these Namibia facts did you know?

11 facts about Namibia including the Namib desert to the photo

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38 thoughts on “11 Fun Facts You Probably Don’t Know About Namibia”

  1. You must be thrilled to be going, Laurel.
    Namibia’s a fascinating country. Would be fun to see their desert elephants and do some sand-boarding.
    Hope you have a wonderful time!

    • @Lisa – I’m pretty excited. I hadn’t heard of desert elephants until I started doing research for the trip either. Think there will be lots of “firsts” when it comes to Namibia.

    • @Jennifer – I was surprised at how many really cool things I discovered about Namibia, just from doing some research. Can’t wait to see what it’s actually like!

  2. How fascinating my friend!! Namibia is right up your alley but alas, no monkeys??! Would love to see those elephants you mentioned so I expect lots and lots of pics! Also, I expect a picture of you surfing the desert sands! Wishing you the most wonderful time in the world!!

    • @Jeff – Well there are vervet monkeys, baboons and the lesser bush baby – a very small primate that I would LOVE to see. Hope to share pictures of me sand boarding with the desert elephants πŸ™‚

  3. You’ll fall in love with Namibia. It was our favorite country we visited in Southern Africa. The dunes, the coast, the animals (Etosha is not to be missed), sandboarding, learning about an visiting with people in a Himba village: all unforgettable!

  4. I read several books by a guy who traveled the whole world by scooter. While he was in Namibia, he was served sausage and sauerkraut! Apparently German influence is still felt there.
    Nice anticipation post. I wish you a wonderful time in Namibia.

    • @TheTuscan – Sounds like a good book. Interesting about the sausage and sauerkraut. I’m curious to see how much of the German influence is still there. I had lunch with a German friend and she said she spoke English, not German when she was there. Thank you for the wishes. I’ll keep you posted.

  5. Very cool, Laurel πŸ™‚ I’ve only been in Windhoek, must be 20 years ago. A curious bit of Germany in Africa that. Stayed in a Pension, with semmeln for breakfast. Even curiouser, I ran into my neighbour in a cafe. Tiny world…

  6. This trip sounds so exciting! I didn’t know very much about Namibia nor was it on my Africa radar but wow..such cool things to see and do there. We did sandboarding (the standing up one) at Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado last Jan. and it was so much fun. Just a bit of a workout to climb back up. Crossing my fingers for you to see a black rhino and those desert elephants. Looking forward to seeing the pictures

    • @Mary – I’ve heard Namibia is amazing. It’s a very popular destination with Germans so quite a few of my German friends have been. I never thought about the workout of sandboarding getting back up, but makes sense. Our chances of seeing a black rhino are quite good, since they’re all tagged πŸ™‚

  7. I spent time tracking black rhinos in Etosha but unfortunately didn’t see one. We went to a few cheetah sanctuaries – very interesting experience to get up close & personal with a cheetah. I loved the country – and highly recommend reading The Sheltering Desert by Henno Martin now that you’ve been to the country.

    • @Hadyn – While it’s an honour to meet them, tourism is changing their lifestyle from one of a nomadic lifestyle to one that is continuing to reply more on tourism.

  8. Hi laurel…im from Namibia and if you ever decide to come again i would recomend going to kolmanskop ghost town…very interesting…and also to erindi game lodge…got all kinds of beautiful animals there

  9. WOW!!!…That was really fascinating.I do have learned about other countries in Africa but Knowing about makes my curiosity higher.I think namibia secured the top spot in my traveling​ schedule of africa.Thank you for your details about Namibia.I hope you would be thinking of an another visit to it.

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