11 Fun Facts You Probably Don’t Know About Namibia

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

One of my favourite 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:

Namibia is home to the world's largest population of cheetahs.
Cheetah. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

1) Namibia is home to the world’s largest population of free-roaming cheetahs (~2500-3000).  I was lucky enough to see a few of them at the Cheetah Conservation Fund. I especially loved 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!

2)The country gets its name from the Namib Desert – one of the world’s oldest deserts.  No one knows exactly how old it is but scientists have identified that sand has existed in the desert for over a million years!

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 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. 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!

 

sand boarding in Namibia
Sand-boarding. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

5) Namibia was a German colony, then captured by South Africa in World War I.  It became independent in 1990 – just over 20 years ago.

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

They 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.

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 an 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 water.

Heck, they’re even known to slide down the dunes to reach 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!

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

Namibia Dune 45
Dune 45. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

10) Sossusvlei Sand Dunes are some of the highest in the world. They’re one of Namibia’s most impressive sights. Big Daddy is the largest dune in Sossusvlei measuring ~325m and also visit 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!

11) Namibia is home to the world’s largest population of free-roaming black rhinos.  I loved tracking this critically endangered animal and (gulp) did so on foot! I

 

I only realized afterwards 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?

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About Author

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Laurel
Laurel Robbins is the founder of Monkeys and Mountains, an adventure travel blog and company that helps people plan their hiking, cycling and wildlife vacations in a sustainable way. Although Canadian, she lives in Munich, Germany. You can find her hiking in the mountains on most weekends.

Comments

August 19, 2013
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!
August 19, 2013
@Marcia - Can't wait! I'm very excited about the desert elephants - fingers crossed that they decide to do some sand boarding while I'm there :)
August 22, 2013
Hahaha, make sure your camera's ready, Laurel!
August 23, 2013
@Marcia - For sure, now I just need to get faster at changing lenses.
August 19, 2013
Sounds like an exciting trip, Laurel - can't wait to see your photos! I had never heard of desert elephants before today!
August 19, 2013
@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.
August 19, 2013
Very cool! I didn't know anything about Namibia either, but now I can't wait to see what you get up to there!
August 19, 2013
@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!
August 19, 2013
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!!
August 20, 2013
@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 :)
August 20, 2013
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!
August 20, 2013
@Tamara - Great to hear! I'm heading to Etosha and am really looking forward to it.
August 20, 2013
Sand boarding looks totally fun! Super interesting about the desert elephants & other information.
August 20, 2013
@Cathy - Agreed and would love to see a desert elephant - there adaptations are really interesting.
TheTuscan
August 20, 2013
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.
August 20, 2013
@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.
August 20, 2013
Very cool, Laurel :) 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...
August 20, 2013
@Sophie - You've been everywhere :). Too funny about your neighbour, of all the places....
August 20, 2013
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
August 21, 2013
@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 :)
August 21, 2013
After wolves, cheetahs are absolutely my favorite creature in the entire world! Have a fantastic time on your trip, Laurel! :)
August 21, 2013
@Mike Thank you! I'm a big fan of wolves too, love to hear them howling - such an incredible sound.
August 22, 2013
We'll be reading your Namibia posts with interest Laurel...we're headed there for two months in November!
August 23, 2013
@TravelwithKevinandRuth - Excellent. Hope I can provide some good tips for you.
August 25, 2013
Wow, I can't wait to read more. I've always wanted to see the Namibian desert.
August 25, 2013
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.
October 4, 2013
Great post! I never knew Namibia had so much to offer. I've been sandboarding in Peru and Brazil, so I would love to try it in Namibia! :D
ebert bons
April 27, 2015
namibia is great just dont go to moonmountain lodge . terrible place
Thomas
April 7, 2016
My daughter who's name is NAMIBIA, is going to Namibia this summer. Thomas
April 7, 2016
@Thomas - SO cool! Thanks for sharing.
Hadyn
December 6, 2016
Just wondering why mixed feelings when you visited the himba tribe? I know very little about them but I'm curious.
December 6, 2016
@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.
Nicolas le Roux
January 8, 2017
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
January 9, 2017
@Nicolas Thanks for the recommendation, I appreciate it. Would love to go back to Namibia, it's an incredible place.
David Don
June 8, 2017
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.
Lavinia
March 21, 2018
This is gorgeous. I live in Namibia and did not know about the Mali elephants. Thanks for sharing
March 22, 2018
@Lavinia - Glad that you enjoyed it :)
whallay
May 20, 2018
...Namibia here I come in August

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