Big Sky Dreamland

I love Namibia. I first visited in 1994, four years after independence, and the backround colour scheme to this site is from a photo taken at the top of a dune at Sossussvlei that year. The country's travel industry has developed enormously in the years since, and it has adopted a community conservancy model in many areas, which, added to National Parks and private nature reserves, means that over a third of this sparsely-populated country is officially protected. The government, local communities, tourism operators and NGOS work hard to preserve key species, from desert-adapted elephants and lions to giraffes. In many other areas, there has also been progress in farming practices and carnivore tolerance, with the country leading the way in cheetah monitoring and conservation, thanks to organisations such as the Cheetah Conservation Fund, based in Okonjima.

 

Most visitors, from most corners of the globe, will find the country thrillingly wild. There are pressures on carnivores from human populations, especially in the north of the country, and unsustainable hunting of species such as springbok in other areas, but relative to the decimation of so many other parts of the world, it is doing well, almost miraculously so.

And  there is far more to Namibia than its wildlife, extraordinary though it is. You can paddle for days along the Orange River, with occasional rapids to keep you sharp and improbable vineyards on the riverbends to break up the journey. You can hike up, down and along the enormous Fish River Canyon, surf dunes (and indeed incredibly long waves) near Walvis Bay, and walk trails along the edge of the Namib, the oldest desert in the world. In the remote northwest, you can travel for days across the desert and feel like the only people on Earth. And you can look up at the sky, at night, and trace a thousand silent symphonies in its stars.

There is also history, both modern and ancient, from the rock art of Twyfelfontein, a Unesco World Heritage site, to the steep Bavarian roofs of Swakopmund and Luderitz, at a pitch originally designed to keep off snow that will never come to this desert. The German colonial presence persists beyond the architecture too, in the language of many of its farmers, and in the food. From spaetzle noodles to the astonishing chilled cake counters of coffee houses in small towns, Namibia retains a bit of Baden-Wurttemberg in its make-up, and the beer isn't bad either.

 

History is being kept alive in other ways too. There is desperate poverty in the Bushmanland communities in the east of the country, around Tsumkwe, but these are also communities with living traditions to be experienced and supported, for those willing to travel a little further. Nhoma Camp is a good place to start. In combination with a fly-camping trip to the remote Khaudum National Park, spending time among this last vestige of the region's ancient culture can be an extraordinary experience.

This site aims to encourage visits to areas, camps and businesses which support and develop local communities while also maintaining the highest environmental standards. And there are so many, but it would be remiss of us not to mention the national parks, which also do all of this.

Given higher seasonal rainfall (or even some!) in the summer, the larger concentrations of game are in the north and northeast, with savanna woodland of mopane and acacia. Etosha is the star attraction, a vast salt pan with clear lines of sight around its edges, for predators, prey and tourists alike. The northeast is a continuation of the savanna woodland, with Bwbwatwa and Mudumu national parks along the Caprivi Strip, which runs over the top of Botswana as far as Zimbabwe, also huge and increasingly interesting wildlife destinations. But everywhere is huge in Namibia, and high concentrations of game, spectacular as they are, are not even the best thing about the country.

 

In terms of community conservation, the northwest of the country, from Damaraland upwards, has seen an increase sustainable development of wild areas, with benefits shared across communities. We have chosen some of the best initiatives in these areas. The central part of the country is a playground