Spread throughout Namibia on an amazing scale, game parks and nature reserves constitute some 18% percent of the country's available surface area. Some, like the huge Etosha National Park, focus primarily on wildlife, while others like the Namib-Naukluft Park and Fish River Canyon are more landscape oriented, their natural beauty easily upstaging the game. Regardless, these parks represent a network of Namibia's most sought-after tourist destinations and often include a wide-range of adventure, camping, hiking and wilderness activities.
/Ai-/Ais Hot Springs
Africa’s largest natural gorge,some of the world’s oldest rock paintings,one of the richest botanical hot spots on earth and Namibia’s most popular hiking trail –it’s all at; /Ai-/AisHot Springs
/Ai-/Ais means burning water in the local Nama language and refers to the sulphurous hot-water springs found in the park along the Fish River. The park is dominated by the Fish River Canyon–the second largest in the world –that took over 600 million years to evolve. It also contains some hidden treasures such as the little-known Apollo 11 Cave, containing animal image more than 25000 years old.
Bwabwata National Park
The park was first proclaimed as the Caprivi Game Reserve in 1966 and upgraded to the Caprivi Game Park in 1968. It was gazetted as the Bwabwata National Park in 2007 and incorporated the former Mahango Game Reserve. The park has had a chequered history as it was declared a military area by the South African Defence Force during Namibia’s war of liberation. It was not until after Independence in 1990 that the park could be properly run as a conservation area.
Cape Cross Seal Reserve
Cape Cross has both historic and biological significance and is a popular tourist attraction.The Portuguese navigator, Diego Cão, landed here in 1486 on his second expedition south of the equator and planted as tone cross(padrão) to mark his journey. A replica is visible here today. Inclusive of a second replica,the area has been listed as a National Heritage Site. In the late 1800s, thousands of tons of guano (dried excrement of fish-eating birds used as fertiliser) were collected and exported to Europe. South African (Cape) fur seals were also harvested.
About 100 workers lived at Cape Cross and a police station, customs and post office were established at the settlement, while a railway –The first in the country was built to cross the salt pan and transport workers. Many men lost their lives due to the harsh conditions on the Skeleton Coast.
Daan Viljoen Game Park
Just 24km west of Windhoek lies a sanctuary for a relatively large population of game species typical of Namibia’s highlands.Proclaimed before Independence to preserve the ecosystem of the Khomas Hochland,the park was named after a former Administrator, Mr Daan Viljoen, who played a major part in establishing the park.
The convenient location of the Daan Viljoen makes the park an ideal venue for day visits and a perfect stopover for tourists seeking the tranquillity of the bush.
Dorob National Park
This area is known as an angler’s paradise, with kabeljou, galjoen and steenbras the most prized species. But it also contains a few surprises. Extensive lichen fields are
found north of Wlotzkasbaken and Cape Cross, while the Messum Crater in the north contains San rock paintings and archaeological sites from Damara nomads.
It is bordered to the north by the Ugab River and the Skeleton Coast Park. The Omaruru River bisects it, while the Swakop River is situated just south of its boundary. The
towns of Henties Bay and Swakopmund are found within its boundaries, along with the hamlet of Wlotzkasbaken. The Cape Cross Seal Reserve is a separate reserve in the northern section of the area.
Etosha National Park
One of the greatest game parks in Africa–and one of the oldest–is also Namibia’s number-one tourist destination. Home to
114 large and small mammal species,more than 400 recorded bird species, scores of reptiles and even a fish species, Etosha is the country’s flagship park. The size of the park has been reduced considerably since it was first proclaimed in 1907, but its till remains larger than several European countries.
The Ondonga name for the pan was Etosha, meaning ‘the place where no plants grow’, but early European traders, unable to pronounce the name, called it ‘Etosha’. The pan was once part of the massive Lake Kunene fed by the Kunene River,which at sometime in the distant past dried up, leaving the current pan system. Newly excavated fossils belonging to marsh-dwelling antelopes such as sitatunga, lechwe and tsessebe, and a 90- cm long catfish, are testament to much wetter periods.
A Rhenish mission station was established here in 1844 as one of Namibia’s earliest mission stations. The German missionaries named it Neo Barmen after Barmen, the headquarters of the Rhenish Mission Society in Germany. Situated 25 km west of Okahandja and 100 km from Windhoek, Gross-Barmen is a popular day resort for Namibians and a stopover for tourists.
Water from the mineral-rich spring has a temperature of about 65 degrees Celsius, which is cooled to about 40 degrees for the revitalising indoor thermal pool.
Khaudum National Parks
Khaudum National Park was established with conservation in mind, and not for cash generation. This simple guiding characteristic gave birth to the true wilderness feel that embraces one’s soul when visiting the park. It is wild, and we want to keep it like that.” Dries Alberts, Warden Wilderness is indeed the Khaudum’s comparative advantage.
The park, situated in north-eastern Namibia bordering Botswana, has less than 3 000 visitors annually and there are few tracks through the deep Kalahari sand. More elephants than people frequent the park. It is a refuge for African wild dog and roan antelope. Lion, cheetah and leopard are also found here.
Mangetti National Park
Mangetti is part of a new generation of parks aimed at reducing rural poverty through tourism development, joint management and benefit sharing with local communities. One of Namibia’s latest national parks, it has the potential to become a new tourism highlight in the north, while protecting wildlife and vegetation and providing tangible socioeconomic benefits to local communities through careful tourism development.
Situated in the eastern Kalahari woodlands about 100 km south-west of Rundu, the area was previously managed as a game camp for breeding rare and endangered species. The land was originally set aside for conservation by the Ukwangali Traditional Authority.
Mudumu National Park
Mudumu National Park, one of Namibia’s least-known parks, is richly rewarding for adventurous visitors. The main attraction is the riverine habitat of the Kwando River, while inland the Mudumu Mulapo fossilised river course and the dense mopane woodland shelter woodland species. There is no formal entrance gate or park fence – the park is separated from neighbouring communal farmland by a graded cutline.
Mudumu is home to a large elephant population. The park acts as a corridor for these pachyderms as they migrate between Botswana, Zambia, Angola and Zimbabwe.
Namibia’s largest conservation area contains some of the country’s most iconic attractions: towering sand dunes at Sossusvlei, the imposing canyon at Sesriem, forgotten shipwrecks and ghost towns along the icy Atlantic coast, stark inselbergs and mountain ranges, and lichen-encrusted gravel plains.
Evidence of Stone Age life in the Kuiseb River dates back 200 000 years. Other archaeological finds indicate that the area was used by semi-nomadic communities when rain provided enough grazing for animals. The Topnaar people still live along the Kuiseb River inside the park and were guaranteed rights of residence by Queen Victoria more than a century ago.
Naute Recreation Resort
The Naute Recreation Resort surrounds Namibia’s second largest dam, the Naute. The dam was constructed from 1970 to 1972 to capture the Löwen River and its tributaries, which later feed into the Fish River. The resort is situated about 42 km south-west of Keetmanshoop and supplies the town with water. A successful irrigation project was initiated below the dam wall in 1991 and date palms and grapes are currently cultivated here. A small game reserve surrounds the dam.
Nkasa Rupara National Park
Mamili was officially proclaimed on 1 March 1990, just days before Namibia gained Independence. The name of the park refers to the seven chiefs of that name who, since 1864, have ruled over the Mafwe people living in this eastern section of the Caprivi Region. Some refer to the area as Nkasa Lupala Park, in reference to the two dominant islands in the park.
This is the largest wetland area with conservation status in Namibia, and is a haven for wetland species. When the flood waters from the Kwando River are high, Mamili becomes like a mini Okavango Delta. There are close to 1 000 buffalo in Mamili, the largest concentration in the country. It is also an important corridor for elephants moving from Botswana to Angola and Zambia and is considered a core breeding area for wildlife that can disperse into neighbouring conservancies.
Skeleton Coast Park
Death would be preferable to banishment to such a country, declared the early Swedish explorer Charles John Andersson when he encountered tales of the Skeleton Coast. But this area, the Skeleton Coast Park, is now acknowledged as one of Namibia’s greatest treasures, in that it is one of the world’s last great wildernesses.
Initially proclaimed in 1971, in its present form in 1973, it extends from the Ugab River in the south for 500 km to the Kunene River in the north and about 40 km inland. Dense coastal fogs and cold sea breezes caused by the cold Benguela Current add atmosphere to the windswept beaches that are littered with shipwrecks, bones and other debris.
The park also contains rich lichen fields (more than 100 species have been recorded), is a sanctuary for desertdwelling elephants, rhino and lion and the Kunene River mouth is a vital wetland.
Tsau Khaeb National Park
From giant rock arches, meteor craters, fossil and archaeological sites to Africa’s most important shipwreck discovery and some of the most pristine and wild landscapes on the planet, the newly proclaimed Sperrgebiet National Park (SNP) is a jewel in Namibia’s protected area network.Closed to the public following the discovery of a diamond atKolmanskop near Lüderitz by the railway worker, Zacharias Lewala, in 1908, large parts of the Sperrgebiet were left undisturbed for nearly a century. Although this was done to protect the mineral wealth of the area, it also contributed to safeguarding the Succulent Karoo ecosystem, which has the highest diversity of succulent flora globally.
Waterberg Plateau Park
Towering sandstone cliffs, dinosaur footprints, mysterious rock engravings and some of Namibia’s most rare and valuable game species are synonymous with the Waterberg Plateau Park.
In 1904, Waterberg was the scene of a battle between Herero warriors and German colonial forces. The Herero fighters suffered a bitter defeat against their oppressors and thousands of lives were lost in the ensuing retreat across the Omaheke Region into Botswana. Proclaimed as a sanctuary for rare and endangered game species, Waterberg has played a vital role in breeding species for the restocking of other parks and conservation areas.
The area is also home to the last remaining population of Cape Vultures in Namibia.