People, Language, History - A patchwork quilt of people and cultures
Hunter-gatherers, nomadic pastoralists and subsistence farmers clashed centuries ago over valuable water supply and land.
Germany claimed protection of the land in 1884, which led to a rapid infusion of German culture that has flourished since 1915 when the country was ceded to South Africa by a League of Nations mandate. An uprising in 1966 and protracted diplomatic negotiations finally freed the country from South Africa's administration in 1990. Walvis Bay was handed over in 1994.
In many respects Namibia is similar to South Africa. Not least of which is the abundance of goods that are imported and the interchangeable use of the Namibian dollar and the South African Rand. Yet closer inspection reveals a land so different from its erstwhile master and in fact from the rest of the world that it can only be called unique.
The major ethnic groups are the Ovamba, itself consisting of several smaller tribes; Herero, of which the Himba form a part; the Nama; the Damara; and Khoisan, known colloquially as Bushmen and, while very few, are the largest remaining population in Africa.
Afrikaans is the lingua franca. But it is fast becoming outmoded as young Namibians choose the official language of English as their second tongue.
More In Namibia
The 10 Best Places to Visit in Namibia
Namibia has some beautiful, unique and extraordinary scenery. Attractions abound and activities are limitless. But it's the whole journey that is the most extraordinary attraction of them all. Just driving through the country will be an experience quite unlike any you've had before. While parts of Namibia resemble other places - like the Kruger Park and Okavango Delta - no other place on Earth comes close to resembling Namibia.
Etosha National Park
Etosha Park supports 114 species of mammal and over 340 species of bird including numerous endemics and rarities. At the heart of the park is a salt pan that is surrounded by sparse shrubs and grassy plains that become hilly mopane woodlands as you move away from the sunken saline desert.
Damaraland's hilly savannah supports a large number of species including lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena, eland, kudu, giraffe, klipspringer, steenbok, gemsbok and springbok. Birdlife is prolific with over 33 raptors recorded including cuckoo hawks, Egyptian vultures and peregrine falcons - the world's fastest animal.
The Kaokoveld, a vast and empty wilderness occupying the north-western quarter of Namibia, is roughly divided in two by the Hoanib River. The north is known as Kaokoland and the south as Damaraland. Although these administrative divisions fell away after Namibian independence the colloquial demarcations have persisted.
The springs of Windhoek (pronounced VIN-took) attracted pastoralists long before time was measured with alarm clocks, breakfast runs and train schedules. But since 1840 random claims and several skirmishes for dominion over the precious water have culminated in a city with more facets than a flawless diamond.
When the British annexed the natural harbour of Walvis Bay, Germany was left with mile upon mile of barren shoreline in which to find a decent port. They chose an area north of the Swakop River for want of a better location and set to work building a port. It failed.
And that early failure saved what was later to become Swakopmund.
NamibRand Nature Reserve
This reserve originated in 1984 as a passion of the late J.A. Brückner, who had a dream to extend desert frontiers and this began by integrating numerous livestock farms in the area. To date the reserve is comprised of 17 former livestock farms and with no fences between them, the NamibRand became an exclusive reserve through which animals could roam freely across the expanse of this incredible environment and natural habitat.
This German town of about 25,000 inhabitants was born out of necessity in 1487 when Bartholemu Dias sailed his little flotilla into the natural bay created by the rocky peninsula. Centuries later the the bay was no more than an obscure anchorage on the spice route when whales and guano attracted fierce commercial interest in the 19th century.
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