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Etosha National Park is Namibia's top game-viewing destination and rated as one of the best safari destinations in Africa. Covering some 22 270 square kilometres of dramatic landscapes in northern Namibia, Etosha is home to a rich diversity of wildlife and birds, despite its stark appearance. The open terrain and sparse vegetation are ideal for spotting animals, especially when they congregate at watering holes during the winter months from June to August. The unique Etosha Pan stretches out over about a quarter of the park in an endless dry expanse where mirages rise in the heat, except when the rains come and transform the barren desert into shimmering, shallow lakes.
The Fish River Canyon, in the Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, is where Namibia's longest river makes its way through the biggest canyon in the southern hemisphere. One of Namibia's best-kept secrets, this immense natural wonder can still be admired in more or less crowd-free peace. So vast is the Fish River Canyon that one of Africa's most challenging and beautiful hiking trails takes an arduous five days to walk along a gruelling 86km (54mi) section of this 160km (99mi) long fissure.
With four perennial rivers, this is arguably one of Namibia's most verdant areas and is renowned for its top game-viewing opportunities. You'll have every chance to see elephant, lion, buffalo, cheetah, giraffe and many varieties of antelope. It's also a popular fishing destination and a bird lover's paradise with over 600 species, including some rare endemic birds.
The Kunene Region in north-western Namibia is wild, remote and sparsely populated. A transitional area with a distinctive desert region, Kunene has a surprising wealth of desert-adapted wildlife, including the largest population of free-ranging black rhino, elephant, lion, cheetah, leopard, hyena, Hartmann's zebra, springbok and gemsbok (oryx). It's also home to the Damara, Himba and Herero tribes who live in this stark and fascinating 28-million-acre arid expanse.
Sossusvlei epitomises the exquisite desert experience of Namibia, with its endless sea of dunes. The blazing ochre Sossusvlei dunes rise up to over 320m tall, making them some of the world's highest sand forms. These forever-shifting dunes are constantly reshaped by the wind into the sandy valleys, slopes and peaks that form the ancient Namib desert. The reds, oranges, yellows and caramel browns of the soft dunes, and the bleached whites and washed-out pastel shades of the pans, are continuously transformed as the seasons turn and the light plays on the desert landscapes, making them glow at dusk and dawn.
Swakopmund may not be its official capital, but it's undoubtedly Namibia's adventure and extreme sports capital. A popular holiday destination, it is a coastal city more geared towards tourists than Windhoek. Its appeal includes a pleasant summer climate, the seaside setting, its distinctly German flavour and the myriad adventure activities on offer. Swakopmund is a convenient gateway and ideal stopover for trips heading south into the Namib Desert and the Fish River Canyon; or northwards along the Skeleton Coast into Damaraland and on to Etosha National Park.
The incredible wealth of fauna at the Skeleton Coast will surprise you. Its river courses sustain large species such as Namibia's renowned 'desert elephant', giraffe, black rhino, lion and many smaller species, while the plains have springbok, ostrich and gemsbok in large numbers. It's a fascinating area where interdependent dune-dwelling insects, reptiles and small mammals survive against all odds by getting sustenance from frequent sea fog and wind-blown detritus.
The city of Windhoek, Namibia's capital, lies in a wide valley surrounded by the Khomas Highland, Auas mountains and Eros mountains at the epicentre of this desert country. The only fully-fledged city, Windhoek is the heart of modern civilisation in Namibia – the cultural, economic, political, social and travel hub where it all happens. This small yet cosmopolitan city is a clean and friendly destination, with enough of a buzz to make it exciting, without being too chaotic. The city centre around Independence Avenue is compact and can easily be explored on foot, making for enjoyable and laid-back sightseeing.