Namibia

Volunteering in Namibia

Climb the highest sand dunes in the world or descend to the bottom of the deepest canyon in Africa. Explore the world’s oldest, driest desert and take time to appreciate the silence around you. Join one of our volunteer programmes in Namibia and experience this amazing country for yourself. 

Namibia is a place of contrasts - from vibrant, colourful cities to the immense desert scenery, mountains and ocean. It is characterised by vast open spaces, breathtaking scenery and has a rich cultural history and some of Africa’s most stunning and unique landscapes. With its looming red sand dunes, the turbulent Orange River, a variety of adventure activities, traditional towns, deep canyons and spectacular bronze sunsets, Namibia is a travellers dream.

Namibia is perfect for travellers looking for unspoilt wilderness areas, 300 days a year of perfect sunshine and a huge variety of wildlife. Its name is taken from the 80 million year old Namib Desert which makes up more than 10% of the country - Namib means “vast” in the local Nama language. With a stable infrastructure, travel around the country is easy and getting off the beaten track into deserted wildlife areas can be done with confidence.

Namibia is a popular destination for eco-tourists and was the first African country to incorporate protection of the environment into its constitution. The government has given communities the rights to manage their wildlife through communal conservancies and this support has ensured these projects have been extremely successful. Over 43% of Namibia’s land is under conservation management and this sense of ownership over wildlife has encouraged people to use their resources sustainably. Wildlife is embraced as a complimentary land use method alongside agriculture and livestock herding - a true conservation success story.

Despite its harsh climate, Namibia has some of the world’s grandest national parks and wildlife areas and in addition to boasting the largest free-roaming population of black rhinos and cheetahs in the world, it is the only country with an expanding population of free-roaming lions. Namibia's elephant population more than doubled between 1995 and 2008 from 7,500 to over 16,000 individuals and the country is also home to one of only two populations of the desert-adapted elephant.

This remarkable turnaround has led some to call Namibia's conservation efforts, the greatest African wildlife recovery story ever told.

 

Quick Facts

Population: 2.3 million - the second least densely populated countries in the world (after Mongolia!)
Capital: Windhoek
Currency: Namibian dollar (South African Rand are also accepted)
Language: While English is the official language, the majority of people speak native dialects with a second language of Afrikaans
Time difference: GMT +2 (Northern hemisphere wintertime), GMT +1 (Northern hemisphere summertime)
Telephone: country code + 264, international access code 00
Main airports: Hosea Kutako International Airport (WDH) (also called Windhoek International Airport), Walvis Bay (WVB).

Weather and Climate
Being partially covered by the Namib, one of the world's driest deserts, means that Namibia's climate is generally very dry and pleasant. The cold Benguela current keeps the coast cool, damp and free of rain for most of the year. Inland, all the rain falls in summer (November to April).

January and February are the hottest months, when daytime temperatures in the interior regularly exceed 40ºc, but nights are usually cool. Winter nights can be fairly cold, but days are generally warm and very pleasant. With 300 days of sunshine a year, Namibia is great whenever you go!

Another happy fact about Namibia is that it is largely malaria-free!

History

The history of this Namibia can be found carved into ancient rock paintings, some dating back to 26,000 B.C. A long lineage of various groups including San Bushmen, Bantu herdsmen and finally the Himba, Herero and Nama tribes have called this rugged land home for thousands of years.

Thanks in part to a barren and inhospitable coastline, it wasn’t until the middle of the 19th century that explorers, ivory hunters, prospectors and missionaries began to journey into its interior. Beyond these visitors, Namibia was largely spared the attentions of European powers until the end of the 19th century when it was colonised by Germany.

The colonisation period was marred by conflicts and rebellions by the pre-colonial Namibia population until WWI when it abruptly ended upon Germany's surrender to the South African expeditionary army. In effect, this transition only traded one colonial experience for another.

In 1966 the South West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO) launched the war for liberation for the area soon-named Namibia. The struggle for independence intensified and continued until South Africa agreed in 1988 to end its Apartheid administration. After democratic elections were held in 1989, Namibia became an independent state on 21st March 1990.

Travel Hotspots

Sossusvlei Dunes are home to the highest sand dunes in the world and Namibia’s most outstanding scenic attraction. Part of the Namib Desert, these dunes have developed over millions of years, the wind continuously shifting the sand further and further inland, reshaping patterns in distinctive warm tints. Climbing to the top of one of these dunes provides breathtaking views of the whole area, including Deadvlei, a large ghostly expanse of dried white clay punctuated by skeletons of ancient camelthorn trees, carbon dated between 500-600 years old.

The best time to view Sossusvlei is close to sunrise and sunset when the dunes refract spectacular colours ranging from burnt orange, to red and deep mauve.The best time to view Sossusvlei is close to sunrise and sunset when the dunes refract spectacular colors, ranging from burnt orange, red and deep mauve. These gigantic star-shaped mountains of sand are a prized destination for artists and photographers. The warm tints of the sand contrast vividly with the dazzling white surfaces of the large deflationary clay pans at their bases.

Etosha National Park is Namibia’s first conservation area, designated in 1907. Undoubtedly one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth and one of Africa’s best game reserves, Etosha is home to huge herds of elephant, black-maned lions, cheetah and the world’s largest population of the rare black rhino. Etosha owes its unique landscape to the Etosha Pan, a vast shallow depression of approximately 1,930 square miles which forms the heart of the park. Once part of a large inland lake fed by rivers from the north and east, it dried up 120 million years ago as continental drift changed the slope of the land and the course of the tributaries. This white, chalky expanse colours the park, and with the waterholes, creates the characteristic atmosphere of the Etosha of today.

For the greater part of the year (the dry season) Etosha’s animals and birds are dependent on about 30 springs and waterholes. These provide incredible game viewing and photographic opportunities.

To the west of Khorixas in North-West Namibia is Twyfelfontein, a massive open-air art gallery carved into red rock by ancient Bushmen overlooking an expansive valley below. The engravings, some estimated to be 6,000 years old, record the wildlife seen in area - giraffe, rhino, elephants, ostrich and even a lion. It is believed that the creators incised their engravings as a means of entering the supernatural world and recording their shamanic experience among the spirits. Whatever the meaning, the site was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2008.

As the mid-day heat makes it difficult to photograph the etchings, the best time to visit Twyfelfontein is in the morning or late afternoon / early evening with the promise of an excellent sunset.

The Fish River Canyon is Africa’s deepest gorge and second largest in the world - with a 500m vertical drop. The canyon is a spectacular natural phenomenon; a harsh dusty plain dotted with distinctive Quiver trees.

Swakopmund is Namibia’s playground - a holiday haven away from the dusty heat of the interior. While there is plenty to do within the city, the real action takes place in the desert surrounding the town. Quad-biking, sand-boarding, sand-skiing, parasailing and other adrenaline actives are available from any of the adventure operators in the area. Visit Walvis Bay and join a dolphin cruise or explore the lagoon on a kayak.

Getting to Namibia

Namibia is served by a wide range of airlines, most operating via OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg. From Europe, Air Namibia flies directly into Windhoek via Frankfurt but most travellers will fly to Johannesburg and transfer from there. Volunteers can also fly from Cape Town and Johannesburg to the Walvis Bay Airport which serves the holiday city of Swakopmund.

With such a small population, public transport within the country is not regular, but car hire is very affordable and the road network is excellent.

 

 

Volunteer in Namibia

 

 


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