To be honest, we hadn't given much thought to Namibia prior to booking our safari trip. Lindsay wanted to see the famous sand dunes, but that was all we knew about the country. We thought the rest was desolate Kalahari desert. You can imagine our shock when we found out we would be spending ten of our 25 days in Namibia!
It turns out we fell in love with the country and it quickly became one of our favorite places on our entire trip.
First, the country is extremely stable and the economic exchange rate is certainly in our favor. Also, the country is tied to the South African Rand on a one-to-one conversion, so we could pay in whichever currency we pleased.
Second, the scenery is breathtaking. The landscape changed vastly as we drove further south, covering lush river banks, dry deserts, rocky sea coasts and vast wild life preserves.
The border crossing from Botswana into Namibia was one of the easier crossings.
Namibia is a huge country in square kilometers, but has a tiny population of less than two million people. Nearly half live in the modern city of Windhoek. Windhoek was a nice surprise after the many small towns we had spent time in. The city is clean, modern, and lively, including cafes, bustling streets and tons of shops.
There isn't much to see in Windhoek, but if you need to stock up on anything before you head south, there is a shop there to take care of the need.
We also had dinner at the "famous" Joe's Beer House, an eclectically-designed restaurant known for its varying game meats. Here we tried zebra, crocodile, kudu, springbok and oryx fillet, which was our favorite.
Etosha National Park
Etosha is one of the more famous of places to stop for a game drive in Namibia. It has a great lodge for both rustic camping as well as luxury villas. It's like a mini town in the middle of the game park. This large national park is located a few hours north of Windhoek.
One of Etosha's claims to fame is its watering hole, which is even live-streamed on a web cam. While not as up close and personal as Elephant Sands in Botswana, this is primarily due to the watering hole drawing wild cats on top of the huge variety of other animals. The fence surrounding the water is a rock wall with barbed wire. Elephants, springbok, oryx, giraffes, warthogs, and jackals all passed through the watering hole during our evenings there. Hoards of jackals roam around the campsites at night scavenging for leftover food. It is startling to walk into a pack of them on your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night, but they are terrified of people and quickly scatter.
Etosha doesn't have all of the Big 5; it's missing the water buffalo. We were able to see several male lions, though, lazing around near the road. We also saw the rare white rhino in Etosha.
Cheetahs are endangered across most of Africa due to their predatory inclination to kill local farmer's animals. This has led to mass shootings of cheetahs and the government's need for intervention. The Namibian government now promises reimbursement for the slain animal if the farmer captures the cheetah and turns it over to a cheetah reserve.
We spent a day at one of these reserves and the experience was incredible. Three cheetahs rescued from abandonment at around three weeks old have become the house cats of the park managers. We got to wander around the front yard with these animals, scratching their heads while they lazed in the sun and wrestled with the owner's Jack Russell terriers.
The remainder of the park is fenced in, but provides acres of space for the rescued cheetahs who are not as acclimated to humans. Standing up in a trailer, we were able to watch the feeding of the cats along with seeing several cubs.