Getting Oriented in Namibia

Namibia is a big country, four times as large as the United Kingdom and bigger than Texas, but its excellent road network means you can get around very easily. The country is bordered by the icy Atlantic on the west, the Kalahari Desert on the east, the Kunene River to the north, and the Orange River to the south. Although South Africa, Botswana, and Angola are its immediate neighbors, if you're traveling by road, it's easiest to access Namibia from South Africa.

By all means drive yourself, but punctuate this self-drive with a fly-in safari into one of the more remote lodges on the Skeleton Coast or Damaraland. This way you'll get to see Namibia's true vastness and remoteness.

  • Namib-Naukluft Park. At nearly 50,000 square km (19,300 square miles) and bigger than Switzerland, this park, which harbors the oldest desert in the world, is one of the largest national parks in Africa. Expect classic desert scenery (including towering, truly awesome sand dunes), but also windswept gravel plains, rocky outcrops and inselbergs, and some of the earth's strangest living things, from plants and insects to mammals and reptiles.
  • Damaraland. Situated in northwest Namibia, Damaraland is a different desert from Namib. It's barren and inhospitable, but there’s life and plenty of it, including Welwitschia mirabilis, reputed to be the world's longest-living plant; colorful lichen fields; camelthorn and candelabra trees; salt bushes; and the ubiquitous shepherd's tree. And, of course, there are the amazing desert elephants.
  • Etosha National Park. Regarded as one of Africa's great national parks, Etosha is dominated by Etosha Pan: a landscape of white, salty plains. The numerous water holes make this park ideal for game-viewing. If you're looking to do a self-drive, this is the place to come—the roads are good, and there are plenty of affordable accommodations.

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