Last year Prince Harry and Megan Markle chose to go to Namibia for their honeymoon, and Angelina Jolie famously booked out an entire hotel on the Skeleton Coast to give birth. Fortunately, a trip to Namibia remains accessible and affordable for the average Joe to visit. And beyond spectacular desert scenery and surprisingly abundant wildlife, the Namib desert is also a hotbed for action and adventure. This week we take a look at some of the amazing things you can do in the stretch of the Namib-Naukluft National Park between Swakopmund and the Sossusvlei area.
The Namib desert is the oldest in the world, and the massive dunes around Sossusvlei are some of the most photographed with good reason; they are some of the highest in the world.
Here fearless adventurers (or anyone with a bit of stamina) can take on Big Daddy. At over 325m tall, this is one of the highest dunes in the world that you can climb. To give it a bit of perspective, the dune stands approximately 20 meters (or 7 storeys) taller than the Shard in London.
This half day adventure takes you across the impressive dunes of Sossusvlei, an endlessly moving mass of gold and amber that makes up the biggest dune field south of the Sahara.
The climb to the top of Bid Daddy rewards adventurers with a spectacular view over the peaks and troughs of this sea of sand all the way down to Deadvlei. For those who aren’t quite up to the task of taking on Big Daddy, the nearby Dune 45 at just over 80m tall serves as a slightly less demanding conquest.
You can also choose to walk to Deadvlei, where the bleached and twisted branches of 500-year-old petrified trees reach up from the desert sands.
Okay so admittedly stargazing doesn’t feel like you are putting your life on the line, but the desert skies are so clear here that it would be a wasted opportunity if you didn’t spend some time gazing at the sky. Namibia is a vast and sparsely populated country. With only 2 million people living in an area the size of France and the UK combined, light and environmental pollution are almost non-existent here which makes for excellent stargazing.
With its own observatory, the Sossusvlei Desert Lodge makes for one of the best settings in the world for stargazing. Each evening you will be invited to join resident astronomers as they unlock the mysteries of Namibia’s skies in the lodge’s state of the art observatory, complete with a Meade LX200R 12-inch telescope.
The observatory presents the ideal place to gaze in awe at the wonders of the clear desert sky as astronomers point out the brightest and most beautiful constellations and the vast Milky Way. An ideal way to get lost in the deep and mysterious African skies which have inspired so many tribal tales.
Some people like climbing the dunes of the Namib Desert, others like zooming down them at more than 80km an hour. The brave come here to conquer these continually shifting giants with a traditional Swakopmund sandboard or carve up the dune on a snowboard adapted for use on sand.
If you don't quite have the skills to pull of sandboarding just yet, you could try lie-down-boarding as an alternative. Catch your breath as peer over the pinnacle of the slope before getting a firm push sending you speeding down the curves of the slope.
Training begins at a gentle pace on Little Nellie and Brigit to master the basics, and then it's on to the terrible twins Lizzie and Dizzie where speeds of up to 80km/h can be reached as you hurl down these dunes. Highly recommended for snowboarders, surfers and even the inexperienced with a taste for speed and adventure.
If sandboarding doesn't quite satisfy your need for speed, you could always take to the sea and skies in rapidly alternating order. Part flying attached to a kite, part traditional surfing, kitesurfing is one of the most extreme sports on water.
Sailboard enthusiasts flock to Walvis Bay and Luderitz for good reason. The wind conditions at these two locations are ideal for the lift required to open up a new range of tricks, heart-stopping stunts and world record speeds. Luderitz offers a kitesurf school where both beginners and those at the intermediate level can gain some skills.
Luderitz is also home to the annual Luderitz Speed Challenge, a competition to see who is the fastest over 500 meters. This competition has seen kitesurfers hit speeds of up to 50 knots per hour, or roughly the same velocity a speedboat can achieve in choppy water.
Namibia is well known for the amazing wildlife experiences it offers, especially in the northern parts of the country, yet there is a surprising array of life to be found in the sandy and seemingly lifeless dunes of the Namib desert. Some tours like the Living Desert "Little 5" Tour explore life in the dune belt between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. Such tours focus on the fauna and flora of the dune belt and include a 4x4 scenic dune drive with excellent photographic opportunities. Expect to see some fantastic desert-adapted snakes, chameleons, insects, plants and beautiful la