The unique landscapes of Namibia are dramatic and diverse. Located in south-west Africa, it is the place of the world’s tallest sand dunes, coastlines scattered with shipwrecks and desert-adapted wildlife. Whilst the towns and cities reflect the German architecture from its colonial past, in the remote landscapes you will still find the nomadic Himba tribes who survive in some of the world’s harshest environments.
Namibia is a land of contrasts. It is home to some of the largest diamond mines in the world yet over half of the population is in poverty. Those with an interest in the great outdoors and environmental studies will not be disappointed.
With over half of the population in poverty, NGOs are in need of assistance for community and social welfare based projects. There are teaching English opportunities in rural areas.
Environmental Studies and Wildlife Conservation
Namibia’s breath-taking scenery is one of its biggest draws so look for environmental study projects. With many endemic species and animals that have adapted to their harsh environments there are opportunities to participate in scientific research.
Adventure Travel and Backpacking
Namibia is a great destination to travel around and most visitors travel by road to appreciate the incredible scenery. There are mini bus services between the main towns although you may prefer to rent a car. Some of the sites are accessed by gravel roads but in some areas a four-wheel drive is necessary. It is illegal to hitch within the national parks. The Sperrgebeit National Park stretches from the southern part of Namib Naukluft Park to the border of Namibia and South Africa. This area is strictly out of bounds as it is an area of diamond mining. You will see it marked on maps as ‘Restricted Diamond Area’ and trespassers will be prosecuted.
Planning Your Trip
So you’ve made your mind up on a gap year in Namibia, what can you expect when you get there?
Cost of Living in Namibia
Namibia is currently a relatively cheap destination, particularly with the weakening of the South African rand which can be used. You can find a range of hostel and backpacker accommodation throughout the key towns but expect to pay more in Windhoek.
Culture and Etiquette in Namibia
Learning a few words of German and Afrikaans may assist you. Avoid taking photos of government buildings such as the State House. Ask permission before taking photos of army or police officers.
Health and Safety in Namibia
Please visit your medical practitioner at least eight weeks before your planned trip to ensure you have the necessary vaccinations. A yellow fever certificate is required if coming from an endemic country.
Be aware of the changing temperatures. Desert temperatures can be excessively hot during the days and freezing at night.
Tourists and visitors have been victims of crime in the capital, Windhoek so ensure you do not carry large sums of cash or have cameras or phones on show. Thefts from vehicles at service stations have occurred. If you are planning to drive around Namibia many of the roads are dirt or gravel and punctures are common so ensure you have at least two spare tires and plenty of water. Avoid driving at night as livestock and wildlife may be on the roads. Do not enter townships at night.
If you are planning to try some of the many adventure sports available in Namibia such as dune boarding or quad biking, ensure your travel insurance covers you for this.
Contributed by Kay Durden
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