Republic of Namibia

Flag of Namibia
bulletCapital city: Windhoek
bulletArea: 824268 square km
bulletNational day: 21 March (Independence Day)
bulletIndependence: 21 March 1990 Former German colony administered by South Africa from 1915 -1989. Joint South African and United Nations administration 1989 - 1990.
bulletPopulation: 1.7 million as of 2000
bulletLeader: Sam Nujoma born 1929. President since 1990, re-elected in December 1994.
bulletLanguage: English (official), Afrikaans, German, Khoekhoe (Nama), Herero and Ovango, Kavango and Caprivian languages.
bulletCurrency: Namibian dollars (N$)
Namibia, situated along the southwestern side of Africa is the youngest of the African nations. The name was coined from the 130-million year old Namib desert that uniquely harbors elephant, rhinoceros, lion and giraffe. The Namib is also known as the oldest desert in the world.

To the San tribe in their ancient language Namibia, means "plain". With 300 sunny days per year they can claim to be the "hottest" sunniest nation on earth. It is also one of the most arid countries, yet it has a unique and captivating beauty.

Namibia has four primary geographic regions.
Starting in the North - Etosha Pan translated it means "place of dry water". An enormous alluvial basin that has long since lost the salt water lake that it once held. The area is an extensive flat depression of about 1,930 square miles (5,000 sq km). Although water supplies are now limited the area remains sufficiently fertile to support great herds of antelope species and zebra, lions, cheetahs, leopards, black rhino and elephants.

Approximately 340 bird species have been identified in the park including many other species of wildlife. Etosha National Park and Game Reserve is considered one of the finest game parks in Africa, both in size and variety of species. 

The park was proclaimed a game reserve by German Governor von Lindquist in 1907. It is mainly mixed scrub, mopane savanna and dry woodland which surrounds the huge Etosha Pan. The salt pan is a silvery white shallow depression, dry except during the rainy season. Near the Etosha area, lies the Hoba Meteorite, the largest known in the world. Discovered in the early 1920's, it has an approximate mass of 60 tons (54,000 kg) and it is estimated that it fell to earth some 80,000 years ago. Nearby and surrounding the mining town of Tsumeb, more than 184 different minerals have been extracted ten of these occurring nowhere else in the world.

Along the Namibian coast stretching for 800 miles (1,300 km) lies the Namib Desert, a spectacularly barren, brilliant red sand landscape that is divided into the Skeleton Coast (in the north) and the Diamond Coast (in the south). The name Skeleton Coast is no mere metaphor. This coast is a graveyard for ill-fated seafarers and inattentive whales. 

The primary wildlife attraction of the Skeleton Coast is Cape Frio, which harbors a seal colony numbering in the tens of thousands. There are a number of features of this coastal desert which stretches about 186 miles (300 km)  making it a unique region on earth. It is also the richest source of diamonds on the planet, and Namibia is as a result the world's largest diamond producer. 

The cold Benguela current keeps the coast of the Namib Desert cool, damp and rain free for most of the year with thick coastal fog/s. This highly mysterious coast is now the site of the Namib Naukluft National Park, fourth largest nature conservation area in the world. Sossusvlei - the world's highest sand dunes, apricot-orange in color, can be closely approached by vehicle. The view from the dunes into other valleys and of the mountains beyond is awe inspiring. Colorful beetles, antelope and other desert creatures roam about these arid dunes. The Welwitschia flats lie to the east of the old German town of Swakopmund; it is the best area to see the prehistoric plant Welwitschia mirabilis. Actually classified as trees, many Welwitschia are thousands of years old and are perfect examples of adaptation to an extremely hostile environment.

In the northeast, the Namibian territory extends between Angola and Botswana along the slender corridor of the Caprivi Strip. Unlike most of the rest of Namibia, this Strip is a wooded and fertile region as it is crossed by a number of rivers. Two of these, the Zambezi and the Okavango, rank among the great rivers of Africa. Some of the region is characterized by swamps and flood plains. The strip, which is bordered by Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe to the north and Botswana to the south, is referred to as the "panhandle" of Namibia. It is the site of several game parks, which while not offering such an abundance of wildlife, certainly provide spectacular scenery and relative solitude. 

Namibia's center is occupied by a high escarpment plain. Windhoek, the capital and the only city of any size in Namibia. The city lies 5,400 feet (1,650 m) above sea level (just slightly less than a "Mile High" Denver). The climate here is typical of semi-desert country, with hot days and cool nights. In the northern part of the central plain is the Waterberg Plateau, a 154-square mile (400 sq km) shelf that rises 492 feet (150 m) straight from the surrounding plain. The plateau is well watered and lush, and is home to several rare and endangered species. 

At Namibia's southern tip, is yet another geological wonder--the immense Fish River Canyon. Second only to the Grand Canyon in size, Fish River Canyon offers magnificent vistas and great hiking. Due to the strenuous nature of the hiking trail, a medical certificate of fitness issued by the Ministry of Wildlife, Conservation and Tourism is required. The semi-arid southern region consists of sun-baked savanna with yellowish-brown tints and characteristic Euphorbia and Aloe species. Many visitors say that this area has a stark beauty that creates its own mystery.

Namibian rainfall can be expected in the form of heavy thunderstorms exclusively in the summer months, which in the southern hemisphere, occur from November to February. During these copious rains, the dry riverbeds, in Namibia called "riviere", for a short while, become rapid rivers; within a few days, the burnt-out land turns green with vegetation.

Some experts say that the best time to travel in Namibia are the months from April to June. During this period, the temperature during the day averages about 77? F (+/- 25 C); the sky is always blue then and the nights are cool enough for a good sleep. While some claim that the dry winter months (July to September) are a good time to travel the desert country. During these months, the daytime temperatures rarely sink below 68? F (+/- 20 C). However, during the winter, on the interior plateau and in the Namib Desert, night frosts can occur. Experts do agree, however, that the Namib Desert should be avoided in mid-summer (November to March) when it often gets warmer than 104? F (+/- 35 C). The same applies to the tropically humid northeast of the country.

Namibia is the first country in the world to include protection of the environment and sustainable utilization of wildlife in its constitution. About 16% of the country's territory has been set aside as national parks.

In terms of inhabitants, Namibia is one of the least densely populated countries in the world. Merely 1.7 million people live in an area of approximately 318,000 square miles (824,000 sq km)--equivalent to 5.3 inhabitants per square mile (2 per sq km). Compare this with 70 inhabitants per square mile (182 per sq km) in the USA. Though populated by few people, those few constitute an unusually diverse set of peoples and cultures. The country's predominant (85%) black population is composed of several different ethnic groups, including the San, the Khoi-Khoi, the Herero and the Ovambo. The small European population is composed of Germans and Afrikaners; there is also a significant Asian minority. The great majority of Namibia's population lives in the north, where the climate is less arid and generally more hospitable. The succulents live to the south.

Botanists have identified more than 3,000 different species of plants--about 1/10th of them are water-storing varieties or succulents. Euphorbia and Aloe abound, but there are many others including various Aloe and Hoodia the worlds most sought after appetites suppressant namely Hoodia Gordonii

Other plants of significance in the region, are two plants, the first one is Welwitschia Mirabilis, one of the rarest plants in the world. The second is Aloe Dichotoma. 

The early explorers who arrived at the Cape, recognized two basic groups of natives:

The herders or Khoi-Khoi, whom they called "Hottentots" (one of the words the Khoi used when they danced was "hautitou", this sounded like "hottentot" to the Europeans) and --The hunter-gatherers or San whom they called Bushman.

It is to these natives that A. dichotoma owes the common names Kokerboom (Koker = Quiver in Afrikaans) and Quiver Tree. Because of the soft pith of the branches and trunks of A. dichotoma, they would hollow them out, creating hollow tubes, which would make excellent quivers to carry their arrows. They did this for thousands of years before the white man settled in southern Africa.

Related articles

bulletSan tribe Hooida Gordonii and Bio-piracy
bulletSan tribe way of life perfected
bulletMap of Africa
bulletBack to Africa country index

 

 

 
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