Namibia Mini Guide
Fewer than 1,200,000 live in Namibia. They include about 75,000 white people and many African tribes including the Damara, who are believed to have lived in the country for 30,000 years and who probably created the magnificent prehistoric rock paintings found recently in the once-fertile Namib Desert. For all the tribes, life has changed as dramatically since white men came as it did when the desert overtook the land. If few people live in Namibia, many have coveted the country. As European powers carved up Africa in the late 19th century, Germany declared the territory a protectorate. South African troops ousted them in 1915, during the First World War, and after the war the League of Nations gave South Africa a mandate to govern the country. The mandate stressed the paramountcy of black rights and the League retained primary responsibility for the country.
When the League was replaced by the United Nations after the Second World War, South Africa refused to recognise the UN trusteeship that succeeded the mandate and began applying its policy of apartheid - separate development of races - in Namibia. Black nationalists, led by the South-West African People's Organisation (SWAPO), demanded independence and began guerrilla warfare. In 1971 the International Court of Justice ruled South Africa's occupation illegal - but to no avail. Elections held under South African supervision in 1978 were declared null and void by the UN. A multiracial government, comprising a cabinet and 62-member National Assembly, was installed in 1985. South Africa still rules Namibia and has 100,000 troops there. The war goes on - SWAPO fighters attack South African troops; South African troops raid SWAPO camps in neighbouring Angola, where Russian and Cuban troops support the Communist government against its own UNITA rebels, which are in turn backed by South Africa.
Deserts and Mountains
Apart from the 77,000 or so Damara, the black population of Namibia includes about 517,000 Ovambo, 98,000 Kavango, 78,000 Herero, 50,000 Nama, 40,000 Caprivians, 7,000 Tswana and 29,000 Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert. The country, one of the driest on earth, has three main regions. The Namib Desert is a 50-140 km (30-85 mile) wide strip running down the entire Atlantic coastline. The Central Plateau, east of the Namib, has mountains reaching 2000 m (6562 ft) above sea level, rugged outcrops, sandy valleys and plains of poor scrub and grasslands. To the east again and north, is the Kalahari - sand, patchy scrub, coarse grass and dried-up salt flats.
The Namiba has only 50mm (2 in) of precipitation a year, and most of it comes unusually in the form of fog which rolls in from the sea at night and condenses to form dew as the desert sands cool. Rainfall at the capital, Windhoek
, in the highlands is higher but still meagre at 200-250mm (8-10 in). Cattle, sorghum and maize are raised by the Ovambo in the northern highlands; sheep are farmed in the southern highlands, where 'Persian lamb' skins from the karakul breed are produced for export. Other farmers in this area are the unique Rehoboth Basters, of mixed Nama and European descent, who speak Afrikaans.
They number more than 25,000 among about 67,300 people of mixed descent in Namibia, many of the others being fishermen in Walvis Bay (which is administered as part of Namibia although it is South African territory). The white population is mostly Afrikaner, with about a quarter being of German descent. The whites live mainly in towns, although some remain on the land, often running large ranches. They enjoy a privileged way of life in contrast to the blacks, many of whose lives have been shattered by war, causing them to flee south to overcrowded towns. Many black have forsaken tribal lifestyles to work on ranches or in mines. Offshore, the cold Benguela Current, which flows north from Antarctica feeds one of Africa's richest fishing grounds. Mackerel, tuna and pilchards are among the catches brought back to a string of small ports, including Ludernitz and Walvis Bay, both of which have canneries.
Despite all the troubles, tourists keep arriving. They go south to the amazing Fish River Canyon, 900m (3000ft) deep and 60km (37 miles) long, with hot springs and an elaborate spa called Ais-Ais (Very Hot) at the most rugged section. Astonishingly, troops of baboons and herds of zebras and kudu antelopes find a home there and date palms planted by Germans who hid there during two World Wars still flourish.
Whether you plan to explore the Skeleton Coast or taking a trip to the Fish River Canyon, hiring a car in Namibia is the most convenient and comfortable way to see all this magnificent country has to offer. A popular choice with visitors to Namibia is to hire an off road vehicle, especially if a trip to the desert is planned. We have a great range of SUVs that would be perfect for such an adventure, with models available such as the Daihatsu Terios and Nissan Patrol.
- Following the Namibian War of Independence, Namibia gained independence from South Africa in March 1990
- The country's name is derived from the Namib Desert, which is the oldest desert in the world
- Tourism contributes about 14.5% to Namibia's GDP and creates many jobs for the people
- The official language in Namibia is English, although other regional dialects are spoken such as Oshiwambo and Afrikaans
- The currency in Namibia is the Namibian Dollar (NAD)
Is it safe to hire a car in Namibia?
Namibia is a vast and arid country and if you want to see as much of it as possible, we recommend booking a hire car, as public transport is very minimal indeed. Whether you want to explore the desert or view the amazing wildlife in the national parks, renting a car is as safe and convenient way, not to mention cost effective means of transport.
Depending on your intended use for a hire car in Namibia will determine what type of vehicle you should rent. If you are planning to travel beyond the towns and cities, a 4x4 or pick-up is wise to ensure safe passage over what can be very poor quality road surfaces. Not all rural roads are paved and a regular car unlikely to be suitable for such journeys.