Given its stunning landscapes, Namibia provides a photogenic arena for the multitude of outdoor activities that are on offer. These range from the more conventional hiking and 4WD trails to sandboarding down mountainous dunes, quad biking, paragliding, ballooning and camel riding. Most of these activities can be arranged very easily locally, and are relatively well priced.
Traditionally, 4WD trips were limited to rugged wilderness tracks through the Kaokoveld, Damaraland and Otjozondjupa, but recent years have seen the rise of fixed-route 4WD trails established for 4WD enthusiasts. Participants must pay a daily fee, and are obligated to travel a certain distance each day and stay at prespecified campsites. You’ll need to book at least a few weeks in advance through Namibian Wildlife Resorts. Contact it to see which trails are currently available. You could also try www.namibian.org/travel/adventure/4x4_action.htm, which includes a booking service; and www.drivesouthafrica.co.za/blog/best-4x4-trails-in-namibia for more information.
Canoeing & Rafting
Along the Orange River, in the south of the country, canoeing and rafting trips are growing in popularity. Several operators in Noordoewer offer good-value descents through the spectacular canyons of the Orange River, along the South African border. White-water rafting on the Kunene River is available through the inexpensive Kunene River Lodge at Swartbooi’s Drift, and also through several more upmarket operators.
Namibia draws anglers from all over Southern Africa. The Benguela Current along the Skeleton Coast brings kabeljou, steenbras, galjoen, blacktails and copper sharks close to shore. Favoured spots include the various beaches north of Swakopmund, as well as more isolated spots further north.
In the dams, especially Hardap and Von Bach, you can expect to catch tilapia, carp, yellowfish, mullet and barbel. Fly-fishing is possible in the Chobe and Zambezi Rivers in the Caprivi region; here you’ll find barbel, bream, pike and Africa’s famed fighting tiger fish, which can grow up to 9kg.
Hiking is a highlight in Namibia, and a growing number of private ranches have established wonderful hiking routes for their guests.
You’ll also find superb routes in several national parks. Multiday walks are available at Waterberg Plateau, the Naukluft Mountains, the Ugab River, Daan Viljoen Game Park and Fish River Canyon, but departures are limited, so book as far in advance as possible.
Hiking groups on most national-park routes must consist of at least three but no more than 10 people, and it's advised that each hiker obtain a doctor’s certificate of fitness (forms are available from the Windhoek NWR office) issued no more than 40 days before the start of the hike. If you’re young and you look fit, this requirement might be waived on most trails, with the exception of the demanding 85km hike in Fish River Canyon. The NWR can recommend doctors, but again, in most cases this requirement is waived.
While this might seem restrictive to folks who are accustomed to strapping on a pack and taking off, it does protect the environment from unrestrained tourism, and it ensures that you’ll have the trail to yourself – you’ll certainly never see another group.
If you prefer guided hiking, get in touch with Trail Hopper, which offers hikes all over the country, including Fish River Canyon, a five-day Brandberg Ascent and a Naukluft Mountain Trek. Prices depend on the size of the group.
Rock climbing is popular on the red rocks of Damaraland, particularly the Spitzkoppe and the Brandberg, but participants need their own gear and transport. For less experienced climbers it’s a dangerous endeavour in the desert heat, so seek local advice beforehand, and never attempt a climb on your own.
A popular activity is sandboarding, which is commercially available in Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. You can choose between sled-style sandboarding, in which you lie on a Masonite board and slide down the dunes at very high speeds, or the stand-up version, in which you schuss down on a snowboard.