In our experience, Namibia is truly a one-of-a-kind country. It is intact, untamed and relatively untouched by development.
It’s the kind of place where the sand dunes are much higher than the buildings, and where to go on a road trip means you probably won’t see another soul all day.
There are only two million inhabitants in a territory that exceeds 300,000 square miles. It is one of the least populated countries in the world and as you walk around the country you will begin to understand why.
There is the Namib, after which the country takes its name, which stretches along the entire length of the country’s coastline. And there is the world famous Kalahari, which covers the eastern half of the country and extends to Botswana.
People come to Namibia for its vast space, abundant wildlife and spectacular scenery. There are the ghost trees of the Deadvlei, the vast Fish River Canyon and the incredible animals wandering the Etosha Pan.
With 12 national parks in Namibia, as well as many other nature reserves and protected areas, there is plenty of natural beauty to explore in the southern African nation.
Read on to learn more about our favorite Namibian national parks, include information on each park’s size, history, main attractions, and the wonderful wildlife you can expect to see there!
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Guide to the best national parks in Namibia
(Arranged in alphabetical order)
- Ai|Ais/Richtervelds Cross-Border Park
- Bwabwata National Park
- Cape Cross Seal Reserve
- Etosha National Park
- Khaudum National Park
- Namib-Naukluft National Park
- Skeleton Coast National Park
1. Ai|Ais/Richtervelds cross-border park
This Namibian national park was created in 2003 by combining Ai|Ais, a national park in southern Namibia, and Richtervelds, a park across the border in South Africa.
The park’s most notable feature is the Fish River Canyon. It is Africa’s largest canyon at around 100 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and over 1500 feet deep.
Hiking the Fish River Canyon is one of Namibia’s great adventures. But it’s also a hike that should not be undertaken lightly: there is literally nothing in the canyon and the hike normally takes four to five days.
If you choose to tackle it, please plan accordingly and make sure you have everything you need hiking essentials.
2. Bwabwata National Park
One of the few places in Namibia where the landscape is not dominated by desert, the Caprivi Strip is a narrow strip of land that heads east into Zambia and Zimbabwe from ‘mainland’ Namibia.
This area is much wetter and more fertile than what you’ll see further south, thanks in large part to the proximity of the Okavango Delta and Kwando River.
This national park is part of the migratory route of Elephants between Zambia, Botswana and Angola.
And the Mahango Reserve, which is within the park, is widely regarded as one of the best places to see birds throughout Namibia.
3. Cape Cross Seal Reserve
Cape Crossa small promontory not far from the coastal town of Swakopmund, is best known for its historical and naturalistic significance.
In terms of history, this is where the Portuguese explorer Diogo Cao first landed during his 1486 expedition attempting to discover a passage to the East. He erected a small stone cross there, a replica of which still exists today.
The park is also home to one of the largest colonies of Cape fur seals in the world, with a population that can exceed 500,000 at times.
The shores of Cape Cross are literally littered with seals lounging, sleeping, mating, dying, fishing, eating… there are seals as far as the eye can see!
4. Etosha National Park
If Namib-Naukluft is all about scenic landscapes, Etosha is the best place to go in Namibia to see Africa’s “Big 5” safari animals. Well, it’s actually the Big 4, as Cape buffaloes are not found in the park.
Etosha National Park takes its name from the gigantic salt pan which covers a quarter of the park. It is so large that it can be seen from space.
The name means “Great White Place” in Ovambo – the language of Namibia’s largest indigenous tribe – in clear reference to pan.
It is quite easy to spot wildlife in Etosha as the park has only sparse shrubbery and no vegetation at all in and around the pan.
In addition, water scarcity means that the animals often gather around waterholes to drink.
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5. Khaudum National Park
Director Dries Alberts described this park as follows:
“Khaudum National Park was created for conservation, not to generate money. This simple guiding feature gave rise to the true wilderness feeling that embraces the soul when visiting the park. It’s wild, and we want it to stay that way.
It is the most remote national park in Namibia and its true “forgotten wilderness”. It attracts fewer than 3,000 visitors a year, due to its remoteness and relative lack of tourist facilities.
Getting there is half the fun, with poorly maintained tracks that should only be tackled by confident drivers.
But when you finally get there, the park is a great place to spot wildlife, including lions, cheetahs, hyenas, roan antelope, and huge Elephant herds.
6. Namib-Naukluft National Park
At nearly 20,000 square miles, it is Namibia’s largest national park and one of the largest national parks in the world.
Many of Namibia’s most iconic sites are located within the boundaries of the Namib-Naukluft National Park.
These include the striking red dunes of Sossusvlei, (like Big Daddy, the tallest dune in the national park at around 1,000 feet high); the Deadvlei, with its skeleton trees leaning against the immense red dunes; and the famous Dune 45, a beautiful place to watch the sunrise over the desert.
Also be sure to visit Sesriem Canyon, a 98-foot-deep canyon that is overlooked by most tourists.
About every 10 years, the short-lived Tsauchab River begins to flow, flooding parts of the Deadvlei and Sossusvlei area. If you can catch it, don’t miss the giant mirrors it creates, which reflect the stellar dunes.
7. Skeleton Coast National Park
Namibia is probably the only country in the world whose coastline is fully protected. The northern coast of Namibia is part of the Skeleton Coast National Park, which takes its name from the shipwrecks that litter its shores.
It is one of the most dangerous coasts in Africa, with unpredictable currents and dense sea mist coming from the ocean.
This has caused many experienced captains to lose their bearings and lose their ships fail there.
The Skeleton Coast remains one of the most inaccessible places in the world, without 4×4s tough enough to negotiate sandy tracks.
BIO: Margherita is a freelance writer from Milan, Italy. She is passionate about wildlife, ecotourism and outdoor adventure activities. She runs the famous nature and adventure travel blog The crowded planet with husband Nick Burns, an Australian travel and wildlife photographer.