Namibia and specifically the southern part of Namibia is one of the wonderlands of Southern Africa.
Indigenous desert “forests” with ancient trees (“halfmens”), mountains combined with deep gorges, a rugged and fearsome coastline, fascinating vegetation and a rich animal & birdlife combine to create an area which since early on enchanted visitors.
These natural assets make Southern Namibia a prime tourism destination allowing thorough enjoyment of this gem of nature, including:-
Keetmanshoop, in Namibia’s Karas Region, lies on the Trans-Namib Railway from Windhoek to Upington. The semi-arid city receives only 152mm of rainfall annually. Originally called ǂNuǂgoaes or Swartmodder, meaning “Black Marsh,” it was settled by Guilliam Visagie in 1785. In 1850, the Kharoǃoan clan (Keetmanshoop Nama) split from the Red Nation and settled permanently. In 1860, the Rheinische Missionsgesellschaft founded a mission to Christianize the Nama. Missionary Johann Georg Schröder marked the city’s founding on April 14, 1866, named after supporter Johann Keetman.
Lüderitz’s bay was first noted by Europeans in 1487 when Bartolomeu Dias named it Angra Pequena (Small Bay) and erected a stone cross. Founded in 1883 by Heinrich Vogelsang on behalf of Adolf Lüderitz, the town was purchased from Nama chief Joseph Fredericks II. After Germany’s World War I capitulation, South Africa took over in 1915, leading to German deportations and a population decline. Diamond mining shifted south of town from 1920, focusing on places like Pomona and Elizabeth Bay.
Duwisib Castle, an unexpected sight in Namibia’s farm lands, is a grand pseudo-medieval fortress in the Southern Namib region. Built by ‘Baron’ Captain Hans Heinrich von Wolf in 1909, it features stand stones carried 2 km for construction. Furniture from Germany and stone masons from Italy, Sweden, and Ireland were employed. This 900 m2 national monument with a spacious courtyard is now a museum open to the public.
The Fish River Canyon
The Fish River Canyon in southern Namibia is Africa’s largest canyon and the second most visited attraction in the country. It spans 160 km in length, up to 27 km in width, and nearly 550 meters in depth. Originating around 650 million years ago, a north-south graben formed through plate movement. Glaciation 300 million years ago deepened the canyon, and 60 million years ago, continental drift increased erosion. The Fish River, Namibia’s longest interior river, carved the plateau into a twisting, meandering lower canyon. In late summer, the typically dry river floods, forming narrow pools.
A fascinating collection of Lithops, also known as “Flowering Stones” or in the local dialect “bees kloutjies”, can be viewed in a specially constructed hothouse at Alte Kalköfen.
The ‘hothouse’ was formally named after Professor Desmond and Mrs Naureen Cole in recognition for pioneering work done on the Lithops genus.
Lithops, resembling the pebbles and stones among which they grow in their natural habitat, have in recent years become favorites of the succulent viewing public.
Johan Burchell discovered Lithops in 1811 when he stated:
“On picking up from the stony ground what was supposed to be a curiously shaped pebble, surprisingly proved to be a plant”.
Alte Kalköfen Lodge proudly hosts the biggest registered collection of Lithops in Namibia.
Kolmanskop, a Namib Desert ghost town near Lüderitz, emerged in 1908 after a worker found a diamond. German miners settled, and a “Sperrgebiet” was declared. Initially prosperous, the town mirrored German architecture, connected by a railway to Lüderitz. After World War I, diamond exhaustion led to decline, and it was abandoned in 1954. Desert sands now engulf houses, creating a captivating scene for photographers capturing the town’s decay. Tourists explore Kolmanskop, a poignant reminder of a once-thriving community swallowed by the relentless forces of the desert.
The Namib Desert Horse, a rare feral breed in Namibia’s Namib Desert, comprises the only known feral herd in Africa, numbering between 90 and 150. Resembling European light riding horses, they exhibit athletic builds and dark colors. Despite the harsh environment, they thrive, with occasional challenges during extreme droughts. Population studies offer insights into their survival in desert conditions. The horse’s origin remains unclear, though likely a mix of riding and cavalry horses, some from German breeding programs, released in the early 20th century. They gathered near Garub Plains, Aus, around a man-made water source.
Mesosaurus Fossil Site
The Mesosaurus Fossil Site is situated in southern Namibia, 38kms north east of the town of Keetmanshoop. It is set in an area that includes the Mesosaurus Fossil Site, The Quiver Tree Forest, (with over 5,000 specimens) and eroded dolorite rock formations. Not only is it the ideal setting to view and photograph these attractions, but it is within easy reach of Fish River Canyon and Ai-Ais hot springs.
Quiver Tree Forest
The Quiver Tree, or “Kokerboom,” thrives in Namibia and the Cape Province, defying its name as it’s an aloe plant—ALOE DICHOTOMA. Named for its forked branches, “Dichotoma,” Bushmen and Hottentot tribes used its bark for arrow quivers (“Koker” in Afrikaans). Flourishing in black rock formations (“ysterklip”), these trees endure scorching summers (average 38°C). Natural to Keetmanshoop’s forest, declared a national monument in 1955, these big trees, aged 200 to 300 years, stand as a testament to nature’s unaided beauty.
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