Where to Find Adventure in Namibia: Dune Boarding, Rock Climbing, Surfing and More
By Matt Phillips
Namibia has received one of its best publicity in years and is hugely welcome after Cocvid-19 devastated the global travel industry from the pen of Lonely Planet’s Matt Phillips, who, in beautiful, free-flowing style, showcased the country and its adventure challenges like few others could. in the old days.
The wonderful description of one of the world’s top tourist destinations reads:
Ocean and desert collide in Namibia to provide adventure terrains of water, sand and rock, each as vast (and wild) as the next.
The landscapes of Namibia are epic, both in terms of scale and natural beauty. Imagine singing sands and dunes that soar over 300m (985ft) in height and look more like Gaudí artwork than anything produced by gusty winds. Now imagine walking on their undulating crests and gazing across an ocean of gigantic waves frozen in the sand. If you fancy riding one of these waves, that’s also an option.
But the Namib Desert, which gave the country its name, is more than a huge sandbox. It is also tortured mountains and rocky canyons. These captivating environments are ideal for exploring on foot or by mountain bike.
Dizzying inselbergs such as Spitzkoppe are great places to hang on to if you have a penchant for rock climbing. Flanking the entire west of the country, stretching nearly 1,600 km (994 miles) from South Africa to Angola, is a rugged coastline with a history of shipwrecks (it’s those wrecks, more the sand strewn with bones of whales and seals, which gave the Skeleton Coast its name). But with a surfboard in hand, you’ll find nothing but joy along these remote shores.
Boarding in the dunes
The Namib may be the oldest desert in the world, but there’s a new way to experience its dunes: on a board. Not far from the Namibian coastal town of Swakopmund, one of southern Africa’s capitals for adventure activities, the mountains of sand offer the perfect slopes to dig.
When you first lay your eyes on the dunes rising into the blue African sky, you’ll begin to buzz with anticipation, although it’s wise to conserve some energy. Your journey of joy begins with hard work: a hike back to your starting point. With a board, gloves and goggles in hand, you end up looking at some serious off-trail action. Buckle up, lean back more than usual (if you’re familiar with snowboarding) and let loose!
Once you’ve filled up, try the extended “schuss” option, which will allow you to reach speeds of 80 km/h (50 mph). Alter Action runs daily dune boarding trips from Swakopmund.
Rising like a mirage above the desert plains of southern Damaraland, the gigantic 1728m high inselberg that is Spitzkoppe has long inspired climbers and earned it the nickname “Matterhorn of Africa”. Although it first peaked in 1946, its granite sides continue to call for die-hard climbers determined to tackle the toughest peak in the country.
Some of the lower, rounded domes provide exciting scrambling for those not as keen on tackling vertical terrain. At night, camp below for a celestial spectacle like no other.
Seeing the great swells of the cold South Atlantic Ocean crashing over the delicate desert dunes is mesmerizing from wherever you are. To see it falling towards the ground at 220 km/h (137 mph) is breathtaking. The incredible aerial views of the desert landscape and ocean during the 25-minute flight to the drop zone in a small Cessna plane are reason enough for the trip (and the price).
The deafening and thrilling free fall from 3000m (9843ft) lasts around 30 seconds before your parachute (and silence) takes over at 1500m (4921ft). Ground Rush Adventures, based in Swakopmund, offers tandem jumps for beginners, as well as static line courses and jumps and accelerated freefall courses.
Harnessing the power of the winds along the Atlantic coast with a large kite is an exciting challenge, whether on land or water. Novices can first learn the ropes (literally) with power kiting lessons, while those with the skills can take Atlantic kitesurfing lessons (international levels 1-3) or basic lessons. landboarding on the sands of the Namib. Paragliding routes along this part of the coast are also on the horizon.
Imagine Moab, Utah. Incredible, right? Now imagine it sitting empty. Welcome to Namibia! Not only is there an abundance of fascinating trails and spectacular scenery – rollercoaster singletracks through the lunar landscapes outside Swakopmund, tricky jeep routes around the dry bed of the Huab River and memorable descents in the Auas Mountains – but you can also view incredible African wildlife from your saddle, such as the rare desert-adapted elephant and black rhino.
With almost no car traffic on the country’s level gravel roads, multi-day ATV expeditions are a fantastic option. A good starting point is Klein Aus Vista near Aus in southern Namibia.
Hot air ballooning
The Namib-Naukluft National Park, covering nearly 50,000 km2 (19,305 sq mi), is home to some of the most spectacular dunes on the planet, particularly in the Sossusvlei area. The winds shaped the brilliant orange-red sand into elegant parabolic shapes several hundred meters high. Seeing this unique desert landscape from the air is a spellbinding experience, and early morning hot air balloon rides are possible.
Namib Sky Balloon Safaris runs the trips every morning at sunrise, weather permitting (the trips do not operate from January 15 to February 15 due to the heat). Transfers can be arranged from several accommodation options in the Sossusvlei/Sesriem area. Flights include a champagne breakfast upon landing.
Between hard rocks or atop soft spot, hiking in Namibia offers adventurous extremes. These can vary from short explorations of large dune fields – most spectacular around Sossusvlei in the Namib-Naukluft National Park – to more serious endeavors such as the five-day trek through the rocky depths of one of the largest canyons in the world.
Due to soaring summer temperatures and the remoteness of the bottom of Fish River Canyon, hiking in the latter is limited from May to mid-September. The enchanting and incredibly challenging 85 km (53 mile) route from Hobas to Ai-Ais follows the sandy riverbed past huge fields of boulders, stunningly spectacular scenery and a series of ephemeral pools (perfect for bathing for beat the heat).
Other notable treks include four- and eight-day loops through the Naukluft Mountains, which offer a more subtle charm than the Fish River Canyon. Speaking of “note-able,” it’s possible to make the ground beneath you sing (well, ahem) — usually in E, F, or G notes — while hiking the dune ridges south of Swakopmund or north along the Skeleton Coast. The unique mineral composition of the Namib sand in these areas causes it to resonate strongly when disturbed.
With nothing between Brazil and the Namibian coast, there’s no shortage of big South Atlantic swells to tear it up. Sharks, seals, sandstorms and impossibly secluded breaks mean there’s no shortage of adventure either. A great place to get your feet wet is in the coastal town of Swakopmund. The waves of choice are found at Nordstrand near Vineta Point – an exposed reef that is particularly good at high tide when the swell angle is from the west-southwest.
Tiger Reef, at the mouth of the Swakop River, is another solid option. There is an exceptionally long left point break at Bocock’s Bay, a remote location about 160 km (99 miles) north of Swakopmund. The surf here, formed on a soft sandbar, is incredibly consistent, and you’ll likely have it all to yourself. Cape Cross, 30 km (19 miles) south of here, also has gentle waves, although you’ll be sharing the water with tens of thousands of seals.
April and May tend to be the best months for surfing in Namibia, although any time between March and October is rewarding. Shark numbers explode out of season, when most mating takes place.