Don’t much like to fly? Maybe the wonders of Namibia will convince you. So much of the best of this spectacular, vast land of contrasts is only accessible by air. There’s nothing quite like cruising low over the endless stretches of parched landscape following behind a herd of a black rhino or a quick fly-by of a dozing flock of flamingos amid the desert sands.
Wedged between the Kalahari and the southern Atlantic, Namibia is a chance to explore the spirit of this wide-open continent and discover the wilder side of Africa, where only the sporadic roar of a lion or cackle of hyena punctuates the silence of the night.
A short, comfortable flight south from the capital, Windhoek, takes you into the ochre-stained lands of Sossusvlei, a rather inhospitable clay pan surrounded by some of the highest sand dunes in the world. Deep in the desert of the Namib-Naukluft Park, the awesomely giant rusted waves of sand just beg to be climbed, and the view from the top is well worth every slippery step of the 300-meter trek. The sun rises and literally flows over the sharp peaks throwing transient shapes and shadows into a kaleidoscopic of changing colors and textures.
The richness of these ancient oxidized sands lie in stark contrast to the shimmering white land that stretches some across the heart of the Etosha National Park.
Here a fly-in safari offers the original bird’s eye view from an unusual safari vehicle gliding just over the land in search of wildlife. And in spite of the blinding whiteness of Etosha’s dry pan, it is home to a surprising variety of wildlife, which offers a firsthand look at the sheer magnificence of nature’s survival strategies.
One hundred thousand years ago, some 8,598 dry and cracked square miles that make up northern Namibia’s Etosha National Park were awash with water. A shifting continent turned the rivers and sent them flowing toward the Atlantic. Now all that remains is a dusty, salty dried-up lake, which shimmers vaguely greenish-white like a land-locked sea.
Amid the hauntingly arid desolation of the largest, but somewhat unfamiliar game park in Africa hundreds of species of animals and plants not only survive, but also flourish. And when the dusty clay soaks up the heavy rains of the wet season, a shallow inland lake reforms and draws thousands of wading birds. Pelicans and flamingoes congregate in the shimmering waters, while larger creatures, such as lions and buffalo gather along the edge of the rapidly diminishing lake, as the iridescent sands of the pan appear to blend into the cloudless sky behind them.