USE ONLY REGISTERED BUSINESSES
Namibia is a beautiful country full of unbelievable scenery and friendly people. It is a great place for outdoor and extreme sports with the fantastic weather it enjoys. It is also a harsh desert environment that only sees rainfall about 60 days a year. A licensed tour operator can show you a great time filled with as much excitement and adrenalin as you and your finances can take. An unlicensed operator could get you killed. Please only use businesses that are registered. Namibia is a pretty orderly place and the business listing includes accommodations as well.
All businesses and establishments are required under the Namibia Tourism Board Act, 2000, to register with the Namibia Tourist Board (NTB). The link below takes you to their website and approved list.
If they are not on here – don’t book with them for outdoor activities!
THE OFFICIAL LIST
You can also request a free information pack on their website.
- Road Trip
- Adventure Travel
- Family Travel
Windhoek Tourist Info Office City Terminal
Windhoek actually has 3 separate official Tourism Information offices. There are 2 Windhoek Tourism Offices belonging to the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) in Post Street Mall and on the corner of Independence Avenue and Fidel Castro Street. There is also the Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR) near Post Street Mall. I visited all 3 and they were very helpful. Just speak to them about what you would like to do and where you would like to do it and they will even make the phone calls for you. Plenty of maps as well.
I details below about 1 office, but you can look here as well:
Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR)
- Family Travel
Windhoek train station.
Located in a beautiful Dutch-German colonial building, this train station was used during Imperial Germany's colonial rule of German South West Africa. The first railway line to reach Windhoek was the one from Swakopmund, built in 1902, in 1914 the line was etended to Walvis Bay. Actually is out of service, upstairs is the small but worthwhile Trans-Namib Transport Museum. It´s a must in your visit to the city.
Namibia is a hunter's paradise
Let's prefix this by stating that hunting is a very emotive subject. However, there is no escaping the fact that it is a well established niche tourism market in Southern Africa (particularly Namibia and South Africa), and one which has generated thousands of jobs, from hospitality staff and trackers in the lodges to butchers and taxidermists, often in regions with no other agricultural potential and where jobs are particularly scarce.
Conservation is most effective when a tangible commerical value is attached to animals - as a result of economic opportunities associated with safaris or hunting - thus giving people an incentive to conserve their habitat (since by far the greatest threat to wildlife is habitat destruction). Hunters would go to dedicated game farms that have been specifically set aside for commercial hunting and game meat production. These are usually established on land that is marginal from a commercial agricultural perspective which could otherwise only be used for very low density cattle or sheep grazing (generating lower income and fewer employment opportunities compared to game farms), or turned over to goats, which (other than humans) are by far the most destructive animals in Africa.
Game farms are almost always private enterprises where the wildlife is either bred on the farm, or - particularly for larger animals such as rhino - bought in from wildlife auctions. Only a certain number of animals are set aside as a quota that can be hunted in a given period, which are most commonly the older, larger animals that have greater trophy value. Contrary to popular wisdom, unskilled tourists would never be allowed to take part in animal culls in national parks.
Most hunters are passionate about what they do, and are clinically effective in their execution (literally and figuratively). Ethical hunting packages are usually structured 'per bullet' or 'per bolt' (as crossbow hunting is a rapidly expanding market), with an understanding that if you don't make a clean kill the first time around, you are obliged to pay for another bullet to finish the animal off humanely - for a large animal such as a rhino or big cat, this mistake could cost you literally tens of thousands of dollars, so the hunters have an incentive to be careful. Compared to an abbatoir, I personally think that's a pretty low stress despatch. Most self-respecting hunters stalk the animal on foot - often for a period of hours - and most that I have met report that this is the most rewarding part of the experience.
Most local hunters take pride in butchering the meat for their own personal use (freezing the big cuts, converting the scraps into sausages and making biltong from the remnants - but this is clearly not practical for overseas tourists. So usually the trophy (head, horns) would be mounted and perhaps the skin cured by a local taxidermist prior to export - and the meat would either be sold or given to employees.
Would I ever hunt myself? Absolutely not. I would much rather shoot animals with a camera and still don't understand why people would want the heads of ex-animals staring balefully at them from the walls of their lounge - given the choice, I'd much rather have the magnificent wire and bead 'trophy head' in the photo above. Do I buy meat from farmed native animal sources? Absolutely! In terms of red meat, my family eats virtually no beef or lamb - introduced species that does not provide a particularly efficient conversion from pasture to protein - and instead we eat mostly ostrich, with some other native species such as kudu and impala that have had a good, free range life (and, by happy coincidence, are almost cholesterol free).
On a practical note, many hunters bring their weapons with them - in which case, they have to adhere to strict regulations regarding weapons import/export and storage (see website below for more specific details on importing firearms to Namibia). However, most lodges will hire weapons which is frankly much less hassle.
Pause to consider a half-forgotten war
The Reiterdenkmal monument of a mounted Schutztruppe soldier, which commemorates the German-Herero war in the first decade of the 20th century.
The German-Herero war were triggered by a Herero uprising against German colonial rule in 1904, and the resultant loss of life was horrific. There were relatively small numbers of casualties in formal conflict (such as the Battle of the Waterberg), but most of those who fled into the desert died of thirst and starvation. There are well substantiated reports of wells being poisoned as part of a systematic programme of extermination, as well as medical experiments being conducted on Herero prisoners in internment camps.
Estimates of the Herero death toll range between 24,000 and 100,000. Later in the same year, the Nama people also revolted, and met a similar fate - resulting in an estimated 10,000 Nama deaths. This must have been a staggering proportion of the indigenous population at the time (given that Namibia only has a population of just over 2 million over a century later). However, since history is written by victors, and this monument was erected in 1912 before the Germans were ousted, so the plaque commemorates the 1,628 German soldiers, 4 women and one child who lost their lives in this conflict.
In 1994, the German government formally apologised for this genocide.
In researching this tip, I came across many sloppy references to the Herero-German war being the 'first major genocide of the 20th century'. Undoubtedly it was genocide, and without wanting in any way to trivialise the atrocities visited on the Herero and Nama peoples, I find it disingenious that these sources conveniently forget that was predated by the Anglo Boer War in next door South Africa (1899-1902). During that conflict, the British implemented a similar 'scorched earth' policy to starve the Afrikaaners off their land and cut their food supply links. Meanwhile Afrikaaner women, children and elderly were incarcerated in concentration camps (the first time the term was coined) and deprived of adequate food and medical assistance, resulting in the death of tens of thousands (for those interested in this, see my pages on Bloemfontein, Mafikeng and Potchefstroom). However, as all of this was happening in remote colonies in distant parts of the world, it was not until long after the event that the true extent of the horrors inflicted during these conflicts became apparent.
This statue used to be located outside the photogenic Christus Kirche church (whose elegant curlicued gables grace most Windhoek postcards) but was moved slightly closer to the fort a few years ago to make space for extensions to the National Museum.
Visit the Alte Feste
The Alte Feste (or 'Old Fort') in Windhoek sits on a small hill close to the Tintenpalast (the Namibian Houses of Parliament) and is a dinky sized little fort that looks like a set from a Beau Geste movie.
It was built by the Germans in 1890 as a garrison for their Schutztruppe ('protection force'), and is the oldest building in Windhoek. It now houses a small but reasonable museum (which comprises the history section of the National Museum), as well as a restaurant. On a hot day, it is a pleasant place to enjoy an icy cold beer and take advantage of the relief from the heat that the fort's thick walls and slightly elevated position lend.
The rest of the museum is located in the nearby Owela Museum - which houses the zoological and cultural exhibits: I haven't had a chance to visit this myself, but they get some good on-line reviews and would be worth it if you're in the area.
Explore central Windhoek on foot
Walking around central Windhoek is safe and a good way to get the feel of the place with its very Germanic architecture. I personally don't think that it's worth taking a guided tour of central Windhoek, as most of the tourist attractions are clustered in the centre of town in an area bounded by Independence Avenue and Robert Mugabe Avenue. I would instead suggest that you take the opportunity to stretch your legs after a long flight (and before a long car ride) and explore on foot.
The following are general suggestions which you can order according to your own interests and priorities. You'll find more detail on some of these attractions in my other travel tips.
Start by strolling down Independence Avenue, stopping to admire the iconic parade of shops which graces many a Windhoek postcard and houses the wonderful Gathemann's restaurant (No.175).
Take a detour via the Post Street pedestrian mall, where fragments from the Gibeon meteorite shower have been crafted into a rather odd but unquestionably unique piece of municipal art. If you follow the mall through, you will eventually find yourself in the Wernhill Park Mall shopping complex, which is probably the best place to stock up in provisions (in fact, if you're planning to do this, then perhaps park your car at Wernhill).
Cross the road, amble through the pleasant but unspectacular Zoo Park (which confusingly contains no zoo) and stroll up the short but fairly steep hill to the area around Robert Mugabe Avenue and have a look at the Tintenpalast (literally 'Ink Palace') which was built by the colonial administration, and now houses the Namibian parliament - the surrounding gardens are a pleasant place to have a picnic and is very popular with locals.
Close to this is the old fort (Alte Feste) which houses a small but reasonable museum (the history section of the National Museum), as well as a restaurant. The rest of the museum is located in the nearby Owela Museum - which houses the zoological and cultural exhibits: I haven't had a chance to visit this myself, but they get some good on-line reviews and would be worth it if you're in the area.
Another relic of the colonial era is the Reiterdenkmal monument of a mounted Schutztruppe soldier, which commemorates the German - Herero wars in the first decade of the 20th century. This used to be located outside the photogenic Christuskirche church (which also graces most Windhoek postcards, but is only open at certain times) but was moved slightly closer to the fort a few years ago to make space for extensions to the National Museum.
Meet you at the Kudu!
The bronze kudu statue at the intersection of Independence Avenue and John Meinhert Street is one of Windhoek's best loved statues and is a popular landmark for people to meet.
The story of its origins goes as follows (courtesy of the A-Z Online website):
"A visiting sculptor, Professor Fritz Behn of Munich, once drew a kudu in the guest book of Mrs. Olga Levinson, former President of the Art Association. “What a marvelous monument that would make”, she commented. Mr. Ernst Behnsen, a prominent Windhoek businessman offered to pay the total cost of the bronze sculpture. Professor Behn designed, sculpted and cast the life-size statue in Munich. The Town Council provided a suitable site and constructed a pedestal near a fountain in front of the High Court in today´s Independence Avenue, which was unveiled in 1960. The Kudu statue, a “spirit of hope”, in combination with outstanding artistic craftsmanship, symbolizes a shared passion for the beautiful abundance of the country's wild"
How bizarre that this iconic African animal should have been crafted in Bavaria!
Christuskirche - Windhoek's best known landmark
Chances are that if you buy postcards of Windhoek, somewhere they will feature the Christuskirche!
This Lutheran church is located on a traffic island in the middle of Robert Mugabe Drive. It has an elevated location as it is located up on the rise just west of Independence Avenue, close to the Alte Feste and the Tintenpalast.
Like most Namibian buildings, it is fairly recent: the cornerstone was laid in 1907 and it was consecrated in 1910. It is made of local sandstone and it has a distinctive design, with curved gables and elements of Neo Gothic and Art Nouveau which you would think should clash but are oddly harmonious.
The Christuskirche serves as the headquarters of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia, which is closely linked to the Rhenish missions that were so active in Namibia during the colonial era (see my tip on Otjimbingwe).
The clock and three bells were imported from Germany, as was the stained glass, which was manufactured in Nuremberg and was a gift from the Emperor Wilhelm II. Unfortunately I can't confirm the beauty of the glass, as every time I've ever tried to visit, the church has been closed. This is sadly is a common feature of churches throughout Southern Africa, and usually results from a fear of theft. Triviologists will be intrigued to know that the windows were originally installed the wrong way around - with the sun protection on the inside - and so once this oversight was identified (by a tourist) discovered in the late 1990s, the whole lot had to be removed, reversed and reinstalled!
Those wanting to visit can either attend the German language service at 10:00 on Sunday morning, or can follow the link below to arrange a visit.
Was a Government building ever better named?
The Tintenpalast is Namibia's Parliament building and dates back to 1913.
The name is an amusing hangover from the colonial period, and translates to 'ink palace' in sly reference to the amount of paperwork churned out and the ink this consumed!
The gardens are particularly lush and well laid out, and are a welcome retreat for Windhoekers, especially during lunch hours and over weekends.
THE SINK EXPERIMENT
What is the sink Experiment? Scientifically water going down a sink will rotate counter clockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere. I set out to conduct this experiment for Virtual Tourist here in Windhoek, which is in the Southern hemisphere. This is due to the Coriolis Effect, a force caused by the rotation of the Earth. Guess what? IT’s A MYTH! I found that I could get the water to go in either direction just by diverting the water slightly. Often it ran in the ‘wrong’ direction. Don’t believe it? Come for a visit and try it for yourself!
Please note: the photo is my sink/laboratory in Windhoek.
- Family Travel
- Women's Travel
Before you go rushing off to take the kids to see wild animals here, read this first. Zoo Park is a small little garden in the middle of the city of Windhoek and has no animals at all. Why do they call it Zoo Park? Who knows? You can find an interesting monument (pictured) commemorating the role of German Colonial Troops in subduing the first "Hottentot Uprising" of the Nama tribe in 1893-94. There is also a Chinese pavilion that symbolises the city’s friendship with the city of Shanghai. There is also the Elephant Column where the remains of an elephant were found in 1961. The elephant in question had been hunted down about 5,000 to 20,000 years ago making it killing one of the earliest known of such events in human history. Talk about brave.
If you want to get a cold drink (beer!) and escape the heat undernaeth some of the rubber treees, settle in at Café Zoo.
The park may not be big, but it’s worth a quick exploration. Its open daily from 07:00-22:00.
- Adventure Travel
- Family Travel
- Historical Travel
THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NAMIBIA
This is a very fascinating and free museum. Unfortunately the staff will ask you for a ‘donations' but just ignore them. The Museum is part of an old army garrison that contains lot of interesting Political exhibits from the last century. It shows the struggles of SWAPO (South West Africa People's Organization) to gain independence from Germany. Among the exhibits it shows imprisonment of SWAPO members in South Africa, Independence, and the first elections. It also has exhibits on colonial times and displays of the Constitution, Flag, National Anthem and Coat of Arms. Interestingly, the official language of Namibia is ENGLISH.
Please note: Their website is not currently working.
- Historical Travel
- Museum Visits
- Arts and Culture
The Alte Feste Fort was founded in 1890 by German commander Kurt Von Francois. The stone construction and location on the high ground was intended to protect the Capital of Windhoek. The fort was used during the German colonial era was used as a headquarters of the German colonial troops (Schutztruppe) until 1915. After Namibia became a British protectorate it served as the headquarters for the South African troops. In 1935 it served as a hostel for Windhoek High School and in 1957 it was declared a national monument. Today it houses the National Museum of Namibia.
- Historical Travel
- Museum Visits
- Family Travel
Having a Windhoek (beer) in Windhoek (city)
Having a Windhoek in Windhoek. I'm talking about beer !!!
Ok, let's explain it easier, once in Windhoek, the city, I suggest one should try a Windhoek, the beer.
Windhoek Draught is good stuff.
This beer is really good. I highly recommend it.
Pictured on this tip, I'm enjoying a Windhoek Draught with my local occasional friends: Myself in the middle, Mr Mereke on my left and on my right is Janek of South Africa. (April 2010).
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