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Namibia - A Bountiful Harvest Awaits the Adventure Traveler

Namibia is a largely arid country of stark rough-hewn beauty. The most vivid images are those of a haunting technicolor landscape of swirling orange dunes, shimmering mirages and treacherous dust devils. The apparent desolation is deceptive and plant and animal life and even man has adapted to this environment. The country is designed almost specially with the active and adventure seeker in mind. Timeless deserts, thorn bush savanna, desolate wind ravaged coastlines, majestic canyons, and sun-baked saltpans are the bounty that awaits the traveler. Namibia's top draw is the Etosha National Park, rated as one of Africa's finest game sanctuaries.

The birding experience in the country is truly superior. The range of activities you can indulge in the unsurpassable physical environment is truly impressive. Ballooning over the desert, skydiving over land and sea, paragliding, whitewater rafting and sand skiing along coastal dunes are good activities for starters. More fun games to pick from include abseiling - that most spectacular of rock sports, coastal and fresh water angling, desert camel riding, scuba diving, 4x4 desert runs, hiking and mountaineering. Namibia has four distinct geographical regions.

In the north is Etosha Pan, a great area for wildlife and heart of Etosha National Park. The slender Caprivi Strip is nested between Zambia and Botswana and is a wet area of woodland blessed with a few rivers. Along the coast is the Namib Desert, which at the age of 80 million years old, is said to be the world's oldest desert. At the coast, the icy cold Atlantic meets the blazing African desert, resulting in dense fogs. The well-watered central plateau runs north to south, and carries rugged mountains, magnificent canyons, rocky outcrops and expansive plains. Namibia, one and half times the size of France, is very sparsely inhabited and carries only 1.8 million souls. The people are as unique as the land they live on. The most intriguing are the San, otherwise known as Bushmen. These most hardy of people have a highly advanced knowledge of their environment.

It is a marvelous thing how well they are adapted to their difficult habitat. Just pause and think that these are the only people in the world who live with no permanent access to water. In the Kalahari Desert, one of their domiciles, surface water is not to be found. Tubers, melons, and other water bearing plants as well as underground sip wells supply their water requirements. In Namibia today, Bushmen number about 50,000. Historians estimate that they have lived, mostly as hunters and gatherers, for at least 25,000 years in these parts of the world. Bushmen speak in a peculiar click language and are very gifted in the arts of storytelling, mimicry, and dance. Namibia's other people, who are indigenous to the continent, are mostly of Bantu origin. They are thought to have arrived from western Africa from about 2,400 years ago. The African groups include the Owambo, Kavango, Caprivians, Herero, Himba, Damara, Nama and Tswana.

The Africans aside, other groups comprise about 15% of the population and have played an important role in the emergence of the modern nation. White Namibians amount to about 120,00 and are mainly of German and Afrikaner heritage. Germans arrived in significant numbers after 1884 when Bismarck declared the country a German Protectorate. Afrikaners, white farmers of Dutch origin, moved north from their Cape settlements, especially after the Dutch Cape Colony was ceded to the British in 1806. This strongly independent people, whose ancestors had lived in the Cape from 1652 resented British control. Two other distinct groups complete the spectrum of Namibia's people - Basters and Coloureds. Coloured in Namibia and southern Africa refers to people of mixed racial heritage, black- white for example. They have a separate identity and culture. This makes sense considering that Namibia was run by South Africa after the First World War. Even in pre-Apartheid South Africa, racial classification was a fine art.

The Afrikaans-speaking Basters, descended from Hottentot women and Dutch settlers of the Cape. Alienated from both white and black communities, they trekked northwards, finally founding their own town Rehoboth, in 1871. Baster is actually derived from "bastard", but it is not derogatory, and the Basters are indeed proud of it. Namibia's barren and unwelcoming coastlines served as a natural deterrent to the ambitions of European explorers. That was until 1884 when the German merchant Adolf Luderitz established a permanent settlement between the Namib Desert and the Atlantic seaboard that afterwards took his name. Bismarck subsequently declared the territory covered by Namibia a German colony and named it Südwestafrika or South West Africa. As German settlers moved into the interior, conflict was inevitable with the inheritors of the land. The German occupation was a particularly unhappy experience for the Herero. The Herero resented the German's harsh and racist rule and the effect of the encroachment on their lands on their livelihood and way of life.


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