Go wild! From the big five to the little five and everything in between, Namibia's communal conservancies are home to a mosaic of life that transforms this diverse and spectacular landscape.
Namibia's communal conservancies provide the space and protection that has ushered in amazing conservation results: Namibia is the only country in Africa with an expanding population of lions, an increasing elephant population, valuable disease-free buffalo, the world's largest population of cheetahs and the only free-roaming population of black rhinos left on the planet!
Namibia is a biodiversity hotspot, where numbers count. There are approximately 4,000 species of plants, over 400 grass species, 650 bird species and 80 large mammal species. In fact, approximately 75 percent of the mammal species that exist in Southern Africa live in Namibia. Reptiles are also plentiful with 240 species in total and 125 sun-loving, dune dwelling lizard species, making Namibia home to the richest lizard fauna in Africa.
Namibia is also a hot spot for endemism - species which are found nowhere else. Among its high concentrations of endemic species are 14 birds, 71 reptiles, 16 mammals, and over 600 plants. This widespread pattern of biodiversity and endemism stems from species being adapted to arid conditions and confined by physical barriers. Spectacular examples of species that have adapted superbly to the harsh dry environment include Hartmann's mountain zebra, the Dune Lark and Péringuey's desert adder.
Visit conservancies in the arid west and northwest, where you can experience the thrill of watching elephants move down dry riverbeds, passing homesteads where conservancy members have erected waterholes especially for elephants. These ephemeral rivers and surrounding plains are home to desert-adapted lions, giraffe, springbok, oryx and people who are committed to living with wildlife.
Along the flowing rivers of the northeast, the haunts of hippos and crocodile, there are breathtaking wildlife encounters and humbling lessons in conservation to be learned. Here communities are protecting wildlife corridors, maintaining vital migratory paths for wildlife to move from Botswana through Namibia and on to Zambia and Angola. These corridors are arteries of life, where a surprising array of wildlife – from elephants to eland, hyena to porcupine – move safely across land that has been set aside for their protection.
Many of Namibia's communal conservancies provide buffers for wildlife to move in and out of the country's fabled national parks, and several conservancies have concessions inside national parks. One wild example is a concession in Khaudum National Park. Off the beaten track, herds of eland, roan and sable antelope and elephants abound. In this concession, and in all of Namibia's communal conservancies, viewing spectacular wildlife and supporting local communities goes hand in hand.
Authentic, ancient and evolving, Namibia’s cultures and people are vital to the spirit and the future of our communal conservancies.
Go tracking with the San, whose lives are rooted in the oldest culture on earth, meet the statuesque Himba of the northwest, learn more about traditions of the Herero people, and the various cultures of the northeast where life on the rivers is an integral part of their cultural identity.
With traditions forged over time, the cultural groups of Namibia celebrate the past while moving towards the future. Rich traditions mark milestones in life. Food and music are expressions of a region and its people. And everywhere humor defines the rugged individualism that is carved in those who live off this harsh, beautiful land.
There are thirteen different cultures in Namibia and all of them are found within Namibia’s communal conservancies. Some have their history etched in the rocks, while other have roots that were founded in the traditions of hunter-gathers and semi-nomadic pastoralists, others plant and wait for the rains to fall before harvesting season begins.
Experiences with the people of rural communal conservancies are as varied as they are – go tracking and learn the signs of the wild, dance to traditional music, visit a living museum, watch as traditional arts and crafts are being made, and listen to stories told around the fire.
Namibia's cultural history is also etched in the rocks. Communal conservancies are home to Namibia's first World Heritage site at Twyfelfontein which has more than 2,000 rock engravings, making it one of the richest rock art sites in Africa, and Brandberg, home to the White Lady rock painting and many more on Namibia's highest point.
Explore the land and approach members of Namibia's communal conservancies with respect and genuine interest, and you will be rewarded with fresh insights into worlds you could never imagine.
While cultural experiences are all around you in communal conservancies, there are also cultural villages and heritage sites within conservancies that are well worth a visit! Many of these are included in the information below.
Namibia’s is the second most sparsely populated country in the world, second only to Mongolia. In the country’s communal conservancies there is space to explore, space for camping, space for connecting and space for contemplation.
Space is liberating. Driving for hours on dusty roads, where a few villages dot the landscape, and there isn’t another vehicle to be seen. Settling at an intimate communal conservancy campsite for the night, knowing that your presence supports conservation and community development.
Covering more than 20% of the country, Namibia’s communal conservancies are home to a variety of landscapes from dunes to rocky plains, forest to rivers, and each one has its own sense of wonder.
Adding to the sense of space is the sense of community, knowing that this land is protected and shared by Namibians whose history and cultures and rooted in this land and who also have a vested interest in the future of conservation.
Enjoy the quiet, the dome of stars that fill the sky, explore the milky way and the endless horizons, and then look inward and explore that the space closest to your soul.
Namibia is a photographer’s dream. There are magical hours, days and nights. Spectacular wildlife, landscapes and people of old, evolving cultures found in Namibia’s communal conservancies provide endless opportunities for keen amateur and professional photographers to capture stunning images.
From sunrise to sunset, point your camera in any direction and the viewfinder fills with the unique. For those who enjoy long, languid exposures, there is the opportunity to play with light in spectacular landscapes or against crisp, clear skies. Looking for action? From quick movements of crocodiles slithering into a river, a cheetah in full stride or birds taking flight, there are endless challenges for you and your shutter speeds. Photographers with macro lenses can focus on stones, spiders and the "little five" creatures that fill a macro lens with magic.
Namibians are beautiful people, inside and out, and when approached with respect, most are open to being photographed. The uniqueness found in smiles, in the beads that frame an old San man's face, the drape of ochre packed hair that falls over a young Himba woman's head, the bright blocks of colour that drape Damara Nama women, and the vibrant red that marks the Herero men and women's clothing of consequence: these are just some of the stunning images that can be captured in stills and video.
Namibia's communal conservancies have drawn some of the best photographers in the world. Will you be next?
Tick and tweet to your heart's content in Namibia’s communal conservancies! With 676 species to search for, Namibia is a paradise for birders.
From rare, endemic birds, such as cinderella waxbill, rufous-tailed palm-thrush and bare-cheeked babbler, found in northwestern Namibia to a plethora of more than 450 species of birds found in the conservancies in the Kavango and Zambezi regions, Namibia’s communal conservancies will have birders twitching all over!
In fact, Namibia's birding checklist features 676 of Southern Africa's 887 species. Communal conservancies are where many of these species live, including the country's 15 endemic or near-endemic species, the 'megaticks' including white-tailed shrike, Rüppell’s korhaan, Hartlaub's spurfowl, Rüppell's parrot, violet wood-hoopoe, Carp's tit, Monteiro’s hornbill, Herero chat and Damara hornbill.
Birding hotspots abound in the north and northeastern conservancies, particularly along the rivers. More than 400 species of spectacular and special birds have been recorded here, including the slaty egret, swamp boubou, chirping cisticola, greater swamp-warbler, rock pratincole, African skimmer and long-toed lapwing.
From August to October, there is a carnival of colour in the silts of the Zambezi as colonies of carmine bee-eaters build their nests and take to the sky in a cloud of flapping, red wings.
Along the coast, where a few communal conservancies have concession rights in the Skeleton Coast Park, flamingos, pelicans, cormorants and other coastal birds abound.
Communal conservancies provide the space to roost and the air space to fly for a spectacular array of birds, making conservancies destinations of choice for dedicated birders and those who simply enjoy pure, winged beauty.
The perennial rivers of the South, the North and North West offer unique boating and fishing opportunities from tranquil sundowner cruises to catch-and-release battles with tiger fish.
The Orange River in the South, well known for rafting, is not in a conservancy but it is part of the spectacular whole which is Namibia. The rivers that define Namibia's northern borders do snake along conservancy lines and offer a variety of choices for those who want to spend their time drifting along with the river's flow or fighting with the fiercest tiger fish!
In northwestern Namibia, the Kunene River separates Namibia from Angola. Flowing west, the Kunene arrives at the Atlantic coast, where sea turtles nest and Cape fur seals frolic. At several joint venture conservancy lodges along the Kunene, boat rides are available where the chance to spot spectacular birds and crocodiles waits around every bend.
Conservancies in the eastern part of Namibia are webbed together by a network of rivers, including the Kwando, Zambezi, Linyati and Chobe. On the banks of these rivers are a variety of conservancy joint venture lodges and campsites. They offer boat trips that vary from houseboats to traditional wooden mokoros. The waterways and channels they traverse are home to hundreds of bird species, elephant herds, crocodiles, hippos and buffalo.
These rivers are peaceful and challenging, at the same time, and there is no greater challenge than the tiger fish. With razor sharp teeth and stealth through the water, tiger fish are fighters, and with catch and release the goal, the fight against the tiger draws keen fishermen and women from all over the world to Namibia's waters.
The perfect end to a perfect day of game drives and fishing is a sundowner cruise along one of the region's rivers, where fresh air, bird song and the bellows of hippos revives the soul and propels guests into another exciting day.
For the outdoor enthusiast, Namibia's communal conservancies offer the space for easy rides and gentle hikes or more strenuous challenges that will challenge the most serious biker, hiker and climber.
From long, flat roads that disappear in a heat haze to rugged mountain passes that seem to drop off into nowhere, bikers can follow the road or take to the mountains in pursuit of adventure. The choice is yours. Several joint venture lodges and community campsites have bikes that their guests can use or rent.
Hikes vary too, from challenging multi-day or overnight hikes in the heat and dust of the Kunene region to trails through long grass taken with the San as they follow and share the signs of the wild, to easy hikes where the destination is just on the horizon and the reward is a spectacular sundowner spot. When you stay at a conservancy joint venture lodge or community campsite, the options will be explained and the temptation to explore will be evident.
At 1,728 metres, the Spitzkoppe in the Gaingu Conservancy is one of Namibia's most popular destinations for climbing. Set out on one of more than 60 climbs at the Spitzkoppe and surrounding mountains. There are at least 30 natural – unsecured climbs or "free climbing" – and more than 30 sports climbs with established routes secured with bolts.
With permission from National Heritage Council of Namibia, it is possible to hike or climb the Brandberg Mountain with the Daureb Mountain Guides.
For more information on climbing in Namibia, visit the Namibian chapter of the Mountain Club of South Africa at www.mcnam.org.
Highways lead to by-ways that lead to countless side tracks in Namibia’s communal conservancies, just waiting to be explored by the intrepid traveler. From rocky rugged passes in the northwest to the east where water turns tracks into muddy quagmires, there are challenges for the toughest vehicle and driver.
Before planning your trip to Namibia, check out these routes and sidetracks. There are also tracks that disappear into distant horizons that beckon you onwards. Along these tracks are many campsites that are owned and operated by communal conservancies. Instead of “wild camping” that leaves no benefits behind to the custodians of the land, seek out these campsites and support the people who are supporting conservation in the area. It is their heritage and they are proud to share it with visitors.
Namibia’s network of gravel roads provides almost unlimited access. But there are limits that you’ll want to respect. Please do not drive off road. Vehicle tracks can scar the landscape for decades and destroy plant and animal life that lives in this fragile environment. Also maintain a safe distance from wildlife so that animals do not feel threatened by your presence. Your experience – and theirs – will be so much better.
When exploring Namibia’s communal conservancies, please be respectful that you are on land that is managed and protected by communities and that one source of income comes from camping fees. Please support conservancies by staying at these campsites, which are included in the listings below.
Climb. Row. Pedal. Release. Relax. Namibia's communal conservancies pack an adventure punch!
From the highest points in the country to vast tracks of land and rivers that beckons adventure travelers, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Namibia's conservancies proudly hosted hundreds of international delegates who attended the 2013 Adventure Travel World Summit, putting Namibia firmly on the map as a destination for adventure travelers. Check out the information below. Your next adventure is just a click away!
Mountains, dunes, dry riverbeds and rivers running wild, Namibia's communal conservancies offer visitors the chance to lose and find themselves in some of the most spectacular landscapes on earth.
Namibia's communal conservancies cover 20% of the land in the country. Within this expanse, there are areas where you can be isolated, alone with your thoughts and hundreds of millions of years of geological history to find perspective.
Namibia's escarpment is a visual expression of the shifting of tectonic plates, when the mass of land that was Gondwana split 180 million years ago. In the geological aftermath, Namibia was forged with flat-topped mountains, deep depressions and jagged rocks that expose hundreds of millions of years of geological activity. For those passionate about geology, Namibia is a fascinating place to explore.
Namibia has 14 vegetation zones, ranging from several variations of desert vegetation to semi-desert, mopane, mountain, thorn bush, highland, dwarf shrub, camel thorn and mixed tree and shrub savannas and the forest savannas and woodlands of the north east. Many spectacular species can only be seen when specific weather conditions persist, and some tree, plant and lichen species remain unidentified or only seen in cycles as long as fifteen years.
Namibia's commitment to conservation crosses borders, providing more space for visitors to explore and maintaining critical ecological integrity of land and wildlife at a regional scale. In the northeastern part of the country, Namibia’s communal conservancies are an important part of the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Park (KAZA), an area larger than Germany and Austria combined, which links spectacular parks and protected areas in Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Explore this space, contemplate the tremendous will it has taken for these governments and people to make a choice to link and protect these lands, and revel in the experience of being part of something bigger than the sum of its parts!
Namibia is a bucket list destination so why not celebrate! The perfect sunset, your first sighting of an elephant, your first day as a married couple, Namibia's communal conservancies provide the perfect backdrop to celebrate the milestones of life.
Make Namibia’s communal conservancies your destination for a milestone birthday (and really, aren’t they all?)! From 10 to 110 years, a visit to Namibia’s communal conservancies will make any occasion memorable.
Spend your first day as a married couple in a conservancy, camping out under the stars or in the luxury of a joint venture lodge, or drift down the river and listen to the call of the African fish eagle as you settle into your Namibian adventure.
Raise a glass in classic Namibian “sundowner” style to the perfect sunset, your first sighting of an elephant, or by listening to a song sung by conservancy members. Celebrate a new day, as the sun rises across this ancient spectacular land. Namibia’s communal conservancies provide the perfect backdrop to celebrate these milestones of life and so much more.