Dispatches from the Desert

by Rob Arnott September 14, 2015

The driest country South of the Sahara, sparsely populated and famous for its desert sand dunes, Namibia was the first stop on Okapi Home's African sourcing mission.

We travelled there in search of beautiful, unique homeware goods (which we found in abundance, particularly in the country's North East Kavango region, known for its highly skilled basket weavers) but we also discovered so much more. Here are just a few highlights from our time in the Namibian wilderness:

Big Landscapes

Namibia has a legitimate claim to being home to some of the best, and certainly the most enormous, landscapes the world has to offer. Fish River Canyon in the deep South of the country is just one example. Surpassed in size by only the Grand Canyon, this colossal and ragged canyon is 160km in length, 27km wide and boasts a depth of as much as 550m in places (almost twice the height of the Eiffel Tower). The stats are one thing but enjoying the astonishing views without another human being for miles around is a pretty awesome experience. 

Fish River Canyon

Big Game

Think of Africa, and more often than not you think of big game. And, despite its arid environment, Namibia most certainly delivers on this front, too. Etosha National Park, home to 114 mammal species is undoubtedly one of the gems of Namibia. The blanched plains are dotted with hundreds of 'routine game' as our guide Rodney put it, referring to the numerous antelope species, zebra, giraffe and bird life scattered across the savannahs.

Dig a little deeper, or should I say, keep a close eye on one of Etosha's precious waterholes, and you'll likely see great herds of elephant, jackals, hyena and - with a little luck - lion and even the rare black rhino. Our highlight was watching a lioness with an Oryx she had recently slain, whilst jackals, hyenas and vultures kept a close eye on proceedings - the great food chain in action!  

Lion in Etosha

Big Daddy

Regardless of whether you can place Namibia on a map, I am sure you've seen photographs of the country's famous sand dunes at Sossusvlei, towering hundreds of metres above the valley floor, the stark light bouncing off the rich oranges, reds and rusts.

The guide books suggest the best view of this almost mythical, sandy landscape is from above. Since our budget didn't stretch to a hot air ballon ride, we did it the old fashioned way and found the biggest dune we could, aptly named 'Big Daddy', and struggled our way to the top in the blazing sun. It was hard, and I mean really hard, but wow was it worth it. For miles around all you could see was dune after dune, interspersed with dry vleis - bright white ephemeral pans - home to petrified forests thousands of years old. So foreign was the view that we might as well have been on Mars, or at least in the company of Mad Max.

Big Daddy

Big Skeletons

Ok, we might be stretching the 'big' theme a little here but the Skeleton Coast has to feature in any Namibian highlights reel. Spooky, haunting, desolate, remote, barren. All words to describe this wild coastline which, over the last few centuries, has seized many a ship in her unforgiving grasp.

A trip through this cold, windy coastal wasteland is an experience like no other. There is no destination as such, bar a few remote shacks at the end of the road, largely housing hardy South African fisherman, but the journey along the salt road of the Skeleton Coast is something to be soaked up and savoured.

Skeleton Coast Park

So there you have it, Namibia in a nutshell. In amongst all of these natural wonders on offer we're pleased to report that the Namibian craft industry is thriving. And we are excited to announce that Namibia will be one of our feature countries for Okapi Home's winter 15/16 collection, so do check back when we launch in a couple of months time.

Rob Arnott
Rob Arnott