Namibia’s position between safari-driven Botswana and the coastline of the Atlantic makes for an easy transition from being one of Africa’s youngest countries to tourism stardom. There’s a diverse landscape that would take weeks to fully navigate through-from vast crimson-stained sand dunes to rugged dry desert that redefines as far as your eye can see, a seascape teeming with seals and ancient shipwrecks, a landscape named after its resemblance to the surface of the moon, and wildlife-crowded national parks with ostriches that lay eggs so large you could make omelets for your entire extended family.
While local culture does run deep, there are high-rising cities that can accommodate the modern world – you’re still faced with country clubs, pre-owned Audi dealerships, and Outback Steakhouse-style restaurants on your way out of the airport in the capital city of Windhoek.
It’s hard to walk in the footsteps of the Himba, Herero, and Damara (all local ethnic groups) without feeling like you’re a bit ahead of the curve. You’re the cool kid who knows something few else do. And while it would be a smart man who got in now while the gettin’ is still good; it’s even smarter to help preserve the culture and ethnicity of the country so that it can avoid certain pitfalls of some of its tourist-trampled neighbors. Here are three ways to give back to a country that has plenty to offer in return.
Check out Away.com’s Namibia Travel Photo Gallery
Children in the Wilderness
The brainchild of late actor Paul Newman and Wilderness Safaris, Children in the Wilderness is a program that aims to educate African children about the land they call home. The Wilderness Safari camps play host to rural children ages 8 to 16 for periods of up to six days. Throughout the program, the students are taught about conserving their environment, the geology and geography of the region, and the wildlife that they see on morning game drives. In addition, the program aims to protect the children’s youth and give them the skills they need to be successful later in life. There are classes on health and nutrition, as well as HIV/Aids awareness and prevention. And in an effort to preserve their culture, the teachers educate them on ways to keep their heritage alive.
Become involved by sponsoring a child or making a one-time donation. For just $400USD, you will send a child to a six-day camp. Or choose to donate supplies; art materials, water bottles, t-shirts, and swimming shorts are just a start on the list of what it takes to outfit a child for program participation. For a full list of ideas on ways to get involved, click here.
Save the Rhino Trust
As early as the 1980s, poaching of the endangered black rhino led to near extinction. These desert-adapted animals roam Northwest Namibia and are the largest free-ranging black rhino population in the world. To offer protection, ex-poachers and members of local communities were employed to track and observe the animals. With population numbers back on the upswing, the trust still operates to monitor and conduct research on the rhinos, as well as educate the community on how these magnificent animals are worth more alive than dead due to a surge in Namibia’s tourism industry. While the rhino population has tripled over the past two decades, the Save the Rhino Trust still has much to be done in terms of community outreach, extension, and training.
Each rhino takes $3,000USD per year to protect, and a good way to get involved is to get together with family and friends and go in to sponsor a rhino. The trust camps are often quite remote and supported primarily off of donations. Click here to learn how to donate supplies like computers, cameras, binoculars, and GPS devices.
Pack for a Purpose
Husband and wife Scott and Rebecca Rothney started Pack for a Purpose after their first trip to Africa. Their goal is to educate travelers on how forfeiting just five pounds of luggage space can do vast amounts of good for the country they’re on their way to explore. Supply suggestions include deflated soccer balls, medical supplies like Band-Aids and stethoscopes, as well as any kind of item that could be useful in a school -pencils, paper, crayons, calculators, and chalk. You’ll be surprised at how much you can include while staying under your luggage limit. Five pounds can be 400 pencils or 5 soccer balls.
After you book your trip, go here and select the country you are traveling to and the place you are lodging. If your lodge isn’t listed, you can find the nearest participating place instead. Once you select your nearest lodge, Pack for a Purpose gives an updated list of current projects and a list of supplies that are most needed in that area. All you have to do is go to that lodge upon your arrival and drop off your supplies. They’ll deliver them for you.
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