Namibia, with its vast areas of wilderness, has an extraordinary variety of unique landscapes and ecosystems. These include the rich wildlife around the Etosha Pan and the Waterberg Plateau and extraordinary scenery, such as the Fish River Canyon, the sand dunes around Walvis Bay, the wild Kakaoveld in the northwest, and miles of colourful, tall dunes in the Namib Desert, which runs north to south.
For visitors interested in prehistory, some of Africa’s most stunning rock art can be seen at Twyfelfontein and the Brandberg. The coastal towns of Swakopmund and Lüderitz preserve some of the atmosphere of the Kaiser’s Germany as Namibia was a German colony until the end of the World War I. Until recently, you could still find street signs saying Bismarckstrasse and Bahnhofstrasse and there are many people of German descent. It explains why this is the only African country where you can find Kaffee und Kuchen all over the place and why Windhoek, the capital, is probably the cleanest city in Africa.
The majority of Namibia’s small population is found in little-visited Ovamboland in the north. Smaller ethnic groups include the Damara-Nama, related to the San people, or ‘Bushmen’, and the remains of the Herero, victims of genocide during German rule, and the biggest landowners, who are white Afrikaners.
Independent from South Africa only since 1990, Namibia has been relatively stable until now; but the resettlement of landless people may lead to struggles and the high rate of HIV/AIDS (an estimated 25 per cent of the population are affected) seriously threatens the well-being of the country. It also has one of the highest rates of income inequality in the world because of an almost cashless rural economy.
Tourism has grown steadily, and this has been handled in a sensitive manner. Namibia is the only country in the world to specifically address habitat conservation and protection of natural resources in its constitution. Communities are able to create their own conservancies that benefit from wildlife on communal land, working with private companies to manage their own tourism market.
Ethical Travel Issues and advice
Displacement of Local Peoples:
Tourism development has caused many communities to be forcibly displaced. Indigenous groups, people living in informal settlements, or people who lack official title deeds to their lands are particularly vulnerable to displacement or loss of access to lands and waters essential for their livelihoods. This often happens with little or no warning, compensation or alternative provision.
Governments and private companies have forced many tribal peoples from their ancestral lands to make way for national parks and so called ‘eco-tourism’. Fishing communities are removed from their coastal villages and blocked from accessing the sea as hotels are built and beaches are privatised, destroying livelihoods and traditional ways of life. Informal settlements are bulldozed under beautification projects in the lead up to major international sporting events.
To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on Land displacement:
Travelling presents an opportunity to photograph in lots of different destinations and situations, but sometimes there may be culturally sensitive issues to think about before reaching for the camera or other photo-taking device. There are lots of people in the world who do not have clean water, electricity, schooling or enough to eat, let alone access to mobile telephones, the internet and printed media, so they have no idea where their photograph may end up or how it could be used. Sadly, in this day and age, child prostitution, child trafficking and other crimes against children are facilitated via the Internet, and photography can play an unwitting and innocent role. Photography and its use is no longer straight forward, so perhaps it is time to stop and think a little about the ethics of photography.
Taking photos of friendly local people can be a highlight for many travellers and photographers. Smiles are universal ways to engage, as is showing people the photo you just took of them. If you show an interest in their work or ask them questions, they’ll be happy to have their picture taken. In some touristy places it has become common for people to ask for money for their photos to be taken. Do as you wish, but a photo of someone you shared a laugh with may have a better lasting impression than one you paid for. Don’t forget the same holds true for any porters and guides that may help you along the way. Take an interest in them and you’ll be rewarded with more great photo opportunities.
To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on ethical photography: https://tourismconcern.wpengine.com/ethical-photography/
Indigenous Tourism & Cultural Loss:
As we have extended the scope of our holidays into remote places, we now see ‘remote people’ as part of our holiday landscape. Our interest in other people’s cultures is not always sensitive. What are the implications, for example, of tourists viewing, filming & photographing tribal peoples who now demand payment in exchange for becoming models in their finery?
Performing for tourists has become an income earner for tribal groups all over the world. But the income comes with a price. To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on Indigenous people and tourism:
Game Parks, Nature Reserves, Conservation Areas and Conservancies:
According to Right-tourism.com, game parks and nature reserves constitute some 18% of the Namibia’s available surface area. These parks represent a network of Namibia’s most sought-after tourist destinations and often include a wide-range of adventure, camping, hiking and wilderness activities.
Some conservation areas in Namibia are owned and managed by Government and others by the private sector. Namibia’s 20 state-run reserves and game parks are owned by Government and managed on its behalf by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), Directorate Parks and Wildlife Management. Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR) manage the 12 government-owned resorts in these parks and reserves.
Namibia was the first country in the world to include the protection of the environment in its constitution. The protection of rated and endangered species was initiated in 1972, protection of the black rhino gained momentum in the early eighties with Namibia being one of the only countries in Africa with a growing population of black rhino and cheetah, in and outside national parks – both species are internationally considered highly endangered species. Since independence the private sector has become increasingly involved in wildlife conservation and there has been a rapid escalation in the number and size of private conservation areas.
Tourists use more water than the ordinary consumer. Indeed, the water ‘footprint’ of the Western world, as in our carbon footprint, is very high. There are already serious water shortages worldwide and a prediction of ‘water wars’.
The United Nations has claimed that ‘The average tourist uses as much water in 24 hours as a third world villager would use to produce rice for 100 days.’ Tourists need unlimited supplies of water – they are used to it at home and desire copious amounts on holiday: for drinking, baths and showers, swimming pools, overflowing fountains and green manicured lawns.
But water, in developing countries, is often a precious commodity. More than 2 billion people lack access to clean water and sanitation, and 80 per cent of all deaths in the developing world are water related. Put a hotel near a local community and the pressure on the water supply is acute.
Tourism Concern has extensively campaigned on water equity and have published reports & articles on the topic. To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles: