Oshakati is the major town in far northern Namibia. This densely populated area, formerly known as Owamboland, has been split into 4 regions: Oshana. Oshikoto, Ohangwena & Omusati. In the local Oshiwambo language of the Owambo people the towns name means 'that which is between'
The much-developed Oshakati, (along with Ongwediva and Ondangwa,) are the only major towns north of Etosha National Park. It is a bustling hive of activity, with people thronging around open-air stalls sited along the main roads, and is referred to locally as the capital of the northern area known as Ovamboland. The town is the hub of trans-border trade with Angola, and the regions main city is surrounded by Oshonas (inland water channels), palm trees, farmlands and settlements, hence the name - Oshana Region. Oshakati is Namibia's second largest city and the town shares an airport with neighboring Ondangwa.
After Windhoek, Oshakati is the second biggest town in Namibia and according to the 2001 census was home to approximately 45 000 people. The town is however growing at a staggering rate and had recorded an annual population increase of 5.5% since Namibian independence.
The town was officially founded in July 1966 and was used as a base of operations by the South African Defense Force, during the South African Border War and Namibian War of Independence. In Oshiwambo, the language of the Ovambo, the town's name means 'that which is between, ' and some believe it refers to The Tower, the tallest freestanding structure downtown.
Town planning in Oshakati seems to have been a fairly haphazard affair and the main road is lined with a collection of shops, residential complexes and cuca shops (bars). Meanwhile run-down taxis, donkey carts and luxury vehicles jostle for position along the road. The rules of the road adhered to here seem somewhat different to those in the rest of Namibia and to an outsider is can all seem rather confusing and ever so slightly daunting!
There is an interesting mix of local open air markets selling meat, mopane worms (a local delicacy), dried chilies and an assortment of vegetables and anything else you can dare to imagine.
The town enjoys a vibrant local entertainment scene, with a variety of small clubs that usually feature live bands. A feature of the north are the thousands of informal trading shops, known as cuca shops. The name was originally adopted by shops on the Angolan border that sold Angolan beer of the same name, but is now used throughout the region. These shops, with their distinct square, tin-roofed buildings, should be approached wearing sunglasses, the colours can be that bright. The names are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face, including 'Jamaica For Ever' and 'Mount Everest at Christmas.'
As a recognition of the town's progress and development since Namibian independence on March 21st 1990, the Oshakati Town Council building was inaugurated by the then Botswanan President, Festus Mogae. Unfortunately, a fair chunk of the town was devastated by floods in 2008, and the town's mayor decided to relocate some of the streets to 'safer, higher (and no doubt drier) places' in the town.
The tourism potential of Oshakati and the entire region has not been developed with most emphasis having been places on business and trade (particularly the lucrative export business with nearby Angola). But the recent opening on a new northern gate (King Nehale Gate) from Etosha into the region it is hoped that tourism will begin to spread.
Although most of the accommodation in the town is geared towards business travel, especially catering for those engaged in the lucrative cross border trade with Angola, their are several hotels and guest houses in the area that are suitable for the leisure traveller.
A large hotel in Ondangwa, popular with business people and tourists alike
A traditional Owambo homestead which offers a unique opportunity of interacting with the local community while getting involved in local activities such as cattle herding and basket making.
These far northern regions of Namibia are home to most of the country's population. Oshakati where this lodge is situated is the heart of the region - expect vibrant markets, cows, goats, fisherman and a general hive of activity
Situated at the Ruacana falls on the Namibia / Angola border - this lodge serves as a gateway between Kaokoland and Owamboland