Hi! I’m Elena, an Administrator for QuirkyAccom.com and a full-time student at Nottingham Trent University.
This August I had the chance to join my family on a self-drive tour of Namibia in the South-Western part of Africa. Although it was winter in Namibia for us
that meant perfect UK summer weather every day, no rain or clouds but very chilly nights (fluffy socks quickly became part of my nightwear!)
We spent 26 days driving a Nissan 4x4 pick up with all our provisions in the back and 2 tent packs on the roof which could readily pop up at night. Our route was planned and campsites booked prior to leaving the UK with the help of a local Namibian travel agency. This meant that we just had to follow our itinerary and enjoy the scenery.
Namibia is a stunningly beautiful country where the desert landscape constantly changes as you drive through it. At all times, we felt safe and the local people were very friendly and welcoming. We travelled long distances with most of the roads away from the main towns being gravel or sand hence the need for a 4x4.
We found ourselves living by the sun, getting up to see the sunrise at 6am, driving at a leisurely pace to our next destination during the day, to settle into our campsite early afternoon and explore. By 5.30pm the sun had set, in time for us to cook over a fire, eat tea under the spectacular stars and be tucked up in our tents by 8pm! Generally, we stayed 2 nights at each site to not be in a rush, which was just right.
Here are the highlights of our diverse and memorable journey-
Windhoek is the compact capital city where we flew in and out of and hired the car that was to become our home for the next 3.5 weeks. It was a good destination for stocking up on provisions for the safari ahead and then for souvenir shopping at the end of our holiday.
We camped in our roof tents in the National Park here. We picked a secluded site from where we could walk to the picturesque swimming pool and hike through woodland up to the top of Waterberg plateau. From here there were stunning views of the plains beneath. There were many marked hikes that you could do unsupervised, to enjoy the native wildlife including packs of baboons (which were very interested in the contents of campers’ bins!), groups of adorable meercat type creatures and many colourful and musical birds.
Etosha National Park
This is the main safari park of Namibia where the big game live. We booked 8 months early specifically to secure 4 nights camping in 2 separate sites within the park, rather than having to queue and travel in each day. You drive yourself on safari without a guide, knowing that most animals can be viewed close to the well-marked waterholes, at this dry time of year. Driving is only allowed in daylight hours - so you need to be careful to get back to camp before sunset! In Etosha we saw lions, cheetahs, elephants, giraffes, rhino, zebras, different species of antelopes, ostriches and many other smaller but interesting animals and birds.
We stayed in Namutoni in the East side of the park and then at Okakuejo in the West. Both these sites had lodges, campsites and great facilities. Okakuejo had the most amazing waterhole adjacent to the site, so you could sit quietly and watch the animals come and go. At night, this was spectacular when we saw many rhino, giraffe and elephants with their babies very closeby.
From Etosha we drove off over gravel roads into remote Damaraland where the scenery became much more dramatic. This was characterised by stunning mountains, which were big piles of huge round boulders precariously balanced, that looked as though a film set designer had artfully arranged the scene. Here we stayed in a tented camp near Grootberg pass and then in Madisa campsite in a river valley close to the heritage site of Twyfelfontein. From here we visited ancient rock engravings and hiked to the famous rock art. Both campsites were at charming locations with amazing sunsets and the clearest stars at night.
We drove through barren desert towards the wild Skeleton coast on the Atlantic to Swakopmund, the liveliest city we saw in Namibia. Here we had a break from our tents and enjoyed the home comforts of 3 nights in a homely apartment with TV, fully functioning wi-fi (the only place we found in Namibia!) and a Washer/Dryer to fully sort ourselves out in the mid-point of our holiday. Here the restaurants and choice of organised excursions were excellent. We went on a boat trip around Walvis Bay to see the seal colonies, flamingos, pelicans and dolphins.
Namib desert sand dunes
We camped for 2 days within the national park at Sesriem which allowed us the advantage of driving at 5.30am, before the park gates opened, to reach the red sand dunes in time for the dramatic sunrise. We climbed the mountainous dunes for spectacular views and shifting colours as the sun moved, to be remembered forever.
On our way to the giant Fish River Canyon in the south, we drove on gravel and sand roads through the most spectacular scenery that Namibia has to offer. There were red sand dunes on one side meeting mountains of different colours changing regularly as we drove. We stopped for an extremely windy night in a beautiful, remote farm campsite to break the journey.
Fish River Canyon
This spectacular canyon in the far south of the country is a bit of a detour but wellworth it if you have a longer holiday. It claims to be the second largest canyon in the world, but is far less crowded than the Grand Canyon in the US! We stayed in the wonderful Fish River Lodge, as a special treat and it was the highlight of our trip. The exclusive glass-fronted lodge, made up of contemporary design one-bedroom chalets, is on the cliff-edge of the Fish River Canyon. From the moment that we arrived we were spoilt by the staff. The view across the canyon is breathtakingly beautiful. We particularly enjoyed the hike along the rim of the canyon to take in the vast natural wonder.
From here we travelled at a leisurely pace back towards Windhoek over 4 days, camping at various locations along the way. The highlight was Quiver Tree Forest and Giants’ Playground which were both very photogenic.
Overall an amazing adventure to remember. In 3 weeks you can see all of the best sites that Namibia has to offer and benefit from a very relaxing pace of life. The driving is quite challenging on bumpy and slippery roads - so you do need a 4x4 and to take the driving steady!
Top tip: Slow down the itinerary to make the most of each destination and allow for unforeseen issues, such as a break down.
If you don't think you could live around your vehicle like Elena did, here are some suggestions of GLAMPING and LODGES in Namibia that will blow your mind!
WATERBERG WILDERNESS - experience wildlife, great trails and views
AHA EAGLE TENTED LODGE & SPA - more wildlife on game drives and bathing under the stars
ETENDEKA MOUNTAIN CAMP - guided walks as well as game drives - stunning scenery
DESERT BREEZE LODGE - views over the sand dunes and wood burners for those chilly nights
CAMP KWANDO - close to Botswana, stilted treehouses and water bungalows