12 Days / 11 Nights
1 night Kalahari Desert – Kalahari Anib Lodge
2 nights Sossusvlei – Kulala Desert Lodge
1 night Swakopmund – Strand Hotel
2 nights Damaraland – Damaraland Camp
2 nights Etosha – Etosha Mountain Lodge
1 night Etosha – Andersson’s at Ongava
2 nights Okonjima – Okonjima Plains Camp
I had always dreamt of self-driving through Namibia, and it finally became a reality in November 2019.
We began the long trip to Windhoek with a Virgin Airways flight to Perth, where we then connected with a South African Airways flight to Johannesburg. Upon arrival, we rested up briefly with a 5 hour stay in the Bidvest Lounge, before boarding our South African Airways flight to Windhoek.
Arriving at 11:45am, and keen to make the most of the day, we picked up our 4WD Ford Ranger “bakkie” (ute) and departed straight away on safari! We drove south for approximately 325 km (4 hours) on great all-weather tarmac roads, to our first overnight stop at Kalahari Anib Lodge, on the edge of the Kalahari Desert. Located on a private concession, this was a great place to stop. We enjoyed a clean and comfortable stay and the following day, an early morning game drive.
After breakfast, we departed for Namib Desert and Sossusvlei. Here is where you realize why you need a good, air-conditioned 4WD vehicle- the desert temperatures can hit a scorching 48- 50 degrees centigrade during the summer months!
Our journey took us into the heart of the oldest desert in the world, the Namib. Taking just over 5 hours, our long drive took us to Kulala Desert Lodge, situated on over 27,000 hectares of private property and bordering the Namib Naukluft Park. Here, we enjoyed beautiful views of the famous red dunes of Sossusvlei, as well as the magnificent mountainous scenery and vast open plains.
We enjoyed an afternoon game drive here, and although this part of the Namib does not have a lot of animals in the reserve, apart from some oryx and ostriches, it was good to see the sights. Here, the heat was intense, especially with no air conditioning. However, the lodge had a real African solution! In the rooms they had kitenge wrap arounds, which you could soak in water and wrap yourself in- creating a personal air conditioner!
The next day, we drove to the famous sand dunes. Sossusvlei is absolutely breathtaking! It is truly the most stunning desert landscape I have ever seen in Africa. It is possibly Namibia’s most spectacular and best-known attraction- and for good reason. Characterised by the large red dunes that surround it, Sossusvlei is a large, white, salt and clay pan and is a great destination all year round. The dunes in this area are some of the highest in the world and provide photographic enthusiasts with wonderful images in the beautiful morning and evening light.
Nearby, Deadvlei is a clay pan that is well-known for its dark, dead camel thorn trees that contrast against the white pan floor. The pan was formed when the Tsauchab River flooded, and the abundance of water allowed camel thorn trees to grow. However, the climate changed, and the sand dunes encroached on the pan, blocking the river from reaching the area. The trees are estimated to be approximately 900 years old, however they have not decomposed due to the dry climate. Our visit was particularly memorable, with a dust storm hitting us as we were walking back to the car park!
Later that day we visited Sesriem Canyon, located approximately 4.5km from the entrance gate of the Namib-Naukluft National Park. The Tsauchab River has shaped the Canyon over millions of years, and it is one of the few places in the area that holds water all year round. It is a truly breathtaking place of carved rock faces and long flowing waterways.
The following day, we packed up and began our drive via the Gaub and Kuiseb Pass to Swakopmund, a city located between the Atlantic Ocean and Namib Dunes. We checked in at the Strand Hotel, a contemporary hotel reminiscent of both German and Namibian interior and exterior architectural design. Before dinner, we enjoyed exploring the charming seaside village and wandering through a local craft market. Dinner was at an excellent seafood restaurant, where the portions were massive and the food divine!
After breakfast we began our drive north to Damaraland. Over 7 hours of driving. Thankfully, the roads were (mostly) good and the scenery amazing. We were warmly welcomed at the camp, with staff singing to welcome us- though we were quite exhausted after the long day!
The next day began with a surprise bush breakfast atop a cliff with stunning views of the valleys and mountain ranges. Afterwards, we drove a couple of hours through the reserve on our way to Twyfelfontein, which is home to one of the most extensive galleries of rock engravings in the world. We also visited The Organ Pipes which are a fascinating geological formation located near Twyfelfontein. Strikingly rich rusty colours are portrayed in long columns resembling those of a church organ, some rising up to 5m high. Afterward, we visited the Damara Living Museum, before heading back to the lodge for a quick lunch and then heading out on a game drive. We were lucky enough to spot both desert elephants and desert lions!
Next, we were heading towards Etosha Mountain Lodge, located on a private game reserve bordering Etosha National Park. We had the chance to enjoy two game drives whilst here, having incredible encounters with rhino, elephant and our very first brown hyena. Then, we continued to Andersson’s at Ongava, where we were able to enjoy an incredible array of game including lion and rhino.
The following day was a trip to Etosha National Park, before continuing towards Okonjima, which would be our last stop. We were staying at Plains Camp, which is a large 3-star property. Although very commercial in setup, it is known for its numerous walking trails and leopard tracking. On our second day during our morning game drive we witnessed an amazing sighting of a leopard stalking and then taking down a large adult warthog right in front of our vehicle! There was a surprising amount of other game too.
The next day was the beginning of our journey home. Although it was sad to leave, we had an incredible experience and my only regret is not spending more time there!
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