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Sandscapes Namibia

Dunes & Etosha Self-Drive

Our most popular self drive itinerary spends a total of twelve days in Namibia visiting the main highlights. This is the perfect self-drive safari for first-time visitors to Namibia as it includes both Etosha Park, the Namib Desert, dunes at Sossuvlei and several other exceptional areas.more

The first destination on the Dunes and Etosha Self-Drive is Sossusvlei. This pan in the Namib Desert is renowned for being surrounded by the highest sand dunes in the world. The landscape there is exceptional, and this is one of those places that can really be described as ‘breathtaking’.  Climb a Namib Desert dune to really appreciate their immense scale, take photos of the iconic dead trees at Dead-vlei and follow the less used path to Hidden Vlei if you want to get away from the main tourist area.

From Sossuvlei the route heads towards the coast and the town of Swakopmund.  Swakop is the premier holiday resort in Namibia and has plenty of excellent restaurants, shops, boutiques and numerous day trips and activities.

Leaving the Skeleton Coast the Sossusvlei & Etosha self-drive safari heads inland into the remote (and rugged) semi-desert region of Damaraland. Here you will really start to get a feeling of exactly how remote many parts of Namibia are. Empty roads lead you through rolling desert hills. The highlights of the area are the Brandberg Mountain (with the well known White Lady Rock painting), the ancient San rock engravings at Twyfelfontein and possible encounters with desert-adapted elephant and rhino.

Next stop on your self-drive safari in Namibia is the  Etosha National Park. There is very little left to be said about Etosha – it genuinely is one of Africa’s most beautiful game parks. This self drive itinerary splits your days in Etosha between the central and eastern part of the park.  Game viewing is always unpredictable, but you are sure to see numerous antelope species (kudu, oryx, wildebeest, springbok) and vast herds of zebra. Elephant & rhino are seen throughout most of the year. Spotting predators can be trickier; lion make relatively frequent appearances at waterholes however sightings of leopard, cheetah and hyena may require a bit more luck.

Next stop on your self-drive of Namibia is near the Waterberg Plateau. This is cheetah country, reputed to be home to the majority of the world’s cheetah population.  Don’t hold your breath, as they are timid and not commonly seen in the wild. However, by visiting a cheetah conservation project, you are both supporting their conservation and will have the opportunity to get close to these magnificent cats.

As with all our itineraries, this one is entirely customisable. Our travel consultants love telling people what to do.  Yes, they can be a bit bossy! But only because they want you to love Namibia as much as they do!  They will work tirelessly to find the best configuration of vehicle, accommodation and length of stay to suit your entire parties needs. Contact us and let us help arrange your self-drive in Namibia.

Fast Facts

Days: 12


Price: From US$150 per person  

    • Camping: US$150 per person
    • Mid Range: US$600 per person
    • Upmarket: US$1 000 per person

Places: Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, Damaraland & Etosha


Experiences: The highlights of Namibia

Map of 12 day dunes and etosha itinerary

Daily Itinerary

On your arrival in Windhoek, you will collect your rental vehicle and then check into your accommodation for the night.  This is a good time to visit a supermarket to stock up on some provisions for the next few days. Locally this is called ‘padkos’ (food for the road) and plays an important part of any Namibian road-trip. We suggest you get your hands on some droewors (dried sausage) and biltong (similar to jerky) as they are the quintessential local snack.

Tonight head to one of Windhoek’s many restaurants and make sure you enjoy an ice-cold Windhoek Lager.

Tip: Remember we drive on the left. Namibian drivers are also some of the worst in the world!


Distance: 45km if driving from the airport to town


Estimated Drive Time: 40mins

Today the serious part of the Dunes & Etosha Self Drive begins. Leaving Windhoek there are numerous routes to choose when driving to Sossusvlei. While all of them are scenic, we believe one stands out above the rest, and that is the route over the Speetshoogte Pass.

Head south on the B1 past the town of Rehoboth, then turn left onto the C24, follow the route to Nauchas (once a German colonial police station, now a mostly abandoned settlement) and then towards the Spreetshoogte Pass (D1275). Stop at one of the viewpoints at the top of the Spreetshoogte, the view is breathtaking.  Then once you have plucked up courage, begin the steep descent into the Namib Desert.

From here head towards the ‘village’ of Solitaire. It is customary to stop here and enjoy a Windhoek beer (and maybe a light lunch or snack). Then deeper into the Namib as you head towards Sesriem and your accommodation for the night.

Before sunrise head for Sesriem, the entrance to Sossusvlei (for more about how this works visit our page about Sossusvlei). Spend the day exploring & climbing the dunes at Sossuvlei; visit Deadvlei & Hidden Vlei; walk along the Sesriem Canyon; roll around in the red Namib sand!

Be sure to leave the park before sunset, this is a park rule. Anyone who stays behind will turn into a pumpkin and lose their shoe.

Spreetshoogte Pass looking over the Namib Desert

Tip: Use your gears not your breaks if travelling down the Spreetshoogte Pass.


Tip: If you want to climb dunes it is advisable to wear closed shoes especially in summer months when the sand can become very hot.


Highlights: The scenery around Sossusvlei.


Distance: 335km


Estimated Drive Time: 4h10

Today will be spent driving through the Namib Desert (and the Namib Naukluft Park) as you head back through the village of Solitaire and then further north through the Ghaub Pass and Kuiseb River Canyon. This is not the sand desert found at Sossusvlei. Here the Namib is starker (perhaps uglier) as the dunes give way to rock.

As you approach the coast, you will notice the temperature begin to fall. Even at the height of summer, it can be chilly here due to a mist bank formed from hot desert air meeting the cold Atlantic Ocean. The vegetation also begins to change as the scattered grass gives way to succulents that have adapted to harvest the mist. The amazing Welwitschia Mirabilis is one such plant.

Shortly before Walvis Bay, the gravel road ends, and you will be back on tar. It’s definitely worth stopping at Walvis Bay Lagoon which has an abundance of birdlife. Greater & lesser flamingos, pelicans, and an assortment of waders can be seen – an impressive sight even for the less ornithologically inclined.

Once you have enjoyed the birdlife leave Walvis Bay for Swakopmund, a short 40km trip. This road is sandwiched between the ocean and Namib dunes, making it one of the most scenic drives in Namibia. Unfortunately, it is also one of the busiest so ensure the driver keeps their eyes firmly on the road.

Once in Swakopmund, check into your accommodation, and spend some time walking around the town. It is something of a mecca for shoppers. Himba ladies sell jewellery and crafts in an informal market near the beach. Craft shops and boutiques cater for the more formal shopper while pubs and cafes cater for those who are allergic to shopping!

After a good nights sleep you can spend your day relaxing in town or joining one of a host of activities.  Amongst our favourite events are kayaking on the Walvis Lagoon; a full day trip to Sandwich Harbour; a dolphin cruise; and enjoying champagne and oysters at the Tug restaurant.  See the activities block below for more ideas. Our travel consultants can also make recommendations based on your desired adrenaline/energy level.

Restaurants in Swakopmund can get very busy, especially during the December school holidays, so booking in advance is advisable. As always we’re happy to recommend and book suitable options but most people look no further than The Tug or The Jetty restaurants which offer fantastic sea views (when there isn’t a heavy mist).

Tip: The road between Kuiseb Canyon to Walvis Bay is often very corrugated. Take care not to speed as you can easily lose traction.


Tip: If you have time, the salt works just outside Walvis Bay are worth a visit.


Highlights: Kayaking on Walvis Bay lagoon or a trip to Sandwich Harbour.


Distance: 345km


Estimated Drive Time: 4h20

Driving north of Swakopmund along the Skeleton Coast one is struck by how barren this area is. Some find it depressing and grey while others are amazed by how isolated and vast the landscape feels. Imagine being shipwrecked here with little chance of rescue and you will begin to realise how this coastline got such a formidable name.

Wildlife enthusiasts can make the short detour to Cape Cross Seal Colony. Thousands of Cape fur seals are a spectacular sight, although somewhat noisy and an assault on your olfactory senses. There is also a replica of a stone cross erected by the Portuguese explorer Diogo Cão in 1482. The original cross is in a museum in Germany.

Heading inland towards the village of Uis, you will notice a large mountain on the horizon. This is Namibia’s highest point and is called the Brandberg (Burning Mountain – it’s a fiery red at sunset). Brandberg is best known for the White Lady rock painting. It’s a bit of a walk up a river gorge to find the painting and once there the eagle-eyed will notice that she is neither white nor a lady!

Day 7 is a full day exploring Damaraland. Most of the tourist attractions are found close together. The primary and most significant being the rock engravings at Twyfelfontein. This is an area where almost every rock has a San engraving (it’s a Unesco hertitage site). A guide will show you the best engravings which include a lion with a weird tail, an exceptionally well hung man and a dancing kudu.

The other ‘attractions’ in the area are Burnt Mountain (a pile of black rocks) &amp the Organ Pipes (a rock formation that we are told resemble church organ pipes). Unless you are interested in geology, you’re not missing out if you skip a visit to either. Similarly, the Petrified Forest (large fossilised trees that are millions of years old) can be a disappointment. As a child I remember being devastated to discover they were lying down (so logs instead of trees) and looked more like rock than wood, but as an adult, I will admit there is a certain fascination.

Your lodge will probably offer a guided elephant or rhino tracking tour. These are worthwhile as encountering a desert-adapted elephant or rhino in this arid environment is one of Namibia’s hidden gems.

Elephant at dam near Twyfelfontein

Tip: Don’t have a big breakfast before visiting Cape Cross unless you have an iron constitution!


Tip: The rock engravings at Twyfelfontein are best viewed in the afternoon sun. However, during summer months it can be too hot, making a morning visit more sensible.


Highlights: Finding rhino or desert-adapted elephants if you are lucky.


Distance: 335km / 440km via Cape Cross


Estimated Drive Time: 4h10 / 5h30

It will take you around 4 hours to reach Etosha if you enter the park through the Andersson Gate (named after Swedish explorer Charles Andersson). After completing some paperwork, the game viewing begins in earnest. Zebra and springbok usually greet you within metres of the gate. You might want to take a short detour to visit Ombika waterhole where lions are occasional visitors. Then head to Okaukuejo and check-in to your accommodation for the night.

Head out for a late afternoon game-drive but remember the Okaukukejo gate closes at sunset so plan accordingly as sleeping in your car outside the gates is no fun! Alternatively, walk to the Okaukuejo waterhole and let the animals come to you. After dinner, we highly recommend grabbing a bottle of port (or whatever tickles your fancy) and settling in to enjoy the procession of animals at the spot-lit waterhole. Elephants and rhino are frequent visitors throughout the night.

On your first morning in Etosha, it is worth setting out just after sunrise to get the most out of your game viewing. The waterholes generally offer the best sightings but occasionally you will come across incredible animals next to (or in the middle of) the road. One never knows what is waiting to surprise you just around the next corner.

We suggest spending the morning exploring the waterholes to the west of the Pan (especially Okondeka) as these can be good for cats in the early hours. The afternoon could be spent driving towards Halali, visiting the lookout point on the Etosha Pan, and exploring the Gemsbokvlakte Loop. The alternative option is to continue driving west to Ozonjuitji m’Bari that attracts large herds of plains animals such as springbok, wildebeest, zebra and gemsbok.

Lunch (and bathroom stops) are best enjoyed at one of the rest camps – Okaukuejo, Halali or Namutoni. We suggest bringing your own lunch as there is only so much Etosha restaurant food one wants to endure. Remember all the camps also have a swimming pool so take your costume along for the day.

Part of the joy of self-driving in Etosha is that you get to choose how to spend your days. There are two basic approaches to game viewing in Etosha. The first involves driving between as many waterholes as you can in the hope that your arrival will coincide with a fantastic sighting. The second more leisurely approach is driving to a waterhole and patiently waiting to see what arrives. The strategy you choose probably says a lot about your personality.  But one thing is inevitable when you speak to fellow travellers they will have adopted the other method and seen something way more spectacular than you did!

Tip: Ask your accommodation establishment about road conditions as it sometimes is better to backtrack to the C35.


Tip: Each camp has a sightings book. Check these out as they may help to decide which waterholes to visit.


Highlights: Rhino drinking at a spotlit waterhole; a lion kill; spotting a leopard; a herd of elephants enjoying a mud-bath; newborn springbok testing out their legs. Who can tell?


Distance: 350km


Estimated Drive Time: 4h

Pack up your belongings in your dusty Toyota Hilux (other self-drive vehicles are available) and game drive east through Etosha heading past Halali towards Namutoni. Rietfontein is situated close to Halali and is often frequented by a variety of animals. Kalkheuwel waterhole, south-west of Namutoni, is known to have productive sightings throughout the day. Other waterholes you may want to include are Goas, Chudob and Groot Okevi.

How you actually spend your days depends on the time of year (animals migrate around the park during wet season), information gleaned from fellow travellers and guides, and of course how long you spend watching and photographing the critters you see along the way.

The road north of Namutoni towards the King Nehale gate is not normally worth visiting as the veld is thicker (bushier) and animal viewing difficult. We recommend doing the majority of your game viewing in the Halali and Namutoni areas today before leaving the park at Namutoni and checking into your lodge accommodation. Tonight you will not be staying inside the park as there is a good choice of private establishments on this side of Etosha and we believe the best way of enjoying the park is with a mix of accommodation inside and outside the borders of the park.

Tip: Book an afternoon or early morning activity as a change from self-driving.


Highlights: Game viewing


Distance: 160km


Estimated Drive Time: 2h45 without stops 5-6h seems more likely.

If the mood takes you, there is time for one last game drive in Etosha this morning. Or have a leisurely start to the day enjoying breakfast (or a well-deserved lie-in). This is the joy of a self-drive holiday in Namibia, you get to set the days agenda! From this point, you’re going to be travelling mostly on tarred roads and soon the layers of dust that have covered your possessions for the last 10 days will be nothing but a distant memory.

Today’s destination is a lodge near the Waterberg Plateau so you will need to head south towards the town of Otjiwarongo.

The itineraries diverge here with our camping and up-market routes staying at Okonjima Lodge, while the budget & mid-range options stay at close to Waterberg Plateau. We offer a vast amount of flexibility as to how we design itineraries (custom making every itinerary to suit our clients) so no matter which ‘budget’ you are on, we can amend the route allowing you stay at the property you prefer.

Okonjima lodge focuses on conserving wildlife, in particular leopard, hyena, cheetah, pangolins and aardvaaks.  The Okonjima reserve is home to the AfriCat Foundation which for nearly 30 years has run research projects on rare and endangered species. Game drives and guided walks offer an up-close perspective of Namibia’s wildlife and, especially, its most protected species.

The Waterberg Wilderness experience is about rare and endangered game species such as sable, buffalo, black and white rhino. Here you will have the opportunity to track rhino on foot (or from the relative safety of a vehicle). The area is also excellent for hiking, and the energetic can walk to the top of the Plateau to be rewarded with great views.

Tonight you will have a chance to enjoy your last sundowner in the Namibian veld, tomorrow is a return to city living.

Leopard

Tip: Book any activities to avoid disappointment.


Highlights: A close encounter with leopard or possibly rhino depending on where you stay.


Distance: 355km (Okonjima) / 315km (Waterberg via scenic route)


Estimated Drive Time: 3h50 (Okonjima) / 4h10 (Waterberg)

The Dunes & Etosha Self-drive winds down today with a return to Windhoek. Unless you have a flight to catch there is no reason for an early start so enjoy a morning activity or walk before leaving. It’s an easy drive down the highway and into Windhoek. If you have a flight tonight make sure you get to the International Airport in plenty of time, those requiring an additional nights accommodation in Windhoek can spend the evening at one of the cities restaurants.

Tip: If you have an evening flight, make sure you leave additional time for handing in your rental vehicle, the drive to the airport and at least 2 hours for check-in.


Distance: 225-295km


Estimated Drive Time: 2h30-3h10

Where you will stay

Windhoek

Unless you are a super keen camper we suggest staying in a good quality guest house or B&B in Windhoek. We will make suggestions based on your budget and requirements

Christuskirche in Windhoek

Meals: Breakfast


Alternatives: It is possible to camp in Windhoek

Sossusvlei

You will camp at Sesriem, this is the main campsite for Sossusvlei and is inside the Namib Naukluft Park. This has the advantage of giving you a head start on all those people staying outside the park on your morning excursion to Sossusvlei.

The campsites are large and most (but not all) are in the shade of a camelthorn tree. Each site has a tap and braai facilities, ablutions are shared (and feel rather sad and overworked).

Also on site is a bar and restaurant and swimming pool.

Meals: None

Swakopmund

We generally suggest our self-drive clients stay in a B&B while in Swakopmund. This is mostly for weather-related reasons, the coast is usually misty and chilly during the evenings and camping in these damp conditions is not pleasant. The alternative weather situation is hot and windy and camping in the midst of a dust storm also has drawbacks. We are aware that there are many perfectly lovely days in Swakopmund, but as there are excellent value guesthouses & b&b’s it seems silly not to make use of these.

Our first choice here is the Alternative Space B&B.

Meals: Breakfast


Alternatives: It is possible to camp in Swakopmund

Damaraland

In Damaraland you will camp at Madisa. We love the rustic/cool vibe on offer here. Spacious campsite are shaded by large Mopane Trees with views of the Gauntegab River and rock formations. The campsites have individual open-air private ablution facilities, situated on stilts and hidden amongst the treetops.

Facilities include is a swimming pool and restaurant offering simple meals cooked over an open fire. Desert Elephant often pass through the camp!

Meals: None but it is possible to arrange meals at the lodge if booked in advance.

Etosha (Okaukuejo)

In central Etosha you will be staying at the Okaukuejo campsite. While this campsite is pretty basic and can be overcrowded during high season and has communal bathroom facilities, the advantage here is the ability to visit the famous Okaukuejo waterhole at night.

Every campsite has a braai (barbeque) area, and meals can also be eaten in the Okaukuejo restaurant. There is a small shop but it is not well stocked so we advise campers to to come fully prepared to self cater.

Okaukuejo Camp

Meals: None but it is possible to eat at the rest camp restaurant.

Etosha (East)

On the outskirts of Etosha the Tamboti campsite offers 25 luxury private sites nestled in the trees of a private game reserve. Each campsite has private ablution facilities with a spacious shower room, separate toilet and covered washing-up areas. Each unit also has electrical sockets for recharging of gadgets and fridges.

The main area has a restaurant where you can enjoy a meal while looking out across the waterhole. And a supply store stocks essentials.

The campsites also have a pool and Wi-Fi is available in the reception area.

Meals: None

Waterberg (Okonjima)

The main reason for staying here is the activities, these offer an opportunity to learn about (and see) leopards and other predators. Okonjima is not a zoo, it is rehabilitation, education and research centre, and sightings are not guaranteed.

Okonjima campsites are wonderfully laid out and maintained. They offer a light; electric socket; private ablution facilities; a covered washing-up area; a sundowner viewpoint; and two bundles of firewood.

Campers are welcome to reserve breakfast, lunch or dinner at any of Okonjima’s lodges or eat lunch at the AfriCat Carnivore Care and Information Centre (booking is required).

Meals: None

Windhoek

Accommodation in Windhoek is at the Windhoek Luxury Suites. Situated in the suburb of Klein Windhoek they are easy to reach from the International Airport.  One of the best restaurants in Windhoek, Stellenbosch, is just across the car park and there are numerous shops, supermarkets and banks in close proximity.

The accommodation offers a bar, garden, outdoor pool, wifi and parking. Each unit features air conditioning, fridge, kettle, coffee machine, TV and en-suite bathroom.

Windhoek Luxury Suites

Meals: Breakfast

Sossusvlei

Located on a private nature reserve only 30km from Sesriem the environmentally friendly Desert Homestead offers an excellent location from which to explore Sossusvlei.  Some of the prime features here are the swimming pool with sun deck and shaded areas, a laundry service, WiFi and curio shop. The lodge is also in an area with cell phone reception, something of a rarity in the Namib Desert.

There are only 20 guest units, each housed in its own bungalow. Each unit offers a private shaded sun deck, mosquito nets, en-suite bathroom and air-conditioning.

Horse trails and hikes are also on offer from the lodge.

Desert Homestead near Sesriem

Meals: Breakfast & dinner

Swakopmund

Cornerstone Guest House is well located within easy walking distance of the Swakopmund town centre, the beach and most restaurants.  The owners are friendly and welcoming and happy to share their advice and knowledge.

We love the peaceful and relaxed atmosphere. There are seven light and spacious rooms each with a private entrance and a patio. All rooms have en suite bathrooms with large showers and modern fittings, Wifi, TV, Mini-fridge, complimentary tea and coffee and a hairdryer all ensure your stay will be comfortable.

Cornerstone Guesthouse in Swakopmund

Meals: Breakfast

Damaraland

The first night in Damaraland will be spent enjoying the rustic laid back vibe at Madisa Camp. Accommodation is provided in 7 twin bedded safari tents, each with open-air bathrooms built into a natural rock formation. They each sleep two people and are self-catering. All linen and bedding is provided.

Facilities include a swimming pool and restaurant offering simple meals cooked over an open fire. Desert Elephant often pass through the camp!

Meals: Breakfast

Damaraland

The second night in Damaraland is at Vingerklip Lodge, named after a unique rock formation close by, the Vingerklip (or finger rock). The lodge is built in an elevated position and offers great views across the Ugab Terrace.

The bar & lounge area offers uninterrupted views and there are two restaurants are on-site as well as two swimming pools and a jacuzzi. While the main lodge restaurant is good, we recommend enjoying your dinner at the Eagles Nest Restaurant (about 10 minutes walk from the lodge – mostly uphill). Here traditional African cuisine is served accompanied by spectacular views. Walking the path up is not recommended for people with walking difficulties. The atmosphere and views from are breathtaking!

Twenty-two rooms with en suite bathrooms are individually furnished and equipped. Each unit has a private terrace to complete the atmosphere of relaxation and tranquillity. Eight of the units offer loft accommodation for children.

Vingerklip Lodge in Damaraland

Meals: Breakfast & dinner

Etosha (Okaukuejo)

In central Etosha, you will be staying at the Okaukuejo resort. The accommodation facilities range from poor to mediocre but our belief is that this is made up for by access to the spot-lit Okaukuejo waterhole at night.

The best mid-range choice of accommodation is the bush chalets. These consist of one bedroom, an en-suite bathroom, lounge area and a braai area (only some bungalows have a braai area – and there is no way to guarantee you will have one). The unit is also equipped with a fridge, tea/coffee station, air-conditioning and mosquito nets (although some or all of this equipment may be missing or non-functional).

Okaukuejo waterhole

Meals: Breakfast

Etosha (East)

Less than ten kilometres from the Etosha gate, and on its own private reserve, Mushara Lodge is a small tranquil lodge in a wonderful bush setting. The thatched public area includes a small library, a bar with a good wine cellar, an airy lounge complete with fireplace for chilly evenings, a dining area and a well-stocked curio shop. These are the perfect places to relax after a hard day of self-driving in Etosha.

Ten thatched chalets are arranged in a horseshoe shape around the swimming pool – allowing ample space for privacy. The chalets are spacious and equipped with air-conditioning, mosquito net, mini-bar, safe, tea and coffee station and telephone. Wifi is available at rooms and common areas.

Room at Mushara Lodge

Meals: Breakfast & dinner

Waterberg

Frans Indongo Lodge is situated north of the Waterberg Plateau, not far from the town of Otjiwarongo.  Astrid & Alf have managed the lodge for many years and are friendly and welcoming. The main complex overlooks a waterhole and consists of a spacious deck, restaurant and thatched lounge with bar.  The swimming pool is also found here. Wildlife can be viewed from this main lodge area or from an observation tower nearby.

The twelve rooms are built from local stone and a thatch roof.  All the rooms are en-suite and equipped with large double or twin beds, a desk, small fridge, television, tea and coffee facilities and an air-conditioner. Two of the rooms are suitable for families.

The lodge is within easy reach of the fascinating Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF).

Frans Indongo Lodge near Otjiwarongo

Meals: Breakfast

Windhoek

Olive Exclusive Guest House is one of Windhoek’s best boutique hotels.  Situated on the slopes of a hill in Klein Windhoek the hotel is close to all the cities amenities and restaurants. This modern and sleek all-suite boutique hotel has won numerous international awards & accolades.

Each suite is individually decorated to reflect the different regions in Namibia, each has its own lounge area with fireplace and dining room, for private dining. Air-conditioning, high definition satellite TV and iPod docking stations are standard, as is a computer with WiFi access.

‘The Olive’ Restaurant has long been considered one of the finest in Namibia

Olive Exclusive in Windhoek

Meals: Breakfast

Sossusvlei

Little Kulala is the finest property on the Kulala reserve, and one of two truly luxurious properties in this part of the Namib Desert.  The lodge overlooks a waterhole which attracts a variety of desert wildlife including oryx, ostrich, springbuck and extremely cute bat-eared foxes.

The eleven climate-controlled, thatched suites each have a private plunge pool.  Each unit has a Star Bed on the deck for star gazing after dark and for the enthusiast guides (with laser pointers) will happily show you the highlights of the Namibian sky.  Activities here include a guided Excursions to Sossusvlei and Sesriem, morning and afternoon 4×4 drives, guided quad biking and a unique ‘scorpion walk’ after dark.

Sand dunes near Sossusvlei

Meals: Full board & activities

Swakopmund

The Strand Hotel is perfectly situated on the main beach in Swakopmund. For decades the old strand hotel was a local icon, and every Namibian will have a childhood memory of ice creams or cool drinks purchased from the kiosks here enjoyed (and often dropped) on the beach. Understandably there was much trepidation when it was announced the Strand was to be demolished and replaced with a new Strand Hotel. Fortunately, the new hotel has surpassed the old and is now a firm favourite with locals and visitors to Swakopmund.

The hotel has several restaurants, all with sea views, and excitingly also has a micro-brewery which makes some very fine tasting draught beers.

The luxury rooms offer floor-to-ceiling sliding doors with “step-out” Romeo & Juliet balconies. The bathrooms, with showers and separate toilets, feature double vanities. Available as an extra-length soft-top King-bed or Twin-bed configuration, writing desks or dining/working tables, couch and two easy lounging armchairs with reading light. The rooms also include satellite TV, tea and coffee facilities, a hairdryer and electronic safe.

Strand Hotel room

Meals: Breakfast

Damaraland

Mowani Mountain Camp is a real surprise, nestled amongst the giant granite boulders of Damaraland it offers a level of sophistication and comfort one would not expect to find in this harsh environment.

The lodge is characterised by domes thatched roofs that mirror the symmetry of the surrounding landscapes. The main area includes a reception, bar, dining room, lounge, deck and swimming pool.

The view rooms are beautifully located offering the best views over the surrounding countryside. Constructed from canvas, thatch and wood each tent consists of a double bed, veranda, separate bathroom and a seating area.

Activities include guided visits to Twyfelfontein,  nature drives & self-guided walks.

Mowani

Meals: Breakfast & dinner

Etosha

Ongava Lodge has long occupied a position as the premium luxury lodge in this part of Etosha. Situated in the privately owned Ongava Game Reserve along the southern boundary of Etosha National Park this is an excellent location for game viewing both in Etosha and on the private reserve.

Guest here enjoy the services of a private guide, thatched dining area and bar with waterhole views, wi-fi, swimming pool & curio shop.  Set on a hill with a beautiful vantage point overlooking Namibian veld, the lodge has a well-placed hide to looking over the productive waterhole near camp

Fourteen air-conditioned units have a private viewing deck, overhead fans, mosquito nets, tea/coffee, hairdryers & 220V power.

Ongava Lodge

Meals: Breakfast & dinner

Etosha (East)

Onguma means “the place you don’t want to leave” in the local Herero language, and Onguma Tented camp is sure to make a lasting impression. An infinity swimming pool also looks over the waterhole and rhino, leopard & lion all frequent the private Onguma Reserve.

The seven luxury tents, built from local materials, overlook a natural waterhole. These are not tents as you remember them from your childhood camping trips, they are equipped with luxurious linen, and modern conveniences, even boasting both an indoor and outdoor shower.

Activities on offer include morning and afternoon game drives into Etosha as well as night drives on the reserve. Guests can also self-drive into Etosha National Park.

Onguma Tented Camp

Meals: Breakfast & dinner

Waterberg (Okonjima)

Okonjima (and the AfriCat foundation) has been a beacon of conservation in Namibia for three decades. The work they have done with leopard and cheetah has been internationally recognised and has had a big impact on local farming techniques. Staunchly conservative Namibian farmers have been converted into conserving their local cheetah populations as a direct result of the work done at this amazing facility.

Okonjima Bush Camp is one of our favourite lodges in Namibia. The main lodge area is a lapa that encompasses the reception area, curio shop, a cosy lounge area with inside and outside fireplaces, a restaurant and dining area. All overlooking a waterhole. A short walk away is a secluded, private swimming pool.

The luxury chalets have large glass panels and canvas windows that can be completely opened for unrestricted views of the savannah. The chalets also have an open-air sala with a semi-detached lounge area complete with a minibar, tea/coffee station and ample space to relax. Each unit has a birdbath, a highlight for any bird lover, and a bird-feeding container should you want to feed the birds.

Okonjima Bush Camp room

Meals: Breakfast & dinner

Windhoek

Accommodation in Windhoek is at the Windhoek Luxury Suites. Situated in the suburb of Klein Windhoek they are easy to reach from the International Airport.  One of the best restaurants in Windhoek, Stellenbosch, is just across the car park and there are numerous shops, supermarkets and banks in close proximity.

The accommodation offers a bar, garden, outdoor pool, wifi and parking. Each unit features air conditioning, fridge, kettle, coffee machine, TV and en-suite bathroom.

Windhoek Luxury Suites

Meals: Breakfast

Sossusvlei

You will camp at Sesriem, this is the main campsite for Sossusvlei and is inside the Namib Naukluft Park. This has the advantage of giving you a head start on all those people staying outside the park on your morning excursion to Sossusvlei.

The campsites are large and most (but not all) are in the shade of a camelthorn tree. Each site has a tap and braai facilities, ablutions are shared (and feel rather sad and overworked).

Also on site is a bar and restaurant and swimming pool.

Meals: None

Swakopmund

We generally suggest our self-drive clients stay in a B&B while in Swakopmund. This is mostly for weather-related reasons, the coast is usually misty and chilly during the evenings and camping in these damp conditions is not pleasant. The alternative weather situation is hot and windy and camping in the midst of a dust storm also has drawbacks. We are aware that there are many perfectly lovely days in Swakopmund, but as there are excellent value guesthouses & b&b’s it seems silly not to make use of these.

Our first choice here is the Alternative Space B&B.

Meals: Breakfast

Damaraland

In Damarland you will camp at Madisa. We love the rustic/cool vibe on offer here. Spacious campsite are shaded by large Mopane Trees with views of the Gauntegab River and rock formations. The campsites have individual open-air private ablution facilities, situated on stilts and hidden amongst the treetops.

Facilities include is a swimming pool and restaurant offering simple meals cooked over an open fire. Desert Elephant often pass through the camp!

Meals: None but it is possible to arrange meals at the lodge if booked in advance.

ETOSHA (OKAUKUEJO)

In central Etosha, you will be staying at the Okaukuejo resort. The accommodation facilities range from poor to mediocre but our belief is that this is made up for by access to the spot-lit Okaukuejo waterhole at night.

The best mid-range choice of accommodation is the bush chalets. These consist of one bedroom, an en-suite bathroom, lounge area and a braai area (only some bungalows have a braai area – and there is no way to guarantee you will have one). The unit is also equipped with a fridge, tea/coffee station, air-conditioning and mosquito nets (although some or all of this equipment may be missing or non-functional).

Okaukuejo waterhole

Meals: Breakfast if staying in accommodation

Etosha (East)

On the outskirts of Etosha the Tamboti campsite offers 25 luxury private sites nestled in the trees of a private game reserve. Each campsite has private ablution facilities with a spacious shower room, separate toilet and covered washing-up areas. Each unit also has electrical sockets for recharging of gadgets and fridges.

The main area has a restaurant where you can enjoy a meal while looking out across the waterhole. And a supply store stocks essentials.

The campsites also have a pool and Wi-Fi is available in the reception area.

Meals: None but it is possible to arrange meals at the lodge restaurant.

Waterberg

Frans Indongo Lodge is situated north of the Waterberg Plateau, not far from the town of Otjiwarongo.  Astrid & Alf have managed the lodge for many years and are friendly and welcoming. The main complex overlooks a waterhole and consists of a spacious deck, restaurant and thatched lounge with bar.  The swimming pool is also found here. Wildlife can be viewed from this main lodge area or from an observation tower nearby.

The twelve rooms are built from local stone and a thatch roof.  All the rooms are en-suite and equipped with large double or twin beds, a desk, small fridge, television, tea and coffee facilities and an air-conditioner. Two of the rooms are suitable for families.

The lodge is within easy reach of the fascinating Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF).

Frans Indongo Lodge near Otjiwarongo

Meals: Breakfast

Additional Activities

Ballooning

Drifting quietly over the Namib Desert in a hot-air balloon is a unique way of experiencing this magnificent landscape. The adventure begins before dawn, the excitement building as the balloon is prepared for take-off. Then with a rush of activity, suddenly you are airborne. Once your flight altitude is reached and the giant burner is turned off it’s a surprisingly quiet, windless and tranquil experience allowing you to fully appreciate the vast landscapes below.

After about an hour the balloon descends, landing wherever the wind has taken you. Tables are set up and a magnificent champagne breakfast appears as if from nowhere.

Ballooning is one of the pricier activities in Namibia but it is well worth the investment for a lifetime of memories.

Hot air ballooning near Sesriem
Guided tour of Sossusvlei

Although this is a self-drive Namibian holiday, sometimes it is nice to sit back, relax and let someone else do the driving allowing you to take in the splendour of your surroundings. Most lodges offer a guided activity into the dunes at Sossusvlei, in essence, this follows the same routine as if you did the trip yourself, with the added advantage of having a guide along, who knows about the area, and can impart some wisdom.

Typically the activity involves a very early start for the drive from your accommodation into the dunes, a period of exertion where you climb up a dune in order to admire the view of people climbing up other dunes, and then a late breakfast (or brunch) in the shade of a camelthorn tree. The quality of the guide, vehicle and breakfast all vary according to the lodge you are staying at – but the experience of visiting these amazing dunes is the same no matter what your budget.

Guided tour to Sossusvlei
Catamaran Dolphin Cruise

Explore the lagoon at Walvis Bay aboard a catamaran (motor-boat options are also available) while enjoying sparkling wine & oysters. While aboard you are likely to see dolphins, cape fur seals, leatherback turtles and giant mola-molas. Whales are also a common sight during seasons (July to November) the southern right whale and humpback whales are often seen, while gray whale and the pygmy right whale make less frequent appearances.

The Walvis lagoon is known for its splendid birdlife and gulls, cormorants and pelicans accompany the vessel.

After a morning at sea, you will disembark around mid-day, leaving time for another adventure, some shopping. a visit to the pub for lunch or an afternoon nap!

Walvis Bay morning boat tour
Fat Bike Tours

These specially adapted bicycles can carry the weight of the largest of men! Or in reality, these bikes have oversized tyres making them perfect for zooming along the sand, something that Swakopmund is blessed with in abundance (a sandy beach and a sandy desert give ample opportunity for fat-bikers!)

There are numerous guided options available from energetically whizzing up and down dunes, exploring the Swakop River bed, city and desert tours and even a day trip to Sandwich Harbour (you don’t ride all the way – you’re driven most of the way and ride around 16km).

You tend to spend a lot of time in a vehicle when self-driving in Namibia, this activity allows you to get out and about and is lots of fun for the entire family with an educational and scenic element thrown in.

Living Desert Tour

The barren coastal dune belt of the Namib Desert is home to an unexpected variety of interesting creatures and plants, the guides on the Living Deserts tour have the exceptional ability to introduce you to this world in a passionate, informative and interesting way.

The tour lasts the entire morning and is run in an environmentally friendly and personal manner. Plenty of time is available for frequent stops to take photos of the dunes and the surrounding environment. Stopping continuously to look for animal tracks on the dunes (known locally as reading the bushman paper), to determine which animals were active the previous night. The guides share knowledge on each desert animal and plant, including an emphasis on special adaptations and perfect design used for survival in the desert.

Geckos, rolling spiders, scorpions, lizards, snakes, chameleons, skinks and a variety of beetles and insects are some creatures to be found on this tour.

Kayaking

Kayaking on the Walvis Lagoon is one of our all-time favourite activities (and this comes from someone who shuns the unnecessary expenditure of energy and has the swimming ability of a rock). The adventure starts with a drive out to the Pelican Point peninsular (a large sandbank that separates the lagoon from the Atlantic Ocean). After the traditional safety briefing, you are launched out onto the open waters.

Apart from the gentle splashing of water against the hull of your kayak, this is a very peaceful activity, the wildlife is not disturbed allowing you to view the amazing bird and marine life. The local seals are extremely playful and will often race your kayak, stopping to encourage you to paddle harder and provide more of a challenge. The braver seals taunt novice paddlers by nibbling on the end of your paddle, a truly joyful and memorable experience.

Highly recommended!

Sandwich Harbour Day Trip

This full-day trip departs from Swakopmund at around 8.30 am returning around 5 pm. Sandwich Harbour is a natural freshwater lagoon, a haven for wildlife and birdlife, surrounded by Namib Desert dunes. The route to reach it is challenging and requires driving over steep sand dunes and judging the tides as you drive along the beach, even the most experienced off-road drivers find this a challenging experience – which is why having a qualified and experienced guide is necessary.

Along the way, your guide will also share their knowledge of the Namib Desert and the amazing plants and creatures that have adapted to live here. Springbok, ostrich, jackal and the occasional brown hyena share the dunes with a fascinating variety of desert-adapted insects, reptiles and plants. Birds include Peregrine Falcons, Pale Chanting Goshawks and Black-breasted Snake Eagles can sometimes be seen hunting gerbils and three-striped-mice.

This final section of the journey is as dramatic as the landscape, and it becomes clear why Sandwich Harbour is often described as inaccessible! Spring tides and shifting sands ensure an unpredictable route, but as you approach the towering, wind-sculptured dunes at the edge of Sandwich Harbour, there is a sense of entering a different world. All that is left of the old whaling station and its community of traders and fishermen, is the freshwater lagoon, a solitary deserted building and the strange greenery of this unique coastal wetland. This is the setting for your picnic – a large hamper full of homemade cakes, savouries, salads, fruit and drinks – and a spot of bird watching.  Some 40 000 birds – 34 different species – were recorded in this area during recent surveys.  Take a leisurely walk around the Lagoon (an official marine sanctuary) and you may also see seals, dolphins and even whales.

Welwitschia Drive & Moon Landscape

As most of the activities are morning based this is a great option for an afternoon. You can self-drive this fascinating desert route or join one of several guided tours. Self-drivers will need to buy a permit and collect a map from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism in Swakopmund.

The impressive  Welwitschia Drive takes you through lichen fields, across vast desert plains and of course past numerous Welwitschia Mirabilis plants (one of which is around 2000 years old). The Moon Landscape resembles the surface of the moon (some imagination required) and was caused by eons of erosion. For sci-fi buffs the opening scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey was filmed here.

Night Game Drives

You are not allowed out of the rest camp after sunset, so this negates any self-driving in Etosha after dark. An alternative to spending every evening sitting at the Okaukuejo waterhole is a guided night game drive in Etosha Park. Typically game viewing on these drives is not spectacular and it can be a bit cold and dusty but you may be rewarded with viewing some nocturnal species that you may not encounter otherwise. Leopard, porcupines and aardvark are all more active after dark.

Night Game drive
Morning & Afternoon Game Drives

NWR offer both morning and afternoon game drives from Okaukuejo. In our opinion, you are better off self-driving in Etosha, but if you want to mix up the experience we can assist in pre-booking one of these game drives (or you can book at the Okaukuejo office).

Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF)

CCF’s Visitor Centre and Museum are open daily and we welcome anyone interested in learning about the cheetah and how CCF is conserving them in the wild. CCF also offers a variety of activities including:

  • Drive – visit the animals in their camp, this offers excellent photographic opportunities.
  • Feeding – some cheetah can not be rehabilitated into the wild and remain at CCF, this allows you to view them during feeding time.
  • Run – large cats zoom past while ‘hunting’ a lure. You get to admire how fast and powerful they are and the cheetah gets some morning exercise.

Activities should be confirmed in advance.

Cheetah Conservation Fund