With a virtually untouched landscape that ranges from arid deserts and vast plains to rugged mountains and endless red dune belts, Namibia is essentially four different worlds in one. The country has a population of around two million while its land mass is over three times that of Great Britain, meaning it has one of the lowest population densities in the world.
This self-drive tour takes you through all the highlights of this mysterious land, starting in Windhoek and progressing through to Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, Damaraland, the Ongava Game Reserve & Etosha National Park and finishing in Okonjima.
Arriving at Hosea Kutako International Airport from your departing destination, you’ll collect your rental vehicle and, using our comprehensive directions and travel notes, drive yourself to the capital city of Windhoek where you'll spend two nights. Windhoek is the most western thing you'll find in Namibia, a modern, well-groomed city complete with fine dining restaurants, African curio shops and office workers wandering around Zoo Park at lunchtime. Enjoy the restaurants and bars and shopping as it will be a while before you have another opportunity.
On day 3 you’ll leave the city behind and travel south through Reheboth, Solitaire and Sesriem, making your way to Sossusvlei in the Namib Naukluft Park. Sossusvlei is a mud pan created by an ephemeral desert river that flows through the Namib Desert every 5-10 years. The river drains differently each time as it is dependent on the previous year's mud deposition. It’s this abandonment of the riverbed less travelled that leads to the signature photos of dead Acacia trees in the middle of the desert. The complete lack of moisture means that the dead trees cannot decompose, resulting in a kind of tree graveyard filled with trees that have been dead for centuries. The striking orange-red dunes for which Sossusvlei is famous contrast beautifully against the intense blue of the sky and pure white of the salt pans, adding to the other-worldly atmosphere. The average dune here is over 200m high with the largest, “Big Daddy”, being close to 380m.
After two nights in Sossusvlei, you’ll head past the Naukluft Mountains through Solitaire in the direction of Walvis Bay. The drive along the coastline to Swakopmund is simply spectacular. Swakopmund, known locally as Swakop, is a small city on west coast of Namibia – small being relative, as it’s also the country's largest coastal town. A beach holiday destination beloved by both locals and visitors, it’s the perfect playground to escape the inland heat. The old German Colonial buildings scattered throughout the city hint at the city's German origins and are perfectly complemented by the palm-lined streets, seaside promenades and buzzing restaurants, cafés, art galleries and museums. It’s hard to believe this town is sitting on the edge of the Namib Desert. There's plenty to do within the city, but the real action happens out in the desert. Adrenaline junkies get their fix quad-biking, sand-skiing, parasailing and sand-boarding. Nearby Walvis Bay offers dolphin cruises and kayak tours that perfect for exploring the lagoon. You’ll spend two delightful nights here and we’ll pre-arrange whatever activities you’ve got your heart set on.
From the beach you’re off to the rocky, unforgiving environment of Damaraland where you’ll spend 3 nights. This sparsely populated region is home to the majestic Desert Elephant and Black Rhino as well as the highest mountain in Namibia, The Brandberg or ‘Fire Mountain’. An area of endless untamed beauty, it offers a captivating range of landscapes to discover, ranging from vast open grassland plains to mountains and deep gorges, with desert becoming more prevalent as you move further west. You’ll find fascinating rock paintings and engravings in the Brandberg and also in Twyfelfontein, a valley in the Damara highland whose name means ‘Fountain of Doubt’. Around Twyfelfontein there is a host of geological phenomena for you to explore, including the ‘Organ Pipes’, Burnt Mountain and a Petrified Forest of fossilised trees that is over 200 million years old. The conservancy is also not short on wildlife – you can expect to spot ostrich, black rhino, elephant and springbok.
After breakfast you'll travel through Khorixas and Outjo to reach Ongava Private Game Reserve for a two night stay. Privately owned Ongava is located between the mountains just south of Etosha and features a large conservation area within the perimeter of the reserve. It is one of the most exclusive and luxurious safari destinations in Namibia, giving you up-close encounters with wildlife that includes lions, black and white rhinos, elephants, giraffe and several species of antelope including rare black-faced impala. You'll get to experience the thrill of rhino tracking on foot in the company of your trained guide.
Your next stop is just a short drive from Ongava to the one-of-a-kind Etosha National Park. A game reserve since 1907 and National Park since 1967, Etosha National Park covers some 8,600 square miles of northwestern Namibia. “Etosha” means “Great White Place”, a most fitting name considering that the impressive Etosha Pan, a 75 mile long dry salt lakebed that is part of the Kalahari Basin, takes up a large part of the park. The pan is so large that it can be clearly seen from space. The savannah area surrounding the pan is home to diverse wildlife including flamingo, zebra, blue wildebeest, elephant, springbok, the endangered black rhinoceros, leopard, lion and antelope. The greater park is home to several hundred species of mammals, reptiles and birds. One of the greatest wildlife spectacles is the descent of a pink cloud of thousands of flamingo who come to breed when Etosha Pan fills with water during the rainy season in January and February.
After two nights in Etosha, you’ll head to your final stop – a night in Okonjima. Okonjima is home to the AfriCat Foundation, a conservation effort that aims to protect and conserve threatened wild cat species such as cheetah and leopard. During your stay you’ll have the opportunity to see the programme at work by visiting the centre. You’ll also have the chance to track rehabilitated carnivores on foot, take a guided Bushman Trail or track leopard from a game–viewing vehicle. Equipped with its own air strip, Okonjima is also accessible by plane.
From Okonjima you'll head back to Windhoek to drop off your car before catching your return flight home, the sights and sounds of Africa still almost close enough to touch.