Yep, you heard right - I am going back to Namibia. OK, I haven't actually booked my flights yet but I'm around 99% sure that I will be flying to Namibia before the end of this year and I couldn't be more excited. I have had several sleepless nights tossing and turning, my mind buzzing with excitement unlike anything I have felt for years. Namibia. Africa. A country that ignited a burning flame of passion inside me that I have been unable to shake and I cannot wait to go back.
As you probably guessed by the title of this blog post, not only will I be visiting Namibia, I will be road-tripping around the country. This will probably be arguably my most exciting adventure to date with just me, my partner and the open dirt-roads of Africa.
I have been frantically researching the topic in order to plan my trip. There are lots of places I want to visit and I only have 14 days to visit them so planning is essential. I feel I've learnt a lot from my planning so I wanted to share with you some of my findings.
Arguably, the first thing about your trip that you need to consider (after flights) is accommodation.
Camping is Extremely Affordable
I'm always looking to spend as little as possible on my trips and I'd heard that Namibia was expensive. So, I scrolled through various accommodation websites, sighing at the prices. But then, a thought came to me. Why don't we camp? I've spent my England summer camping in various locations across Great Britain and have come to love the activity. There's nothing more relaxing than living the simple life, being at one with nature.
As I started to research the topic, I found that camping is in fact a common accommodation option with campsites littering the country. The best part was the pricing. Campsite prices can range from £7 per person per night to £20 per person per night. So even at the expensive end, that's £40 for 2 people which isn't too bad. Campsites are more expensive if they are conveniently located. For example, expensive campsites are located in Etosha and Sossusvlei but if you camp just outside of these areas, camping prices are a lot cheaper. A really handy website which tells you the locations of many campsites is Caravan Parks. Yep, that website is a gem. I love that you can see where the campsites are located so you can book a site closest to the places you want to visit.
Once you've found a campsite you're interested in on Caravan Parks, always google the place to check out prices and, more importantly, to check reviews. Some campsites have awful reviews and I mean awful. I also recommend reading reviews in multiple places. Google Reviews and Trip Advisor are the two that I look at.
You'll Need a 4x4 to Get Around
For a road-trip, you'll need to hire a car. Public transport is not so great in Namibia. A 4x4 is a must as the car will need to tackle rough dirt-roads and potentially even some off-roading if you decide to visit the Skeleton Coast where you may be driving through the sand. Cars are not cheap, especially 4x4s. But this is because the cars are good cars. You'll be looking at either a Toyota Hilux, Toyota Landcruiser or a Ford Ranger. They're all rather snazzy. You'd be looking at around £70-£120 per day for a decent 4x4.
Some cars also come with tents and camping gear which is great if you don't have your own. Regular campsites assume you have your own gear so if you don't own a tent or don't plan on bringing it across the globe to Namibia, you'll need to get a tent included in the car rental. This will make the price for car hire slightly higher.
Namibia is a Massive Country
Confession. I had no idea Namibia is as large as it is. I was under the illusion that all the sights were close to one another and it would be around a 2 hour drive at most between each sight. Oh how naive I was! Google maps tells me it's around a 6 hour drive from the capital of Windhoek to Etosha National Park. What? They look so close on the map! Oh, and don't get me started on N/a'an ku sê wildlife sanctuary. When I went, I felt like it took ages to get there from the airport. Well, google maps tells me that it's right next door to the capital. It looks like it's practically touching on the map but yet that's a 1 hour distance. Huh?
So after factoring in the distances, it will take me the full 14 days to fit in my 5 sights with several stopovers along the way. I'm looking at 10 campsites in total over my 14 day period in Namibia. The vast number of campsites is so that we don't have to drive for more than 6 hours in one day. I'll write a blog post on my itinerary with links to my chosen campsites when it is finalised.
The Top 4 Places to Add to Your Itinerary
I've not actually visited any of these places yet but these 4 stops were at the top of my bucket-list for Namibia. They also appear to be the most popular sights.
1. Etosha National Park
The best place in Namibia to view wildlife. The national park contains a vast array of wildlife including: elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards and cheetahs. It has 4 of the big 5, only excluding African buffalo.
The park consists of several waterholes which make perfect game viewing, especially in the dry season as the animals have to travel to the waterholes to drink. Where game are, there are normally predators too and prides of lions are often spotted by the waterholes.
I've read that it's only £6 per person to enter the park for 24 hours which is a very reasonable price. From there, you can either go on a guided safari ride or self-drive. Self-drive is free but the guided safari has the benefit that the guides intercom over to other vehicles where the sights are. For example, if there's a lion kill, one car will be able to tell all the others in the park and they can go over to view the kill. Despite this, I think I will self-drive through the park as I like the freedom and cost-saving elements.
2. The Skeleton Coast
I'll admit, since hearing the name, I've always wanted to go here. I love anything eerie so a stretch of coast named 'The Gates of Hell' by Portuguese sailors really draws me in. It's named 'The Skeleton Coast' after the countless shipwrecks that have washed ashore here. The conditions are often incredibly foggy with violent seas and vicious currents meaning that many ships have fallen to their salty graves here. Sadly, many shipwrecks are inaccessible and some have even disappeared altogether, due to the same conditions that caused them to sink. In my research, I can only find the location of one shipwreck which I can visit, the 'Zeila' which is a shipping vessel, lost 14km south of the coastal town of Hentiesbaai.
Further south along the Namibian coastline is an area called Sossuvlei. This area is home to numerous orange sand dunes including 'Big Daddy' which stands at over 350 metres tall. As well as sand dunes, there are salt pans including 'Deadvlei' which literally translates to 'dead marsh'. Within Deadvlei stand several 900-year-old dead camel thorn trees which stand eerily against vibrant dunes. It costs around £6 to enter the park.
Near Sossusvlei is a town called Solitaire where the 'Tropic of Capricorn' sign can be found.
Kolmanskop is an abandoned mining town on the southern coast of Namibia that has been taken over by sand. Many of the old buildings are filled with sand and soon the town may be swallowed by the dunes altogether. Entrance to this ghost town plus a photography permit cost around £14.
The Basic information
That is all the key information about organising a road-trip through Namibia. But let's now talk about the very basics of visiting Namibia.
Currency: Namibian dollar. Note that 1 Namibian dollar equates to 1 South African rand.
Language: English is widely spoken. Afrikaans is the native language and German is also often spoken.
Entry Requirements: If you have a British passport a visa is not required unless you are doing any work including volunteering.
Crime: Namibia is generally a safe country. Pick pockets can be found in Windhoek but outside of the capital, petty theft is rare.
Health Concerns: In the north of Namibia including Etosha National Park, there is a risk of malaria. Therefore you must take anti-malarial tablets. I normally take Malarone.
Vaccines: Make sure you have all your standard vaccines (tetanus, polio, measles etc). Hepatitis, rabies and typhoid are also recommended. For most accurate information, I recommend you check out this website.
Those are the basics. Have you ever been to Namibia?