Safari, tribes & adventure
Looking for a safari experience we could go on with our kids, we came across Namibia as a potential destination. With its German colonial background and diverse tribal culture it looked like it would have the right mix of animal watching, culture sniffing and adventure seeking. The flight out is relatively expensive, and the 4×4 we rented was not cheap either, but once you are in Namibia, getting around and camping across the country, your day-to-day expenses are very manageable.
Time of year: September
Time spend: 3,5 weeks
Means to travel: 4×4 with rooftent
- Etosha National Park
- Ovambo tribe
- Skeleton coast
- Kalahari National Park
The journey – Where we went & Stayed the night
We started and ended our journey in the capital of Windhoek, after picking up our 4×4 rental at Namvic Safaris. The explanation of the rooftent was one to pay attention to, and as we were new to the concept we decided to spend our first night in Windhoek in a B&B to find our bearings and get our plans up and running.
Hassle free accomodation search – Cardboard Box Travel company
While we normally book our own trips or just find a place to stay on the go, we understood that Namibia in the season would be trickier, especially as some parts are more off the beaten track and might not find anything at all. We certainly did not want a guided tour, as we are both solid drivers (years of working as a taxi-driver when in college did help :-)) and were looking for a bit of adventure, so we aimed to find a travel company that would ONLY book our accommodations, nothing else. We found Cardboard Box Travel Company which took care of this, and were very happy with their services! Any price range is possible and they really think along with you on the different experiences you could get out of your travel. We are convinced while we are very good at planning our own, this was for once a true game changer and a luxury that cost us nothing more.
Our accomodations in order of the trip
- Windhoek – B&B Villa Violet; Comfortable B&B, great to land
- Waterberg Plateau NP – NWR base campsite; very basic but serves its purpose. Watch the baboons!
- Etosha NP – Etosha Safari Camp (2 nights) has a pool, good restaurant and excellent facilities at the grassy campground. From there, the park is closeby so you can line up early morning at the gate easily. In the park, we stayed at Halali, which was perfect for us as it gave us the opportunity to discover the western side of the park first, while driving north east to exit the park after our stay in Halali. The waterhole is a great draw, the facilities including a buffet restaurant are absolutely fine and good value for its location.
- North Namibia – Ongula Village Homestead Lodge; An absolute highlight of our trip! Great bungalows to wash off the camping dirt, but most exciting is the introduction to the local population and its traditions.
- Angolan border – As we drove along the Angolan border marked by the Kunene River, we stayed at 2 different spots along the way; Kunene River Lodge & Omarunga Epupa-Falls Camp. Both are similar in nature as they are right beside the river and offer nice shaded camping and a range of facilities including local tours.
- Koakaland – Hoada campsite; easily the most amazing campsite we stayed at in Namibia and a must-do if you are in the neighbourhood!
- Central Namibia – Madisa Camp; Another gem along the route with lovely private spots and stilted shower/washbasins. Look out for desert elephants!
- Swakopmund – Alte Brucke; Great with private bathroom to take a breather from your outdoor camping. Central to town.
- Sossusvlei – Sesriem Campsite; No frills, but gets the job done to get an early start into the Sossusvlei and stay the night cheap :-).
- Luderitz – Shark Island Resort; Camping with a twist… we had mad winds that night which were really scary, but the location is fantastic!
- Kalahari – Kalahari Anib Lodge; We tend to book a luxury night at every trip we do, to splurge a bit and celebrate the end of the journey. This lodge is fantastic for this and was a great getaway with bikeriding on the premises and sunset cocktail drives.. yummy!
Where to start? Depending on what you are up for, and the time you have to travel around the country, these are the biggest highlights we have experienced (in order of excitement :-)) which you should not miss out on.
- Etosha National Park – As much as it is a cliche, it is worth every penny and gives you a plethora of wildlife on a silver platter. Easy to navigate on your own, stunning overnight waterhole experiences in the lodging within the park and a great chance to tick of some ‘Big Five’-candidates!
- Sossusvlei – Another natural wonder. The surroundings are picture perfect (expect to fill quite a few MB/GB with them), but the getting there is also a nice adventure. The road in is very sandy, which means you can chose to drive yourself (and run the risk of having to be pulled out by a tractor at a handsome fee) or take a tour/bus in. We took the challenge of course and it was an absolute thrill to do (of course we did get the money out already just in case ;-)).
- Camping / rooftented 4×4 – If you love driving, Namibia is a great place to get your kicks and a 4×4 has you covered (although we did have some car trouble, but it got fixed) with gravel roads, mountains, sandy strips, everything you like. The real bonus of driving with a rooftent is the camping itself, especially in sites off the beaten track such as Hoada and Madisa. There is something magical about sleeping on the roof of your car, knowing the country you’re in has animals crawling around you everywhere!
- Meet the locals! – Yes, a tour to a ‘tribe’ feels touristy so pick them wisely, but our homestead experience that took us to the locals (their church, school, market, village) was a great way to learn about their day-to-day life. If you have room left in your luggage, bring supplies for school – added bonus: it frees up space for souvenirs on the way back!
- Kolmanskop – A little freaky, this deserted diamond village, but a really cool (and again photogenic) place that brings you back to colonial times.
Let’s start by saying we NEVER felt unsafe or unwelcome in the entire country. Having said that our rule for traveling is always to do your homework on the customs, be respectful in any situation and simply put: don’t be an idiot. If you would not walk the streets at night by yourself of your home capital, why would you in an unknown country? Having our two little boys with us we have also found to be a great icebreaker, wherever we go. If we have to mention some things, it is this:
- Beware the baboons at Waterberg Plateau NP! They are sneaky scavengers and will distract you on the one side, while their pals raid the other side of your car… smart little primates. Now that you know and are hanging on to your bowl of cereal: Sit back, relax and enjoy the view while they clear out the carefully laid out breakfast buffet of your fellow campers ;-).
- Be mindful of animals in general – It is not only the big or noisy ones to be wary of. We turned out to have a very venomous snake at our site, which we only realized in hindsight. ALWAYS keep an eye on your kids! If you do so, the whole trip is one big adventure, but it easily goes sour if you become complacent about the fact that they still are WILD animals.
Have a look at other African destinations or check our blog section for more on Namibia and the adventures we had!