NATURALLY NAMIBIA SELF DRIVE : 16 days 15 nights
DAY 1: Olive Grove Guesthouse
The Journey: After your arrival at an invariably sunny Hosea Kutako Airport, you will be personally met and transferred by road to Windhoek, Namibia’s thriving capital. This 30 minute journey takes you through open countryside and gently rolling hills to the city office of Namibia Car Rentals. The friendly team will give you a comprehensive briefing on your 4WD vehicle and make sure you are happy with your safari transport! You will then be given the simple directions required to find Olive Grove Guesthouse in a quiet residential part of town.
The Windhoek Experience: A small city by African standards, which compensates by offering a friendly and relatively cosmopolitan experience. There is a fluid mix of 19th century German architecture, broad tree-lined avenues, modern shopping malls and diverse restaurants. This is a nice environment in which to get your bearings and acclimatize a little for the adventure to come.
Olive Grove: A genuine home from home with the considerable benefits of stylish, uncluttered rooms, a friendly restaurant, a swimming pool, useful town transfer service and a range of massage therapies. The experienced team at Olive Grove will have you set up with a cool drink nd some useful pointers on Namibia in no time at all.
DAYS 2 & 3: Okonjima Main Camp
The Journey: Leaving the pretty hills of Windhoek and driving north, the landscape quickly flattens with vast acacia covered farmlands all around. You pass the small town of Okahandja, where you have the opportunity to see the famous wood carvers at work in their market. Even if you don’t want to buy, it is interesting to see what a capable pair of hands can conjure from a tree stump!
Approximately 2 hours from Windhoek you will see the turn off and manned gate for Okonjima. You will be met by the security guard and the camp informed of your imminent arrival before you enter 22,000 hectares of exclusive protected big cat habitat. Shaded Acacia bush, sandy river beds and open plains at the foot of the Omboroko Mountains are home to the beautiful and precious charges of the AfriCat Foundation. The Foundation is a pioneering charity committed to researching and rehabilitating Namibia’s threatened big cat population. They have been at the cutting edge of Namibian predator conservation since 1993 and are a leading model for eco-tourism sustained conservation.
The Okonjima Experience: You may find yourself watching a stealthy leopard as he drifts between cover or sitting in complete early morning silence with a wild cheetah purring just feet away. The chance to track and study cheetah on foot is one of Namibia’s most memorable wildlife moments. The welfare cats provide even more insight into the various initiatives which the foundation manages. Your stay at Okonjima directly supports the foundation and leaves a conservation legacy which remains active long after you depart.
Okonjima Main Camp: Designed around the original family farmhouse with its well established gardens, shady trees and prolific birdlife. The thatched main lapa is a cool retreat from the midday sun and at night is rightly lit by lanterns and several welcoming fireplaces. The sixteen rooms offer either a sheltered view onto the main lawn or across open bush to the low mountains beyond.
DAYS 4 & 5: Mushara Bush Camp
The Journey: Heading north once more, the 3 to 4 hour drive takes you through more open farmland past the towns of Otjiwarongo, Otavi and Tsumeb. On the eastern edge of Etosha and only 8km from the Von Lindequist Gate, the Bush Camp is the latest addition to the familymanaged Mushara Collection.
The Etosha Experience: Africa’s largest salt pan forms the centre piece to Namibia’s largest protected wildlife reserve. A chain of natural springs have become the catalyst for the daily species interaction which has thrilled and fascinated visitors since 1907. The Etosha National Park covers a vast area, which has been protected since German colonial rule and is now one of the most productive game viewing parks in Africa. Once a lake the size of Holland it now shimmers with a glaring bright white from crystallized salt across its entire surface. The park is justifiably famed for the wealth of wildlife that congregate at its dozens of waterholes, offering ample reward for those who are patient. Plains game such as zebra, kudu, oryx, wildebeest, giraffe, springbok, impala and eland abound in great numbers on the grasslands while large herds of elephants are common. Lions dominate the predator food chain and make good use of the waterholes as hunting grounds whilst smaller predators like the blackbacked jackal trot around oblivious to humans. The demand for fresh drinking water means that there is little hierarchy at the waterholes and the diversity of species drinking at the same time can be staggering.
The Bushcamp is a family-run oasis that provides a wonderfully relaxed guest experience. Comfortable tented rooms with stone built bathrooms are joined to the main building by gravel pathways. The camp has a beautifully designed swimming pool, curio shop and various shaded places to escape to with a book. There are four family rooms and a host of children’s activities, books and toys to keep everyone entertained. There is also a free child minding service at the camp which is a first at Etosha.
DAY 6: Andersson's Camp
The Journey: Today you will drive across Etosha National Park. Entering through the Von Lindquist (east) gate you will follow the road towards Andersson’s (south) Gate on the southern boundary of the Park. You have plenty of time to explore the network of waterholes and looped drives along the main park road. The roads are in good condition and are a mixture of gravel and tar. As you traverse the park you have the opportunity to stop and make use of the dining and basic shopping services at both Namutoni and Okaukuejo. These historical forts are owned and managed by the parks board and make handy rest stops. We suggest you refuel at Okaukuejo and take a look at their busy waterhole before leaving the park and spending the night at Andersson’s Camp.
Andersson’s Camp: A useful overnight stop located right next to the park gate with a floodlit waterhole with which to end your day.
DAYS 7 & 8: Etendeka Mountain Camp
The Journey: The drive from Andersson’s Camp to Etendeka Mountain Camp is one of stunning contrasts. The route initially takes you south on fine tar roads through Outjo, where you can refuel and stock up on pastries at the German bakery. Then heading west through the outpost town of Kamanjab, where the road changes to winding gravel. The scenery also begins to alter as the soil turns a richer red and the mountains of Damaraland start to crowd the horizon. The rich landscape is dotted with smooth granite outcrops which look like giant sculpture. This scenic road leads to and finally climbs over the Grootberg Pass where you will be rewarded with one of the best views in the region. This mountain pass is the gateway to some of the most beautiful and pristine wilderness that Namibia has to offer.
The Etendeka Experience: Desert adapted wildlife forge a precarious existence amongst the towering basalt mountains and albidia shaded rivers beds of the Kunene region. This apparently unforgiving landscape is actually refuge to a diverse number of plant and mammal species. Desert elephant and black rhino share boulder strewn valleys with watchful cheetah and thundering herds of oryx. Dew darkened game trails show the heavy pug marks of lion and the mountain zebra they hunt. Scorpions prowl between volcanic rock shards and snake eagles drift through the warm afternoon breeze. Your days here are spent exploring the area on foot and in open game drive vehicles with the exceptionally knowledgeable guides. This is not a fast paced safari, but rather a careful introduction to an environment that holds many of Namibia’s unique natural attractions.
Etendeka Mountain Camp: A deliberately simple but effective solution to providing a comfortable base in an isolated location. En-suite meru tents connected by pathways to the main dining tent provide all the necessary comforts but leave a tiny human footprint in this giant landscape.
DAYS 9 & 10: Erongo Wilderness Lodge
The Journey: Driving south on good gravel roads through the beautiful mountainous landscape of Damaraland towards Erongo Wilderness Lodge, a stop at Twyfelfontein is a must.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Twyfelfontein has one of the largest concentrations of petroglyphs in the world with over 2500 engravings. Believed to be up to 2000 years old, the sandstone engravings depict elephants, giraffe, lion, rhino, hunters and bizarrely, seals and penguins providing insight into the life of ancient San. From here you continue south past the Brandberg, the world’s second largest monolith, and into the Erongo Mountains.
The Erongo Experience: The Lodge is nestled amid granite formations on the outskirts of an ancient volcano. These are the Erongo Mountains- a spectacular feature in the heart of a country renowned for its scenic beauty. The Lodge is a founder member of the Erongo Mountain Nature Conservancy, joining 30 private landowners in a collective effort to conserve and protect this natural treasure of over 200 000 hectares. The Conservancy’s mission includes the preservation of the rich cultural heritage in the form of rock paintings and engravings that are found throughout the area. This peaceful corner of Namibia provides the perfect opportunity to leave the road behind and walk under clear African skies. There are guided walks on offer or you can grab a walking stick, a trail map and explore on your own without an agenda. If the novelty of rambling through this secret wanderland wears off, the guides can entertain you with nature drives, a private mountain top rock art gallery, and some excellent birding.
Erongo Wilderness Lodge: As much a part of the landscape as the walking trails that bring the area to life. Timber walkways snake between boulders to each comfortable and raised tented room. The rooms are so well blended with the surrounding habitat that rowdy rock dassies and cautious klipspringers happily move between them during the day. The bathrooms are designed around the boulders themselves and even the swimming pool is a natural rock hollow. The main dining room and bar enjoy elevated views across the natural amphitheatre that hides the lodge from the outside world.
DAYS 11 & 12: Central Guest House - Swakopmund
The Journey: The winding road from the central highlands flows to the coast through stunning geological formations and finally across flat gravel plains. The temperature drops with the altitude and eventually the outlines of the retreating peaks are lost in a shimmering haze. The road straightens and leads to the edge of the country where you find yourself between two habitats which are as hostile as they are fascinating. The sun bleached Skeleton Coast and the icy Atlantic Ocean. Taking the salt surfaced coastal road south you finally arrive at one of Namibia’s most eclectic settlements
The Swakopmund Experience: One of only three coastal towns in Namibia and is Namibia’s second biggest town. A traditional “summer capital”, it is one of Namibia’s most surreal places. After an approach through the endless expanses of the Namib Desert, Bavarian spires and elaborate Germanic architecture rise through the early morning fog banks. The boom of the surf on the Skeleton Coast is an ever-present reminder of the icy Atlantic Ocean beyond. The town is an eclectic mixture of Bohemian and Bavarian, home to an intriguing mix of artists, hippies, strait-laced descendants of German settlers, stately Herero women in Victorian dress, and hard bitten miners, game rangers, safari operators and fishermen. There are numerous suggested activities in Swakopmund. No visit would be complete without an early morning boat trip into the harbour at Walvis Bay to learn more about the unique marine life of the area. Wildlife includes the Cape Fur Seal, dolphins and whales as well as abundant endemic birdlife. You can spend your afternoons discovering the town’s museums, craft markets and many restaurants, or for thrill seekers, there is dune quad biking, sand boarding and sky diving.
Central Guesthouse: This elegant building is situated in the heart of old Swakopmund within easy walking distance of all amenities, shops, restaurants, museums, craft markets, banks and beaches.
DAYS 13 & 14: Wolwedans Dune Lodge
The Journey: The final drive south on gravel roads takes approximately 6 hours and sees the landscape evolve from the impressive coastal dunes outside Swakopmund, to flat, yellow desert that ripples with heat as the morning progresses and finally to the soaring red dunes of the Namib Desert. In the colder winter months it is often the case that the coast is swathed in a thick morning fog which burns away to reveal brilliant sunshine a few miles inland. The road passes through the dramatic Kuiseb Canyon, locally famous as the refuge for two German conscientious objectors during WWII, their experiences remembered in the autobiographical ‘Sheltering Desert.’ The next landmark is the fuel station and desert wanderer meeting point of Solitaire, a great stop for a cold drink and a slice of their famous Apple Strudel.
The Wolwedans Experience: The Namib Rand Nature Reserve is one of the largest private reserves in Southern Africa. Situated in the very heart of the pristine reserve, is Wolwedans itself, taking its name from the African - “where the wolves dance”. Accompanied by experienced local guides, activities during your stay allow you to explore the many faces of this desert habitat with its diverse fauna and flora - on foot, by Land Rover or even by balloon. This is one of the last great wilderness areas in Namibia and provides the perfect introduction to the real desert. Nestled amidst red dunes and set against a backdrop of unparalleled beauty, Wolwedans provides the perfect base from which to explore vast stretches of awe-inspiring nature and learn about an exciting variety of desert creatures.
Wolwedans Dunes Lodge: A stylish combination of bleached timber decks and taut canvas stretched over sturdy beams provide wonderfully open and cool rooms. The en-suite luxury of the rooms is complimented by a refreshing pool, sand dune wine cellar, and a variety of communal spaces furnished with comfy leather furniture and family artefacts. The dining experience is first class and the magic of the Namib Desert infuses every element of your stay with the kind of otherworldly experience for which Namibia is famed.
DAY 15: Olive Grove Guesthouse
The Journey: The five hour drive back to Windhoek leaves the dune sea behind as you follow the well maintained gravel roads through the Naukluft Mountains. After the gentle desert landscape, the bedrock of Namibian geology starts to assert itself again. The human population also appears in greater numbers as you pass several small settlements enroute to the town of Rehoboth. Two things happen at Rehoboth; the gravel reverts to smooth tarmac and your mobile phone shows five bars of signal. Your dusty memory filled vehicle rejoins polite motoring society and in less than an hour the winding road brings you to the outskirts of Windhoek. It seems impossible that on the same day you had breakfast in the Namib Desert and a late lunch in the bustling capital city.
Olive Grove welcomes you back to modern civilization with a cool pool and refreshing drink. Spend the afternoon exploring Independence Avenue with its air conditioned diamond jewellers and open air curio markets. As the sun heads for the horizon, you head for one of the hillside bars to enjoy the evening city views. The Olive Grove has a wonderful dinner menu or chat to the manager about the local culinary hotspots.
Day 16: Fly Out
On your final day in Namibia you simply drop your vehicle back at the Namibia Car Rental office and you will be transferred to the international airport for your flight home.
Dates and Costs
Please contact The Independent Traveller.
We can create holiday that is exactly right for you - the right length, right place and right budget! Contact us to get us to create your ideal holiday.
When is a good time to come to Namibia?
Unlike many other African countries, Namibia is an all year destination. The dry season is best for game viewing whereas the wetter (green) season is better for scenery, bird watching and general photography.
January, February, March & April:
Wildlife and game viewing: Animals, especially in Etosha, tend to spread out and not gather at the waterholes. However, this does not mean that one does not see animals. Many of the plains game like springbok and zebra, give birth during this time so lots of young to be seen. Animals like the lions, leopard and others stay in their territories and do not move away.
Desert and landscapes:
This period is the best time to visit the Namib Desert with its green grasses, open and clear skies with some beautiful cloud formations.
Photography: This is an excellent time in the desert for landscapes, beautiful colours as well as ethnic people.
May, June, July & August:
Wildlife and game viewing: Water levels are dropping and animals start congregating at waterholes for their daily drink. Still quite a lot of vegetation so animals are a quite spread out. A good time for game viewing.
Desert and landscapes:
Autumn and winter means cool and chilly evenings bringing crisp conditions, clear skies and pristine dunes and landscapes.
Fantastic months for photography. Landscapes, dune formations etc are at their best with little dust in the air giving clear and open skies.
September, October, November & December:
Wildlife and game viewing: This period can get very hot indeed which makes for excellent game viewing … again, a wide range of animals meeting at the waterholes. This is often during the heat of the day so good game viewing throughout the day. In the north of Namibia, the rains can start as early as December but game viewing is normally still excellent.
Desert and landscapes: All year destination but can get extremely hot from about 11h00 to 16h00.