Namibia Journey: Our First Impressions

2017 has been the yr of Africa and the yr of the street journey. In January we drove throughout South Africa on a month-long street journey (I nonetheless have a lot to write down about that) earlier than settling in great Cape City for 2 months, and in April we spent two weeks driving round neighbouring Namibia. It’s not a rustic that many individuals contemplate travelling to, and even know a lot about, which is a disgrace because it’s one of many best international locations in Africa to journey (so long as you don’t thoughts driving) and has a lot to supply with wild, various landscapes and plentiful wildlife.

The place is Namibia?

Namibia is positioned in south-west Africa north of South Africa, west of Botswana and south of Angola and Zambia.

I’ve a lot to write down about Namibia together with tips on how to plan a street journey (let me know your questions), our itinerary, and our great experiences in Etosha Nationwide Park and climbing the sand dunes of Sossusvlei, however I’ll begin with our first impressions.

Vacancy

Namib Desert from Moon Mountain Lodge

Namib Desert from Moon Mountain Lodge

Some of the placing issues about Namibia is its vacancy. Once we flew into the nation we may barely see any roads, not to mention homes, till we obtained very near the capital Windhoek. It is likely one of the least densely populated international locations on this planet with solely 2.four million individuals in an space virtually twice the dimensions of California. If you’re seeking to get away from all of it, Namibia is right.

We visited among the most distant locations we’ve ever been. On the drive from Etosha to Damaraland we spent hours on gravel roads with out passing one other automotive or home (there was one horse cart). We bounced alongside the tough roads in our 2WD, driving by way of sandy river beds and flooded roads, with out cellphone sign, afraid of breaking down 100km from the closest city. (Spoiler: we survived.)

The drive from Etosha to Damaraland, Namibia

Gravel, sand, floods and cows: the hazards of driving to Damaraland

4WD getting stuck in Okonjima

We weren’t driving the one time we obtained caught on a recreation drive in Okonjima.

Gravel Roads

Gravel road in Namibia

A typical gravel street and a uncommon passing car.

Having grown up within the UK, the shortage of tarmac in Namibia is placing. The overwhelming majority of the roads we drove on have been gravel (and we adopted a typical vacationer route), a few of them well-graded and pretty clean, others rutted and uncomfortable. We didn’t discover a 4WD needed however have been glad we selected a better clearance SUV (Nissan X-Path) as there are an terrible lot of rocks bouncing round. The driving isn’t too troublesome, although, and at the least you by no means have to fret about visitors.

Straightforward Journey

Mushara Lodge in Etosha, Namibia

Mushara Lodge close to Etosha

Namibia is a straightforward nation to journey and the proper introduction to Africa. Public transport is restricted so travellers both self-drive (tenting or staying in lodges) or take a tour. Roads are empty, crime charges are low, lodges are of a excessive commonplace, the water is drinkable, English is the official language, malaria is simply current within the far north, and residents of the US and most European international locations can keep for as much as 90 days with out a visa. If you’re coming from South Africa, you’ll be able to even use the identical foreign money because the South African rand and Namibian greenback are equal and used interchangeably.

I discover restricted decisions makes journey simpler (as in Cuba), and in Namibia you spend most of your time within the wilderness reasonably than cities (of our eight locations we solely stayed in two cities). This implies you not often eat in eating places (so there aren’t any selections to make) however as an alternative prepare dinner for your self (if tenting) or eat set meals at your lodge (which is what we did).

Numerous Landscapes

The surreal landscape of 900-year-old dead trees, white clay pan, and sand dunes at Deadvlei.

The surreal panorama of 900-year-old useless timber, white clay pan, and sand dunes at Deadvlei.

Earlier than our journey the picture I most related to Namibia was of the large, orange sand dunes of Sossusvlei within the Namib Desert. Climbing the Large Daddy sand dune, one of many highest on this planet, was undoubtedly a spotlight of our keep, however the nation is a lot greater than that. The north was inexperienced after the wet season with the animals of Etosha hiding within the lengthy grasses, the Skeleton Coast has among the bleakest desert surroundings we’ve skilled, and the drive from Sossusvlei to Windhoek took us over the dramatic Spreetshoogte mountain go, shocking after a lot flatness.

The sand dunes of Sossusvlei, Namibia

The sand dunes of Sossusvlei

The greenness of Damaraland post rainy season at Huab Lodge

The greenness of Damaraland submit wet season at Huab Lodge

Wildlife

Cheetahs at Okonjima

Cheetahs at Okonjima

In Nambia we had a few of our favorite wildlife encounters ever. We kayaked within the midst of hundreds of seal pups, as curious and lovely as puppies. We walked inside just a few metres of three magnificent cheetahs. A warthog walked into our lodge’s restaurant. Baboons ran in entrance of our automotive. We noticed leopards, rhinos, flamingos, giraffes, zebras, ostriches, and plenty of sorts of antelope. All this even if we have been visiting on the finish of the wet season, the worst time for wildlife watching because the animals are camouflaged by lengthy grass and now not have to go to waterholes to drink.

Kayaking with seals at Walvis Bay

Kayaking with seals at Walvis Bay

German & South African Influences

The coastal town of Swakopmund, Namibia

The coastal city of Swakopmund

Namibia was a German colony from 1884 till 1915 and the vast majority of guests are nonetheless from Germany. The German affect is felt in all places from the meals (numerous meat, wonderful wholemeal bread, and scrumptious desserts and apple pie) to the structure in among the coastal cities like Swakokpmund and the truth that most beds are two twins pushed along with particular person duvets (annoying).

Namibia was additionally a part of South Africa till 1990 and as travellers it feels culturally fairly comparable. Afrikaans is extensively spoken, the currencies are interchangeable, South African wine and Appletiser (yum) are available, locals love their biltong (dried meat), and the method in petrol stations is similar (no self-service, tip the attendant).

Politeness

Politeness is an African trait that we seen in South Africa in addition to Namibia. Everybody all the time greets you with “hi there, how are you?” earlier than getting all the way down to enterprise, whether or not it’s a police checkpoint or the doorway gate to a Nationwide Park.

It’s Not Low-cost

Moon Mountain Lodge, Namibia - view from the tent

The views at Moon Mountain Lodge have been price it

Namibia isn’t an affordable nation to journey in. You can cut back prices by tenting, however we selected to remain in mid-range lodges which price round £200 an evening for 2 individuals together with breakfast and dinner. Automotive rent can be rather more costly than in South Africa. Some issues are fairly priced—a bottle of wine for 160 NAD ($12/£9) in a lodge, a meal out for 2 in Swakopmund for 200 NAD ($15/£12), entrance to Etosha at 80 NAD ($6/£5)—however if you wish to keep in comfy lodging, then the prices are going so as to add up. At £287 ($370/€339) a day it was the most costly journey we’ve been on, however we don’t remorse it in any respect.

It’s Not Vegetarian-Pleasant

Namibians like their meat—BBQs are widespread, recreation is commonly on the menu, and biltong dried meat is a favorite snack. We didn’t discover Namibia a troublesome nation to journey as vegetarians however veggies, don’t go there for the meals. We by no means went hungry however the meals weren’t terribly thrilling.

Lodges have been completely satisfied to cater for us and often understood the vegetarianism idea (we solely obtained one “do you eat hen?”), however the cooks don’t appear to have coaching in meat alternate options. Beans and lentils don’t exist outdoors of the one Indian restaurant in Swakopmund and Windhoek. As a substitute we often obtained the identical because the meat eaters with out the meat—greens, rice/potatoes and Greek salad. At eating places there was all the time at the least one vegetarian possibility but it surely was simply boring pasta, salad or stir fry.

At the least the bread and desserts are good!

The Pleasure of Sundowners

Sundowner bush bar at Elegant Farmstead, Namibia

Sundowner bush bar on a drive from Elegant Farmstead

The sundowner is one colonial custom we are able to get behind. Having fun with the setting solar with a drink in hand (gin and tonic is a traditional and we frequently selected a glass of South African white wine) is an excellent technique to finish the day and we witnessed some spectacular sunsets in Namibia. Many lodges organise sundowner drives the place they take you to observe the sundown and hopefully see some wildlife alongside the best way.

Incredible sunset at Moon Mountain Lodge

Unimaginable sundown from the bar at Moon Mountain Lodge within the Namib Desert

Street Indicators

Namibia has the very best street indicators!

Namibia animal road signs

We had a implausible time driving round Namibia and extremely suggest it to your first journey to Africa. It’s a straightforward introduction to the continent with many wonderful animals and epic landscapes to get pleasure from. 

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Namibia travel - our first impressions and what to expect on a self-drive trip including Etosha National Park and Sossusvlei sand dunes.

Are you planning a visit in 2017? See our Gear and Sources web page for our favorite instruments that will help you plan the proper journey. 

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