Namibia - A once in a lifetime.....maybe twice
Like most good travel experiences they start with a question?
On this occasion, the question was; where can I have a safari, fly-drive, sand and sea without the same old boring beach add-on? I want some adventure, somewhere with that WOW factor and I prefer not to have to travel too far east and west of the UK to avoid jet lag. Oh yes, and I have just 7/8 days holiday time…………………….
Not so easy, of course Africa seemed the primary candidate. Tanzania and Kenya, nope been there before already, it’s great but not really set-up for a fly-drive. South Africa, again amazing place and has the garden route fly-drive option, ticking a lot of boxes, but something is missing…...that wow factor, the unknown…….
“Namibia” my partner Sally said…………...Unknown to me, tick. Fly-drive, tick. Huge amounts of sand and a coast line stretching 976 miles……….Tick, Tick, Tick!!! Safari, oh yes and options to venture into Botswana as well……..”SOLD” I said and the question was answered. Now for the good bit researching and organising the holiday, after all we are AsktheTraveller.
From the Uk there are currently no direct flights, but do not let that put you off as with most things in life, the harder the journey the better the reward.
Arrival into Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. Quite relaxed and indeed we took a day just walking around taking in the sights. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a cultural oasis, but surely enough to keep anyone entertained for a days walking with the primary emphasis on old Colonial landmarks. Take in the “Alte feste”, old fortress with a national museum. The Owela museum is worth a view as is Heroes Acre which commemorates Namibia’s 1990 independence.
At the end of the day a recommendation for dinner was required and “Joe’s Beer House” was suggested a short taxi ride from the hotel. Now, I love a good steak………..this is another level. We loved it, great food, reasonably priced and game options I had never experienced before. Most people if they can go back for more, trust me.
Setting off from Windhoek, our car hire was delivered to our hotel, nice touch! Be sure to have all insurance and just check the underside of your hire car. Namibia is a wonderful fly-drive destination, but the unsealed roads can really destroy the underside of cars - so just take a quick pic on your phone before you set off and make sure any damage is noted, it saves having to discuss later. Oh by the way, we took a standard drive car - 4 wheel drive is nice, but even on the unsealed roads as long as you’re not caught in heavy rain during late December to early March you should be fine. Oh yes, perhaps ask for a satellite phone and get a GPS if you’re not good with map.
The drive today was long, but oh my, was it worth it. As you travel out of Windhoek, one begins to understand how bewitching Namibia can be. The vista’s are truly breathtaking and to be honest the whole time we were driving over the coming days, we felt we were seeing something new everyday as we travelled. If you love geomorphology and/or just love the countryside you will be like a kid in a candy shop.
Our destination was towards Sossusvlei and the Desert Homestead Outpost Lodge as our base for the next couple of days. Not perhaps top of the range accommodation such as &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge or Kulala Desert Lodge, but still an amazing experience. You feel a privacy and stillness in your own house, one of 12, each one situated with far reaching views across the 7000 ha nature reserve. Various horse safari and/or sundowner trips are available and I would say well worth considering and taking advantage of these.
The one excursion and only regret from this holiday was that we did not undertake a Balloon ride………….Big mistake! This is the perfect place to take a balloon ride, the views I am told are world class……….As soon as we realised how good the experience was we found we were unable to book on. Poor us, but we made up for it a little later on in the trip.
The 2nd day at Desert Homestead we arose early in darkness to get to the world famous Sossusvlei, Dead Vlei, dune 45 and Sesriem Canyon before the heat of the day. We experienced a kaleidoscope of colours and hues combined with magnificent natural attractions, unlike anywhere else I had been to on earth. A day of sights and sounds one I shall never forget,
returning to our accommodation late afternoon for sundowners and a tasty meal.
Heading off the following morning, any thoughts of home had gone, we were firmly entranced by Namibia now and dizzily drunk on our experiences so far.
Again, most road journeys of over 5 hours tend to become tedious, not this one. We were heading to Swakopmund today a distance of over 250 miles. The changing topography is a joy to behold, we stopped at various points just to soak up the experience before reaching our goal a little later than expected. Swakopmund is situated on the coast, again heavy colonial landmarks and influences, underpinned from early German settlers in the 19th century.
As arriving relatively late, we parked our car at our accommodation and took a local recommendation for dinner. Satisfied after another great day we retired early in preparation of the following day’s excursions.
Leisurely breakfast followed by a trip down the coast to Walvis Bay. Here one can take a Catamaran cruise or perhaps do some kayaking, we just went for a sightseeing of the fur seals. Perhaps not the prettiest of towns, but the range of activities make up for it. Back to Swakopmund and we booked an excursion for the following day. Rest of the day exploring Swakopmund.
Next day we were collected from our hotel towards the start of our excursion. We had booked a light aircraft scenic flight over the skeleton coast. Now we have between us experienced a few small aircraft flights including; helicopter ride over the grand canyon, small aircraft from New Zealand south island to Stewart Island and a few more. These were all a pale comparison to the sights below us whilst flying over the Namib desert and up and down the skeleton coast. Quite simply, breathtaking! To witness a stranded tanker 1.5 miles inland in the middle of the desert will be an enduring memory of mine. If you ever go to Namibia I urge you to either take a scenic flight or a balloon ride, perhaps both. Definitely a “Wow” moment.
Back on firmer ground we spent a relaxing rest of the day relaxing downtown and just enjoying the chilled out african vibe, lovely.
Early start next day and our mission was to head towards Etosha National Park for a couple of days safari. We decided to stay just outside the Park in a guest house/Hotel which was fine as very close to the Anderson gate. After a long day drive it was great to relax and enjoy a warm welcome and a hearty meal.
The following day after breakfast we began our safari self drive. Entering the park you have modest fees to pay, but they are well worth it. Having been on pre organised jeep safaris before I initially found the idea of us just driving in and around on our own quite exhilarating, if not a little daunting. Just us, a car and lots of animals out in the Etosha Pan area, quite liberating.
That said, most of the action is centred around the water holes where incidentally where most people congregate. The nearest to the Anderson gate is Ombika water hole, but there are a large scattering around the park just off the main road tracks. Okaukuejo waterhole is a firm favourite as it attracts the elusive Black Rhino. In addition, there are points where you can get out of your car and walk around within the park, limited but still useful after a full hours driving around game viewing.
We took to the main water holes on our first day and as we drove around we heard a commotion up ahead - a few minutes later as we drove up on what we thought was a fresh kill, but after a while we realised that predators were fighting for a share of the spoils, a young giraffe lay just off the roadside. As with any safari, the visualisation of fallen prey makes one realise just how brutal and hard life can be out in the animal kingdom. Safari makes you re-adjust your benchmark on reality and how you see the world, all for the better.
As the sun began to set we quickly headed back to our hotel for a hearty meal and some relaxation. After an adrenaline fueled day on the road sleep is easy to come by.
The next day, early start again as with such a limited time schedule we wanted to take in a quick game drive and then head back in time to catch our flight home which was another 4 hour drive to the airport. Up at the crack of dawn, quick breakfast and off again. We had a great couple of hours in the park then hightailed it back towards Windhoek for check-in at approx 4-5pm and our flight back home.
This was a quick fire short highlights trip of Namibia. It’s a truly breathtaking destination and to this day one of my top 3 all time destinations. Really this is a once in a lifetime destination with so much to offer. We only scratched the surface and we completely missed the south such as fish river canyon and the east Bushmanland, not to mention just being able to take a balloon ride over sossusvlei and/or taking a bit more time to explore this wonderful country.
Once in a lifetime………….maybe twice!
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