Mike Test Drives Namibia
There’s a buzz developing around Namibia. Magazines and travel programs feature Namibia more often and I’m getting far more enquiries about trips to this once overlooked part of Africa.
In November I set out to rediscover Namibia: to explore the landscape, wildlife and accommodation so I could better advise my clients. And so Adventurlogers…here is my advice:
Bottom line: If this is your first trip to Africa, then Namibia may not be for you. But if you have a sense of adventure and are looking for a different African experience then Namibia should be on the very top of your bucket list.
The word most frequently used to describe Namibia is “unique” and there is no doubt that this place is completely different to the traditional safari destinations in Southern and Eastern Africa.
One major difference is the wildlife, which is sparser than in more well-known safari destinations; after all, most of Namibia is desert. It is for this reason that I don’t recommend Namibia for your first African trip. But for those of us who have already ticked the “big five” off our list, there is something about spotting wildlife in this vast and barren landscape that makes your hair stand on end.
I went to Sossusvlei to watch the sunset over the enormous red sand dunes, for which this area is justifiably famous. I came to see the colours of the sand shift and change with the setting
sun. And then above me, high up on a mountain of sand I saw a solitary oryx silhouetted against the darkening skies. I have seen enormous herds of antelope in other parts of Africa, but there was something about this lone animal that was breathtaking.
None of the above is to say that you won’t see big game. I spent a day driving along the Hoanib River. The riverbed was dry*, not having flowed in over six years, but there is water underneath which attracts the animals. We saw elephants, giraffe, oryx , springbok and incredibly we came across a pride of lions just after a kill. So the wildlife is here, just not in the numbers you would expect to find in the Serengeti or Botswana.
What is truly unique about Namibia is the landscape. Everything about the place seems vast – it’s enormous stretch of battered coastline, the sprawling Kalahari Desert, the endless rise and fall of the Namib mountains and valleys.
I drove for 5 hours inland to reach Okahirongo Elephant Camp in the vast wilderness of the Purros Conservancy. There was another couple on the road when I first set out, but I passed them when they stopped for a photograph. Thereafter I saw no other human being for mile upon mile of rolling hills and flat-topped mountains. It is not often in this day and age that one gets a chance to be so truly alone amidst the enormity of nature.
While vast, Namibia’s landscape is also varied. One experience I missed was the drive from Hoanib camp to the Skeleton Coast (note to self: you need at least 3 nights at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp). However, I spoke to a couple that had made the trip and they described an ever-changing landscape, crossing the dry Hoanib river bed and plains, up over the shifting dunes and down to the rocks and hard sand of the Skeleton Coast. Unbelievably it would be possible on this drive to see elephants and penguins on the same day
You might have noticed the mention of “driving” above. This is perhaps the most exciting aspect of Namibia. Because the roads are good and the country is relatively safe, a self-drive holiday is a very real option. There is such a sense of adventure as you drive off into the African landscape. For me this is Namibia’s greatest appeal: the opportunity to set out on your own to explore and discover.
* By the way, the Hoanib flowed for the first time in six years just last week. Africa is always changing.
Check out this video of my complete trip!
Little Kulala Camp: What’s great about this place is that it has a private entrance to Sossusvlei, making it so much quicker and easier to access these magnificent sandunes. Most people go to see the sunrise at Sossusvlei. My tip is to go for sunset instead. The light is just as magic but there are far fewer people.
Hoanib Skeleton Coast: You definitely need at least 3 nights and 2 full days here. Track for game along the dry Hoanib River, and the next day drive to the Skeleton Coast and return via scenic flight.
Etendeka Mountain Camp: This inland camp is mainly about walking. The guides are incredible and you will learn about everything: the climate, vegetation, animals, culture…. Come with questions because these guys really know their stuff.
Okahirongo Elephant Camp: This camp is on the Purros Conservancy in the north of Namibia. Yes, I did see elephants here, but the real reason to come is to meet the nomadic Himba people. There is a village right beside the camp and all of the guides are Himba. The owner also runs a camp on the Kunene River at the Angola border and can arrange for you to be transported between the two camps – something I will be recommending to many.
Doro Nawas: There’s no need to stay here more than one night. The reason you come is to visit Twyfelfontein, which has the largest collection of prehistoric rock art in Africa. It’s worth the trip!
Based on this trip and previous Namibian safaris I have put together a number of safari ideas for you to consider. But of course all of our itineraries are completely bespoke, so give me a call and we can start planning.