Although Namibia might not be your first choice for a family holiday, the destination is well worth it once your child/children are a bit older and ready to explore. It is recommended to have enough time to stay two to three nights at each location, to appreciate the surrounding area and to rest from the long driving distances. Of course, it is also possible to book the tour with a private chauffeur or guide, and if budget is not a problem, to fly in between the main destinations. But if you are prepared for long distance driving, on gravel roads, and looking for an adventure of a lifetime then Namibia is the perfect choice.
We arrived early morning in Windhoek, the car rental process went smoothly - always remember to rent a vehicle with high clearance, not necessarily a 4x4, but not a standard sedan. We opted to drive straight towards Etosha which requires 5 hours’ drive on a very good road. As we booked late, we did not find any availability inside the National Park. There are numerous options of lodges around Etosha and depending on the budget, some are all inclusive and some offer a B&B basis. The cost of game drives is either included or in supplement; and you can enjoy the safaris inside your own vehicle driving around the well indicated road inside Etosha. If you decide to drive yourself, it is best to buy a map and to talk to the local staff and rangers to find out where the wildlife has been sighted. There are numerous water holes where the animals come to rest and refresh, especially when it gets very hot. Meals and refreshments can be taken at one of the rest camps but ensure you have mapped out your route accordingly so that you know where and when to stop, and exit the Park before the gates are closing.
We stayed at Taleni Etosha Village, accommodating clients in forty well- appointed self-catering type chalets, with en-suite bathroom and open air shower. Each chalet has its own boma type self-catering area, complete with wash-up area, stove, fridge and BBQ. Eating & cooking utensils available. But if you do not wish to cook, you can also make use of the restaurant. We did, and enjoyed delicious dinners, excellent meats and diverse salads.
After a few days, we travelled to Vingerklip Lodge. To this day, I remember this stop as an oasis with the most amazing views and fantastic staff, in the middle of a dry and rocky landscape. It took us several hours on a not so great gravel route to reach our destination but it was well worth it. We toured the area in the mornings and rested at the lodge by the cool pool during the heat of the day. Not to be missed: the sundowner and dinner at the top of the hill, remember to book when you check in. The lodge can accommodate up to 50 people in 22 thatched rooms. Close by are the well-known Ugab Vingerklip erosion remnant, rock paintings, and, near Khorixas, the rock engraving site at Twyfelfontein, the Burnt Mountain, Organ Pipes and Petrified Forest.
The next stop was Swakopmund, this is a very long drive so best to depart early and make sure you have refreshments and snacks for the kids and adults. You will be able to stop en-route to take pictures of the amazing landscape from rocky outcrops to sandy colourful and endless dunes. Your companions that are not driving will, without a doubt, be sleeping, so make sure you keep your eyes open for the potholes and rocks, or donkeys.
It is an amazing experience to see the ocean and to drive in Swakopmund, the town has kept its look from the German colonial times. There are plenty of activities to do in Swakopmund, as well as driving South to Walvis Bay and spend a day cruising to the nearby seal island, view the flamingos and pelicans; and of course, climb Dune 7. We stopped en-route to enjoy quad biking in the dunes, which was a highlight for adults and children alike.
We then departed the coast, to travel to the main reason for our trip: Sossuvlei. Once again, the long road, on not such a great gravel road, means an early departure and some stops to refresh. The choice of accommodation in Sossuvlei will depend on availability and your budget. There are a few luxury lodges, a hotel by the entrance gates and other options further away. We decided to try out a tented camp, close to the entrance so that we would not be required to drive too much before we enjoyed the Dunes. To be said as well, we change our vehicle in Swakopmund to hire a 4x4 as we wanted to experience Sossuvlei Dunes. If you do not have a 4x4, you cannot drive to all the Dunes, and rather pre-book a tour or enjoy other accessible roads within the Park. Once again, we had so many highlights on those days: the camp had prepared a picnic breakfast that we enjoyed at a rest stop and we were visited by numerous birds and local jackals (do not feed them of course); we climbed the dunes; walked through deserted landscapes feeling we were the only humans on the planet, one feels so small in this huge desert. Needless to say, the pool was a welcome paradise on our way back to camp.
This was the end of the trip, after a few days of desert life, we drove back to Windhoek. We stayed a night in the city, enjoyed a dinner at the famous meat restaurant and took a quick city tour, including the local gardens. It was my third time in Namibia and my first self-drive to this wonderful destination. Although some days were very long, it is really a great way to discover the country, keep to your own time and meet up with the locals. Even with a few wrong turns and some unexpected discoveries, the trip will stay in our minds for many years to come.
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