Canadian Expat Mom

Namibia: Self-Drive Safari Itinerary

From our part of the world, in Sub-Saharan Africa, Namibia is a popular travel destination. When I was planning our trip, I leaned on a few friends who had been before, checking out their itineraries, and taking any tips they sent our way.

Now that we’ve done the trip ourselves, I have a much better idea of where to go, and what to see. I currently know of several other families planning upcoming trips to Namibia so it’s time to pay my experience forward, for them, and anyone else out there who might want to go in the future.

Namibia isn’t as simple to plan as a trip to Paris, for example. You won’t just book a flight, hotel and explore the city from your home base. In Namibia you’re always on the move, meaning there are many hotels and destinations that need to be booked and planned ahead. Since planning ahead is not really my strong suit, this was a bit of a challenge for me.

There are plenty of companies and travel agents that will organize everything for you and simply hand over your itinerary, but I’m here to tell you that if I can arrange everything two weeks before our flights, you can too – especially if you give yourself more than two weeks to organize.

Here’s an outline of our self-driven tour of the country.

Day One

We landed in Windhoek (via Johannesburg, South Africa) and slept over one night to get our bearings, rent our vehicle, and recover from the overnight flight.

I should say right here that my husband wanted this to be a camping trip. I, however, did not. We compromised on renting a camping vehicle and planned to camp a couple nights. It ended up being one night of camping, but I’ll get to that later.

Vehicle rental in Windhoek: Autovermietung Savanna

My husband was in charge of the car-hire since the camping was his idea. He found this place online and we had no complaints. They picked us up and dropped us off at the airport, which is about 45 minutes outside of town. The vehicle had two gas tanks (necessary on this trip because of lack of stations) and the back of the vehicle had everything you could ever imagine for camping, along with two spare tires.

With our rental vehicle packed and bursting at the seams with camping gear, we stayed at the most logical destination in Windhoek for campers: The Hilton. Don’t judge, we live in Congo and I wanted a bit of luxury. Needless to say we were the only camping vehicle in the parking lot.Day Two

We hit the road running and drove what would have been about 2.5 hours if we hadn’t missed our turn. Our end destination was Okonjima Lodge, which ended up being our favourite spot. We had a big window in our room where we could watch the wildlife right from our beds, and a patio off our room with chairs and loungers to perch and watch the live version of National Geographic that was happening live in front of us. That night we did a sundown game drive where we spotted leopards while sipping on double G&Ts…does it get any better than that? The next day we spent more time at the lodge exploring the educational side of things at The Africat Foundation, an animal rehabilitation center on site. We went out for another drive and saw zebras, giraffes and all sorts of other animals. It was amazing. Again, we can’t recommend this place enough. We would have spent another night if we didn’t already have a reservation waiting for us.Day Three

We didn’t leave until midday as we were busy exploring the wildlife at Okonjima Lodge, but once we got in the car, we drove about 3.5 hours (again this would be the amount of time it SHOULD have taken-pay attention to the GPS friends!) until we got to Onguma Tamboti. This was the night of our camping adventure. I have to say: the fact that each campsite had a private area with a shower, flushing toilet, sink with running water, and changing room, meant we weren’t reeeeeally roughing it. But we did sleep on top of our truck, so that counts for something.

When in Africa…The kids loved sleeping above the vehicle and it was a cool experience…but not one I was keen to repeat daily.

Day Four

We drove through Etosha National Park which was a highlight of our trip. I’ll write more about this in another post because it was a unique experience. It was about a 3 hour drive that day, but with lions, elephants and zebras out the window, the drive was a pleasure.We checked in to Okutala Etosha Lodge, just on the other side of Etosha National Park. Initially, we wanted to stay at Okaukuejo Camp inside the National Park because I heard their watering hole features the cast of the Lion King on a daily basis, but planning a trip two weeks before you leave means you don’t always get what you want. That didn’t stop us from popping in to check it out on our way through. But because it was rainy season, the wildlife weren’t desperate to drink, and the watering hole had temporarily lost its popularity in the animal kingdom.

When we arrived at Okutala Etosha Lodge, it started to rain which meant no evening game drive for us. But they had other activities offered and the rain was short-lived so we got to feed some of the rescued baby giraffes before dinner. The kids were really happy with this, and their parents didn’t mind either.This was our view at breakfast.Day Five

After 3ish hours in the car, we ended up at Grootberg Lodge which boasts Instagram worthy views if you have the courage to drive up the side of the mountain to actually get to the lodge. We did, but if you’re not comfortable doing the short, but crazy mountain scale with your vehicle, they will shuttle you up with their vehicle (500 meters or so).

Once you reach the lodge at the top, grab a glass of wine and soak up the view. There’s also many activities here, but we arrived late this day because of our animal stalking that morning, so we let the girls splash around in the infinitely pool and we relaxed with a sundowner.Grootberg Lodge is the first (and I believe only) lodge in Namibia entirely owned by the community which has brought employment and a more sustainable income to community members. It makes you feel good about where your money is going so don’t be shy to check it out if you’re nearby.

Day Six

This was my husband’s favourite day. We drove the Skeleton Coast. He watched a documentary over a decade ago about shipwrecks stuck on this particular part of Africa’s coast and this was something he has always wanted to do ever since. When the kind people at Grootberg Lodge were sending us on our way, they told us that most people actually drive on the “other” road, more inland. My husband was having none of it. More about this drive to come in another post, but taking the road right along the Skeleton Coast is worth it. We also stopped at Cape Cross to see the seals(read more about that here).The drive was close to 7 hours that day but it went by faster than the short days because we had our faces glues to the window. It was adventure driving!We landed that evening at Swakopmund Luxury Suites where we planned on using as a home base for a few days of activities.

Day 7

We rented quads and went out into the dunes. Another highlight.Day 8

Rest Day.

We thought about doing a boat cruise or one of the many other activities nearby but we had been in constant motion for a week and wanted to take the day to relax. We strolled through the markets, went for coffee(or apple juice if you’re 3 and 5 yrs) and enjoyed walking on sidewalks, because we don’t have that luxury in Congo.Day 9

We were supposed to move on a do more camping on this day, but we were enjoying our relaxing a bit too much, and we loved Swakop (as it’s affectionately referred to)so much we didn’t want to leave…so we stayed!

The one complaint I have about the previous lodges is that we didn’t choose our food. The three places we were at had set menus. The food was good but we loved that Swakopmund had several good restaurant options. Our previous hotel was fully booked so we moved to The Strand Hotel which seemed new, was right on the coast, and had at least three great, ocean view restaurants right out front!

The kids walked along the beach, played at the park, and we went for sushi. It was a wonderful family day.

I couldn’t resist one last trip to the market to grab a few more bracelets.Day 10

Back to the sand dunes instead of camping was fine by me! We thought about sand boarding but it was hot and they only offered a half day, instead of an hour or two like we were hoping. We ended up taking the quads out again and playing in the dunes and using bums instead of and boards.Day 11

Back on the road we were headed to Sossusvlei, where I can honestly say is the hottest place I have ever experienced on earth; and I’ve lived one degree from the equator!After a stop to stretch our legs at the Tropic of Capricorn, we were back in the vehicle until we reached Sossusvlei Lodge. I recommend this place and the great food they served for dinner; which was outside in the amazing setting below. My husband was able to check off the last of the wild game he hadn’t tried yet. He was quite pleased with their grill’s large selection of local meat.

Day 12

We were up bright and early to hit the nearby dunes. We were kind of sandwiched between a salt pan(where the kids were able to collect their own salt rocks) and giant red sand dunes. While we were in the area we checked out a place called Deadvlei that has a bunch of scorched trees. The dead trees, combined with the extreme heat reminded us we were most definitely in the dessert!After our early morning adventure it was time to head back to Windhoek. Being sure to end our trip on a high note, we graciously accepted an invitation to spend the evening at the Olive Exclusive.

Having just spent 12 action packed days on the road and knowing we were heading back to Congo in the morning; some R&R and a bit of pampering at this boutique hotel was exactly what we were looking for. I relaxed in the tub, my husband was starfish’ed on the bed with remote in hand, and the girls had their own living room area to play.There were things we could have done in Windhoek, but we just wanted to veg-out in this room for our final few hours of vacation.

The girls and I were sent off with an amazing breakfast before our flight in the morning. My husband had more of a “hungry-man” breakfast, but I secretly think he was jealous of ours.A bit of luxury was the perfect way for us to wrap up our journey!

So there you have it friends, 12 days in Namibia, with my husband behind the wheel.  This is a brief summary, but I hope some of the pictures gave you an idea of how great this country is. My husband and I have both visited nearly 50 counties (we actually counted on one of our driving days, he’s at 52 I’m at 49) and Nambia is now in our Top 5 of favourite places in the world.

If it’s not on your list, it should be!

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