Our Namibia travel in June was one of our best holidays ever, as we experienced by far the most enjoyable sceneries after Iceland. No wonder why Mad Max was filmed there, or why Prince Harry and Meghan Markle chose it as a honeymoon destination.
The country is huge, and you can easily spend a month without getting bored. Driving for the first timers is tough and the roads are not for speeding. The country is one of the most sparsely inhabited on earth, mostly hot and dry. Now I understand why The Telegraph called Namibia as ‘The land God made in anger‘.
It required a lot of planning, asking questions on TripAdvisor forums, reading travel blogs, checking Instagram for photography inspiration and watching Youtube videos – but eventually everything went well for us! We prepared a very detailed Namibia itinerary for our two week road trip and here I am to share it with you!
Day 1: Relaxing in Windhoek
After 14 hours of flight from Frankfurt vie Doha with Qatar Airways, we landed in Windhoek Hosea Kutako Airport, picked up our Toyota Fortuner and headed to the Hilton Windhoek. At a glance, the city seemed like a quiet summer town, but we were tired so spending the afternoon at the Skybar pool was the best idea before going to the famous Joe’s Beerhouse to eat some bush meat.
We were in the taxi during sunset and I managed to snap a photo of the Christ Church on our way to the restaurant. It was unavoidable! If you have enough time, you may want to check out the Parliament Gardens and Schwerinsburg in the city as well.
Day 2: Driving South towards Sesriem and Sossuvlei
On our second day, we drove towards Sesriem from Windhoek, mainly on gravel roads. The car rental company Avis gave us a briefing about driving and the Namibian roads back at the airport, and it was indeed difficult to drive. We saw farms, cows and a few monkeys on the road but nothing else. The landscape changed as we continued driving.
The scenery changed constantly, getting into a desert-like landscape when we were one hour away from the Desert Camp where we spent the night. The Desert Camp itself was an adventure! Watching beautiful sunsets and Oryx wandering around freely from our front porch was definitely how we wanted our Namibia holiday to start.
The Desert Camp is just 5-10 mins away from the Namib-Naukluft Nature Park gate. When you arrive at the hotel, make sure to order your braai and food supplies before 4pm so that you don’t have to spend 50€ for an open buffet dinner for two at the Sossuvlei Lodge which is right next to the park’s entrance (10 mins away from Desert Camp).
Tip for the meat lovers: I know you will taste all kinds, but I strongly recommend the following game meat: Eland, oryx and ostrich.
Day 3: Deadvlei, Bigdaddy Dune and Dune 45
This morning, we left the hotel at 6:45 and were at the park queue at 07:00. The gate opens at sunset, 7:30 in June, and it takes an hour by car to get to the Deadvlei and Big Daddy Dune. After some off-road driving and climbing, we were at the top of Big Daddy Dune at 8:25.
Here are some important notes to consider while planning your trip to Sossuvlei;
- Note that only 4x4s are allowed to go until the last parking area. If you have a smaller car, you need to leave it at the 2×4 parking where shuttles are available.
- If you don’t want to wait for the park’s gates to open with the sunrise, stay at Sossus Dunes Lodge or the camp site inside the Namib-Naukluft National Park.
- If you are staying outside of the park like us, I would definitely recommend you to skip the Dune 45 and drive straight to Big Daddy and Deadvlei in the morning before it gets filled up with tourists. We heard sunset colors are nicer, but we wouldn’t want all those people bombing our photos, so the sunrise was a good option for us.
The payment is done at the exit. All national parks in Namibia charge for the entrance, and we paid 170 NAD (17 €) for 2 people in one car as in the other national parks like Etosha National Park or Cape Cross Seal Reserve.
Day 4: Heading to Walvis Bay from Sesriem
Getting to Walvis Bay from Sesriem took 4-5 hours. On our way, we stopped at Solitaire to eat the famous apple pie, visit the Tropic of Capricorn sign to take a photo and passed through pretty gravel roads where one of the Mad Max movies was shot. The road from Sesriem to Walvis Bay was the hardest in terms of driving, but we made it through with no issues.
Accommodation Tip: On the way around Solitaire, we saw the Moon Mountain Lodge where we thought about staying instead of Desert Camp, but it is a big no if you want to go to Deadvlei early in the morning. It is too far and you wouldn’t want to drive on that road when it is dark.
We knew we arrived in Walvis Bay when the roads were surrounded by dunes and palm trees. We continued driving on the coastal road and reached Swakopmund Luxury Suites. After check in, we took a walk for 5-10 minutes to have sundowner drinks at the Jetty 1905.
I would definitely recommend Swakopmund Luxury Suites, both for the location and facilities. They give guests 100 NAD worth vouchers for cafes so that they can go have their breakfasts wherever they want. Such a good idea!
Day 5: Checking out Swakopmund, Walvis Bay, Dune 7, the pink lakes and flamingos
Swakopmund is a coastal town and is a neighboring city to Walvis Bay which is home to Dune 7, pink salt pans and flamingos.
Swakopmund itself is often compared to German coastal towns and boasts with the typical German ‘Gemütlichkeit’. You can see a lot of early 20th century architecture and use the city as a hub for excursions across the region. On top, a lot of adventure options like quad biking in the desert are available.
How to find the flamingos in Walvis Bay:
To see the flamingos in Walvis Bay, set your GPS to Salt Works and continue on the road further towards Sandwich Harbour. Before you get to the actual beach that takes you to the harbour (50 kms away and requires a 4×4 and the relevant skills – or a tour operator who takes you there), you’ll be surrounded by pink salt pans and flamingos where you can stop and take photos.
Sandwich Harbour is the base for boat excursions (seals, whales, pelicans, etc.) and is the place where the dunes meet the sea.
Before the sunset, head to Tiger Reef Beach Bar and Grill in Swakopmund and enjoy a sundowner while watching the sun disappear in the magnificent atlantic swell. This is best enjoyed on their deck with your feet in the sand.
For dinner, try either the Western Saloon Pizzeria for something else than game meat or head to Kücki’s Pub for fish and chips.
Day 6: Checking out the Skeleton Coast, Cape Cross Seal Reserve and arriving at Twyfelfontein (Damaraland) area
We left Swakopmund and started driving on the coastal road to find the Cape Cross Seal Reserve. Getting there might be difficult as there is no road signs, so just set your GPS to Kreuzkap and you‘ll get to the park. You‘ll pay an entrance fee just like in the other national parks but it is worth it. There are more than 200,000 fur seals at the coast, starting from the car parking area till the sea shore. It was amazing to see so many seals all together, making sounds, almost laying on eachother, fighting with the sea waves.
After taking hundreds of photos, we drove back towards Twyfelfontein. It was a 4 hours drive, mostly gravel in the areas closer to Twyfelfontein.
Twyfelfontein Country Lodge is set on the shores of a mountain and it looks like the only hotel around with facilities such as a pool, a restaurant and a bar. The maintenance is a bit run down (wifi didn’t work, toilet flush wasn’t fully operating etc.) but the view, design and food was great. They offer tours such as wild elephant tracking so we decided to book it for the next day.
Cape Cross Seal Reserve
Day 7: Hiking, chilling at the hotel and wild elephant tracking in Twyfelfontein
This morning after an early breakfast, we did a 1 hour hike around the lodge. The trails were not marked very well but we managed to find our way back.
Unesco World Heritage–listed Twyfelfontein (meaning Doubtful Spring) is one of the most extensive rock-art galleries in Africa. The engravings are estimated to be up to 6,000 years old, and it is believed by many that their creators were San medicine people or shamans, who created their engravings as a means of recording the shaman’s experience among the spirits while in a trance. There were even some engravings at the Twyfelfontein Country Lodge and on rocks on our hiking trail.
After the hike, we chilled at the pool (there are lots of small flies which was a bit annoying) and the bar, then went to the hotel’s wild desert elephant tracking tour. It is 690 NAD (69 €) including sundowner snacks and drinks. We managed to see one elephant called ‘The Gentleman’, a huge 45 year old elephant bull and the whole tour took about 4 hours.
Twyfelfontein Country Lodge
Day 8: Damara Living Museum and heading towards Etosha National Park
We checked out from Twyfelfontein Country Lodge and passed by the Damara Living Museum in the Aba Huab Valley on our way to the Etosha National Park. It was an interesting experience, as you get to see how the actual Damara people lived such as how they make their weapons, medicine etc.
They offer 4 different tours. The one we selected (1st tour) took about half an hour and costed 90 NAD (9 €). We had a Damaran guide and the tour ended with their traditional dance show. It was definitely one of the highlights of our Namibia travel.
Taleni Etosha Village, where we spent one night, took 3,30 hours of drive on a paved road. The hotel is 2 kms away from Etosha National Park’s gate so we spent the afternoon chilling at the hotel, watching Kudus coming by the pool.
Accommodation tip: It was unnecessary to spend one night there, as the gate to Etosha Park was just 2 minutes away. Instead, we could have stayed one night at Okakuejo Camp inside Etosha park.
Damara Living Museum
Day 9: Figuring out the real wildlife safari experience and seeing lions
We left Etosha Village early in the morning and entered Etosha National Park at 7:30, with the opening of the gates. Got the permit at the gate and head to Okakuejo so that we could pay for the entrance there. It was again 170 NAD per day for 2 people in one car.
We were inexperienced and didn’t know what we were supposed to do to find animals in Etosha. Before the noon, we explored the western side of it, and saw 2 lions and giraffes on the way! The remote west was dry and there were not many water holes so we drove back towards Halali Camp.
Then we figured that the right way of checking out animals is not to drive around but to hang out next to water holes as the animals gather around there. We started driving from one water hole to another. Saw elephants, zebras, rhinos, many elands and kudus, wildebeests, birds but the highlight of the day was when we sat down at Halali Camp‘s water hole with a bunch of other people, from the sunset till late night. Rhinos, hyenas, elephants showed up and left – letting us take hundreds of photos. The sunset was beautiful, and sitting in complete silence with no interruptions was an unforgettable experience.
Halali Camp was basic but the double room wasn‘t bad at all.Camping there could be another option, as you will want to go to bed as late as possible and get up with (or before) the sunrise to see the night animals.
Day 10: Driving from Halali to the east side of Etosha, with more Namibian safari experience
We woke up early in the morning to watch the animals gathering around Halali‘s water hole for another hour. After checking out, we drove towards east as our next stop would be Mokuti Etosha Lodge on the eastern side of Etosha Park. We did a about 10 hours of driving until the sunset and finally managed to see a leopard!
Our favorite water holes in Etosha were Klein Namutoni (leopard), Chudop, Moringa at Halali Camp, Olifantsbad and Groot Okevi. As these are mainly on the eastern side of Etosha, you may want to spare one night to stay at Namutoni Camp or Onkoshi Camp inside Etosha.
It was nice to arrive at Mokuti Etosha Lodge after a tiring day of self drive safari. The hotel is pretty nice with two pools and a spa. The rooms are modern and spacious, unlike other lodges and camps we stayed in and around Etosha. There are tree squirrels and mungos running around, and there is even a reptile park on the hotel premises, which hosted snakes, turtles and even a crocodile. The wifi was the fastest so far, so we experienced a bit of civilisation as well after 4 days without a connection.
Day 11: Chilling at the hotel and sunset wildlife safari with Mokuti Lodge
Driving for hours in Etosha for the last 2 days was pretty tiring so we decided to chill at the hotel‘s pool and book an afternoon game drive with the hotel. The tour costed around 49 € pp and included park entrance fees as well as drinks. It was nicer to sit in a higher car as you get to see animals from the top and easily. We had a little problem with the safari guide, as he didn’t let me sit next to my husband as there was a group already sitting in the car.
Well, this time we got to see lions again! In addition to elephants (even the baby elephants), giraffes, rhinos and zebras. And hundreds of steinbocks and kudus.
Self drive safari tip: If you are in Etosha in your own car, just follow these safari cars during sunrise and sunset, as they are in touch with other safari drivers and know where the big cats are. Otherwise, just drive around and keep your eyes open as you may see a rhino walking along or even crossing the road.
Day 12: Arriving at the Okonjima Plains Camp where the big cats are protected
Mokuti Lodge to Okonjima Plains Camp took 3,5 hours mostly on a paved road (B1) and we had gone through 4 traffic police checks.
Once we saw the Okonjima sign, we turned into a bumpy road and arrived at Okonjima Plains Camp after passing through 3 gates. We knew it would be the best ending to this amazing trip as soon as we entered through the gates.
We were welcomed very nicely and booked immediately for the afternoon activity. It is recommended to arrive at the hotel before 3pm so that you can take the afternoon activity as we did. The leopard tracking tour at 15:30 allowed us to see a huge leopard sleeping in the bushes. It was a different experience, even though they track leopards with radio signals there.
Cheetahs are going extinct, and the lodge stopped cheetah tours as they informed us that there are only 13 of them left in the reserve. You still get to see some if you book a tour to visit Africat Foundation though. The leopard tracking tour finished with sundowner drinks and we went back to the hotel in the dark, under a beautiful sky with the milkyway.
Day 13: Enjoying the last day in Namibia: One last safari and a visit to Africat Foundation
The last day was for chilling out at our porch, reading, sun tanning while sipping our South African wine. All rooms at Okonjima Plains Camp come with a porch and view, and even the standard rooms are way bigger than all the other hotel rooms we stayed in Namibia.
We decided to take an afternoon tour to the Africat Foundation which is located in the reserve, built in order to conserve Namibia’s large carnivores such as leopards, lions and cheetahs. After a short introduction about what they do at Africat, their research and how they protect and conserve the carnivores, we drove around to see the remaining cheetahs. We were informed that the majority of them was being killed by leopards and hyenas once released into the reserve, being the reason why they had to get them back into the enclosed Africat habitats and stop this initiative after 18 years.
After seeing 5 cheetahs and the last sundowner drinks in the nature reserve, we went back to the hotel and had our dinner. The dinner at Okonjima Plains Camp was the best we had in Namibia. It is a set menu with a vegetarian option, however it was at a fine dining level.
Day 14: Leaving Okonjima and heading to the airport
Okonjima Plains Camp to Windhoek Airport took 3,5 hours. We had to drop the car before 10:30 so we left the hotel at 7:00. As the breakfast buffet wouldn’t be open by that time we informed the hotel about our early departure, and they arranged us a private breakfast table at the restaurant.
The trip back was easy on paved roads. There is even a petrol station right at the entrance of the airport so you don’t have to worry about fueling up your car on the way. Car drop off and check in went smoothly but the security at the airport took longer. The airport is very small, so it was ok for us to arrive 2 hours earlier than our departure.
How much did this Namibia holiday cost?
The whole trip including the accommodation, car rental, petrol, food and drinks, visas, entrance fees, transfers and tours costed around 5,000 € for two people (flight tickets excluded).
Naturally you can decrease this cost by cutting down from the quality of hotels, type of the car or eating and drinking out but make sure to be safe and prepared in Africa. So have a look at my post ‘All you need to know before traveling to Namibia’ and if you have any questions, write on the comments below!