14 days we traveled through Namibia. Our rout leads us around 2.700 kilometres through breathtaking landscapes and at the end of every stage into charming, luxurious or at least extraordinary lodges.
„I am sitting in an endless grassy landscape, limited only by the northern dune streamers of the Namib. It’s a magical place. Pictures can hardly reflect it. There are no people, no fences, no rules. We can move freely in all directions. Only zebras and Oryx antelopes pass the horizon. The wind sweeps over the pastel green grasses that the rainy season has spawned. There is no reception. The contrast to our life at home could not be sharper. It is as if a distant memory from deep within us bestirs – a memory of a time before our time. A remembrance of the time when man and beast were still completely free and huge herds trekked through infinite vastness.“
We scheduled two weeks for our trip through Namibia. More time is not affordable for us. Including detours the total route is about 2.700 km, which will be mostly dirt roads, especially in the Northwest of Namibia. The track sections are easily passable. Our route doesn’t include extremely corrugated or rugged tracks, which would require special off-road knowledge. However, for thrillseekers there are plenty of possibilities off track. It is end of March and rainy season is mainly over. The temperature is mostly mild and pleasant, only in a few regions sweltering. On this trip we will spend just two nights at the same place.
For our first Namibian night we stay at Hotel Heinitzburg. The 5-star hotel is located on a hill above Windhoek, in a well-preserved 100-year-old castle complex. The terrace provides a wide view, overlooking the city and the surrounding countryside. The fabulous cuisine leaves nothing to be desired and the cocktails are excellent. In the morning we pick up our almost brand-new Toyota Landcruiser stationwagon at Asco Car Hire. We check the equipment and endure the instructions on the extremely high accident risk in Namibia. And indeed in Swakopmund we bump into a German, whose vehicle overturned on the same day. Luckily he was fine besides a few scratches. Can’t hurt to be a bit cautious.
First contact with the wilderness
Day 2 / Distance: 180 km / Destination: Erindi Privat Game Reserve
After purchasing some gallons of water and basic food we start our trip leading us about 180 km northwards to the Erindi Private Game Reserve. Since the main road is quite monotonous, we branch off to the west at Okahandja and try to reach our destination directly from the south. The sandy path is not always easy to find, but the maps are relatively accurate. As we are heading north on unsurfaced farm trails we are being stopped again and again by fences, that we have to open and close in order to pass. Now and then road signs warn of hippos and crocodiles. The outback stretches on both sides of the road – even so there is not much to see.
Finally, we reach the park. The further path leads through a marvellous landscape. We drive on a winding sandy road midway through high grasses alongside small mountains. First game crosses our path. Today’s stage was relaxed. Having arrived on the terrace of the Old Traders Lodge, we are amazed to see opposite of the waterhole a herd of 16 giraffes and almost 20 hippos. Down on the sandbanks doze crocodiles and the air is full of birds and exotic noises. First of all we indulge in a proper Gin Tonic (which is of course not the last one) and enjoy the view. The food at the Old Traders Lodge is good, the rooms are stylish and luxurious and the private terrace offers a fabulous view on the waterhole.
Towards Table Mountain
Day 3 and 4 / Distance: 230 km / Destination: Waterberg
Our next destination is Waterberg. After a good breakfast, we start our 230 km journey. Even though the rout is going strait without much variation northwards it is still worth the ride. At the top of the 200-meters-high Table Mountain you can find rhinoceroses, leopards, buffaloes and lots of antelopes – provided you bring enough time and patience. However the view alone is already worth the trip. Situated fantastically between red rocks halfway up the Table Mountain the Waterberg Plateau Lodge is our accommodation for the night. The steep path to the lodge is slightly challenging but doable. And the indescribable view makes up (for) the effort. Even though the loge’s food is good and stuff is friendly it is nothing special. However, the location makes it worth a visit.
In the afternoon, we start exploring the bush with the aim to find rhinos. For the last part of the way we walk until we finally find them. We come near the impressive animals up to ten meters. Nearly all rhinos doze in the shade except the massive bulls. As the animals start moving, we hasten away slightly too hectic than would have been necessary. The next morning we set off with our guide to the plateau at dawn. Even though there are only three of us we are unsuccessful in finding a slot this morning.
Day 5 / Disctance: 314 km / Destination: Mokuti Etosha Lodge
The next stage is a little further afield. “Great White Place” means Etosha in the language of the Ovambo. The Etosha Pan is flat, spacious and not very rich in variety. What is most notably here is the wildlife. The ones travelling shortly after the rainy season should keep in mind though to calculate a bit more time and patience or entrust themselves to a guide strait away – he will know where to find the game. The Mokuti Etosha Lodge is definitely the ideal starting point for safaris.
Day 6 / Distance: 190 km / Destination: Toshari Lodge
Stretching along the 120 km long Salt Flat we pass the Etosha National Park quite quick as it slightly reminds us of a large zoo with its roads specially designed for tourists. In comparison the Erindi Private Game Reserve appeared to us much more pristine. After all, we see Lions, Ostriches, Gnus, Antelopes and a lot more animals without a guide. We reach the Toshari Lodge already a little earlier than scheduled. Enjoying the excellent cuisine we cost barbecued Gnu, Oryx and Kudu, but my favourite remains the Springbock. The Toshari Lodge offers relatively simple bungalows, but is overall a neat facility.
In the Land of the Damaras
Day 7 / Distance: 295 km / Destination: Mowani Mountain Camp, Damaraland
The first part of the route leads partly through charming landscapes, partly through inhospitable and boiling mountains. Finally Damaraland appears like an epiphany – I would return to Namibia again and again only for this. Also here the rainy season has spawned gentle grasslands, nestling in large valleys framed by peculiar rock formations – A stunning region. If you can afford to spend more time, you should definitely plan to stay a few days longer in Damaraland. The Mowani Mountain Camp is very recommendable.
Extra-Day / Distance: 20 km / Destination: Outback
If you have more time and a tent, you should consider spending the night in the in the open countryside. For us Damaraland is definitely one of the most scenic highlights of the trip.
Cradle of Humankind
Day 8 / Distance: 110 km / Destination: White Lady Lodge, Brandberg Massiv
After Damaraland the next highlight already awaits us – the Brandberg Massif. With 2573 meters the Königstein is Namibia’s highest mountain. Who is looking out here for exceptional lodges, will be unsuccessful. Off to exploring nature! Who wants to give oneself a treat, can spent the night at the White Lady Lodge. Thanks to one of the ladies of the house we had an unforgettable experience. She showed us the way to the massif. A sandy road leads gently up the mountain till the path is no longer accessible with the car. Oryx antelopes cross our path. From there we continue by food. If you go up in the evening – what is the most recommendable thing to do – don’t miss to stop and turn around. The breath-taking scenery is unforgettable. Africa, the cradle of Humankind – here you can feel it. On our way up to a mountain ridge, a small herd of Mountain Zebras crosses our path. They seem to be equally surprised about the encounter like us. We are glad to have chosen this rout through Namibia.
By the desert to the Atlantic
Day 9 / Distance: 230 km (314 km with a detour to Cape Cross) / Destination: Swakopmund
We are off to the desert. We head Southwest to Dorob National Park. Towards the Atlantic Ocean. But before that we have an encounter with absolute emptiness. Namibia is the least populous country in Africa – here it becomes explicit. Since we have enough water and are able to orient ourselves we risk a little detour into nothingness. Without any indication the Atlantic appears unexpectedly at Henties Bay. Nothing announces the sea – no fragrance, no shrub, no tree. The Cape Cross seal colony is worth a detour. The Stiltz – a hotel build on stilts is overlooking the Atlantic. Situated in Swakopmund it will be our accommodation for the night. Since nothing else is available The Stiltz is offering us a two-storied villa with 3 bedrooms and two terraces. More than enough space for two people.
Day 10 / Distance: 40 km / Destination: Walvis Bay
The short distance to Walvis Bay allows us to make a detour to the south in the afternoon. We head towards Sandwich Bay. But due to the weather – a fogbank is pushing inland – as well as underground and uncertainties in orientation we head back. We will do it next time since it’s supposed to be a fantastic detour if the weather allows it. The route leads alongside the Atlantic, on the left the Namib. Desert Breeze Lodge is a good place to stay in Walvis Bay. If you are looking for something more exceptional and if you are willing to spend a bit more, the Pelican Point Lodge is a must. The way there might be a bit unfamiliar for city-liver. Leading (partly through fog) on a narrow road alongside lagoons to both sides, and further via sand fields northwards on a small promontory.
Day 11 / Distance: 260 km / Destination: Rostock Ritz Desert Lodge
We go eastwards up country. Adventure seeking we leave the main road about 5 km after Walvis Bay and turn southeast in direction to Gobabeb and Homeb. Even though we bought a permit in Swakopmund there is no one checking it. The route leads along a green river valley, behind it the dunes of the Namib. There are less and less people, until finally there is no one. We continue for some time along the sandy, dry riverbed of the Kuiseb Canyon, but finally turn around and ride a dirt road northeastwards through almost untouched no-man’s-land.
Grasslands as far as the eye can reach – gentle hills, occasionally zebras and oryx antelopes – a fantastic primeval landscape. It feels like there is endless freedom in all directions. Magical. Pictures cannot reflect it. It is definitively one of the highlights of our Namibia tour! Late in the night we finally reach the Rostock Ritz Desert Lodge, beautifully embedded in the African vast.
In the heart of the Namib
Day 12 / Distance: 160 km / Destination: Le Mirage Resort & Spa
Our next big destination is Sossusvlei in the heart of Namib. While in the rest of the country it is often difficult to find a remarkable lodge, the density of egregious resorts is relatively high here on the edge of the Namib. We stay at LeMirage Resort & Spa. Indside a fortress in the middle of the desert hides a 5 star resort with excellent cuisine, perfect service and all the amenities. Luxury in the middle of nowhere. We dine directly on the edge of the desert. From the resort it is about 55 km to the world famous Salt Pan. We start in the afternoon instead early the next day to escape the heat. But we’re a bit late. It is recommended to start latest around 3 pm to the Dünental valley in order to have enough time to climb a dune before the guarded entrance to the nature park closes. The sunset from the so-called dune, Big Daddy, is breathtaking.
To the Le Mirage there are two alternatives worth mentioning: The 17 km southwards situated &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge as well as the Wolwedans Dunes Lodge, 60 km to the south. They are definitely worth checking for availabilities!
From the Namib to the Kalahari
Day 13 / Distance: 300 km / Destination: Bagatelle Kalahari Game Ranch
We’re crossing the mountains eastwards and our journey is drawing to an end. In the well-run Bagatelle Kalahari Game Ranch, we spend our last night. We have a wonderful dinner outdoors in a pleasant atmosphere and in the presence of a springbuck as the ranch apparently became his home. The next morning we go to a spacious but bounded area to feed cheetahs. We get out of the car and wait until the cheetahs come. It feels very different without a fence when a cheetah walks towards you, looking strait into your eyes. Impressively. Later we ride with the horses of the ranch through the red dunes of the Kalahari, while ostriches and Oryx antelopes cross our path.
Day 14 / Distance: 270 km / Destination: Windhoek
We go back to Windhoek. The tour we have chosen through Namibia was portioned perfectly in terms of daily travel distances. All stages were feasible. Also the Toyota was a good choice and the return at Asco Car Hire was faultless and unproblematic.
We are heavy at heart. The country with its primeval lands has enchanted us but at the same time it gave us food for thought like hardly any other country before. The Namibian vastness and freedom is simply indescribable. We needed weeks to get back into our European everyday life. However, the next African country is already waiting for us.