Self-Drive Adventures through Namibia
Namibia with its vast open spaces, breathtaking scenery and great contrasts – ocean, dunes, mountains and deserts stirs the spirit, and moves the heart. Namibia is so large and sparsely populated that it is possible to discover enormous open spaces without roads, towns, trees or even stones, just the lonely desert wind passing through one of the most enchanting corners of the earth.
I embarked on a self-drive journey with a colleague through this barren landscape to bring you their insights and first-hand experiences of Namibia’s many delights. The Namib Desert and Sossusvlei exceeded all our expectations. Large stretches of wide open red-sanded land are canopied by piercing blue skies. I was fascinated to discover that the desert, which at first glance appears to be vast and lifeless, is in fact a large ecosystem adapting and surviving on the bare minimum. We took in all the sights and sounds by quad biking through the dunes, we hiked up “Big Daddy Dune”, visited Dead Vlei, the petrified dunes and a canyon, and on a bushman walk we were able to focus on the smaller species and plants. Sunrise and sunset safari drives, accompanied by morning coffee or that thirst quenching G&T at the end of a hot day, in these most unique locations are enough to make you feel like you’re in a dream.
With this vast open space, the night skies are breath-taking. Taking a peek through a telescope while in Sossusvlei, we were able to capture the most incredible display of the skies.
A highlight of our trip was going on a search for the desert adapted elephants. We drove along wide dried up river beds (because the water table is close to the surface) which is a perfect area for desert elephant. Spotting the herd and watching them was an amazing experience. So often on safari we see elephants playfully splashing water about to cool off and to drink, but these Desert-adapted elephant have learnt to respect and conserve the small amount of water that is available to them. From watching the Oryx and Springbok as they fed on the very few plants that grow in the Namib Desert, to sitting amongst the herd of elephants foraging for pods that have fallen from the trees, only eating what they need, we were so amazed how the animals in the Sossusvlei & Damaraland areas could survive on so little.
In Damaraland, we were also able to explore unique rock formations, which were created thousands of years ago. Lizards, birds and insects are partial to this special area, as are travelers seeking to step back in time for a brief moment as they appreciate the many bushman rock paintings at Twyfelfontein and take in sight of the ancient trees of the Petrified Forest.
We particularly enjoyed self-driving through Etosha National Park which is situated in the north of the country. Here we experienced beautiful storms, and in contrast this area was green and thriving, offering spectacular wildlife sightings, unique birding and a diverse world of flora. The Ethosa Pan is also a sight to marvel at – in the dry season it is vast and attracts plains game and in the rainy season is provides the illusion of a large lake.
Namibia is a special place, which will deliver unique experiences for those keen on self-driving. The roads, despite almost always gravel, are well signed, and this way you can come across some real gems that you wouldn’t see from the sky should you choose to fly around this beautiful country. That being said, for those who enjoy the comfort and luxury of flying, Namibia’s scheduled charters run daily making your hops between lodges or camps easy and quick, and you’re able to spend more time at your lodge.