#wherenext – Namibia

Day 1: San Francisco, USA — Windhoek, Namibia | 15,800km, ~36h Flight

Namibia, Africa for beginners. Here you can get a taste of safari and enjoy a mix of adventure, culture, and wildlife all while stopping whenever and wherever you like.

Our journey started in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. After over 36 hours of travel time, we finally touched down at Hosea Kutako International Airport. A representative from Nambia 4×4 Rentals was already waiting for us in the arrival hall, ready to take us to our rental car which was located only a short drive from the airport. In less than 40 minutes we were on our way in a brand new AWD RAV4, en route to our first accommodation: The Olive Exclusive.

Unless you are coming from within Southern Africa, it can be quite a trek to get to Namibia. However, no matter where you are traveling from, the sights you see and the memories you create will be unforgettable. Thus Olive Exclusive was the perfect place to call home for the night because of its proximity to the airport. This intimate, suite-only, boutique hotel is located in a tranquil corner of town, but still close to some delicious restaurants. Other than going out to eat and visiting the local craft markets, there isn’t much to do in Windhoek. It is more of a gateway city to the rest of the country, so we took the time to relax on our outdoor patio and watch our first ever Namibian sunset, before cozying up in our king size bed, excited for what was to come.

Day 2 – 4: Windhoek — The NamibRand Reserve | 390km, ~6h Drive

The stretch between Windhoek and The NamibRand Reserve is stunning. Long, straight roads leading into nothingness accompanied by ever-changing landscapes. Namibia may look small on a map, but driving from one destination to the next can easily take you up to 8 hours due to the long distances between as well as the bumpy road conditions. We started our drive at dawn. As we drove across the desert deep purples, golden yellows, and burnt oranges swirled together like a carefully crafted oil painting. With a 6 hour drive ahead of us, we wanted to make sure to leave Windhoek with enough time to stop along the way to take pictures of the mesmerizing landscape and still arrive at The NamibRand Reserve before dusk. 

Arriving at Wolwedans Dune Camp by sunset is a must. This entirely female-run camp sits atop vibrant orange dunes within the NamibRand Reserve, the largest, privately owned conservancy in the country. We arrived just in time for the sunset game drive. Sitting comfortably in our open-air safari vehicle we rolled out into the orange sands in search of oryx, zebras, leopards and so much more. As sunset drew near, our guide positioned us atop one of the many dunes and cut the engine. With a glass of wine in hand, we stared out onto the vast landscape. In the distance the sun disappeared behind the mountains, throwing the most saturated purples and pinks possible into the sky. The classic African sundowner.

The morning came faster than we thought. One of our dreams coming to Namibia was to visit the famous Sossusvlei area, a scenery we only knew from the screensavers of our computers. Now it was time to see this place in real life. To beat the crowds, we left Wolwedans before sunrise to make our way to Sesriem, the entrance of Namib Naukluft National Park. The drive to the famous Deadvlei Valley took another hour from the entrance. We parked our car in a designated parking lot and took the shuttle the rest of the way to avoid getting stuck in the deep sand covering the ground. The last stretch has to be done on foot. We walked up and over a small dune until we finally reached the white clay pan known as Deadvlei. The ground was unexpectedly hard, dotted with ancient dead camel thorn trees. In the distance, Big Daddy, a burnt orange 325m tall dune, loomed high above the dry and desolate landscape. It was as if we were walking on another planet.

Day 4-6: The NamibRand Reserve — Walvis Bay | 410km, ~6h Drive

After a few exciting days in The NamibRand Reserve, we made our way northwest, bound for the Skeleton Coast. The stark contrast between the desert landscape inland and the foggy coastline became very apparent when we arrived at Pelican Point Lodge. Located at the tip of a 22km long peninsula, this 5-Star outpost offers 360º views, with the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Walvis Bay Lagoon to the east. We left our car in Walvis Bay and got picked up by a private driver who gave us a tour of the local salt mine and the incredible surroundings before dropping us at the still operational light tower at the end of the peninsula. Here we enjoyed two days of pure relaxation, delectable 3-course meals, and absolute solitude.

Consider this the intermission to your trip, a break from the heat and some time to enjoy the company of one another while spotting occasional black-backed jackals, cape fur seals, and flamingos.

Day 6-8: Walvis Bay — Damaraland | 360km, ~5h Drive

After a hearty breakfast at Pelican Point Lodge, and before we returned to our car, we jumped on a boat in the Walvis Bay Lagoon and headed out on a short dolphin cruise. Although we didn’t get to see a single dolphin, our boat was surrounded by cape sea lions whose curiosity drew them to  our boat, swarming little heads popping up to peer at us before disappearing back down into the grey-blue ocean.

From the Skeleton Coast, we headed straight into the heart of the dusty and scorching plains of Damaraland. With just over 2 million inhabitants in all of Namibia, you will quickly notice that fauna vastly outnumber humans. Even here in the roughest of conditions of Damaraland you can still find an abundance of life. This area is particularly special because it is home to the desert elephant. There are only 2 places in the world where this rare eco type exists, so we couldn’t help but book ourselves an early morning desert-adapted elephant tracking excursion. At Camp Kipwe, we were  taken out at twilight to track these gentle giants and when we encountered them, let’s just say, words cannot begin to describe the experience.

Day 8-10: Damaraland — Windhoek | 460km, ~6h Drive

Getting up for sunrise never disappoints, rather the opposite, we are always eager to see what brilliant display nature has in store. This morning we were en route to Omaanda Lodge, our last stop on our 10-day itinerary through the vast and breathtaking country of Namibia. Omaanda is just outside of Windhoek, making this the perfect place to end our trip. Though it is only 30 minutes to the airport, we still felt like we were in the middle of the bush. They say to keep the best for the last and although every single destination and accommodation was unique and unforgettable in its own right, Omaanda Lodge left us speechless.

We spent our last days lounging poolside beneath the hot African sun, treated ourselves to a couples massage at the onsite spa and one of our biggest highlights was our morning, Cheetah walk. Omaanda partners with N/a’an ku sê Wildlife Sanctuary to provide high quality and humanitarian excursions from walking with Cheetahs and feeding the Rhinos to morning and evening game drives. We can’t stop talking about this unique and special experience with which we were able to return home. The memories we collected here will remain in our hearts forever.

A few tid bits about driving in Namibia

Driving on your own through Namibia is absolutely incredible and highly recommended. The drive between each accommodation may take several hours, but the scenery will make up for it. No matter what time of the year you decide to travel, the landscape will not disappoint. But please keep in mind that driving anytime between dusk and dawn can be dangerous due to the free roaming wildlife and unexpected road damages. It is therefore recommended to only drive during daylight hours, so plan your trips accordingly. Always pack enough water and snacks and possibly a reserve tank of gas. The stretches between gas stations can be quite long and whatever you do, no not leave without at least one spare tire. Lastly It is important to note that in Namibia you will drive on the left side of the road, so make sure to get your international driver’s license!

Kim Finley is the founder and visionary behind Bare Escape, a Boutique Travel Agency empowering you to Travel More & Worry Less. For more information on how you can book this 10 Day / 9 Night escape through the diverse country of Namibia, visit their website bareescape.com or email them at travel@bareescape.com.

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