A summary of our Namibia impressions, from a three week trip through the country. Read about what to expect of various places in Namibia.
Exactly one year after our vacation in Botswana and South Africa, my partner Andrea and I decided to spend another vacation in Southern Africa. This time in Namibia, which is said to be the most dry country in the world. This post is to share our impressions of this wonderful country.
The primary reason for another stay in Southern Africa was Pepe Jones of Nature Uncut Safaris – she put together another wonderful tour plan. We fell for Namibia because during our last trip she did an excellent marketing job . And this time, she was our tour guide for the whole three weeks.
To me, visiting Windhoek was like visiting a larger village somewhere in Germany. Very clean, and a lot of German names can bee seen everywhere. Our short trip though the city on a Sunday afternoon was focused on the highlights. as we had to already leave early Monday morning.
Too bad, I would have loved to visit the Independence Museum and stroll around in the city center. At least we had sunset cocktails at the Heinitzburg and a fabulous dinner at Joe’s Beerhouse with its impressive collection of Jägermeister bottles (empty ones, of course).
Leaving Windhoek and heading south, we had to lower the tire pressure of the car to adjust to the road conditions. Quickly we learned what really bad road conditions look and feel like. In fact, this was a theme for the following two weeks. But we were still able to enjoy scenic views like the one above.
At a quick stop in Solitaire, we were surprised with:
- a huge piece of delicious and – as we learned – famous apple pie
- a bizarre collection of scrap vehicles, providing endless photo opportunities (see above).
Sossusvlei is an unreal environment, known for gigantic sand dunes changing their shapes and forms every day. There are lots of patterns and colors to photograph. I could have spent days in this area, just taking pictures of dunes, especially at sunrise and sunset.
If you have heard of or already seen fractals, have a look at this Google Maps Satellite view of the Sossusvlei / Deadvlei area, it just looks amazing. We wanted to do a balloon safari to enjoy exactly this view, but unfortunately it was canceled due to strong wind. Well, maybe next time…
After the sun has set, there is another breathtaking scenery waiting for you. Never in my life have I seen so many stars in the sky. The milky way is easy to spot, and the whole sky is covered with a blanket of stars. Make sure you have a tripod and a fast wide-angle lens with you to take advantage of an area with no light pollution.
To get to Deadvlei, you have to walk for about 30 minutes across sand. Deadvlei is actually a very small clay pan, surrounded by dunes. Honestly, from pictures I have seen before I thought it would be a lot larger!
This was a location where an experienced tour guide makes all the difference. Pepe insisted on going to Deadvlei before breakfast – that doesn’t sound like vacation! But the reward was a tourist-free view of trees before the sun hits the valley. The experience was priceless.
When we left, the valley was already flooded with tourists. At this point, the light was harsh and it was impossible to take pictures without people in it. So we left, enjoyed our breakfast and reviewed our awesome pictures.
On our way north to Swakopmund we enjoyed another piece of apple pie at Solitaire, before spending the night at the Rostock Ritz. Road conditions were really bad in that area, often we could not drive faster than 10-15 km/h.
The next day was spent with driving, and in the afternoon we did arrive in the Walvis Bay / Swakopmund area. This was just in time to witness an extremely rare event: a thunderstorm with heavy rain showers. We learned that the last rain shower in that area took place in 2011, 7 years ago at that time. Imagine houses without rainwater gutters – they are simply not needed, the average rain fall here is 10 mm – per year!
Next morning we joined Chris from Living Desert Adventures for their Living Desert tour. The desert looked completely different this morning. The sand was dark, with lots of visible structures, like in a painting. It was stunning, and having Chris explain everything about all those desert animals was the icing on the cake. Highly recommended if you are ever in Swakopmund.
Heading further north, the next stop was Cape Cross, the seal reserve. It was a foggy morning, but we could smell the colony before we could see it . After a while the sun broke through and we could see how big the area actually is. Tens of thousands of seals occupy every square meter they can get hold of – including the car parking area.
We were lucky to see many seal pups, they are called Howlers in German. You quickly realize why, when they are separated from their mother. You really wonder how in this mass chaos parents find their way back to their pups after they went to the ocean to catch some fish.
Damaraland is a totally different landscape – red is the dominant color. Red sand, red rocks, red is everywhere. In Twyfelfontein – which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List – you can visit the largest concentration of rock engravings (petroglyphs) in Africa. Some of those engravings might be as old as 10.000 years. You can take a guided tour, but you cannot walk around on your own.
In the evening, we visited nearby Mowani Mountain Camp for sun-downer drinks and one of the most scenic sunsets I have seen in my life.
Okonjima Nature Reserve
Okonjima is known for its cheetahs and leopards, and is also the home of the Africat foundation. Their goal is the long-term conservation and survival of Namibia’s large carnivores in their natural habitat. But the number of species you can observe in this area is impressive, and by no means limited to carnivores.
One great experience I will never forget is watching lions form a hide, from a very close distance. You can feel their grumbling right in your stomach, and watch them bite through bones when they are fed. They are right in front of you, and they know you are there. They stare at you, and this is nothing you ever want to experience in the wild.
But fortunately there are also less dangerous animals around! There is no shortage of various antelopes, colorful birds and other mammals.
On our way north we also visited a Himba village – I did take pictures, but out of respect for those people, I will not post them here. Would you want strangers to walk through your home, take pictures of everything and publish them on the Internet? See, that’s what I thought as well.
Etosha National Park
I was really excited when we got to Etosha. I have heard a lot of things about this area, yet I wasn’t sure what to expect. We started in the western part of Etosha, which is not as crowded by tourists as other parts. What we also didn’t know at this point was that – for a few days – this was the last time we would see mountains.
The wildlife in Etosha is stunning. Just be aware that there is a difference to private game reserve areas. The size of Etosha National Park is over 20.000 km². Be prepared to drive a lot before you see animals. But what you will see is definitely worth it.
Never in my life have I seen so many animals at a waterhole, at the same time. The density is unbelievable. Animals are drinking in groups, respecting each other. The youngsters are specifically being taken care of.
Do you see the baby elephant in the picture above? His name was Philip (at least I thought so), and I spent a lot of time taking pictures of this adorable cute baby elephant:
As you can see, Philip has an exciting life in Etosha. His mother and the whole group will take care of him. It was a really heartwarming experience.
Besides the density of animals at waterholes, Etosha also offers a completely different experience. The Etosha Pan – a former lake – is the largest salt pan in Africa, approximately 130 x 50 km². I call it The Big Nothing:
This is a 300° panorama – your mind goes bananas trying to find something it can lock on to. Nope. No luck. I was glad when we left this place.
We are already in the eastern part of Etosha. One more night, and we need to leave already. What will stay are the memories of a wildlife experience which is simply unique to this place.
The Caprivi strip was always a part of Namibia with strategic military importance. You notice it because the road conditions are so much better compared to the rest of Namibia. Today, the area is known for its wildlife.
Because of its proximity to the Okovango Delta, the environment looks very similar and familiar to us. A lot of memories returned during the stay in this area.
Chobe National Park
Although geographically Chobe is already part of Botswana, this is where our trip ended. Funny, a year ago this is where our first trip to Southern Africa started. We had a few days to relax and enjoy the wildlife from the water side and the land side, something that makes Chobe unique.
Would I like to go back to Namibia? Yes, for sure. But in order to limit road trips, I would probably focus on fewer places and extend the stays. Pepe, thank you for making this another unforgettable adventure. We learned a lot, I am just not sure if I still remember everything!
My partner Andrea is currently working on her articles about our Namibia trip, in much greater detail and with a lot more pictures. Read her impressions on her website (in German):
Thank you and congratulations if you made it this far! I have two special bonus pictures for you, which I found quite funny – I hope you like them too. Thanks for reading this article, let me know in the comment section if you have questions or had a similar experience!