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Self Drive Itinerary

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We are in the early stages of planning a trip to Namibia and Mozambique in the fall of 2009. I am having trouble getting my head around some of the distances involved in Namibia and although my husband and I are happy to drive we don't want to kill ourselves doing so. The purpose of our Namibia trip is to see the geography. In Mozambique its all about the diving!!

Here is what I'm thinking for our itinerary:

Day 1 - Arrive in Windhoek, not sure what time of day so spend the night there. If we arrived early enough, get the car and stop enroute to Etosha.

Day 2-5 ( 3 nights) - Etosha - not sure where but hopefully one of the camps inside the park. Any reccomendations appreciated. We have been to Botswana a couple of times so spending a lot of time here is not crucial.

Day 6-8 (2 nights) - Damaraland area - I am considering Vingerclip, which is probably not exactly Damaraland but the landscape looks awesome and we could hike a bit. Open to suggestions.

Day 9-11 (2 nights) - Swakopmund - considering Beach Lodge and we would do a desert trip probably or something on a boat, totally weather dependant.

Day 12-15 (3 nights) - Sossusvlei area - we want to stay at Kuangukuango which I know is isolated but it appeals to us. Would it be feasible to stay here and still go to see the dunes one morning? Same for a ballon ride or would it be too far away?

Day 16 - Windhoek and fly back to SA to go on to Mozambique the following day, flights dependant.

Does this seem overly ambitious for slightly over two weeks? We wouldn't want to race between places and would take more scenic routes. We like the idea of some self catering and don't want to spend a fortune on accomodations.

Any help is appreciated and if anyone can advise where I can get a decent road map that would be helpful. Thanks. I'll be posting on Tripadvisor and Frommers as well for all you fellow travel forum addicts.

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    You could stay at Kuangukuangu and go to Sossusvlei for the day. It would probably take you around 1.5 hours to reach the Sesriem gate from Kuangukuangu (we never drove this directly so I'm just guessing based on our approx 2 hour drive from Kuangukuangu to Desert Homestead). I think you'd be too far away to make an early morning balloon flight though.

    In case you haven't seen my trip report, we stayed at Kuangukuangu and loved it http://www.fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=4&tid=35072993

    16 days is 15 nights, but you've only indicated a total of 11 nights in parenthesis (if you include 1 night in Windhoek). In any case, I don't think your itinerary is overly ambitious even if it's actually 12 days/11 nights, but 16 days/15 nights is better.

    I recommend the Tracks4Africa Namibia map if you'll be bringing a GPS.

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    Yes it would seem my math is not so good. I have been playing with schedules. I would consider adding a night at a couple of the stops. So much depends on the flights and availability!!

    Patti - I poured over your review it was wonderful!

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    We did a self-drive to Namibia in 2005. We had 8 days and did a similar itinerary. Damaraland was the one area that ended up being cut because of time and interests. That will be another trip. :)

    Here is our itinerary for reference.

    Cape town to Windhoek - arrive ~1pm pick up car - drove to Waterburg. We arrived about 5pm. We had time to take an evening stroll around the camp area and then have dinner. The restaurant was one of the better national park restaurants. Waterburg was okay. I know a lot of people stay at the Cheetah reserve on the way to Etosha. This worked for us.

    Waterburg to Etosha - This took us about 2-3 horus to drive. I remember arriving at Etosha around 11am. We stayed in the middle at Hanali. We had one of the VIP cottages which was great. I think they have remodeled since 2005. I highly recommend visiting Okondeka waterhole. We stopped there around noon after we arrived on the way to Halali and saw an amazing amount of wildlife. We spent two nights in Etosha. We toured west of Halali one day and east the next. (BTW, at that time the food was bad in the restaurant at Halali but the VIP cottage and waterhole - excellent!)

    Etosha to Erongo - It took us almost 6 hours to drive from Halali to Erongo. We went via a dirt road which was pretty long and somewhat boring. The lodge is really very nice. Each tent hut is from a walkway and you feel very secluded. Excellent food. We had a great guide that took us on a sundown hike. The next day we hiked up to a lookout over the camp.

    Erongo to Swakopmund - They suggested a backroad through the Namid desert. Swakopmund was interesting but we didn't get a chance to see anything other than the city. (btw, we are botanists so we were more interested in desert plants).

    Swakopmund to Sossusvlei - We stayed at the Desert Homestead. It took about 9 hours to drive via the Namib desert park to see the very unusual plant - Welwitschia. I actually loved this drive because it was an adventure and it had a lot of wide open spaces. I'm from the western US and I love driving out in the desert. The Desert Homestead is a great place if you don't want to pay for being close. We were about 30-45 minutes from the gate which was fine for us.

    We spent two nights in Sossusvlei. We got our permit to go in when we arrive and we were at the gate right at 7am. The road is very rough in Soussusvlei and it took us about 4 hours to get to the end of the road. We were at Dune 45 around 8:30 and still had great shadows. We didn't go beyond the end of the road.

    I like the looks of the place you have posted. The only item that has already been mentioned is how long it will be to get to the gate. The gate opens at 7am and the best light is between 7am and 9am. But I've hear there is great hiking in the region you are interested in.

    Sossusvlei to Windhoek. We drove back to Windhoek which took about 6 hours. We spent our last night and part of the day in Windhoek before catching a 4pm flight back to Jo'burg and the US. Long long day.

    I have to say that Namibia is our best trip. I still dream about it and want to go back. I think you will have a great time.

    I recommend checking out the Cardboard Box website. We used them for our reservations. They were excellent - especially if you have an idea of what your want. Their website is also useful for driving times.

    If you want to see pictures and blog of our trip, please check out
    http://martageorge.com/

    You'll find links to both our pictures and my blog archives.

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    I did a 13-night self-drive trip to Namibia last year and used the Freytag&Berndt map, which I think is excellent and has all the main roads and distances. its scale is 1:1.200.000 You can find it in www.freytagberndt.at (web is in german, but easy to navigate)

    I think 15 nights for your itinerary is plenty, you could even fit one more place if you wanted to.

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    Hi
    We did a similar trip last March with Cardboard Box (who were great). We went to all the camps in Etosha but I think you will only be able to go to Okaukuejo (which is very good). We didn't like Namutoni camp at all (all glitz and glass and over priced).

    Really loved Vingerclip.

    I think more time in Etosha and less in Sossusvlei

    WE are planning a trip for June to Caprivi Strip but will go to Etosha again on the way.

    Good Luck

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    A few suggestions:

    Windhoek - we stayed at Hilltop House in Windhoek - it was very nice - ask for a room on the second floor - great views! The health breakfast is wonderful!

    Windhoek - try to find time for the Namibian Craft Centre - also very good.

    Etosha - I hesitate to recommend certain camps in Etosha simply because they have been completely redone since we were there - better to get advice from someone who has been since the renovations. However, based on location, I would recommend a night at each camp so that you see the whole park and don't have to drive back and fourth from the far reaches of the park to one camp.

    Vingerklip is great - be certain to arrive in time for sunset so that you can watch the colour of the rock change in the fading light. Here is what I said about our visit to Vingerklip in the trip report that I sent home to family at the time (2005):

    We spent the night at a lodge next to the Vingerklip or “Finger of Stone”, a striking 35m high pillar of rock, balancing precariously on its end, a relic of an earlier plateau which was subsequently eroded by the Ugab River. It was an impressive sight, and we hiked out to its base, where Robert took photographs of me and Laura standing at its base (feeling very vulnerable!) as the rock turned a deeper orange in the fading light. Again, reminiscent of Uluru/Ayer’s Rock, but not quite as spectacular! Dinner at the lodge was a delectable affair, which featured roast lamb and gemsbok, and the best cabbage rolls (stuffed with wildebeest!) that I have ever tasted. The chef was most entertaining, trying to ply us with more food than we could possibly eat, and dragging us away from the table during dinner to admire the kudu at the floodlit waterhole. Laura could not get enough of the incredibly rich and creamy strawberry mousse. She spent the rest of the evening on the terrace of our cabin, star chart in one hand and binoculars in the other.

    As I recall, the cabin at Vingerklip was huge (with a loft) and very nice.

    You must stay at Beach Lodge - we loved it. We just spent a week there in August 2008 - my husband had a conference in Swakopmund. The food in the dining room is the best in town (the locals frequent it), the rooms are on the beach (the sound of the waves is wonderful) and the staff is very friendly. Again, ask for a room on the second floor - you will have a balcony with a view over the Atlantic.

    For a desert tour and more: Book a tour of Sandwich Harbour with Turnstone Tours in Swakopmund - but book soon - it is very popular. It is a fabulous trip. see www.turnstone-tours.com

    Also, be certain to do the Welwitschia Drive from Swakopmund - pack a lunch and make a day of it - some fascinating stuff to see. The Bradt Guide to Namibia is an excellent book for Namibia and includes an excellent description of this drive.

    At Sossusvlei - I recommend Kulala Wilderness Camp - see the Wilderness Safaris website - we spent two nights there in 2008 and wished we could stay longer. www.wilderness-safaris.com

    The best road map of Namibia that we found is the Globetrotter Travel Atlas of Namibia (ISBN 1 84537 698 6). I have the 5th edition that was put out in 2006. There may be a more recent edition now. A very good, lightweight, soft cover atlas. I ordered it online.

    Best book for Namibia - The Bradt Guide - it is excellent - you can order it online directly from them www.bradt-travelguides.com

    Finally, have a look at the link below (relevant page numbers are given below the link) - it is my trip report for our 6-week self-drive through South Africa/Namibia this past July/August 2008 - it includes Sandwich Harbour, Beach Lodge, the Welwitschia Drive, Sossusvlei - it is a work in progress - Windhoek will be added shortly. I hope to finish it this week. Enjoy! Robin

    http://bert-and-bin.smugmug.com/gallery/7172232_XrT3Y/1/461053054_KcDbR

    Welwitschia Drive - starts bottom of page 60
    Sandwich Harbour tour - starts middle of page 58
    Beach Lodge pictures - middle of page 57
    Sossusvlei - accomodation and trip to the dunes - middle of page 46

    Sorry - one more thing - even though you say your trip to Namibia is about geography, I would be inclined to give up one night at Vingerklip and add it to Etosha.

    Can't comment on Mozambique - haven't been there!

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    Sorry - more! - Travel4flowers is quite correct - the light in the dunes is best first thing in the morning and you really want to be in the dunes for sunrise. One of the advantages of staying at either Kulala Wilderness Camp or Kulala Desert Lodge (we have stayed at both and prefer the former - both are owned by Wilderness Safaris) is that Kulala has a private entrance to Namib-Naukluft Park (Sossusvlei) near dune one. This shortcut enables both the lodge and the camp to get their guests into the best part of the dunes by sunrise. A huge advantage! If you have to travel in from Seriem, you are hard pressed to get to the dunes by sunrise.

    Be certain to climb Big Daddy (a dune!) and then run down to Dead Vlei (which lies at the base of Big Daddy) - spectacular scenery that is featured on all the postcards - avoid the popular dune 45, which is always very busy!

    Also, I should have said that I ordered the atlas from Amazon. Robin

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    Yes, I can confirm that Kuangukuangu is a great place. We get married there! It for 2 people only,in the middle of nowhere. Great hosts, great countryside. www.kuangukuangu.com on your way to Solitaire and Sossusvlei dunes.

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