10 nights in Namibia-advice please!

Old Sep 23rd, 2006, 10:36 AM
  #1  
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10 nights in Namibia-advice please!

We are at the early stages of planning a RTW trip in July/August next year. Namibia would be the last stage of the trip before returning to the UK. What we have planned so far leads to us arriving at Windhoek at noon on 18th August, with 10 nights in Namibia, flying out again at noon on 28th August(we could extend this by a max of 3 nights, but that would mean going back to work straightaway - I'm a teacher so restricted to school holidays, but I'm up for it if you think it would be worth it!). We like to do our own thing, are happy driving long distances, love wildlife and scenery (but are not great hikers!)and enjoy food and wine. We don't have to have luxury accommodation (but do enjoy it!), but do like clean and comfortable, preferably with a view. Self drive is fine, but the cost of the rest of the trip would rule out any fly-in extensions, I think. What would you recommend for us ?

Thanks,

Gaynor
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Old Sep 23rd, 2006, 11:41 AM
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Hello Gaynor,

You can certainly do a self-drive safari in Namibia, though with only 10 days sticking to driving is going to limit how much ground you can cover as the distances are vast. If you want to drive, I'd suggest limiting the number of places you visit to avoid spending more time in the car than you do enjoying the places you've come to see.

The two things which stand out as must-sees IMO are Etosha and the dunes at Sossusvlei. Unfortunately they are on opposite sides of Windhoek.

Internal flights in Namibia are not that expensive (the currency is tied to the SA Rand which is rather weak compared to the pound) so you may want consider a mix of flying and driving. There are some regions which are arguably best appreciated from the air (e.g the Skeleton Coast and Sossusvlei).

I'd recommend heading up north towards Etosha, which offers the best game-viewing in Namibia (though, to be fair, Namibia is not primarily a game-viewing destination in the same way Botswana or Zambia is -- it's more about the spectacular scenery).

It's a five-hour drive between Windhoek and Etosha, so you might want to stop at the Africat Foundation lodge (Okonjima) for 1 nights (about 2.5 hours from Windhoek) to break up the journey -- it's a great place to learn about big cat conservation to see big cats up close. You can also take part in tracking collared cheetahs and leopards.

http://www.okonjima.com/

In Etosha, I'd recommend at least 3 days. You could stay in a national park rest-camp (clean and basic) or in one of the luxury lodges on the neighbouring Ongava private reserve just south of the park. The luxury lodges offer both a fully-inclusive (with activities) and a lesser-known DBB (full-board but no activities) option, so you can stay there even if you are self-driving. If budget is an issue you may want to go with national parks accommodation here and save the money for later in the trip as some of the other parks don't have accommodation other than very basic camping. One of the least expensive luxury camps is Ongava Tented Camp.

http://www.wilderness-safaris.com/ca...mp;method=menu

There is another private reserve, Onguma, on the eastern boundary of the park, which will mean a longer drive both from Windhoek and to your next destination.

http://www.mowani.com/onguma_namibia/Website/index.html

If you then wanted to go to Sossusvlei, you would need to drive back to Windhoek (5 hours if you do it non-stop) and overnight there before moving on to Sossusvlei.

The drive from Windhoek to Serisem/Sossusvlei is about 4.5 hours. Once you arrive, you'll either need to camp in a very basic campsite, or spring for one of the luxury lodges in the area. Kulala Desert Lodge and Kulala Wilderness Camp both offer a DBB option as well as a fully inclusive option, and the Kulala private reserve is located right next to the gate to the park.

http://www.wilderness-safaris.com/ca...mp;method=menu

http://www.wilderness-safaris.com/ca...mp;method=menu

One thing you will may want to do here is a hot air balloon flight over the dunes -- this can be arranged by the lodges.

After 2 nights here, you could head further south to the Namib-Rand Nature Reserve, where Wolwedans offers some lovely options.

http://www.wolwedans.com/

After two nights here, it would be time to head back to Windhoek.

Cheers,
Julian

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Old Sep 23rd, 2006, 11:43 AM
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Hi Gaynor,

Alternatively, if you don't feel compelled to see the dunes, you could then head back south from Etosha through Damaraland towards Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. Northern Damarland is divided into a number of large private concessions safeguarding the rare desert-adapted black rhino. You'd need to stay in a lodge here, and self-driving is not allowed on the reserves. The wildlife here is unique but not easy to spot so the services of the professional guides at the lodges will help you get the most out of your stay. I'd recommend 2-3 nights here. Lodges include Etendeka and Palmwag Rhino Camp, where a portion of your payment goes to support rhino conservation.

http://www.wilderness-safaris.com/ca...mp;method=menu

If this doesn't fit your budget, there are a number of small lodges in Southern Damaraland which make good stopping-off places on your way to Swakopmund. This area is much more conducive to self-driving. There are some lovely Bushman paintings in the Twyfelfontein area. Accommodation options here include Tweylfontein Lodge (on the large side but good value) and the smaller, more intimate Mowani (run by the same company that runs Onguma in Etosha).

http://www.namibialodges.com/twyfelfontein.html

http://www.mowani.com/

Note that the journey from Etosha to Twylfelfontein is almost 600km and will take around 6 hours. The drive on to Swakopmud is another 450km.

You can finish up in Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, where there are plenty of inexpensive small inns and guesthouses. A scenic flight up the coast would give you a chance to see the Skeleton Coast.

You could then drop your hire car off and fly back to Windhoek.

Cheers,
Julian
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Old Sep 23rd, 2006, 11:54 AM
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Hello,

One more option you may want to consider is a scheduled fly-in safari. Several people here have done fly-in safaris to Namibia (notably the Great Namibian Journey) with Wilderness Safaris and have given them very good reviews. With 10 days, you may want to look at one of these two

SPIRIT OF THE NAMIB
http://www.wilderness-safaris.com/sa...mp;method=menu

THE GREAT NAMIBIAN JOURNEY
ttp://www.wilderness-safaris.com/safaris/detail.jsp?safari_id=7986&method=menu

The Spirit of the Namib is less expensive and more rustic, and doesn't include a stay on the Skeleton Coast (though you will fly over the coast). The Great Namibian Journey includes a stay on the Skeleton Coast and is more luxurious.

Depending on the cost of car hire and petrol, the fly in options may end up being better value for money.

Cheers,
Julian
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Old Sep 23rd, 2006, 08:43 PM
  #5  
santharamhari
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I've heard very very good things about Palmwag Rhino, that Julian mentioned in one of his posts.....i think Johan may have had some trip reports from his prior visits. Do a search to see what you can come up with....

Hari
 
Old Sep 24th, 2006, 09:35 AM
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Hello Julian,

Thank you for taking the time to give such a detailed reply. You have certainly given us some ideas to research and we will look at the cost of flying compared to driving everywhere. We definitely don't want to miss Sossusvlei out of the trip, so if we do decide to self-drive the whole trip I think we'll add another 2 nights on. Would the following be do-able :
Day 1 : arrive Windhoek and drive to Okonjima (1 night).
Day 2 : Drive to Etosha (3 nights).
Day 5 : Drive to Twylfelfontein (2 nights).
Day 7 : Drive to Swakopmund (1 night).
Day 8 : Drive to Sossusvlei (2 nights).
Day 10 : Wolwedans (2 nights).
Day 12 : Windhoek (1 night).

Possibly do it in the reverse order as we will be arriving from Perth and so will have been travelling a long time. I realise days 7 and 8 will involve long drives, but this is the bit of the trip that would probably be of least interest to us, so that doesn't bother us too much (though I bet we will wish that we had more time when we actually do it!).

Thanks for the suggestions for different types of accommodation - we will spend the next few evening looking them all up.

Gaynor
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Old Sep 24th, 2006, 11:11 AM
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Gaynor, that itinerary should work NEARLY perfectly. Lots of people seem to have driven that same route (without Wolvedans which will probably make day 12 your longest drive from the times I've heard, by the way) with no time problems. Reverse order might be a good idea since you may be torn between doing activities at Okinjima and getting to Etosha as soon as possible, otherwise. However, without a night in Windhoek at the end you'd have to watch your flight times - I would be a little reluctant to just dump the car at the airport and run for the plane unless you were really sure you'd read all the smallprint in your car rental contract and there would be no surprises you couldn't handle.
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Old Sep 24th, 2006, 12:33 PM
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sandi
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gaynor -

Your itinerary looks very good. You may want to consider and what many choose to do - from Swakamond fly to Soussevlei and Namib and back to Windhoek.

Don't know with whom you're working, as tour operator, but check out Cardboard Box, located in Namibia. They have gotten very good reviews from others who have used them. You can have them compare auto rental for the entire trip vs the last portion of the itinerary flying.
 
Old Sep 24th, 2006, 12:38 PM
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Hello Gaynor,

Looks like a good plan. However, you'll almost certainly want an overnight in Windhoek between Swakopmund and Sossusvlei unless you plan to fly from Swakopmund to Windhoek -- the Windhoek-Sossusvlei leg alone is about 4.5 hours. This is a fairly inexpensive flight as it's a competitive route, and IMO would be worth the expense if you wanted to avoid the overnight in Windhoek.

If you're interested in a scenic flight up the Skeleton Coast, you might also want to consider swapping the number of days for Twyfelfontein and Swakopmund in order to make sure that you have time to do the flight at the optimal time of day (it's best in the early morning or late afternoon).

Cheers,
Julian
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Old Sep 24th, 2006, 12:41 PM
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Hello,

One more thing -- there is a Fodorite currently in Namibia who is visiting many of the same areas. She's doing a fly-in trip. You might want to see what she has to say when she gets back as hers will be the most recent experience. Her Fodors name is Teamsonia -- you can find her thread if you do a search for that username.

You may also want to take a look at the Southern Africa Trip Report Index which has links to trip reports from Southern Africa, including Namibia:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...p;tid=34858382

Cheers,
Julian
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Old Sep 24th, 2006, 01:04 PM
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Julian,
I don't think it makes sense to route through Windhoek on a drive from Swakopmund to Sossusvlei as that would involve quite a detour. From what I understand, Swakopmund to Sossusvlei is about the same as Windhoek to Sossusvlei, distance wise, and is often driven in one day. If one wanted to break the journey up, the area around Solitare would seem a more logical stop than backtracking through Windhoek.
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Old Sep 24th, 2006, 01:32 PM
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Hi Patty,

You have a good point, though if I were to take the route you suggest I would just push on to Sossusvlei -- it's only about another 100 km or so, or about an hour.

Personally, if I had to pick one part of this trip to fly, this would be it -- you can fly from Swakopmund to Sossusvlei with the DuneHopper air taxi service.

Cheers,
Julian
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Old Sep 24th, 2006, 05:46 PM
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Sossusvlei is definitely readily accessible via Windhoek or Swakopmund and there is no need to sidetrack from Swakopmund via Windhoek -- that would more than double the driving time.

Gaynor: I drove a very similar route to what you are proposing. My trip report can be found at this link:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...p;tid=34548100

Our self drive route was:
1 night Windhoek -- Hilltop House
2 nights Sossusvlei Wilderness Camp
1 night Swakopmund
Drove a route to Damarland along Skeleton Coast that let us see the Cape Cross Seal Colony and experience many miles of the desolate coast.
2 nights Damaraland Camp
3 nights Ongava/Etosha
Return Windhoek for p.m. flight

That was only 9 nights so you are in good shape. I would have added 1 night at Okonjima for a 10th. And adding Wolwedans is an awesome idea that I would have loved to do if I had the time so you pretty much have a perfect itinerary for self drive. The far north west areas are supposed to be amazing but then you need a flight. For self-drive your 12 days are very doable and you can avoid any internal flights and have a fabulous trip. One other suggestion if you do 2 nights in Twylfelfontein you will be close to desert elephant areas of Damaraland. The rock art will probably only require one night of your time so be sure to stay at a lodge that can take you to desert elephants (also one drive is usually enough -- they have a very high rate of finding them) or conversely stay one night at Damaraland Camp for eles and Mowani or other lodge for the rock art.
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Old Sep 25th, 2006, 08:54 AM
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Didn't your drive get a little bit difficult though PredatorB? I get teh impression going your way into Damaraland cuts a bit of time off the trip too, fitting the seals in as a bonus, and is a much more interesting route than Hentjes Bay and the C35 by far, but ambitious in a 2WD... or am I just being a scaredy kimburu?
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Old Sep 25th, 2006, 09:13 AM
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Fantastic advice so far!

We love Namibia though haven't visited many of the places we'd like to include on a longer return trip.

On our first trip we just visited Wolwedans (which I adore), Sossusvlei (a must see though more crowded in the main part of the park than elsewhere) and Damaraland (also adored it). On our second trip we just did 4 nights at Wolwedans where we renewed our wedding vows.

Wolwedans offers two levels of accommodation - the Dune Camp and the Dune Lodge. The Dune Lodge offers ensuite chalets constructed of wood and canvas with proper furniture within. The Camp is more rustic but has equally stunning views, perhaps even more stunning if truth be told.
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Old Sep 25th, 2006, 09:33 AM
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Kimburu: I actually did the drive in a 2-WD Nissan Sentra which was by far the most ill prepared rental (also cost me much less) of anyone we encountered on the whole trip but we made it through o.k. To me it was a no brainer to go that route because it does give you a good impression of the Skeleton Coast driving through the National Park which was a part of Namibia that I really wanted a taste of. There were some wind blown areas where sand on the road added a level of difficulty to the driving, you basically need to keep driving to plow through without much issue but it could have been hard if I stopped in the wrong place. For about 3 hours we did not see another vehicle and by the last hour along the coast it is getting mundane but than you turn inland for Damaraland and it is a stunning new landscape. I did know some other people coming the same route to Damaraland Camp also in a 2-WD Toyota (much nicer than our car) and they had no issues either. There was no one headed south but my impression is there are a few vehicles headed north everyday so if you have trouble I think someone would come by but it could be a little while. You also sign in at the park office so they know you are out there but I don't recall signing out so perhaps that was a false security. I felt fine doing it in a 2-WD but a 4-WD would definitely ease the journey and eliminate any worry.
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Old Sep 25th, 2006, 10:10 AM
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Thanks for that. It is soooo tempting to try it, but I have a bit of a reputation to live down and I'm not sure I'm out of the doghouse yet for taking my wife on a surprise trip where we got her beautiful two-month old car stuck in mud next to a "boutique" resort that turned out to be undergoing severe renovation and then next day took her on a "scenic route" which included a hill so steep we started going backwards immediately my wife missed a gear change. And those of you who read my trip report may remember a couple of incidents in Kenya that might wonder that this reputation isn't wholly undeserved. Getting stuck in sand in Namibia and spending the night in the car instead of at Damaraland could be a step too far .... still, I'll think about it. See whether we can get through Kenya in December without too much adventure ;-)
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Old Sep 25th, 2006, 11:41 AM
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Go for it, kimburu!

I must admit being extremely intrigued with the idea when I read Pred's post this morning. According to this http://www.namibian.org/travel/maps/ongava.html the coastal drive should take a bit longer not shorter than the C35 route. I even thought about overnighting at the restcamp at Terrace Bay which is described in my Footprint guide as "dirty and rundown, and only suitable for serious fisherman" but as you know, I'm already running out of days.
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Old Sep 25th, 2006, 03:34 PM
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Kimburu/Patty: we found that almost everyone at each lodge was doing a similar route. We ended up meeting two couples in Swakopmund for dinner who had been with us in Sossusvlei and then one of them was on the way to Damaraland same day as us. I made sure we got an early start so if we did have issues they would be coming behind us, with no issues we made D-Camp an hour and a half before them. When we left Damaraland Camp we convoyed with another party as we were all headed to Ongava. There is a very good chance you will find the same type of pattern if you self-drive and doing a convoy up the coast drive would be a great way to do it with much less worry. I did have to change one flat on the way to Sossusvlei, always make sure in Namibia that they give you two full size spares. A couple days later I then stopped in Solitare to have the flat tire fixed (bringing me back to 2 spares) while grabbing lunch. It is an amazing trip and everyone should go for it! I love fly in camps and all but being on the ground driving without a guide really gives a different experience that is fantastic and Namibia is the perfect country to do so.
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Old Sep 26th, 2006, 10:14 AM
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Thanks everyone for so many suggestions, I'm glad the route is looking good.

Sandi, we had intended booking the trip independently, but will certainly check out Cardboard Box as you suggest.

Kavey, we followed several of your suggestions when we went to South Africa earlier in the year and they were all really good - hence me wanting to add Wolwedans to this trip!

I'm sure I'll have loads more questions, but thanks so far.

Gaynor
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