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First time in Africa, Namibia self drive, need help please

Minneapolis
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First time in Africa, Namibia self drive, need help please

Hello fellow travelers,

I have read quite a few Namibia forum threads and still have some questions. This is the tentative plan for my husband and me, going there in July 2013:

Rent a car from Windhoek, drive to Etosha

Spend 2-3 nights - does it matter whether we stay on the eastern or western side?

Drive to Swakopmund - overnight somewhere on the way? where?

Spend 1 night in Swakopmund

Drive to Sossusvlei - 1 night is enough I gather

Drive back to Windhoek

If this itinerary is too rushed where should we slow down?

Also wondering about adding on 2-3 days in Kruger or Botswana. Again, is that trying to do too much? Don't know if and when we'll be able to go back again to Africa. Wanted to visit Cape Town but July is cold and rainy there.

Thank you for your suggestions!

Hanau, Germany
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1. Re: First time in Africa, Namibia self drive, need help please

That is rushed, on gravel roads you're not even allowed to go 50 mph and I suggest you stick to that.

What time will you arrive in WDH and from where? Getting to Etosha takes several hours and you're not allowed to drive after dark, Etosha and the camps inside will close the gates at sundown, arriving later could mean a fine.

In eastern Etosha you have 3 camps, Namutoni right after the gate, around 40 miles further into the park is Halali, then Okaukuejo, close to Okaukuejo is also a gate, that's almost in the middle, in the west you only have Dolomite, it's new and I think the best one, also you're only allowed in the west part of Etosha if you have booked Dolomite, nobody checks.

With your limited time I would choose Okaukuejo, you have a tar road for the whole trip from Wdh, if you go from Etosha towards Outjo, Otjiwarongo, Karibib to Swakopmund you also have tar and might be able to do it in one day.

Swakopmund Sossusvlei is only a few hours, but all on gravel that takes time, the drive from there back to Wdh will be a long day driving.

If it's in your budget a flight over Sossuvlei from Swakopmund could be a option, then drive back to Wdh from Swakop.

Driving in Namibia is easy but not as laied back as what you're used to from the US, you also have short days in mid winter that has to be taken into account.

If you drive back from Sossusvlei maybe think about spending a night in the Kalahri close to Mariental.

We did the route you have in mind last May, the only difference we had 16 days to do so and it was still a lot of driving, wouldn't want to it in 1/2 the time.

Namibia
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2. Re: First time in Africa, Namibia self drive, need help please

What I can see is that you want to spend 7 nights in Namibia and that is really not a lot and is too rushed.

You will be able to go to Etosha, Swakopmund and Sossusvlei, but you will be travelling quite a bit and have to leave out great places such as Damaraland. Also, going to Sossuslvei for one night driving all the way there and than don't even have enough time to visit the Sossusvlei and surrounding area, just doesn't make sense. Another option would than rather be to do a 7 night fly in safari as this will allow you to cover the distances much quicker and see the highlights you mentioned including maybe a night or two in Damaraland.

Flying to Botswana or Kruger for 2 or 3 days is not recommended as you will be loosing more time getting there, than really seeing and experiencing the place you visit. To visit Botswana and the Moremi you will need to at least have 3 nights for that. You can fly from Windhoek to Maun and than directly fly into the Okavango Delta to spend 3 nights at the a lodge there. This would maybe make sense, but spending more time in Namibia is also an option.

Cape Town in July can be very cold and wet. You can have days where it doesn't rain, but it can be very windy and cold and July is not the best time to travel there. I would rather put this on hold and try and come to Cape Town a better time of year. You also want to spend at least 7 - 10 days in the Western Cape as it's a very beautiful area, but not in winter.

Clive

Suricate Safaris

Nashville, Tennessee
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3. Re: First time in Africa, Namibia self drive, need help please

I agree with the above. You are not taking in to account the vast distances and driving times. You are looking at a map (like I did when I first started planning) and acting like it will be US interstates to drive on. Plan on 2-3 hours to land in Windhoek, customs, passport, luggage and then get the car rental and get checked out. You will need to go straight to get gas and probably the store. You are 30 minutes outside of town from the airport before hitting the B1 and driving north. You will also have a quick road block to get through.

Plan on a stop over a couple hours outside of windhoek. Then, if it were me, I would spend 2 nights in either Halali or Okaukuejo before heading to the western side and spending 2 nights in dolomite. You will want a stopover on your way to Swakopmund. Here I would spend at least 2 nights and not just one.

2 nights around Swakopmund depending on what activities you are doing (quadbiking, desert tour, skydiving, san surfing, seal kayaking, ect...) and then 1-2 nights down south.

If you asked my opinion, I would reverse the order and save eastern etosha for last (has the highest number of animals). Let things build up as you move from south, to swakopmund to damarland and then etosha.

With as short of trip as you seem to have, don't try to do Kruger or Botswana, neither are very close and 3 days is too much time spent traveling. Add the time to Namibia and don't be so rushed.

I wouldn't try to do the areas you mention in less than 10 days. That is actually pushing it. Otherwise, you will drive all day, spend the night and drive the next day- never actually spending any time anywhere, seeing animals, trekking, sightseeing, photography, activities and the such. As Uta, we did this trip this past march (in reverse) and spent 14 days in country without going south to the dunes and still felt a little rushed. AM going back in July and limiting to only Etosha but still spending 7 days just to get there from Windhoek, visit a couple of camps and get back to Windhoek.

Stanley, Falkland...
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4. Re: First time in Africa, Namibia self drive, need help please

"I have read quite a few Namibia forum threads..."

Have any suggested such a rushed trip?

You and your husband might love it, but we don't know what you hope to get out of your visit?

Baltimore, Maryland
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5. Re: First time in Africa, Namibia self drive, need help please

I agree with all that it is rushed. If were you I would take those 2-3 days and add them to Namibia

Day 1 Fly in , rent car, change money, spend the night in Windhoek

Day 2: Drive to Etosha ( 6 hours), Okaukeujo afternoon game drive

Day 3- All day game drive, stay Okaukeujo

Day 4- All day Game drive- Night in Halali

Day 5- Morning Game Drive, drive to some halfway pt to Swakap ( Id take suggestions

Day 6- Rest of Ride to Swakap, afternoon activity in Swakap , night in Swakap

Day 7- All day Swakap- some other activity , night in Swakap

Day 8- Drive to Soussevlei, sun set dune pics

Day 9- Morning in Soussevei, drive to Windohowk

Day 10- Fly out

That is I think as rushed as you can manage to do the trip and it is still driving a lot but it can be doable. Just make sure you enjoy the scenery on the drives !!!

Minneapolis
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6. Re: First time in Africa, Namibia self drive, need help please

Okay, so I definitely need to rethink our itinerary. Don't want it to be rushed - so I will work on adding more days. But if I had to exclude anything do you have suggestions?

Thank you so much for all your detailed suggestions!

Minneapolis
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7. Re: First time in Africa, Namibia self drive, need help please

What we are hoping to get out of it is see big game, and small. See the dramatic landscape of Namibia. Not interested in cultural or city experiences for this trip.

I have noticed that rates in lodgings are quoted per person even in sharing double rooms - is this the norm? Also, do I gain by shopping around for rates once I have identified a lodging? Everything I have looked at has mostly been through the Cardboard Shop website for lodging.

Namibia
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8. Re: First time in Africa, Namibia self drive, need help please

It would be better to spend as much time as possible in Namibia. It's a vast country and you will enjoy every moment of it.

What to exclude is hard to say. You don't have time to visit the Fish River Canyon, but in 10 days you can do Waterberg, Etosha, Damaraland, Swakopmund and the Sossusvlei Area.

Most lodges and hotels always give a per person rate and that is the norm in Namibia.

It always depends on who you contact and where you book. The rates can always be different, so shopping around is not a bad idea.

Clive

Suricate Safaris

Baltimore, Maryland
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9. Re: First time in Africa, Namibia self drive, need help please

Things to take out... Well unless you plan on doing adventure activites such as skydiving, quadbiking, sandboarding or cruises at Swakapmond you could maybe only spend one night there.

It is normal for rates to be per person. That threw me off too when I first got there.

I am 100% in favor of shopping around. Also look at wholesale travel sites such as expedia, travelocity, kayak, priceline etc. But when you use theses sites be sure to go to the individual websites of the suggested accommodation and check reviews. Its better to be in a mid-price comfortable accommodation than a cheap accommodation where you are afraid to sit down

Nashville, Tennessee
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10. Re: First time in Africa, Namibia self drive, need help please

If you want to save money, book through an in country outfitter. I spent months looking through rates and websites, priced my itinerary and then saved 20% by booking through an outfitter. Plain and simple, they get 20-50% discounts from what you can get. Most of the websites mentioned above do not have any significant discounts on Etosha properties and most of the damarland properties I researched.

I usually book things myself, but it just didn't make sense in Namibia. The rates quoted on the sites are much higher than what I paid.

As above, take out Swakopmund if you are not doing the adventure activities. Also, take out fish river canyon as mentioned. 10 days i adequate to do Waterburg, Etosha, Damarland, Swak and Sossusvlei.