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Suggestions for our Namibia itinerary? :)

Augsburg
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Suggestions for our Namibia itinerary? :)

Hi all,

we are planning to fly to Namibia at the middle of October this year. We are 4 persons and I have to admit, neither of us has got any experience with self-driving travels in africa at all (though I've been to Botsuana for 2 weeks already, but with a big group and a guide). But I've heard that Namibia is a good start for unexperienced travelers, and we got 2 people who just can't afford doing some guided agency-sort-of-tour, so we will have to do this on our own or don't do it at all.

I've read many traveling websites already and been on about 20 or 30 car renting sites, but the most troubles we got is a good itinerary for our tour ...

Of course, we want to spend a few days in Etosha, at least 3, because our main aim for this vacation is to see animals. Lots of animals. My favorite idea so far is to go to 3 - 4 different camps in Etosha, each for 1 night, so we can see most of the flora and fauna. Do you think this is a good idea, or would you say we should stick to one or maybe two camps, but don't hit it big time like I would like to?

Our second big aim is to see the desert. A real desert where there's no light pollution and a completely clear night sky with millions of stars to see. I don't know if it's possible and I find it hard to get that information from google, but I would LOOOVE to sleep in some kind of desert chalet or something ...

Well, that second goal of ours will most likely lead us to Sossusvlei, right? I've tried to gather information, and I've found lots of camping sites and lodges, but I just don't see if it's the kind of desert experience that we have in mind.

I don't know how much time Etosha and Sossusvlei will consume, but I think there's still some time left if we have about 14 whole days in Namibia? (We arrive at Windhoek)

Do you probably have any itinerary suggestions for people who don't want to see any culture (towns, etc.), but just lots of animals and nature? Perhaps some places where we can do nice day trekkings without the fear of being eaten by lions or being robbed and raped coz we're some idiot tourists doing this kind of trip the first time? ;-)

thanks in advance!

cheers, Dirk

Nashville, Tennessee
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1. Re: Suggestions for our Namibia itinerary? :)

Relax, Namibia is certainly a great choice for first time self-drivers. I was slightly apprehensive before my first time as well. Turns out it truly is as easy as everyone on this forum reports.

14 days is a nice length for a main highlights trip. I would suggest more than 3-4 days in Etosha if wildlife is the main reason and highlight of what you are doing. Also, don't skip Damarland. I am not a desert person and we only spent 2 days around Swakopmund. One option (although could be done in reverse) is the following:

Arrive Windhoek and make your way south. No need to stay in or around Windhoek. Not really a tourist city and most people don't spend any significant time there. Try to get an early AM arrival.

Drive towards Sossusvlei. If you can get there early enough, drive all the way the first day. If not, stop-over a couple out of Windhoek. 2 nights around Sossusvlei. Then drive up to Swakopmund.

If you want to do any outdoor activities, Swak is a good place. We did the Walvis Bay kayaking with the seals. Not very strenuous and great interaction with the seals, as well as some dolphins. Half day trip and great tour (we used Eco tours). You can do a desert tour, or catamaran, or sky diving, or quadbiking. Depending on what you do 1 or 2 nights here.

Then on up to Damarland. 2-3 nights here. We did the desert elephant tracking and it was fabulous (we went out of Mowani Mountain camp and loved the camp and the trip). Rhino tracking also available. Walk within a few yards of the endangered animals. Amazing opportunity. Some love Grootberg lodge and I must admit, the view is great. Damarland will introduce you to your first Springbok, Steenbok, Ostrich, Oryx, Zebra, giraffe, eland, elephants and rhino. Maybe lions or leopards. Not very densely populated, but plenty of opportunities. We did guided safari out of Grootberg and Damarland.

Then on up to Etosha (Western gate). Spend 1-2 nights in Dolomite. My favorite camp. Very remote, but luxurious. The entire western side of the park is closed to visitors unless you are staying at this camp. Great wildlife from here.

Then on across to Okaukuejo and/or Halali for 2 days. Flood lit water holes and the more popular sections of Etosha. Easy to navigate and more animals than you can believe.

Finish with 1-2 nights in Namutoni or outside the park gate.

Stop over 1 night on the way back to Windhoek- we stayed around Brandeburg.

I would encourage you to do a night drive at one of the parks. Different experience. Staying one night outside the park and taking a guided trip in to the parks are certainly a different type of experience.

Around Brandeburg you can go to the Cheetah Conservation Fund and see the great work as well as interact with cheetahs up close. TIme is right and see the sprint training.

All of this will be cheaper and easier if you use an in-country outfitter. Many people mistakenly think that planning it yourself is cheaper, but it is not. The TO can get a much better price than you. They will arrange the car rental as well. Namibia is notorious for car rental issues for the solo traveler that does it themselves and NWR loses individual reservations frequently. The TO can arrange things and follow them up for you. Also, who will get the last room if overbooked or lost reservation- the single traveler that will never be back or the TO that sends 50 people a month through the camp. Use an in country TO.

I advise a 4x4 for the drive, mainly for the higher ground clearance and larger fuel tanks. Fuel is not as available there as anywhere else you will be used to. Can go couple of days without the opportunity to refuel. Also, cash only for fuel, no credit cards.

Plan on much longer distances and much slower travel times than you expect. Low speed limits, gravel roads and cannot drive before sunrise or after dark. Most people don't plan on enough time to get places and end up being rushed.

Hoep this helps. I am headed back again in 12 days. You will love Etosha and all of Namibia. Enjoy the planning and the trip.

Leicester, United...
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2. Re: Suggestions for our Namibia itinerary? :)

Hi,

As you are concentrating on the Central-Northern section so I suspect you don't want to detour down to Kalahari to experience the desert accommodations there.

IMHO for luxury and seclusion in a desert setting not too far from Sossusvlei your best bet is the Wolwedans in Namib Rand Reserve, which is not too far from Sossusvlei.

Unfortunately the more exclusive and inaccessible it is higher the price. As we'll be travelling with kids so it's beyond my budget.

Apologies if you have already seen this but the newly opened Boulders Camp run by Wolwedans Dunes lodge is a cracking place. There are not many reviews of the Boulders Camp yet but plenty of five star reviews of the original Wolwedans Dunes Lodge here. The Boulders camp is 45 km from the lodge so even more remote.

tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g3856808-d478…

The second review headline is "night sky made in heaven" : exactly what you are looking for !!

Link to the Wolwedans web site with the details of all the lodges :

http://www.wolwedans.com/

They even have a private camp with 2 rooms only. How much more privacy do you want ?

Wolwedans is not cheap. It simply can't be and one day I'll stay there !!

But if you don't want to break your bank then perhaps Kuangukunagu cabin near Barchan Dune retreat ? The scenery is a bit different with more hills but peace and solitude guaranteed !!

tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g1184851-d224…

Happy planning.

Isle of Man, United...
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3. Re: Suggestions for our Namibia itinerary? :)

I think Stephen has it in a nutshell. Use a T/O on the ground in Namibia. They are there to help, make their living from return commissions, not mark ups to your account, and may even save you money. They will certainly be there for you in the unlikely event of any problems as outlined by Stephen.

As to light pollution. There ain't any outside of Windhoek. African Night skies are so pure you can sometimes read by starlight alone. Stunning.

The Desert experience. I was reading down the posts and thinking I knew the very place. Then Supratik beat me to it. Barchan Dunes. KuanguKuangu. Perfect for a couple and the unlucky others can take a cottage or stay with Willem and his wife in the main house. www.kuangukuangu.com

You can reach this place easily from Windhoek in half a day over the Spreetshoeg pass. A few km further on lies Solitaire for some lovely Apple Pie and you are only 80km from the Gate to Sossusvlei. We did that trip there and back in a day. You are also well placed for the drive up to Swakopmund when heading north.

In Etosha try not to visit too many places. We like Halali as it is central to most plains and has a nice Waterhole for night viewing. Budget wise I think Grootberg maybe out of reach for you but if you can indulge a little then go for this. Walking to Rhino is a great way to see these beasts.

Driving is good, I recall how nervous Stephen was at first and look at him go now! Take it steady, especially on gravel roads, and you will really enjoy the experience.

Now about that moment when you face a large Mammal for the first time in your car. Most will run off, Giraffe, Eland and Antelopes etc., Rhino might or might not. Who knows what a Rhino is thinking. Just play it calmly and take your cue from him. Switching off the engine will help calm him down.

Same goes for Elephant. Bulls are no problem. They KNOW they can thrash you so rarely have a point to prove. Etosha Bulls are some of the gentlest I have met. Females with young can be tetchy. Again circumstances vary. If surprised they may run or some outriders may threaten. Rarely will they attack without warning. Read their Body language. If they look unhappy, waggle ears out etc., back off a little. However if they look relaxed then switch off and enjoy their company.

Something that you must learn by doing. I still am.

Enjoy Namibia.

Nashville, Tennessee
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4. Re: Suggestions for our Namibia itinerary? :)

A simple itinerary would be 2 nights in south desert

2 nights Swakopmund

2 nights Damarland

2 nights Dolomite

1 night Okaukuejo

2 nights Halali

1 night Frans Indongo in Brandeburg ont he way back to Windhoek

That is 13 days and 12 nights. Wasn't sure if you meant 14 days including travel or not. If need one less, cut a day at Halali or Okaukuejo. If an extra night, add it in Damarland or Okaukuejo. If really want some downtime before flight back, add a night at Frans Indongo. Very nice, relaxing accommodations with AC or Heat, pool, good food, small number of people. Solid Chalets and relaxed environment.

I can't help you with accommodations below Swak or WIndhoek, I didn't go last time and not going this time.

You won't need to be in the desert for sky gazing. As mfuwe mentions, anywhere in the country outside of any big city (there is only one big city...) you will have amazing night skies.

Augsburg
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5. Re: Suggestions for our Namibia itinerary? :)

Hi @all,

thanks so much for your advice, I'd have never thought you'd write back in such details. That's just great!

@Stephen

Just had a meeting with the other 3 travelers yesterday and we saw through your itinerary suggestions and decided that it is, all in all, what we were looking for. I think we'll do it the way you wrote.

I have some questions to your suggestions:

It sounds reasonable to book it all with an in-country outfitter so we will have someone to call if something goes wrong on our trip. But since english is not my native language, I don't know what you mean when you speak of "TO". Is TO a travel organization? What does it stand for? I know what TO will most likely be - some kind of in country travel agency, I just don't know for sure.

Is there a good TO you (or anyone else) can recommend?

@Supratik

The Wolwedans is really looking beautiful, and we'd love to stay there, but unfortunately I think this is beyond our financial setup. I'll try to find something like that, but a bit cheaper.

I'm not quite sure if it is more advisable to rent a normal 4x4 vehicle and sleep in normal tents in the most areas where there's camping grounds around (there's some camping grounds at the Etosha lodges, which is great for our budget), or if we should rent a 4x4 with tents on the roof. Tents on the roof are cool, for sure, but we will definitely stay in some areas where we wanna sleep in lodges or chalets, and don't want to camp every day, and maybe the money on a car with tents on the roof will be wasted then?

Most of you recommend to have a night or two in Grootberg - we're actually thinking about it ... it is not cheap, that's right, but 120 € a night is something we can do for just one day without breaking our bank ... well, we'll see.

One last question: Where's that place you call Brandeburg? I've tried to google it but I don't find anything about it.

Leicester, United...
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6. Re: Suggestions for our Namibia itinerary? :)

Hi,

You are correct . TO = Tour operator.

I fully understand the difficulties with Wolwedans but as Mfuwe says Kunakukuangu is an excellent option without breaking your bank. I'd consider $60 per night per person self catering an excellent value for my money.

I think the extra "e" in Brandberg confused Mr. Google:

Have a look here:

http://www.brandbergwllodge.com/

Looks like you are serious about your trip so I'd strongly suggest to get the Brady Guide on Namibia asap.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Namibia-Bradt-Travel-Guides-Mcintyre/dp/1841623350/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1371383834&sr=8-1&keywords=namibia+bradt+guide

Cheers

Isle of Man, United...
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7. Re: Suggestions for our Namibia itinerary? :)

Just a comment.

the downside of Roof tents is that you have to pack up just to go on a Game drive.

OK one or twice maybe but not every time for me. Take a proper Tent, and leave it up.

Augsburg
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8. Re: Suggestions for our Namibia itinerary? :)

Oh, I never thought about that downside of rooftents! Good point!

@Supratik

Kunakukuangu does definitely sound like a great place to stay, I just wasn't sure if it's a good choice for us, cos Mfuwe said:

"KuanguKuangu. Perfect for a couple and the unlucky others can take a cottage or stay with Willem and his wife in the main house."

... so there'll be some unlucky others with four people traveling. ;-) Unless we stay for 2 nights and swap around ... mh ... could work!

Do you think that we're a bit late for this kind of planning in general? Cos I've been trying to get a reservation for Grootberg, just to see if it's free, and at all days I tried it's fully booked already ...

Isle of Man, United...
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9. Re: Suggestions for our Namibia itinerary? :)

I did say that. Kuangukunagu only holds two people but the others will be fine with Willem or one of the other cottages. I was only using 'unlucky' in the lightest sense. Don't let me put you off trying there.

Finally of course you are in peak season and with only three months to go, many places will have no capacity.

Hand your itinerary to a Tour Operator and they will do their best to get you some availabilty. Don't delay or try to do it all yourself. That is like juggling Soot!

Namibia
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10. Re: Suggestions for our Namibia itinerary? :)

The other poster have given you good advice on your route already and for 14 days I would also not recommend more than than.

As mentioned, if you arrive early enough to get you vehicle, do some shopping then try and leave Windhoek that day and travel for 1 or 2 hours. If you arrive too late, rather spend the night in Windhoek and leave early the next day. Traveling in the dark on gravel roads is not recommended and you also don't want to set up camp in the dark, especially on the first day.

a very nice self catering lodge on your way to Sossusvlei is NamibGrens Guestfarm, they have huge self catering houses.

For Sossusvlei you have to check what the best is for you and what you want to spend. Wolwedans is too far away from Sossusvlei and as already mentioned, they are not cheap, but it is a very unique place. For Sossusvlei I would recommend Hoodia Desert Lodge. A great lodge that will also not break the bank and it's very good place to stay.

For the tour you have in mind you have to drive via Swakopmund and I don't know if you want to stay here or not as you said you want to see as much nature and animals as possible. What I would however recommend is that you at least stay here for one night and you can than still do an activity the next morning (i.e. quad biking in the dunes, seal and dolphin boat cruise, Living Desert Tour etc) and than drive on to Spitzkoppe afterwards as it's about a 2 hour drive. Spitzkoppe has some of the most beautiful campsites and you will get your desert experience there, I promise. It's basic, but for one night it will be a great addition.

Than Damaraland, Etosha etc as already discussed and your 14 days will be up.

To get into Dolomite or Grootberg could be tricky as October is very busy, but you need to check and see.

I would also recommend that you hire a 4x4 with camping gear. I read that it is recommended to take grounds tents and I totally agree with the putting up and down when you want to go on game drive, but for 4 people there will not be enough luggage space to pack 2 ground tents and 4 mattresses. Trust me on this one, I've seen it a dozen times already. People come here with 4 big suitcases and the mattresses take up so much room that you struggle to get all into the vehicle.

Happy planning!

Clive - Suricate Safaris Namibia