Encouraged by several people I have been talking to the other day, here is finally my long awaited blog about my trip to South Africa and Namibia. These two countries are a perfect combination, really complete each other. Namibia stole my heart with its beautiful, authentic nature. A horse riding safari and visiting the wineries in Stellenbosch were some of the most beautiful days of my life. No kidding. This is the first article of a series of five. Enjoy!
The Africa experience
After hearing several fascinating stories from friends and colleagues, and seeing numerous breathtaking nature documentaries, we knew for sure: we need to go to Africa! When planning this trip, me and my friend Anja searched and discussed what we wanted. We also looked into Botswana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Victoria Falls, but decided to keep those for the future. Especially Botswana is more expensive than Namibia and South Africa, also because you need a 4×4 there.
We wanted a trip that was affordable, adventurous yet safe, easy to drive around, not too touristic or ‘standard’, and would show us the best of Africa: wild animals, savanna, desert, wine, interesting sights, some cool activities, culture, good accommodation… In total we had only about two weeks so I started puzzling. Choices, all those difficult choices…!
People, I can tell you: once you have been to Africa, you want to come back! The smell, the atmosphere, the nature, the people. It is so beautiful, so pure, so breathtaking, so unique… I can absolutely recommend to everybody to go and experience that African dream holiday for real!
Having travelled to almost 60 countries by now, I can still say that these two countries – South Africa and Namibia – are absolutely some of the most spectacular and memorable countries I have seen. And we did it all by ourselves! Two young ladies driving around through the African desert in a VW Polo without 4G or navigation. Better not tell mom we even picked up a hitchhiker in Namibia one day…
We combined South Africa and Namibia to see best of both countries. We took the following route:
- Johannesburg (1 night)
- Waterberg (1 night)
- Windhoek (1 night)
- Outjo (1 night)
- Etosha NP (2 nights)
- Kamanjab (1 night)
- Damaraland (1 night)
- Swakopmund (1 night)
- Sesriem (2 nights)
- Namib desert & Sossusvlei
- Stellenbosch (1 night)
- Cape Town (2 nights)
In this article I will share our experiences and some photos of the bold marked places (1-6), the first part of this Africa Dream Trip blog series.
Looking back, I would recommend to stay at least one night longer in: Waterberg, Etosha, Damaraland, Stellenbosch and Cape Town. So much to see! So ideally you take three weeks for this whole trip instead of two like we did, which is definitely possible but a bit rushed.
So we started in Johannesburg, the business city of South Africa. Not the safest place to be honest, especially not being a – sorry to say but it is true – white female. Nevertheless, in the Melrose Arch area of Johannesburg you can walk around freely without any problems.
We stayed at the Protea Fire & Ice at Melrose Arch, a stunning hotel! Very comfortable, nice decor, great bar, etc. Moyo and The Meat Co are two restaurants just around the corner of the hotel, which I can personally recommended.
Before my friend Anja arrived I also went on a half-day trip to Soweto, short for South-Western Townships. Soweto consists of more than 30 townships and is one of the poorest areas of the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality. Be smart and go with a local guide to Soweto, not on your own.
My personal guide David was a super nice guy who picked me up from my hotel in Melrose Arch. You can leave your big wallet at the hotel, but I would recommend to bring some change and toys like bubble blowers, pens, crayons, color books or balloons as you will come across places like a small super basic daycare where the kids have barely anything to play with.
During the tour we also visited the house where Nelson Mandela lived from 1946 to 1962 and the Hector Pieterson museum and memorial. This township is the place is where the Soweto Uprising protests against the Apartheid regime began in 1976. Many of you may remember the iconic Worldpress photo of 13-year-old student Hector Pieterson being carried after he was shot by the police (and declared dead later on).
Apartheid was a political and social system in South Africa that enforced racial discrimination against non-Whites. Officially over but in reality?
Black and white photo: Sam Nzima
Waterberg horse-riding safari
We rented a car in Johannesburg and drove app. 2.5 hours in the northeastern direction to Waterberg. Our superior deluxe cottage at Ant’s Hill turned out to be one of the most beautiful places we have ever stayed at. An amazing view over the savanna, private pool, outdoor shower, indoor bath, large canopy bed, and to complete all of this: daily horse riding safaris, ahhhh!! My friend Anja had zero riding experience and turned out to have talent!
Imagine yourself, riding a horse between the giraffes, zebras, rhinos, etc. Dreams do come true!!
A few days later the horse riding safari party was over! Time to leave our superb cottage and drive back to Johannesburg, where we returned our rental car. From Johannesburg we flew to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. Namibia is located northwest of South Africa, a former German colony. Super safe and one of the most beautiful countries you will ever see!
We rented a VW Polo, checked in a neat yet pretty basic hotel called Hotel Uland. Nothing too special but fine for a short night after arrival. We strolled a bit through downtown and had a wonderful dinner at Joe’s. Cheers!
The next day we drove about 3.5 hours north to Otjiwarongo to visit the Cheetah Conservation Fund. The CCF does fantastic work in her close collaboration with farmers who have cheetahs coming to their land. More than 450 cheetahs are released back into the wild since the start up. Orphaned and injured cheetahs are given a large, safe sanctuary.
In addition CCF plays a huge educational role in protecting this beautiful specie. We watched the cheetahs getting fed and drove around the land with a jeep to observe them in their natural habitat. So cool! By visiting you support the wonderful work that this organization does to preserve these beautiful, endangered animals.
We spent the night at Sasa Safari Camp in Outjo, where our host prepared a delicious meal for us on the ‘braai’ (BBQ) while we cooled down and enjoyed the view from the pool. From Outjo you drive in about 1.5 hours to Etosha NP, our next stop.
How to get there & around
First we both flew to Johannesburg international airport (JOH) in South Africa. Later we made two internal flights:
- Johannesburg – Windhoek (WDH)
- Windhoek – Cape Town (CPT)
And then from Cape Town we flew back home. Skyscanner is a great tool to explore flight possibilities and prices!
During this two week trip we rented a car three times. First from Johannesburg airport to drive to Waterberg for the horse riding safari and back. Then from Windhoek airport for the round trip through Namibia. And later we picked up our third rental car from Cape Town airport to drive around in that area including Stellenbosch.
For rental cars, I am a big fan of Sunny Cars. Most Dutch professional travel agents use them and they are SMART! Sunny Cars is an all-inclusive, worry free rental concept with affordable, fair prices, great service and no unpleasant surprises upon pick up or drop off. Ideal, I use them all the time! No 4×4 was needed during this trip.
This mobile friendly map includes most things mentioned in this article and is smartphone friendly. You can use it easily via Google Maps. Click on the top left icon to open the menu. You can (un)select categories/areas to customize the map to your needs. Via Google Drive you can copy it to your folder of My Google Maps.
After Outjo we continued to drive further north to Etosha National Park. You can read all about it in the second article in this blog series: Etosha National Park in Namibia – Africa Dream Trip part 2.
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Last updated: October 2019
Have you ever traveled to South Africa and/or Namibia? What do you think of this combination? Please feel free to leave a comment or question below.