Namibia is gorgeous. Let that be crystal clear. Wild animals, coast line, massive sand dunes… This former German colony has a lot to offer and the great thing is: not many tourists seem to know about it (yet). Namibia felt like an adventure yet very safe and so serene! Me and my female friend loved driving around, witness the most beautiful landscapes, see ancient encraving and enjoy the local sundowners.
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 (8-11), the third 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.
In the northwestern part of Namibia, in the Kunene region (formerly Kaokoland) and on the other side of the Kunene River in Angola, lives a tribe called the Himba. My favorite photographer Jimmy Nelson included the Himba in his jaw-dropping photography book Before They Pass Away.
We visited the Otjikandero Himba Orphan Village, where we played around with the cute kids and admired the beautifully dressed up women. It was a very interesting experience that I will never forget. The women were so surprised we (me and my friend Anja) were not married yet LOL
What we didn’t know in advance is that the himba cover themselves with otjize paste, a cosmetic mixture of butterfat and ochre pigment, to cleanse the skin and protect themselves from the extremely hot and dry climate of the Kaokoland as well as against mosquito insect bites. The cosmetic mixture, often perfumed with the aromatic resin of the omuzumba shrub, gives their skin and hair plaits a distinctive orange or red-tinge characteristic, as well as texture and style. So after holding all those cute Himba babies, I could throw away my dress. Oops!
Opuwo is village about 5-6 hours northwest of Etosha NP, where the C41 and the C43 cross, known for a large Himba community. This village is not easy to access without a 4×4 car or small airplane (Opowo has a tiny airport).
Since our rental car was a VW Polo, we decided to stay in the easier accessible Kamanjab, located 2-3 hours southwest of Etosha NP at the C38. Kamanjab Rest Camp is a great place to stay for 1 or 2 nights. There is a swimming pool, restaurant, bar, terrace and free wifi!
Gravel gravel gravel… Reaching our next destination in Damaraland relied highly on our perseverance. Fortunately our car’s tires and our friendship survived the endless gravel roads, jeeeehh! I guess only really good friends survive this ±7 hour (!) drive together haha For sure you will be faster with a 4×4 car, but we did it in our sweet little VW Polo and it worked too!
The next destination: Damaraland, the region southwest of Kunene. Damaraland has a fascinating landscape with sand, rock, dust and acacia trees everywhere. If you’re lucky you can spot the desert elephant here. You can book a day safari searching for these beautiful wild animals in a 4×4. Or in the second half of the afternoon, go for a so-called sun downer. This basically means driving up a hill with a nice view, take out the drinks and snacks from the pick nick basket or cooler bag, and enjoy the sunset! Absolutely recommendable!
Doro Nawas Camp is literally in the middle of nowhere. We stayed in one of their little private lodges with a thatch roof. This was already cool on itself, but when I discovered we could push the bed outside, and the terrace also included an outside shower, there was no way of holding me back; we were going to sleep outside under the stars that night! It was cold but so worth it! What an adventure.
The Camp has a restaurant with good food, a nice view, and as a bonus the staff starts singing and swinging during dinner! Doro Nawas Camp is not available via booking.com or something, only direct or via travel agent. Alternatively, I would suggest to stay at Malansrus, about 16km east of Twyfelfontein. These are luxury tents with shower facilities, breakfast and a bar.
On a beautiful day with a clear blue sky we took a 4×4 drive with private guide from Doro Nawas to Twyfelfontein. Our guide was a really nice, knowledgeable guy who showed us the most beautiful ancient rock engravings and told us more about the history of Twyfelfontein. Archeologic estimations how old the engravings are vary between 6,000 and 10,000 years.
Twyfelfontein was for sure one of the main reasons for visiting Damaraland. The name Twyfelfontein means ‘uncertain spring’ in Afrikaans, as it always kept residents in uncertainty whether it would give water or not. This is rather important in an area that receives less than 150 mm (5.9 in) annual rainfall! In 1952 Twyfelfontein became a national monument and UNESCO World Heritage in 2007.
Google Maps indicated that the drive from Doro Nawas to the next stop Swakopmund would take about 3 hours… but with the lovely Polo it took us at least 5 hours! This is the longest and hardest part of this road trip through Namibia. We took the shortest route via Fransfontein (C35-C39) and saw monkeys on the way! There is another route via Palmwag (west), where is also a visitor center located. But the closer you get to the Skeleton Coast, the rougher the roads get. To explore the Skeleton Coast Park you basically need a 4×4 jeep.
In Swakopmund you can really see in that Namibia is a former German colony – there are still many buldings left in that style. Swakopmund was the main harbor for ‘German South West Africa’ between 1892 and 1915. Still there are schools that teach in German. Swakopmund is located 352 km west of Windhoek. It has its own airport and railway station. The abandoned Martin Luther steam locomotive, dating from 1896, can be visited in the desert.
There are numerous activities you can do at Swakopmund, such as visiting the National Marine Aquarium, horseback riding on the beach, dolphin encounters, quad riding in the desert, etc. There is even a shopping mall! We ‘simply’ enjoyed the flamingos on the beach, the lighthouse, dinner at The Tug Restaurant and our day was complete!
In Swakopmund we stayed at the Atlantic Villa Boutique, which offers stylish suites and a spectacular view on the Atlantic Ocean. Especially at sunset, wow!
There are spectacular sand dunes near Langstrand south of the Swakop River. When you drive out of Swakopmund, heading south to Walvis Bay, you have a very cool view with the desert on the left and sea on the right side. The trip from Walvis Bay to Solitaire in the Namib Desert is also fantastic, driving on the C14 through the beautiful Namib-Naukluft National Park. You also pass the Tropic of Capricorn. In total the ride from Swakopmund to Solitaire took us about 3-4 hours.
To explore the Namib Desert, we chose Solitaire as our base. We had booked a room at the Solitaire Lodge. It’s pretty easy to find, right next to the gas station with rusty old cars in front. Hello swimming pool!! Time for a relax evening, enjoying the beautiful sunset, sip some chilled white wine… Oh do I love Africa!
The next morning we decided to get up at 4am and hop in our car to Sesriem. We were determined to visit the Namib Desert sand dunes early in the morning, before it gets busier and too hot.
Oh my goodness, what a beautiful, amazing, wonderful sight!! Really one if the prettiest I have ever seen!
My travel buddy Anja got super excited and decided to climb to the top of one of the dunes, but I just sat there, taking it all in…
Frequent jeep rides commute between the entrance of the Sossusvlei in Sesriem and the actual dunes. A few dunes can actually be visited by foot, such as Dune 45 and Big Daddy. Deadvlei is next to Sossusvlei. While walking up and down the dune hills, battling the huge amounts of sand in my shoes, I remember realizing how hot it already was at 9am, damn!
You Dutch people are everywhere”, an American tourist said to me with a smile on his face. True story buddy!
By midday we enjoyed a wonderful lunch at the pool of Sossusvlei Lodge in Sesriem. If you are willing and able to spend a bit of extra money, consider to stay here (instead of Sesriem). It’s beautiful and enables to witness sunset/sunrise at Sossusvlei. Full of impressions we drove back to our lodge in Sesriem.
More to see
Unfortunately this time we were unable to visit more highlights in the south of Namibia. Places like Fish River Canyon, Kolmanskop and Ai Ais Hot Springs are still on the to-do-list. Always short on time!
How to get to Namibia & around
Most likely you will fly to Windhoek international airport (WDH). To find suitable flights, check availability and prices, use Skyscanner. I would highly recommend you to book flights in time as the availability is limited and prices rise.
A rental car is the most common and convenient way to get around Namibia. The ride from Windhoek Airport to Okaukeujo Camp in Etosha NP takes app. 5-6 hours (app. 500 km) by car. We split this part of the route in two days, with a night in Outjo in between, see Africa Dream Trip part 1.
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 is needed to drive to/around Etosha NP.
This mobile friendly map includes most places 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.
Back to South Africa
After the Namib Desert and its beautiful sand dunes we headed back to Windhoek and took a flight to Cape Town, South Africa. You can read all about it in the fourth article in this blog series: Wineries in Stellenbosch – Africa Dream Trip part 4.
Last updated: October 2019
Have you ever made a round trip through Namibia? Or would you like to visit this beautiful African country one day? Please feel free to leave a comment or question below.
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