Namibia itinerary: Self-drive family safari

If you have ever considered a family Safari but are unsure where to go and how to start then check out our Namibia itinerary. The country is just amazing and very family friendly.  We organised our Namibia & Botswana self drive family Safari through Namibia tours and safaris.  Heres where we went, what we did & how we did it!

I’ve also created a list of our top tips to help you in your planning. Click here

Arriving in Namibia

First we had an early morning flight from Cape Town to Windhoek and where we met our car hire representative.  He suggested organising our SIM cards at the airport and waited patiently while we got them. It was good advice as the rest of our day was very hectic.

We then drove to the car hire rental office. After going through the necessary paperwork as well as the do’s and dont’s we were shown around our 4WD with rooftop tents. We were provided with all the necessary requirements (including sleeping bags, cutlery and a fridge).

Windhoek

From here we drove to our first stop at Safari lodge hotel. The tour company thought it best to have a decent night’s sleep before we embarked on our camping adventure. The connecting rooms were lovely and spacious, but a bit unnecessary as we were only stopping for one night.

As it happens the hotel was a bit formal for our needs. We prefer b&b’s with no fuss, relaxed atmosphere and certainly not formal dining. We ended up eating room service that night, but slept well.

 

Journey to Soussevlei

The next morning we were up early for breakfast and out by 9am to go to the shell garage at the end of town to top up our secondary tank. Then onto the supermarket at Grange mall to stock up on food for our next 4 days camping.

The B1 road leading out of Windhoek was tarmac up until Rehoboth where we turned onto our first grit road, C24. We reduced our tyre pressure, as recommended, and were surprised to find fairly decent roads. You are only meant to drive 80kph on grit roads but there were plenty who don’t adhere to this!

When greeting an oncoming vehicle (which is actually rarer than it sounds!) Slow down and pull as far to the left as possible. Their trail throws dust and stones into the air. Cracked windscreens are common!

We then turned onto the D1261 towards Spreetshoogte pass which offers a splendid view above the African plains.

From there we turned onto the C12 towards our lunchtime stop, Solitaire. It is recommended to stop and grab some lunch and the famous Apple strudel, which of course we did! It’s purely a petrol station stop, but our rental company advised not to top up diesel here as it can sometimes be dirty.

It wasn’t too much further to our first night stop at Seriem campsite, Sossusvlei where we plan to visit the famous dunes. This campsite was the only one inside the main gate, but outside the national park. But means you get inside the park 1 hour before sunrise or 1 hour after sunset.

So as we arrived in good time we headed through the gate to visit the nearest (& best for sunsets), Elim dune. We walked up and enjoyed the views with animals wandering the open plains below us. Beautiful!

In terms of facilities, there is a decent petrol station outside the main gate (with small shop and selling firewood). Inside the camp is a small basic shop, bar and restaurant.

There is also a swimming pool but it didn’t look very inviting.

Camp food

Generally we kept food quite simple and only catered for a couple of days. Some campsites have restaurants but we didn’t rely on these as we were on a budget. We had a stove in our camping gear so it was mainly one pot dishes.  We cooked:

  • Curry and rice
  • Spaghetti Bolognese
  • Pasta arriabatta
  • Lentil curry
  • Sausage and mash (with beans on the fire)

Not bad culinary skills for such a small set up 😉. But to be honest we just cooked what we could find in supermarkets. Breakfast was mainly yoghurt or muffins or bacon or toast. Whereas lunch was mainly sandwiches or something from a bakery/petrol station.

A day at sossusvlei

We decided to go to dune 45 for sunrise. It’s situated 45km in! If you wish to go all the way to big daddy then it’s around 60km drive from the national park gate to the 2WD parking area (it’s suggested you allow 60 mins if you stick to the speed limit – which before sunrise no one did otherwise you’d miss sunrise).

The last 5km (only for 4wd vehicles) can be quite sandy, but managable! Allow another 10-15 mins for that section! Which is where parking for dead vlei is.

We climbed up the red sand just as the clouds darkened and a storm brewed. We managed to get a few amazing pictures and enjoy the view for sunrise before the rains arrived.

We ran back down the dune and headed to the 2wd car park, where we stopped for bacon butties, before heading to dead vlei.

Because of the flat light the salt pans were not as striking as some pictures I’d seen but pretty impressive with big daddy in the background.

Travelling to swakopmund

Next morning we returned to the C14 and followed the route towards Walvis bay. The road was again grit but more correlated than had experienced so far so meant we need to slow down.

 

Every now and again along the road you will see a neat line of stones lined up. This usually means there’s a road maintenance vehicle in the area which tries to clear the larger stones and grit off the road.

Other than that we barely see a car along the stretches. It really does shout ‘2nd least populated country in the world’.

 

Walvis bay

As we reached Walvis bay the road turns back to tarmac.

We took a quick scenic look at the bay, where we found the beach full of flamingoes! The rest of the area had some lovely houses, but looked quite industrial, especially around the port area.

Alte brucke campsite

We pushed into swakopmund and our next stop at Alte Brucke campsite. There are chalets and camping on offer here. It’s a short stroll to the beach, and where we found a great little bar called ‘tiger reef’.

It was very busy with families and looked a great stop for a sundowner. So we ordered some food and beers and just stopped for a while.

The boys were having a fabulous time playing in the turbulent waves.

The campsite we stayed in was very secure and each camping site had its own private BBQ area, toilet and shower. It was quite plush!

Day in Swakopmund

The day was to be spent in swakopmund and booking whatever activity we fancied, there was dune buggies, camel rides, desert tour, dolphin watching and so much more. For us we were on a tight budget and actually the boys had asked if they could just play on the beach.

The weather was warm enough during the day that they could dip their feet in. We did this and visited the pier, as well as stocking up in the nearby supermarkets.

 

Travelling onto damaraland

We decided that as we had time on our hands we would make a detour to Cape Cross to see the huge seal colony. We paid N$50 per adult, children were free.

We took a short drive down the grit road where the smell its you before you even see the seals! They are fairly well compact and not spread out as I had expected. It was literally thousands of them and quite a few seal pups too.

It was quite funny to watch them waddling around and climbing over each other to get to where they wanted to. In the distance you could make our groups wading in to the sea and playing in the waves. The sheer quantity of seals in such a short space was immense! However, the smell was just so overwhelming. Even our buffs weren’t enough!

Madisa camp

It was definitely only a short stop before we were then on our way via C35 towards Uis and then onwards towards D2612 to our campsite, Madisa Camp.

We were on the look out for the famous Desert adapted Elephants. Although rare they can sometimes be in the area. As luck would have it two cars were stopped with their hazards on (usually indicates either a mechanical problem or animals in the area!). So we pulled over and saw that a desert Elephant was partially covered behind the bushes. What a find! Boys were made up to see their first Elephant.

Upon reaching our campsite, the temperature was increasing and so the boys were pleased to find a swimming pool (of sorts), but certainly enough for them to cool off in.

As they had a play in the water Keith and I enjoyed a beer in the bar area! On the nearby rocks were a number of baboons and it was recommended to walk up for sundowner.

We actually headed back to the campsite and instead we waited for darkness to fall when we moved our seats in the open area and looked up to the milky way. It was an amazing sight! We also saw quite a few satellites and a fabulous shooting star which burned up on entry!

Just WOW! You don’t get to, nor have the time to, see these sights at home due to the light pollution.

 

Hot-footing it to Etosha

It’s Jasper’s birthday!! So no time to be wasted, we wanted to get to Etosha National Park so that we had time for an afternoon game drive. We were up early and on the D2612 to rejoin the C35 on our way to Khorixas. If you aren’t in a rush you could continue towards the Kamanjab and visit a Himba settlement, orange pipes or Petrified Forest.

As for us we were back onto Tarmac in no time as we joined the C39 tarmac road up to Grootfontein. This is a fabulous stop with a HUGE spar supermarket and directly opposite a fabulous bakery so perfect to stock up and also grab some lunch.

Note: If you are planning on a self drive safari in Etosha National Park you CANNOT take raw meat or eggs into the National Park. It will be confiscated on your departure. Therefore you need to think about meals etc.. before you drive your vehicle (with fridge and all contents) into the park!

Toshari lodge

We arrived at our lodge for the night, Toshari Lodge, which was just a little piece of luxury! I wanted something special for Jaspers Birthday so tonight we were staying in chalet rooms.

And they were just beautiful. The grounds were well maintained and the staff were a delight! We had plenty of time to grab some lunch at the lodge before we then ventured out to the Western side of Etosha National Park.

Anderson’s gate

We entered through Andersons gate for vehicle registration where you then proceeded to the National Park gate to get your pass. We took the opportunity to pay for our next 3 days. This means when you get to the gate early next morning you shouldn’t have to queue and can drive through the right hand gate while all the safari tours have to register.

Be Warned: some of the guards get a bit tetchy. Wait for them to tell you it’s o.k. to go through and show them your park pass.

We were back before sunset to give the boys some relaxation time and also to get ready for a birthday dinner that night.

Game Drive across Etosha

Today we are heading to a campsite on the Eastern side of Etosha National Park in a private game reserve. Therefore, today will be spent game driving for as long as we want until we are ready to head to our destination.

Most of the grit roads in Etosha are in fairly good condition, but we are in dry season! However, you are required to only drive 60kph as those pot holes (when they do appear) can really do some damage. Do not underestimate the sudden changes in the terrain and drive slowly. Plus if you go too fast you actually miss the animals you are there to see!

A good lunch stop is Halali, although it’s recommended you take a packed lunch as the food isn’t quite up to standard! We didn’t try, but this is what our tour company recommended! Also, there is a fantastic watering hole at this campsite.

You can drive to a small parking area and walk a short distance to a viewing platform. We saw plenty of animals coming and going in the hour we stopped there! Supposedly it comes alive at night if you are lucky enough to be able to camp there!

We arrived late afternoon at Onguma Tamboti Campsite which is fenced in, a bit like Jurassic Park, as it is on the edge of Etosha National Park is its own reserve!

We felt very safe and with a nice little water hole, restaurant and shop it was a quaint stop. There wasn’t much facilities so I would cater for your food requirements.

 

Etosha National Park

Much of the same as yesterday. We set an early morning alarm so that we could enjoy sunrise in the park and hopefully catch some good game in the park. We see plenty of elephants today!

Unfortunately, we later found that the Rhinos were based more on the Western side of the park and as such had missed our opportunity to see them! ah well, we’ll just have to come back again!

From this point onwards the roads are all Tarmac. So we made a stop at a local petrol station to ensure our tyres were put back up to pressure so as to preserve them! So far so good!

 

Driving to Rundu

Bank on the tarmac B1 road.

As part of our schedule we opted for a break in our safari tour with a quiet night by the river – which is exactly what we got.

The Taranga Safari Lodge was small but just what we needed. We were staying out of the tents to refresh and had a lovely tented chalet on stilts above the river.

The view was gorgeous! We also heard our first Hippo! We didn’t quite see him, but knew there was plenty more to come.

Onto the Caprivi

We left rundu and headed onto the B8 truth the Caprivi. The area was very busy with small communities dotted all along the roadside.

There are a lot more people around this area and as we drove through there were mini markets happening all the way along the roadside, children playing, women carrying anything and everything on their heads! Just be aware that you need to slow down around these areas.

We stopped at Mahangu Safari Lodge where the owner seemed to be a knowledgeable gentleman. He provided details about where to go, suggesting not to go on a Self Drive around Buffalo Game Drive due to terrste and unmarked tracks.

However, Mahangu Game reserve was perfectly fine and was a short 10 minute drive down the road.

We decided to head down that afternoon and although we didn’t find any ‘new’ animals. They were more compact and so it was common to find a collection of different animals in a small space.

However, as we were based next to the river again within 5 minutes we saw our first hippo!

 

West Caprivi Strip

Today we ventured out onto the river boat for breakfast and saw our first crocodiles as well as a group of Buffalos (some swimming across the water).

The area definitely has a different feel and there is more of a breeze so chillier in winter. There is more local life in the area as small communities line the streets.

You could take a guided tour to the Buffalo Reserve but after quite a few days of game viewing we took the opportunity to just chill out that afternoon!

 

Eastern Caprivi strip

This is our last campsite before we have to hand back our 5th Adventurer, Louise, to the Car Rental company in Kasane.

The roads were still tarmac and in good condition as we zoomed along the B8 into East Caprivi, staying at camp kwando. This area was the least active as far as game was concerned.

We did venture into the Mudumu National Park but we saw very few animals! I’m not sure this stop was worth the inclusion and maybe would have preferred to have had another day in Western Etosha.

 

Travelling into Botswana

Only another 3 hours driving remaining before we reach Kasane in Botswana, however, you also need to factor in the border crossing which took us around 1 hour!

There is only 1 desk processing applications and as such it gets very hectic. Once you finally get your passport stamped you then need to move to the next desk to get your cross border vehicle checks completed.

Note: you cannot take fresh food, meat or fruit across the border.

It was a long, but painless, process and quite entertaining at times. My goodness, the guards didn’t like it if you weren’t in a straight line! ha ha.

Arriving in Kasane was easy and the town had a laid back feel to it. There were a number of shops around the main street and there were lots of people milling around.

This is where our Self-drive itinerary came to an end. Our car was collected by a driver later that day with only a few minor checks around the vehicle to ensure all was in order.

This self drive family Safari has really been a highlight of our journey so far! I’d highly recommend it for families.

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