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A perfect holiday destination?

Namibia Introduction

Ballooning over the Namib Desert

The first trip I ever wrote about on Virtual Tourist was the one we took to Namibia in 2004, about a year before joining that community. My reviews were sketchy as I hadn’t then got into the habit of keeping a proper record as I travelled, apart from jotting down a few notes about the photos I took. So this retrospective blog will be equally sketchy, I suspect, but hopefully still of interest to a few readers and an interesting small slice of my travel history for me.

Here’s how I introduced that long-ago VT page:

In a lot of ways this is just about the perfect holiday destination. The scenery is spectacular, especially if like me you love deserts; the wildlife is interesting (though probably not on a par with the classic safari destinations); there are some truly wonderful places to stay, the food is good and the wine excellent, and everywhere you go the welcome is friendly.

Getting around

One of the joys of a holiday in Namibia is that you can drive yourself - perfect if, like us, you prefer to be able to stop when, where and for as long as you please. And you don't need a four-wheel drive for most of the main roads. Be careful though - most roads are gravel not tar and it's very easy to skid and spin the car, as we found out!

On the road in Namibia
~ Chris with our hire car

On the road in Namibia
~ local style

Where to stay

There's a good choice of accommodation, and although camping is popular it isn't the only way to see this wonderful country. If you feel like a bit of luxury you can find it in the amazing lodges (Huab and Okonjima were our favourites), if you prefer something more simple there are little pensions or the state-run places in Etosha, and for ‘camping’ with a difference you could try sleeping out under the stars at one of the desert lodges like Kulala!

Wonderful wildlife

Although it's not such an obvious destination for wildlife as maybe Kenya or Tanzania, there's still plenty to be found. Etosha National Park has elephants, rhino, wildebeest and loads of zebra! If you're lucky (unfortunately we weren't!) you may see the elusive desert elephants further north, but for us the wildlife highlight was seeing the cheetahs at Okonjima.

Zebra, Etosha National Park

Kudo near Huab Lodge

Friendly people

We met lots of great people on our travels - running hotels (like Jan and Susi at Huab, Sam in Swakopmund and others), our fellow tourists and also some really excellent guides such as Francis who took us on a great tour of Sossusvlei.

Our route

Namibia is a big country and the gravel roads mean that you can’t cover large distances, so you need to plan your route carefully to fit in everything you most want to see, especially if like us your time is limited. We had only two weeks, so had to make some tough decisions about what not to see as well as what we would fit in. With that amount of time you can realistically see either the northern half, or the southern half, or as we decided to do, focus on a band in the centre.

This meant that Fish Canyon in the south, and the Caprivi Strip in the north were off our list. Regretfully we eliminated the Skeleton Coast too, on grounds of cost – that, and the Caprivi Strip, are still very definitely on the list for a return visit!

So what route did we follow? Starting from Windhoek we drove south to the Kalahari and then west to the Namib Desert and Sesriem. Then north and west again to Walvis Bay and Swakopmund. From there further north up the coast and then inland to Damaraland and beyond to Etosha. Finally, we drove back south to Windhoek.

This route filled the two weeks comfortably. With a little more time, and hindsight, I would have split the drive from Sesriem to Swakopmund into two days as it was long and tiring on those roads, and I would have tried to fit in an extra day in Swakopmund so we could have done one of the flights over the Skeleton Coast (by the time we arrived the next day’s tours were booked up, and we had to leave the following day). But on the whole this route worked well for us given that we had limited time and money.

We pre-booked our car hire and all accommodation through a specialist tour agency here in the UK, Sunvil, and were provided with a good map which marked all the fuel stations in the country (an essential item if driving there) and tips on safe driving on the mainly gravel roads.

In the following pages I’ll cover all of the places mentioned above and more, and share some of my favourite photos of the landscapes and wildlife of this beautiful country, which I summed up back then as:

A visual feast: red sand, blue sky and the brightest stars you'll ever see

The dunes of Soussevlei, and a Bottle Tree at Huab Lodge

We visited Namibia as we were transitioning from 35 mm photography to digital, and I took photos in both formats. Unfortunately, despite turning the house upside down, we haven’t been able to find our slides from that trip (every other trip but not that one!) so I have only a limited number of photos of some of the places we visited to share here. I do have a few slides on my hard drive, which I previously scanned for my Virtual Tourist page, so I know they must be somewhere in the house. They will probably turn up in an unlikely corner just as I finish all my blog entries

We flew to Windhoek from London via Johannesburg, so I’ll pick up the story in my next entry with our arrival in Namibia …

Posted by ToonSarah 02:06 Archived in Namibia Tagged trees desert road_trip wildlife hotel cars roads africa safari zebra namibia photography national_park

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According to the World Economic Forum Namibia ranks first in Africa and 23rd in the world for the quality of its roads.

by CliffClaven

First in Africa? Possibly. But 23rd in the world I find impossible to believe!

by ToonSarah

I was hasty with my comment. Namibia has slipped to 31 in the latest ranking. https://reports.weforum.org/pdf/gci-2017-2018-scorecard/WEF_GCI_2017_2018_Scorecard_EOSQ057.pdf

by CliffClaven

I see it includes extensiveness as well as condition, but even so (and despite all our pot-holes!) I find it hard to believe it's only four places behind the UK

by ToonSarah

I know that feeling of looking for things that "must be somewhere in the house."
It's nice to see these parts of a VT page from 2004, which was also the year I joined.

by Nemorino

We've looked everywhere they could possibly be at least twice Don, so they must be somewhere that they couldn't possibly be

I joined VT in 2005 so wrote this trip up retrospectively and a bit sparsely. It's been interesting dragging things up from my memories, and researching to see if they could be accurate, in order to fill in the gaps!

by ToonSarah

Wow, Sarah! An exciting start to your time in Namibia and I will be very eager to read new pages as you post them! Appreciate the included map and great photos too. Concerning roads in Africa I must say that I thought Morocco's roads were fabulous -- at least everywhere we visited!

by starship VT

That's interesting Sylvia, because according to the link Cliff/Michael posted, Morocco is well below Namibia. Either a lot of those gravel roads have been surfaced since our visit, or the quantity of roads is tipping the balance!

by ToonSarah

Sarah, I can only vouch for the roads we traveled on which I think covered a fair bit of the country. We only traveled on 1 gravel road (more like a path) -- leaving the main road in a 4x4 in the desert to reach the Erg Chebbi dunes.

by starship VT

What surprised me, Sylvia, was that Namibia was considered so much better!!

by ToonSarah

Sorry, I misunderstood your first response -- "Either a lot of those gravel roads have been surfaced since our visit, or the quantity of roads is tipping the balance!" I thought you were referring to the roads in Morocco during your visit there.

by starship VT

Ah yes, I can see how it could be read that way!

by ToonSarah

When I was there (2007) Namibia had several types of pathways they described as 'roads'. This included 'sand roads'.

Amazing country.

by DAOonVT

I joined VT in 2002 about the time of a visit to England. Never been to Namibia so it will be interesting to see the country through you. The roads look better than some of the roads in Costa Rica (visit in 1997) or Belize (visit 1998). The roads in Costa Rica improved dramatically in 20 years. I have gotten huge batches of slides (and also prints) scanned but the problem is then organizing the scans.

by greatgrandmaR

I love deserts so am looking forward to this blog. I taught in the Mojave Desert in California for many years and have fond memories. I looked out my window and saw a field of Joshua trees, spectacular when they were blooming. So glad you like deserts too.

by Beausoleil

Thank you all :) DAO, lovely to hear from you! I remember reading and very much enjoying your Namibia page on VT, as well as other places in Africa. It's high time you resurrected some material here

It was researching this trip that first introduced me to VT, Rosalie, but it wasn't until I started planning our next big trip, Peru in 2005, that I actually got around to joining. Wish I'd done so sooner!

Sally, yes, I'm a huge fan of deserts. I love the US West and South West, and it was one of the factors that drove us to Chile, Oman and some other favourite countries

by ToonSarah

We also loved Namibia and may return there some day.

by irenevt

When were you there Irene?

by ToonSarah

I would love to go to Namibia. Having spent several years working in various parts of Africa, Julian has his sights on other places, so it probably will never happen.

by Lesley Russell

That's a shame Lesley, it's a beautiful place and perfect for desert lovers :)

by ToonSarah

now that I am back to catch up with some stories, I am sure to learn all about this trip ... I am sure it is going to take me back to my own experiences a few years ago! :)

by Ils1976

Wow, you are keeping busy Ils! I hope you enjoy my Namibian and that they bring back good memories :)

by ToonSarah

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