“Safari” means “long journey” in Kiswahili, but in modern parlance it has come to signify an often expensive, pre-arranged trip involving 4WDs, tour guides and lavish Out of Africa-style lodges. While there is nothing wrong with this type of trip, it often rules out some of Africa’s finest experiences for the more budget-conscious traveller.
Namibia, however, the incredible desert landscape is unusually easy to traverse
on your own. The arrow-straight tarmac and unsealed, gravel roads are navigable
with a regular 2WD sedans, and car-hire charges are reasonable. So put together
your own, more affordable safari with this two-week itinerary.
in Windhoek, a modern African capital of high-rises and shopping malls that carry
imported South African brands. Organise a well-priced car hire through the Cardboard Box Travel Shop, and
hit the road for a 280km drive north to the Waterberg Plateau Park.
and stony, 200m high and 50km long, the red sandstone Waterberg
rises out of the flat landscape, visible from miles around. It is largely
inaccessible -- except on foot – so it is home to a variety of endangered
species, such as roan and sable antelopes, as well as rare flora such as the
magnificent karee and the weeping wattle trees. Pick-up self-guided trails and arrange guided
hikes at Waterberg
Camp, situated at the base of the plateau . The world-renowned
Cheetah Conservation Fund
is also nearby in Otjozondjupa.
Etosha National Park
wildlife sanctuary lies 300km north of Waterberg and is home to 114 species
of animal, including the largest population of black rhino in the world. Unlike
many African parks, which are dense with vegetation, Etosha, meaning “place of
dry water”, is a huge, 5,000sqkm calcrete pan. During the drier months, between
June and November, the scarce watering holes attract large herds of animals,
and you are virtually guaranteed to see game. You can easily spend several days
between the park’s three camps: Namutoni, Halali and Okaukuejo (where the spot-lit
waterhole at Okaukuejo
Camp is famous for prime viewing). You can get around the
park in a 2WD as the gravel roads are easy to drive, and a speed limit of 60km
per hour is strictly enforced.
Etosha via the main Anderson gate near Okaukuejo Camp and head westwards into Damaraland, a region of rumpled
escarpments, dry river valleys and ancient volcanic peaks that descend from the
Hoanib River in the region’s northeast to the seaside town of Swakopmund.
Although the area is not a designated park, it is zoned into private game
reserves that support most of Namibia’s large game species, including the
elusive desert-adapted lion and elephant. The area is also rich in the rock
engravings and artwork of the indigenous San people, most notable of which are
the “White Lady” at Brandberg, Namibia’s highest mountain, and the 2,500 petroglyphs
at the Twyfelfontein valley which are 2,000 years old. The open-sided thatched
chalets of the Doro Nawas Camp in the dry river
valley of the Aba-Huab River offer spectacular views.
a week on dusty roads, arriving at The
Alternative Space bed and breakfast in seaside Swakopmund is a welcome relief. Considered by many to be the adventure
capital of Namibia, Swakopmund is a good base for striking out on some fun day
trips: north to the raucous seal colony at Cape Cross (70km), south to see the
flamingos in Walvis Bay (35km) or simply sign-up at one of the adventure sports
outlets in town for local quad-biking, dune-boarding, paragliding and canoeing.
from Swakopmund across the gravel plains of the Namib Desert lies the dramatic Namib Naukluft Park. Sleep outside the
park at either Sossusvlei Lodge or
the self-catering Desert Camp,
and rise early to catch the vivid orange dunefields at sunrise the next
morning. Enter the park at the Sesriem gate, where you will find the eponymous canyon,
and drive all the way into the park. This is possible in a 2WD vehicle, as long
as you do not go off-road. The road terminates at a car park, from where you can
either walk the remaining four kilometres or take a shuttle to Sossusvlei.
Along with the nearby clay pan, Deadvlei, the Sossusvlei pan is the stuff of
National Geographic pictures: a flat, cracked ephemeral pan, surrounded on
three sides by some of the highest (300m), oldest, pink-tinged dunes in the
world; while at Deadvlei, the charred remains of the camel-thorn acacia trees,
burnt black by the sun, are carbon dated between 500 and 600 years old.
Sossusvlei, the 300km drive back to Windhoek takes four and a half hours.
The article 'A do-it-yourself Namibian safari' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.