Over the next few days I discovered why self drive Namibia is becoming one of the most sought-after activities for anyone with a spirit of adventure. It has everything. It’s cheap, the people are so very friendly, and the landscape is not just stunning but also extremely varied.
From the rockiness of the Fish River Canyon, through the giant sand dunes of Sossussvlei, the coastal cool of the remote Skeleton Coast wilderness, and into the heat of the Namib Desert, you will never be bored. Having your own transport and being able to make your own schedule is definitely the best way to go.
I passed the occasional overland bus full of miserable looking people stuck in the back with nothing to do but wait for the next chance to get out, while I had the challenge and excitement of driving and navigating and planning.
Not just the freedom to operate on my schedule and the chance to enjoy the wilderness without always being surrounded by a tour group, but also the thrill of adventure and the sense of achievement at doing it myself. Satisfaction.
Visit Namibia? Awesome.
Namibia Safari? Awesome.
Self drive Namibia and take your own safari camper to Etosha National Park, Sossusvlei, the Fish River Canyon, and the Skeleton Coast?
And if you’re going to self drive Namibia, why not throw in Victoria Falls, the Okavango Delta, Swaziland, KwaZulu Natal, Lesotho, and South Africa.
Self Drive The Skeleton Coast
The inspiration for this trip came when I happened across some photos of 4WD expeditions to reach old shipwrecks along the Skeleton Coast.
Some of the biggest and most impressive ones are in stretches of the coast that are privately owned by diamond mines in the south or exclusive safari concessions in the north and require lots of time and money to get to, but even the more easily accessed section north of Swakopmund is very wild and remote.
I drove all day without seeing another soul. If you get stuck or break down you’ll have a long wait for assistance, so venturing onto the sands to fulfil the fantasy that had brought me there was nerve-wracking. Nerve-wracking, but unforgettable.
I’m in awe of the people who survived wrecks on the really remote parts further north, and the people who came to their rescue on horse and camel or primitive truck, requiring days of arduous overland travel in an era before 4 wheel drive trucks, roads, GPS navigation, aircraft, or all the other things that mean tourists can now visit.
Spitzkoppe Safari Camping
From the coast, I headed inland, first stop Spitzkoppe.
Spitzkoppe must be the greatest camping spot in the entire world. It’s a huge outcrop of rock, more like a mountain really, sticking up in the middle of the surrounding plain, and it’s a camp site run by local people.
You can drive around and pick your own spot nestled under the rocks, then go off exploring and climbing and hunting for the ancient cave paintings.
There was nobody else there but me.
If you need any more reasons to self drive Namibia, then consider that with your own wheels you can get away from tour groups and experience truly remote wilderness in some of the most atmospheric landscapes on Earth, and have it all to yourself.
Just a distant eagle, some sort of deer, and a zebra that scampered off through the rocks when it heard me coming. Geology and nature all around, it’s a very special place.
And then the sun starts setting behind the peak, you realise that the darkness is going to take hold with a very tight grip, and it’s a race back to the truck to get the camp fire going.
Wow. With the nearest electric light hundreds of miles away it gets incredibly dark in Namibia, and so quickly.
I made sausages wrapped in bacon, and little sweet red peppers stuffed with cheese and also wrapped in bacon, (because, hey: bacon), on the camp fire.
I’ve only experienced such total darkness and isolation before in Mongolia and Siberia.
It gives you the creeps a little, makes it hard to ignore the shiver down your spine, when you’re out in the bush completely on your own, but later you can retreat up the ladder to the sanctuary of your roof tent.
With the door unzipped you can lie on your back with an uninterrupted view straight up to the stars. And my God, what stars! The milky way looks like a painting and you can easily see the fast moving pinpricks of light that are satellites in orbit.
You’ll watch the mesmerising, beautiful sky until you fall asleep. Complete tranquillity. Just a few distant animal sounds.
Etosha National Park Self Drive
Etosha is perhaps the biggest draw for self drive Namibia, and it’s worth the reputation. Yet again, having your own vehicle proves to be the ultimate way of seeing the park.
The gravel roads through the reserve are in pretty good shape, you can camp in the park (be sure to book well ahead), and you have complete freedom to explore. Most importantly, you can get close to the wildlife. Very close.
Very, very close: