Upon our arrival into Namibia’s main Hosea Kutako International Airport all we knew for sure was that we were going to be spending our first two nights at a decent airbnb in a decent part of the city, a perfect location for the short 5 minute walk to Joe’s Beerhouse; probably Windhoek’s number one tourist attraction! It was nice to be able to settle in to the beginning of our African tour in a clean capital city with its extremely friendly people. Beyond Windhoek thirteen days of car rental would hopefully give us time for a pretty good tour of Namibias primary highlights. Our final route ended up covering Etosha National Park, Damaraland, the southern Skeleton Coast, Namib-Naukluft desert with its monstrous sand dunes, finishing with a fun gravel drive back to the city.
Resting lion lovebirds in Etosha
Avis kindly upgraded us from a VW Polo Vivo edition to the next badass version VW Polo and its three additional horsepower, same crap suspension and useless offroad ground clearance – oh boy were we going to wreck this! Namibia has something like 15% paved roads and the rest a variation of dirt, dirt with potholes, dirt with endless washboard, sand, and its fair share of water this time of year. Due to our extended time in Africa we had to chose carefully where we would drop big bucks on a camping equipped Toyota 4×4 – for this trip we did splurge and rent a regular canvas tent and thick sleeping mats for the weekends.
Having heard too many good things about being able to self-drive Etosha National Park that would be our first stop – we went in through the Namutoni east gate, drove 145km through the park to the Okaukuejo NWR camp and explored further from there. The ‘main’ highway was fairly good dirt, even drivable by our pathetic Polo, whereas many of the spur roads were only passable by 4×4. This would continue to be a problem wherever we went!
The evening before heading in to the park we stayed at an amazing little hostel in Tsumeb, small as hostels go but the newly spruced up rooms made for a great stopover. As well as running the place the owners also take tourists on Etosha day-trips, where sometimes they see big stuff and sometimes small – the day before we arrived a cheetah had appeared at the side of the dirt road for them, and the day prior to that they captured lions mating. Now how cool would that be? As wild animals tend to stay in the same areas for days at a time it was worth it for us to at least take the appropriate detours.
We paid our park permit fees and with great expectations entered the gates of this vast 8,600 square mile wildlife park. Not wanting to miss the mating lion turnoff or any glimpse of any wild animal we stayed well within the parks 60kmh speed limit – within ten minutes we were hanging out of the car window watching a horny male lion following his lioness around, mounting her whenever possible – the sights and sounds were amazing! If this was the scene so soon after driving through the gate who knows what was around the next corner.
Things did tone down after that encounter but we still got up close and personal to zebra, springbok, wildebeest, ostrich, oryx, and some small stuff. We also found that we weren’t completely stuck to the parks main road, and with me being me we at least attempted to drive down every road leading off of it, sometimes following loops in their entirety, sometimes being forced back by excessive sand and water. On one such 14km detour we encountered our first giraffes, a sight that blew us both away – with more than a dozen of the amazing creatures hogging the road directly in front of us we were gladly completely stuck! The biggest male stood alongside his partner staring us down, neither of us knowing whether we should try to drive past or just sit and wait for him to move. We had grins from cheek to cheek.
Eventually we edged forward, detoured around a huge puddle, and warily drove past him. None of the giraffes cared or even attempted to move away from us. This was such an amazing experience we headed back to the same area the following day, once again provided with awesome up-close views of these amazing animals.
After driving for most of the day we arrived at the Okaukuejo Namibia Wildlife Resort campsite, and although not the best looking camping facility we’ve stayed at the fenced in area offered reassurance that we wouldn’t be eaten during the night and the beer was nice and cold. Camping is the done thing in Africa, and although the majority of campers are on top of their decked out 4×4’s it still felt good to put up our rented canvas dome tent and roll out the nice thick mattresses – this was the first time that we’ve camped together in a tent we could stand up in and sleep on a mat that was as thick as most hostel bed mattresses. We had 2 nights of this relative luxury and with the popular Okaukuejo waterhole attracting black rhino amongst other animals this was an experience we weren’t going to forget.
Unfortunately due to this still being the wet season most animals have no need to utilize manmade waterholes and stay further into the park, leaving us viewing the few springboks and other game animals scattered around camp. This is just the beginning and with plenty more parks to visit the big stuff can’t elude us for long.
In the vast majority of African Wildlife Reserves and National Parks having access to a 4×4 has to be the way to go – we even toyed with the idea of buying one in Cape Town and doing this entire extended trip overland, the problem being the relatively short period of time we’re in Africa, trying to sell the vehicle on a flight deadline at the end, and Andrea having to try and work on a poor at best cell and WiFi connectivity infrastructure. So far we’ve gotten by with a 2×4 but its taken a good beating!
Having driven around 300km throughout our two full days in Etosha we couldn’t have asked for anything more, both feeling that we saw more that expected. Then just for good measure a lone bull elephant decided to make itself known as we drove the final few kilometers towards the park gate – we had only just been told that the elephants were mostly across another side of the park. All except this one!
SIM Card & Coverage
Carrier: MTC, Usage: 3GB, Cost: $35
Arrival/ Departure: Windhoek -> Von Lindequist Gate -> Anderson’s Gate, Carrier: Avis rental, Cost: $30 per day
March 30th – April 1st 2018
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