When to visit?:
Namibia can be visited throughout the year;
May - October is dry season. It does not rain. Most tourists visit during the dry season for wildlife viewing. It's better to visit Etosha in the dry season.
October - May is wet season. Rains are mostly short showers in the afternoon and does not realy have a negative impact on your trip. It gets really hot from October to February.
I was there end of December to beginning of January. During the day temperature goes up to 40 degrees. I arranged my visits to desert locations like dunes and Deadvlei such that I started either early morning and finished till 10:00 am or in the late afternoon after around 16:00. Else it gets really hot. As for Etosha, although it was not the optimal time for wild life viewing, I was satisfied with it (for wild life viewing, the best is Serengeti, Ngrongro in Tanzania, Etosha is not comparable with that experience).
Self Driving in Namibia:
Self-driving is the best way to see the country at your own pace. Better to keep also in mind that Namibia has the highest car-accident death rate in the world; country has extremely varying road conditions from the perfectly smooth tarred roads to the bumpy, dusty gravel roads. Those gravel roads deserve full attention!! Below you see the route i have followed within 12 days. Red part corresponds to deserted part (this post), blue is related to off-road path and the- 3 unforgettable moments (next post) - and yellow final post - wild life-.
Which Car? Do I need a 4x4 ? :
For the route I have followed, I recommend to rent a 4x4. As you can see in the next post, off-road tours were unforgettable for me. Most of the coast is only accessible by 4x4. I rented the car from Avis. Although I had chosen a 4x2, I was lucky to be upgraded to a 4x4. But if you ask me now, I would not risk it and book directly a 4x4.
- The tarred roads are typically in very good condition and are very easy to drive on.
- Namibia gravel roads are long and straight and require intense concentration. The gravel roads vary in their condition and can range from very coarse gravel to sand. The gravel roads are quiet, dont be surprised if you do not see any car for hours. You can follow the tire tracks of previous drivers. It is a good way for driving stable. 80% of the car accidents in Namibia are related to self made accidents, without a counter part, so do not drive faster than 80 km/h in gravel roads, over 80 car gets really unstable.
- Off-road: Off-road conditions require slow and careful driving to avoid a puncture or getting stuck. Furthermore you should decrease the tire pressure for better grip. To do that, just push your keys to the valve of the tire and wait for about 70-80 seconds. See the picture on the right, thats how the tire looks like at the end.
You should also refuel at every petrol station. It's not like Europe where there's a station every 50 kms - you can sometimes go hundreds of kms before coming to another station. Furthermore it is better to avoid driving in the dark and also driving near the edge of the road (due to sudden dips).
Here how the Namibian gravel roads look like:
This was a high budget trip. Car rental, hotels, lodges are expensive. A low budget trip would be really challenging since it is really hot and you need to drive long distance everyday, so a reliable car rental is necessary.
Part A (red route) - Namib Desert:
The world's oldest desert, Namib Desert has existed for at least 55 million years. After arriving in Windhoek by plane from Cape Town, I have spent the night there and started my journey to the south. I did not have enough time to drive to southernmost part of Namibia and skipped one of the most popular hikes in the world; Fish River Canyon trek, if you can fit in your program, don`t miss it.
From Windhoek to Sossusvlei you might manage to drive in one day, but I do recommend to make a stop inbetween. I have stayed in Kalahari Red Dunes Lodge: http://www.redduneslodge.com and was quite happy with it. Here is my first morning coffee there together with some cape ground squirrel and Kudus:
Next day, on the way to Sossusvlei, I came across with a river flowing unexpectedly across the desert:
Sossusvlei & Deadvlei:
Where to Stay?
I stayed at Le Mirage Resort (https://www.mirage-lodge.com/en/) it was a great hotel in the middle of desert but it was a mistake.
Le Mirage was about half an hour drive from the entrance of the Sossusvlei National Park. That is actually a problem, If you want to see the sun rise over the dunes. Dunes and Deadvlei are located in a national park. The gate of the park opens at 6.30 AM in the morning and you have to leave till 6.00 PM in the evening. As such, there is really no way to see sunrise on the dunes, considering that the sun came up around 5.30 AM. From the entrance, its another 30-40 minute drive to the first dunes. So, I missed the view of the sun rise over the dunes.
There are some accommodation options inside the national park, at the gate area. I recommend to check these options so that you can drive to dunes before sun rise.
From the entrance gate, it’s about 40 minute drive to Dune 45. Depending on your fitness levels, it takes 20-30 minutes to climb Dune 45. After Dune 45, it takes another 20 mins to a parking lot where you can park your car and take a shuttle to Deadvlei or you can continue to Deadvlei off-road. If you have a 4X4 you mght manage it but If you do not have a 4X4 wait for the shuttle, else you will get stuck, I saw a few cars who made that mistake on the way:
Once you reach near to Deadvlei, there is a short path (15-20 minute walk) to a dune called "Big Daddy". You climb up to Big Daddy and than can walk down to Deadvlei.
On the way, it was difficult to walk with shoes. I found it much easier to walk barefoot, plus in the early morning the sand is not so hot. I did so, until I came across with this beautiful Namib Sand Snake, and we made our way to deadvlei together... but me; with shoes :).
Climbing “Big Dady” down to Deadvlei...Music: Şehnaz Longa, Göksel Baktagir:
Weaver birds nest: I saw these big bird nests all over Namibia. These birds are perfect engineers building huge nests which can weigh up to a ton providing housing for at least 500 birds for many generations. These nests are among the largest bird created structures; some trees even die since nests can cover them entirely. You have to be attentive when standing close to them, they are also fast-food locations for the predators like cape cobras.
Driving thousands of kilometers across the oldest desert in the world, sometimes you do not come across with a single car for hours. In that emptiness, my drone was my best friend;