self drive safari in namibia

Self-drive safari in Namibia Visit Etosha National Park and the Namib Desert before stopping off at the seaside town of Swakopmund

Your journey at a glance

This extraordinary self-drive adventure takes you through the natural highlights of Namibia, from its rich wildlife areas to its charming coastal towns and the wonders of the Namib Desert. Begin your adventure with intimate encounters with big cats at Okonjima and move on to the stark beauty of the salt pans and the rich wildlife of famous Etosha National Park.

Venture into the rugged and rocky landscape of Damaraland, where fascinating desert species exist next to relics of ancient San Bushmen. Immerse yourself in the adventure activities and colonial charm of the seaside town of Swakopmund before heading off to explore an immense sea of sand in the depths of the Namib Desert at Sossusvlei.

 

What to expect …

Collect rental car Day 1

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Upon your arrival at Hosea Kutako (Windhoek) International Airport you will be met by an &Beyond representative who will get you on the road with your rental car and provide you with a quick briefing of your itinerary.

Overnight in Windhoek Day 1

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Kick-start your adventure with an approximate hours’ drive to the exceptional Olive Exclusive Boutique Hotel, where you will spend one night.

Drive to Okonjima Reserve Day 2

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Wake up to a delicious breakfast before you hop into your car for a three-hour drive to the Okonjima Reserve.

Overnight in the Okonjima Reserve Day 2- 4

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Okonjima Reserve is situated just west of the renowned Waterberg Plateau Park, amidst the vast plains scattered with the remnants of ancient sandstone outcrops that skirt the Omboroko Mountains. A Herero name meaning “place of the baboons” this spectacular area is home to the world-famous AFRICAT Foundation, which supports the conservation of the world’s largest free-ranging population of cheetah and Namibia’s large wildcat population. Created as a refuge for rehabilitated predators, the reserve is a haven for cheetah, leopard, spotted hyena and African wild dog, as well as several species of antelope.

Spend two nights at Okonjima in the Bush Suite. Adventures include tracking cheetah and leopard on foot, bird watching and the opportunity to embark on the Bushmen Trail, during which guests can experience a day in the life of a San Bushman.

Night drives set off after dinner, providing a glimpse into the nocturnal life of the predators, as well as magnificent viewing of the star-studded skies. Keen hikers can set off into the majestic solitude of the desert on a selection of nature trails, while bird watchers will be sure to spot and photograph a number of colourful species.

Turn your eyes to the sky in search of Okonjima’s winged residents Day 3

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The sandstone outcrops of the Omboroko Mountains and the sandy highlands between the main escarpments have helped mixed woodlands to develop, enticing myriad avian life to populate the grounds, trees and airspace of Okonjima Nature Reserve, as opposed to the surrounding thornveld grasslands. With its massive plains, vast meadows, lush forests and deep lakes, the park and its surroundings are home to over 250 migratory and native bird species. These lushly forested lands create a magnificent setting for photographs of the technicoloured birdlife that dominates the landscape.

The key areas to witness the park’s graceful, feathered inhabitants are in and around the Leopard Trail, the leadwood trees, and the park’s watering holes. Witness the mating ritual of the red crested korhaan, as it plummets 25 metres (82 feet) towards the ground, effortlessly lifting its large frame mere centimetres away from the treacherous earth. This aerial display is actively used to announce territory and in courtship, with the korhaan proudly displaying its red crest and black belly to willing females.

The massive giant or Verraux’s eagle owl is a fierce predator, over 3 kilograms (7 pounds) in weight, mercilessly preying on the korhaan, secretary birds and even small, unaware deer. Alternatively, search for the minute pearl spotted owlet, under 100 grams, nesting contentedly in tree holes excavated by barbets or woodpeckers. Marvel at the unprecedented genius of the sandgrouse as they dip their plumage into watering holes prior to taking off, capturing droplets between their feathers that they use to water their chicks, securely placed in high nests. Witness the brisk shadows of birds flying overhead, their sharp features perfectly outlined by the African sun. Wander across the park, using the winged silhouettes of birds to guide your tour and discover a different, and completely animated, world in the skies.

Drive to the Eastern outskirts of Etosha National Park Day 4

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Tuck into a wholesome breakfast and head off on a three to four-hour self-drive adventure to Onguma Tented Camp the on the outskirts of Etosha National Park.

Overnight in the Eastern outskirts of Ethosha National Park Day 4 - 6

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Etosha is one of Africa’s great wildlife parks and Namibia’s prime wildlife conservation area. Spanning a vast 22 300 km², it consists mostly of grassy plains around a huge saltpan, which becomes a beautiful lake after heavy rains and attracts large flocks of pink candy-floss-coloured flamingos. Etosha hosts a vast array of animals, including the Big Five, as well as giraffes and rare and unusual species like the black-faced impala, Hartmann’s Mountain zebra or the smallest antelope in the world, the Damara dik-dik. Large herds of elephant can also be seen, while predators range from lion to black-backed jackal. The wildlife in Etosha congregates around the watering holes, making for exciting and productive game viewing.

Apart from its wildlife, Etosha is also known for its immense salt pans, which covers 4 731 km² at the heart of the park. Formed by a massive lake that gradually evaporated, this vast stretch of shimmering salt forms a picturesque contrast to the rich range of wildlife found in the park.

Spend two nights on the eastern outskirts of Etosha National Park, staying at your choice of value or luxury itinerary options. Please refer to the terms and conditions for details of what each option includes.

Spend two nights at Onguma Tented Camp located on the eastern outskirts of Etosha National Park. Explore the immense open plains of Etosha on morning and afternoon game drives or delve deep into the private game reserves found on its eastern edge.

Walk along the paths of untamed beauties Day 5

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Experience Namibia as the first explorers did, on foot and in awe of its wondrous, untouched nature and allure. Walks through the Etosha National Park are both awe inspiring and humbling, as you tread along the very paths animals roam free on and observe their intimate lives from a careful distance. It is the perfect setting in which to appreciate the natural environment. The slow pace of the walk and the interpretive skills of the armed guides open your eyes to a new and fascinating world. The unique perspective garnered during a walk awakens a sense of fulfilment and sensory appreciation. The 2½ hour walk through the park leaves you feeling connected and at one with the earth, offering the perfect setting in which to which to relax, unwind and connect with nature.

The walking safari begins with an in-depth safety briefing that outlines how participants should act and conduct themselves when encountering wildlife. Walks are led by experienced and trained guides who tailor the excursions to suit the preferences of every guest, whether it’s to view a certain animal or plant species, to learn about the mannerisms of different wildlife species and their habitats or simply to enjoy the vast expanse of bush and the panoramic surroundings. Walkers will be instructed on the identification of various tracks, as well as on the smaller wildlife and plants that live in the park and that are often missed during a game drive. Morning walks that head out at the crack of dawn offer great photographic opportunities, with soft, earthy light and encounters with four legged early risers. They end with a sumptuous breakfast, enjoyed in the outdoors, in full view of the breath-taking landscape and beneath the warm African sun.

Drive to the Central outskirts of Etosha National Park Day 6

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Today you’ll drive through the breathtaking wilderness of Etosha to Ongava Game Reserve, situated on the outskirts of Etosha. The travelling time will depend on how long you spend viewing the exceptional wildlife you may encounter on your route.

Overnight in the Central outskirts of Etosha National Park Day 6

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Spend the night at Ongava Tented Camp, set on the central outskirts of Etosha National Park. Set off on game drives that explore the Okaukuelo area of Etosha, keeping an eye out for lion, elephant, gemsbok, springbok, red hartebeest and both white and black rhino. Enjoy the freedom of night drives and bush walks in Ongava, where you can track wildlife on foot in the company of experienced guides. Or choose to spend the afternoon at a tranquil hide overlooking a waterhole and wait to see what wildlife sightings the day will bring.

Drive to Damaraland Day 7

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After a delectable breakfast hop back into your car for the approximately five-hour journey to Damaraland.

Overnight in Damaraland Day 7 - 9

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The breathtaking mountain region of Damaraland is situated on the eastern side of the Skeleton Coast National Park and southwest of Etosha National Park. An assortment of desert-adapted wildlife such as elephant, rhino, zebra and lion live in this near-barren landscape. A not-to-be-missed attraction is the picturesque Brandberg, Namibia’s highest mountain, which is home to thousands of ancient rock paintings, most notably The White Lady. Nearby the rocky outcrops of Twyfelfontein feature exceptional Bushmen engravings, which are considered to be some of the best preserved etchings on the continent. Visitors to Damaraland can view one of its more unusual habitats – the Petrified Forest, which dates back millions of years and offers a haunting landscape of gigantic fossilised trees, some up to 30 metres (100ft) in length.

Spend two nights at Mowani Mountain Camp in Damaraland. Set off into the dunes in search of the elusive desert elephant or choose to explore the area surrounding the camp on foot, getting an intimate glimpse into the vegetation, insects and birds of this rugged area. Ask your guide to take you to see an ancient welwitschia plant, which may live up to hundreds of years. You can also choose to visit Twyfelfontein, where you can marvel at age-old rock engravings, visit the petrified forest or discover the twisted rock formations known as the organ pipes. Or simply relax and enjoy the absolutely tranquillity and sense of peace of this serene destination from the comfort of the sparkling swimming pool.

View the adapted wildlife that roam the plains of Damaraland Day 8

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Ideally situated on the eastern side of the Skeleton Coast National Park and southwest of Etosha National Park. Damaraland stands as one of the most beautiful areas found in Namibia, featuring a massive, untamed, and ruggedly beautiful region that offers travellers an adventurous challenge. Explore the rugged region alongside experienced and knowledgeable guides in search of especially adapted wildlife, as they expertly navigate through the arid desert in search of food and moisture in the seemingly hostile environment.  Morning and afternoon game drives perfectly exhibit the intense scenery, sporting prehistoric water courses with open plains and grasslands, massive granite koppies, deep gorges, and captivating wildlife littered across the region. The breath-taking mountainous region of Damaraland is home to an assortment of these desert-adapted wildlife, such as the mighty desert dwelling elephant, rare black rhino, banded zebra, and famed predators, like the wild maned lion, spotted brown hyena, and swift cheetah. These four legged residents all eke out an acceptable existence in the near-barren landscape, amongst the towering basalt mountains and Mopani-shaded river beds of the Kunene region. The desert landscape further encompasses boulder strewn valleys dotted with grazing herds and predators, adapted megafauna, volcanic rock shards cloaking scorpions and snakes, and wide open air slayed with the fierce wings of snake eagles and 240 additional avian residents. A key attraction in the region is the picturesque Brandberg, Namibia’s highest mountain, which is home to thousands of ancient rock paintings, most notably The White Lady, discovered in 1918. The rock painting is gorgeously outlined on a small rock overhang and is shrouded in mystery and folklore. Namibia’s first World Heritage Site, Twyfelfontein, illustrates exceptional Bushmen engravings that depict the rich wildlife population on its rocky outcrops, universally considered to be some of the best preserved etchings on the African continent. It is an unspoiled setting of an old world, where untamed wildlife and local herdsman live side by side without the restrictions of modern living.

Drive to Swakopmund Day 9

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Today you will drive approximately five to six hours to Namibia’s charming seaside town of Swakopmund.

Overnight in Swakopmund Day 9 - 11

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Today you will drive approximately five to six hours to Namibia’s charming seaside town of Swakopmund.

This charming little coastal retreat on Namibia’s western coast retains a strong German flavour, from its cobbled streets and picturesque buildings down to its typical German restaurants and pubs. This town is traditionally a holiday spot for locals and foreigners alike, with many opportunities for adventure sports and some good old-fashioned fun. Swakopmund is an ideal place to relax after a few days in the desert; wash off the sand and sample some of the finely-brewed local beer and renowned fare, including fish, lobster and the utterly delicious Swakopmund oysters.

Spend two nights at the Swakopmund Guest House. Choose from a breathtaking range of outdoor adventures, including a visit to nearby Walvis Bay. The route runs between the soaring dunes and the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. In Walvis Bay you will set off on a boat cruise that promises up-close sightings of a number of wetland bird species, as well as dolphins, whales and the seals at Pelican Point. Watch as the dolphins and seals shimmer and jump in the wake of the boat before returning to Swakopmund and touring its quaint city streets.

For an even closer encounter with the seals, visit the Cape Cross Seal Colony north of Swakopmund and marvel at the antics of one of southern Africa’s largest numbers of seals. Or, if you choose, take to the waters off Swakopmund on a deep sea fishing adventure.

If you prefer the desert to the ocean, set off into the dunes between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. Be captivated by dramatic vistas and get to know about the abundant geckos, rolling spiders, scorpions, lizards, snakes and chameleons that have made this desolate landscape their home. Alternatively, drive deep into the Namib on a quad bike, enjoying the pristine beauty of the soaring dunes or glide down their curved slopes on a sand boarding adventure. Fly down the sheer sides on a traditional Swakopmund sand board or try some fancy footwork on a snowboard adapted for the dunes. If you prefer a little less adrenalin on your desert adventure, set off on a horseback trail through the dry bed of the Swakop River into the rugged rocky gorges and plains of an area known as the Moon Landscape.

For a unique sense of perspective, admire the desert landscapes from above with tandem skydiving.

In Swakopmund itself you can visit the vibrant township and meet the family of the area’s late traditional chief or get to know about the local Herero culture and traditions. Set off on foot to meet a local doctor and find out about the herbal medicines used by the Nama people. Visit a local kindergarten and spend the evening enjoying the lively vibe of an informal shebeen.

Wander along the shimmering Namib Desert Day 10

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Discover the many faces of the Namib Desert amidst an exceptional eco-system of vast landscapes and gravel plains, far-reaching dunes and rocky river valleys. This four-hour tour sets off through a range of sandy dunes, marvelling at desert adapted reptiles as they skirt over velvet grains of sand and skulk along rocky outcrops. Gaze at the outline of graceful birds as they fly overhead and the rich population of insects that lies under gravelly ridges.

Discover the desert from a historical perspective, clearly evident in Namibia’s growth and development. Scan centuries-old railway lines that once dominated the region and stop at the unnerving Horse Graveyard, where the mass slaughter of South African army horses took place during World War I.

Venture deeper into the desert, into the substantial Namib-Naukluft National Park, which stretches along the Swakop River Valley, boasting glorious lunar landscapes formed over 460 million years ago. Marvel at 1 500-year-old welwitschias, lithops, hoodias and mist-gathering lichen before heading to the oasis of Goanikontes. The remnants of a 19th century Schutztruppe garrison sit here, surrounded by towering palms and blue gum trees, testament to the desert’s authority over man and man’s inability to tame the wild plains.

Explore the smallholdings that line the Swakop River, brimming with lush asparagus farms, bristly date plantations, dense olive groves, riding stables and rugged camel farms. Wander among the magnificent geological formations of the Khan River Valley, keeping an eye out for the tiny form of the klipspringer antelope, the stately ostrich and the sleek jackal.

The rich minerals that line the plains of the Namib Desert add a decided splash of colour and shimmer to the otherwise arid desert landscape. Keep an eye out for the shy blush glint of rose quartz and the bold gleam of aquamarine tourmaline against the exacting backdrop of the Namib. End the tour with a sumptuous African desert picnic in Swakopmund, teeming with traditional local fare and continental appetisers amid the stunning milieu of desert plains, before heading off on the next adventure on four wheels, racing across and over polished dunes and velvety grains of sand.

Drive to the Sossusvlei area Day 11

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Leaving behind the many sights of Swakopmund, drive approximately five to six hours to the Sossusvlei area, passing through some of Namibia’s most dramatic landscapes en route.

Overnight in the Sossusvlei area Day 11 -14

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Unwind for 3 nights at &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge in a desert villa with an ensuite bathroom and a private veranda. Adventures include scenic drives with an opportunity to encounter a variety of desert-adapted animals such as gemsbok, zebra, springbok, bat-eared fox, aardwolf, caracal and jackal. Guided hikes visit ancient Bushman paints, while a variety of hiking trails are available and quad bike adventures in the dunes set the pulse racing. Photograph the fascinating petrified dunes and explore the massive boulders of Bushman’s Koppies, haphazardly strewn one on top of the other. Explore the night sky under the guidance of a professional astronomer or try your hand at some photographing the stars.

Hot air balloon rides, helicopter flips and scenic flights over the majestic desert landscapes, as well as horse riding adventure, are available nearby.

Get lost in a velvet black sky scattered with diamond stars Day 12

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The luxuriously remote, tranquil and ever-romantic &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge is situated within Namibia’s NamibRand Nature Reserve, where time stands still and not only does the untouched desert vista beg to be explored, so too does the inky black night sky. Absolute silence and dramatic landscapes contribute towards making &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge one of the best settings in the world for stargazing.

Guests are invited to join resident astronomers to unlock the mysteries of Namibia’s skies in the lodge’s state of the art observatory, complete with a Meade LX200R 12 inch telescope. The observatory presents the ideal place to gaze in awe at the wonders of the clear, desert sky, as resident astronomers point out the brightest and most beautiful constellations, the vast Milky Way, and distant, mysterious planets. The reserve has the proud distinction of being Africa’s only International Dark Sky Reserve (IDSR), and the first area to be awarded with the honour of Gold Tier status, which illustrates night time environments that have little to no impact from light pollution and artificial light. With the nearest town 140km away from the lodge, there are no sources of light pollution and the reserve’s sky stands as one of the darkest yet measured in the world.

&Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge is the perfect spot for stargazing and getting lost in its deep, depths, secrets, and enigmas. This intimate lodge, features ten stone and glass desert villas, and invites guests to indulge in the luxury of exploring the captivatingly brilliant sea of shimmering stars above. Travellers have the luxury of retiring to spacious and airy suites, bedecked with overwhelmingly large sky lights above comfy beds. Unwind and allow dreamy adventures to continue, as you revel in the beauty of the impossible starry sky, in total privacy and seclusion. Experience the thrill of peeking into an endless abyss, adorned with the lights of heaven, beckoning wayfarers home.

Drive through the wild contrasts of a desert Day 13

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&Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge is ideally situated on the Vreemdelingspoort property in the far north of the NamibRand Nature Reserve, which boasts numerous distinct habitats and microhabitats, as well as a backdrop of awe-inspiriting vistas, plains, and bushland. The NamibRand is a vast conservation area of 220 000 hectares, situated east of and adjacent to the gigantic Namib-Naukluft National Park. The NamibRand lies within the so-called pro-Namib, an ecotone region sandwiched between the endless dune fields of the Namib Desert and the jagged mountain ranges of the Namibian escarpment.

Set off on a scenic drive to the fascinating and chilling petrified dunes, a frozen landscape of endless undulating waves or choose to explore the massive boulders of Bushman’s Koppies, haphazardly strewn atop each other, effortlessly creating the illusion of a near toppling megalith. &Beyond’s specially trained guides and skilled trackers are expert’s regarding the regions diverse eco-system, and hold a plethora of knowledge and secrets about the Sossusvlei desert that they’re eager to share with willing traveller’s and budding naturalists.

Known as ‘The Living Desert,’ the dunes of the Namib abound with desert-adapted critters such as, beetles, spiders, lizards, gerbils, and golden moles distinct from their telltale tracks in the fine, golden sand. The plains and dry watercourses are home to spikey-horned oryx, agile springbok, Burchell’s zebra, regal ostrich, and stately giraffe, some of whom are preyed on by predators that include elusive leopard, spotted hyena, black-backed jackal, and Cape and bat-eared foxes, with over 114 bird species curiously looking down from the desert skies. Admire the infinite buttermilk, pumpkin, and sienna hues splashed across the desert sky at sunset and tower over the vast, dry pan, before returning to the lodge in the late evening for a star gazing adventure that transports guests to a mystical and ethereal world.

Drive to Hosea Kutako (Windhoek) International Airport Day 14

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Today we wave a fond farewell as you embark on the last leg of your extraordinary adventure. A drive of five to six hours will take you back to Hosea Kutako (Windhoek) International Airport, where you will drop off your hired vehicle and board your plane for your onward flight.