Camping In Namibia
For a vacation with a difference get together with some friends and head to Namibia for a self-drive camping tour. Namibia is a country in south-west Africa with some of the most diverse and dramatic scenery in the world. Covered in the eastern inland regions by the vast Kalahari Desert and with an Atlantic Ocean coastline swathed by the immense spread of the Namib Desert, they’re unique landscapes that promise you an unforgettable road trip experience. Camp out by the side of desert highways, at the base of steep-sided ravines and wind-eroded mountains, alongside waterholes in national parks or on immense stretches of deserted beach, and all under an African night sky ablaze with a million stars. Camping in Namibia is one of the most exciting adventures and definitely something that will stay with you forever.
Namibia may be one of the driest locations on earth, and rainfall is a rare occurrence, but the lack of water doesn’t mean there’s a scarcity of wildlife. Even regions as arid as the Skeleton Coast provide a habitat for a variety of mammals including elephants, giraffes, rhino, zebra, and baboons as well as marine animals like seals. After a successful three decade long conservation program, Namibia also has the most prolific population of cheetahs of any country around the globe. A major achievement and one that’s helping to prevent the extinction of the species.
After landing at Hosea Kutako International Airport, the easiest place to pick up a rental vehicle and set out on a driving tour of Namibia, is from the capital Windhoek. From centrally located Windhoek, it is a relatively easy drive along major roads to such stunning locations as the Etosha National Park in the north of Namibia or to the national parks and conservation areas along the country’s spectacular, dune-rimmed west coast.
Vehicle Rental In Namibia
Many of the major highways in Namibia are well-maintained, but it’s a good idea to hire a vehicle that can deal with all types of terrains as minor roads can quickly turn to dirt tracks. As you won’t be packing camping gear in your flight bag, you’ll also want one that comes fully equipped with what you’ll need for sleeping out under starry African skies.
Autovermietung Savannah are a Windhoek based vehicle rental company with a long standing reputation for supplying reliable and well-equipped 4x4s. Their diesel-fueled Toyota Hillux can cater for two to five people, have an extendable sleeping tent as well as spare sheets and mattresses. The vehicles are also kitted out with gas burners for cooking, kitchen utensils, cold boxes and picnic furniture plus a full array of emergency tools like jump leads, spare tires and fire extinguishers. Asco Car Hire also operate from Windhoek offering the same vehicles and equipment for similar prices. If you want to start your adventure straight from the airport without going into the city, you can collect a fully fitted out 4×4 from Rhino Car Hire once you’re through the arrivals gate.
Average vehicle rental costs vary depending on the time of year and how many days you require the vehicle for. Expect to pay between N$700 to N$1,400 which is approximately $48 to $95 USD per day.
Best Campgrounds in Namibia
Pitching camp in an isolated spot on the side of a desert highway or in some secluded spot you come across while motoring through the country sounds idyllic and it can be. Although on occasion you’ll need to stock up on provisions, water, and gas so it’ll be more convenient to use a campground with on-site amenities.
If you’re motoring up to the Etosha National Park, you’ll find the Halali Camp near Namutoni has everything you need and more besides. It’s also inside the park boundaries and close to watering holes where big game animals like elephants and rhinos go to drink at dusk. There are excellent facilities on the campground including a gas station, grocery store, bar, restaurant and swimming pool. Fees for camping overnight are charged on a per person basis averaging around N$300 which is about $20USD.
When you’re touring the Skeleton Coast, it’s a long drive, but there are some fantastic campgrounds at convenient intervals where you can pitch up for the night. Halfway between the Skeleton Coast Park and the Dorob National Park is a fee-free campground run by the Save The Rhino Trust. Facilities at the Ugab Rhino Camp are limited to barbecues, showers and an information center so make sure you’re well-stocked with what you need.
As you head further south you’ll enter into the extensive terrains of the Namib-Naukluft National Park. For wildlife spotting one of the best campgrounds there is the Naukluft Camp which is inside the Naukluft Mountain Zebra Park. At the campsites there you’ll have access to showers and a bar-restaurant but not much more. The nightly fee for pitching there is approximately $25USD.
If after seeing too much desert you’re in need of seeing the ocean or taking a swim from a beach, you’ll to stop of in Swakopmund. The bustling coastal city has fantastic beaches, interesting museums and a desert explorers adventure center for paragliding over the desert and sandboarding. Stay over at the Alte Bruke resort and you’ll have only two-hundred meters to walk to the beach while still being within easy reach of the city center. The resort campsites are more luxurious than many and you’ll have a lawned pitch plus private bathroom and a reliable WIFI connection.
The campsite in Spitzkoppe is one of the most beautiful camping areas in Namibia where you’ll have the opportunity to do rock climbing and hiking. What makes the campsite in Spitzkoppe so special is that you’re in the middle of a desert, surrounded by craggy mountains and rock formations and you have vast amount of space to do anything you like. Sptizkoppe is also one of the best places in the world to see stars.
Best Self-Drive Road Trip Route
Before you set out on a self-drive camping tour of Namibia, you have to consider realistically just how many kilometers you can cover during the duration of your vacation, Namibia is a big country so don’t expect to see it all in a week, but that said, plan your route in advance and you’ll see an awful lot of it.
Set out from Windhoek in a northerly direction along the B1 and after four hours on the road, you’ll be inside the Etosha National Park. When you’ve spent enough time there and are ready to move on, leave the park via Namutoni to rejoin the B1 before motoring west on the C41 from Oshakati. The C41 will take you as far as Opuwo where you can hit the C43 southwards along the Skeleton Coast as far as Palmwag.
From Palmwag, you’ll have to choose whether you want to see the spectacular rock formations of the Spitzkoppe peaks or veer towards the ocean and take a trip down the C34 to Swakopmund or Walvis Bay. If you decide on the latter, you can get to Spitzkoppe from Swakopmund on the B2. That way you’ll have the best of both worlds,you’ll have seen the Skeleton Coast almost in its entirety, driven through deserts, visited national parks and seen some amazing wildlife on the way. From Swakopmund make your way to the highlight of Namibia, Sossuvlei where you can see dead petrified trees on a sea of salt, in the middle of a desert. From there you can make your way to Lüderitz and see Kolmanskop, which was once a mining town, now being slowly swallowed by the desert. You can end your trip by completing the loop and seeing Kalahari Desert on your way back to Windhoek.
Namibia is an incredible country and you should plan to spend atleast two weeks to do the main circuit so that you can take your time and see the places properly. You can checkout the complete Namibia Travel Guide here.