Namibia, it’s often said, is made for a self-drive tour. That otherworldly land of sprawling vistas, unusual rock formations, and ancient deserts is begging to be explored in your own vehicle. One of the most sparsely populated countries in the world, it’s also the most feasible way of getting around a very unique country. As the postcards say: Namibia, where the open road beckons and untamed beauty awaits.
Picture yourself navigating through the iconic red dunes of the Namib Desert, a surreal landscape that stretches as far as the eye can see. Or feel the thrill of conquering steep inclines and descending into ancient valleys as you explore the otherworldly wonders of Sossusvlei and Deadvlei. But what exactly is a self-drive tour and what can you expect from one in Namibia?
A self-drive tour, also known as a self-guided tour or self-paced tour, is a travel experience where you take on the role of both driver and navigator. Instead of relying on a tour guide or chauffeur, you have the freedom to explore a destination at your own pace and on your own terms. Simply put: it’s a road trip in a foreign country.
A self-drive tour involves renting a car or a camper van and embarking on a pre-planned itinerary or designing your own route. The beauty of this is the freedom and flexibility you get, allowing you to choose how much time to spend at each destination and the opportunity to make spontaneous stops along the way. And it’s that freedom that imbues a self-drive tour with a strong spirit of adventure.
A self-drive tour in Namibia allows you to experience this magnificent country in a very personal way. Long driving times cannot be avoided in Namibia – expect an average of 5 to 7 hours per journey. A two-week safari, for example, will easily clock over 2000 km or over 1260 miles. That’s the nature of the journey, which is about taking it at your own pace, instead of rushing from place to place and trying to squeeze different stops in.
One of the reasons Namibia is such a popular destination for touring is that it boasts excellent roads and infrastructure. Although 70% of all roads are gravel roads, they are in good condition and well maintained.
Most of Namibia is accessible on a self-drive journey, pending park rules (such as gates opening at sunrise and closing at sunset). While some private areas are restricted to self-drivers, many lodges offer the option of joining one of their activities (usually at additional costs) where you’ll be hosted by the resident guides and managers on shared activities. This way, you can get the best of both worlds.
Some travellers prefer to use a private safari guide when touring Namibia. The attraction of this is that their knowledge, experience and guidance can be incredibly helpful to ensure a successful safari and turn your trip into an experience of a lifetime. At Scintilla, we offer both options on our Namibia Self-Drive and Private Guided Safari.
Namibia’s allure extends beyond its iconic landmarks. As you traverse the vast expanses of the country – encountering charming desert-adapted communities and embracing the warm hospitality of the locals – the stories of the people and their rich heritage will leave an indelible mark on your journey. It’s the landmarks, though, that gives structure to your adventure and around which you can shape your journey. Here are seven worth checking out.
This ghost town just outside of Luderitz is as eerie as it gets. The town sprung up in the desert when diamonds were found littering the dunes, but when bigger diamonds were discovered elsewhere in Namibia, the town’s inhabitants moved on. The last people left around 60 years ago and since then, the desert has taken over the buildings.
Etosha National Park covers more than 20, 000 sq-km and is one of the most unique reserves in Africa. Everything revolves around the watering holes, where the animals come together to drink. At dusk, you’ll find all kinds of species making their way to the pan for a drink.
Dune 45 is 148 metres of burning orange sand dunes in Sossusvlei. Hiking to the top can be challenging but the sunrise from the top is worth it. This is what many visitors to Namibia come to see – the iconic red dunes of the Namib. The nearby Deadvlei – a big cracked mud plain dotted with dead trees – is just as captivating. The trees are thought to be around 1,000 years old, they are not petrified, but they have not decomposed because the air is so dry here. If you’d like to treat yourself, a sunrise hot-air balloon ride is a must.
This seaside city of 44,000 people feels like a metropolis after travelling through Namibia. But don’t worry – the town has a laidback atmosphere with lots of local eateries and speciality shops. It’s an excellent place to base yourself for a few days with lots of top attractions nearby.
ǀUi-ǁAis is the official name for the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Twyfelfontein and is the largest concentration of rock carvings (2,500) in all of Africa. With prehistoric hunter-gatherer rock engravings that date back more than 6000 years and petrified forests at its doorstep, Twyfelfontein makes an obvious choice for travellers wanting to explore one of Namibia’s most enigmatic locations.
Known locally as the Matterhorn of the south, Spitzkoppe is a 120 million-year-old chunk of granite that springs out of the desert floor. It’s a 1784-metre tall rock formation surrounded by nothing but miles and miles of flat desert. If you make a visit, staying the night is a must and choose between a chalet at Spitzkoppen Lodge or the campsite.
As your journey continues, you’ll encounter the mesmerising desolation of the Skeleton Coast. This windswept stretch of coastline, strewn with shipwrecks and shrouded in mist, evokes a sense of mystique and intrigue. Drive along its pristine beaches, feel the power of the crashing waves, and witness the dramatic clash between the harsh desert and the relentless ocean.
In Namibia, a self-drive trip t unlocks a world of freedom and discovery. But thorough planning is what you need to ensure it’s a success. That’s where we can help. Get in touch to see how we can support your self-drive adventure.