We take a look at the ultimate alternative African destination for gappers, career breakers and older travellers – Namibia
Namibia is the ultimate African destination – vibrant colours, extreme temperatures, exotic wildlife and tribal people make this one of the most exciting countries to visit on your gap year, career break or extended holiday in Africa. There are loads of great volunteering opportunities in Africa, but in this feature we focus on travel in Namibia.
There are two ways to sample the main attractions of Namibia - via a tour or through hiring your own vehicle. Public transport is sparse and won’t get you to the national parks. There are a variety of tours on offer from budget camping safaris through to luxury all-inclusives. However, to have full freedom and appreciate the size of the country, there is no better way than to hire your own vehicle and hit the road! If you are not buying a package and fancy a holiday under your own steam, you can purchase flights to Windhoek, capital city, through any Independent Travel Agent or website. Airlines to consider include South African Airlines and British Airways - the route is usually via Johannesburg from London Heathrow. If you are flying from a regional airport you should be prepared for a trip on 3 planes!
There are two main routes to take – North or South. Going North will capture Etosha National Park and the Caprivi region. Going South takes in the majestic Fish River Canyon and the Bavarian fishing town of Luderitz. Both routes should not miss Namibia’s heart – Sesriem and Sousselsvei – the infamous dunes that really do live up to their hype.
Here’s our sample itinerary and guide to experience the best of the South...
Day 1 Windhoek – the small but vibrant capital of Namibia is worth a day to look around – check out the park, art gallery, local craft shops and restaurants and bars.
Day 2 Windhoek to Keetmanshoop – Stay at the beautifully named Quiver Tree Rest Camp. Watch semi-tame cheetahs and a pet warthog being fed; explore the dusty quiver tree park before settling down to a night under the stars.
Day 3 Keetmanshoop to Ais-Ais – Before moving on, don’t miss out on the Giants Playground – an area full of large boulders – delicately balanced on top of each other. Ais-Ais is the next stop – nearest home to the second largest canyon in the world– Fish River Canyon. Camp, hike, or relax in the natural hot springs. If you want to extend your journey, there is a five-day walk through the canyon to satisfy the most ardent of hikers.
Day 4 Ais Ais to Luderitz – Ghost towns, wild horses and diamonds – the wild west of Africa! Luderitz is situated on the Western coast of Africa and feels more Germany than Africa. Wrap up warm as nights are cold! Think African wildlife can only be seen on safari? Think again – here you’ll find penguins, seals and dolphins! Plus the intriguing wild horses of the Aus plains – thought to have originated from domesticated horses that had escaped during the First World War.
Day 5 Luderitiz to Aus – Appreciate the change in landscape from Luderitz to Aus; rocky boulders, to savannah to bushy grassland and hills. Stay at Klein Aus Vista and make the most of the stunning sunset walk to a viewpoint that takes you to look at the flat, flat grassland beneath you.
Day 6 Aus to Sesriem - Back to the heat and the deserts of Namibia. This day is day long drive but keep your eye out for oryx, gazelle, giraffe and kampala.
Day 7 Sesriem – The heart of Namibia. Sousselsvei at Sesriem is a photographers dream and an absolute must for anyone visiting Namibia. Make the effort and rise at 5am to make the trek to your own lone dune to watch the sun come up. If you do not want to be surrounded by other tourists don’t go to dune 45 – infamous on all the brochures but you won’t have it solo in the morning. Dead Vlei is also a definite to visit – burnt, black tree trunks pictured harshly against the red, round dunes of sand. Beautiful.
Day 8 and 9 Sesriem to Naukluft Mountains – So as not to have too much of an anti climax, spent your last day exploring the serene Naukluft Mountains and try the Olive Walk – a day long hike that shows off the region to its best. Just watch out for baboons who want your food!
Day 10 Nakluft Mountains to Windhoek - final half day spent driving back to your original destination.
• Buy a decent map that highlights where petrol stations are.
• Don’t drive too fast – most of the roads in Namibia are gravel and dirt and often have roaming goats wandering onto them! There are also many corrugated tracks that come up – driving at speed through these is not recommended!
• Take plenty of water.
• Choose a hire car that has breakdown recovery included in it and spend as much as you can afford on a decent vehicle – 4x4 is much better than 2 wheel drive if you can afford it.
And finally, don't forget to get a good travel insurance policy, which will give you and your family peace of mind, and take a look at our Africa section for more tours, trips and volunteering placements in this beautiful continent.