Namibia has long been on the top of my list of places to go. My sister was there many years ago and went on about how beautiful a country it is. We went to Namibia this September and it did not disappoint! As soon as we stepped out of the plane it was clear to me that this would be an amazing lifetime experience.
Namibia is a land of seemingly endless space and magnificent unspoilt scenery and, with a population of only about 2.2 million, it is one of the world’s least populated countries. It is home to the world’s oldest desert, the Namib, old colonial coastal cities on the Atlantic, rocky landscapes and ancient rock engravings in Damaraland, as well as an abundance of wildlife at Etosha National Park. A network of gravel roads makes it the perfect destination for a great road adventure which allows you to absorb the extraordinary variety of landscapes and wildlife.
Our African road adventure started at Windhoek airport where we picked up our Ford Ranger – this proved to provide a lot of comfort on the endless gravel roads. The first drive was rather short and took us to The Olive Tree Exclusive on a hillside in Klein Windhoek. The Olive Tree Exclusive boutique hotel offers seven suites each with it’s own individual design, reflecting the different areas of Namibia. We stayed in the gorgeous Otavi Room with views towards the Eros Mountains and overlooking the olive tree plantation below.
After a long night time flight with a stop in Johannesburg, we relaxed on the terrace, chilled at the pool and took advantage of the three course meal that had been included in our booking. The food was incredible, we especially enjoyed the starter – beetroot, berry and goats cheese ensemble with caramelized nuts, however, the main and desert did not disappoint either! I opted for the slow-roasted Kalahari lamb shoulder on puff pastry with brandy cream and green figs followed by muscadel poached pear with vanilla mascarpone and chocolate crumble – after that meal I crumbled into bed and slept like a little baby (well after I had a sip of the complimentary port in our room). Little extras like that make a stay much more enjoyable – the room also had a Nespresso machine, tea and milk.
The Olive Tree Exclusive, Restaurant
After a good night’s sleep, we had the Olive Tree’s fantastic breakfast that came on a very impressive three tier stand. The management and staff of the hotel were very friendly and attentive. We had a little chat with the hotel’s manager that morning and were told that the stunning photographs featured throughout the place are by the South African photographer Micky Hoyle.
Our first long drive was from Windhoek down south to the NamibRand Nature Reserve – we took the scenic route via Spreetshoogte Pass which was about a 6 hour drive.
We had a quick stop at the public viewpoint on Spreetshoogte Mountain Pass with views over the scenic, seemingly endless landscape of the Namib Desert.
After hours of driving we were rewarded with our first sight of Namibian wildlife!
Wolwedans, Dunes Lodge
We stayed at Wolwedans, Dunes Lodge nestled in the NamibRand Nature Reserve and perched on top of a dune plateau. It was definitely worth the long drive – wherever you looked it was just like turning pages in a coffee table book.
After we had been shown around the property and had unpacked, we were taken on a scenic drive through the Nature Reserve.
Rudy our lovely guide pointed out these circular patches all over the landscape, nothing grows in them and no one knows the reason why. I really liked the name they gave these mysterious patches – Fairy Circles!
The main attraction of this area is the landscape and the glorious feeling of space, there isn’t much wildlife except oryx antelopes that are dotted all over the arid desert.
The highlight of our drive was a sun-downer on top of a dune – Rudy parked the 4×4 next to this beautiful tree, we walked up the dune and we waited for sun set while drinking chilled sparkling wine.
To my husbands amusement I found this little desert dung beetle that I chased with my camera.
And then there was our first unforgettable sun-set in the African desert.
Back at the lodge we got ready for dinner. We first gathered around a big fireplace for aperitifs with fellow guests and were then all led to the big dining room where guests share the same table. The food was plentiful and delicious.
The Namibian road warning signs differ slightly to the ones at home …
The whole reason why we wanted to come to Sossusvlei was to admire the blackened, dead 900 year old acacia trees of Deadvlei. They look as beautiful in real life as they do in the many photographs that I have seen of them before. Most visitors come in the early morning hours. We had the same plan in mind but since we had time after we arrived at Sossusvlei Lodge we decided to drive in to the park just to understand distances before we would come back the next morning. Unknowingly this was the right thing to do as we had the place to ourselves during the afternoon without the morning tourist crowds – we were told that it is like a shopping mall during the early hours. We decided not to come back the next morning especially as we got a small taste of how crowded it can get as a big tourist group arrived just as we left.
Deadvlei is surrounded by the highest sand dunes in the world but unfortunately we neither had the energy nor time left to climb up one of these majestic dunes as we had to leave the park before closing time. We realised too late that KulalaDesert lodge is the only lodge located within the park itself which would have freed us from the entrance and closing times of the park.
After another long, nearly 6 hour, drive we arrived in cold Swakopmund. The difference in temperature really hit us once we got out of the car – we were still dressed for the desert and here people wore winter jackets and hats! Swakopmund is Namibia’s ‘summer capital’ – Windhoek residents come down here over the summer to escape the heat.
The restaurants in Swakopmund were fabulous – fish is always that much fresher and better when the sea is that close so we always went for the sea food. We can highly recommend the Wreck, Jetty 1905 which is located on the historical Jetty itself and the the Tug Restaurant which is on an old steam tug!
We left cold Swakopmund to head towards Damaraland and even though that the drives are long, you never get bored watching the landscape change. This time we drove into the rugged and rocky landscape of Damaraland. We stayed at the gorgeous Mowani Mountain Camp with stunning views over the plains. Built among the boulders, it blends perfectly into the natural surroundings.
One of the main attraction of Damaraland are the ancient rock engravings at Twyfelfontein, declared a World Heritage Site in 2007.
After an eventful day we relaxed at Mowani’s viewpoint for a sun-downer. The beautiful white trees (in the picture on the left) are called ‘Ghost Trees’.
The food and service at Mowani were exceptional!
We were about to get to the part of our great road adventure that I anticipated the most – the incredible wildlife of Etosha National Park. We stayed at Ongava Lodge (we tried to book ourselves in to Little Ongava which was sadly fully booked) and were greeted by this majestic Giraffe on arrival.
We were so incredibly lucky on our first guided tour – the first animals we came across were these two sleepy heads! I can not even come close to describe the feeling of seeing lions in the wild – only a few meters away from where we were (hoping that the Jeep offers enough protection).
We also spotted these rare rhinos in the thicket.
From the Ongava camp which is located to the west of Etosha park we drove through the park to the East to our next accomodation, Onguma The Fort. Wow, what an incredible and stunning place! Every detail at this place was just perfect from the small ‘pool’ to cool off your feet to the restaurant overlooking their own waterhole to your own little private fort.
On entering we had the most opulent hand cleaning ritual.
The food was exceptional as well – the most amazing thing, however, was the male lion who decided to come to the waterhole while we had breakfast!
The wildlife of Etosha National Park is so rich that I won’t be able to share all of the photos in this entry just these ‘few’ below:
Spending time in Etosha park means spending countless hours waiting for the different animals to appear at the waterholes which is a joyous spectacle.
Our road adventure came slowly to an end – we left Onguma The Fort to head back to the Olive Tree Exclusive, where we stayed for our last night. It was a magical holiday full of new impressions and memories!