Note: Our trip highlights are presented in the chronological order that we visited them, using a 3-star rating system ★★★
Fish river canyon ★
This was the first major attraction of our trip, which visited on Day 2, and it did not disappoint. Although it was perhaps not quite as impressive as the grand canyon in the US, it is still an awe-inspiring experience as it is the largest canyon on the African continent. There are several viewpoints within a few kilometers of each other that are linked both by road and walking trails. We definitely recommend walking between the main two viewpoints to get different viewpoints of the canyon.
Although there are steps that go down into the canyon, it is unfortunately not permitted to go down unless you signed up in advance for the 5-day hike travelling along the canyon river. (note: some high-end lodges on the other side of the canyon apparently organize day trips down in the canyon).
The Canyon Roadhouse and its unique decor of old automobiles (both outside and in the restaurant itself) make for a great stop for lunch on the way back from the canyon.
This definitely is a photographer’s paradise set in a completely unique environment! Formally a German diamond mining town in southern Namibia, Kolmanskop is now a ghost town where the buildings are slowly being swallowed by sand.
We definitely recommend arriving early in the morning. We arrived shortly after opening (8 a.m.), and had the place nearly to ourselves for a good hour, after which the tours buses started arrive just prior to the start of the guided tours. Although it was overcast during our visit, the morning light is apparently superb.
Sossusvlei, Deadvlei and the giant red dunes – Namib desert ★★★
This place is simply surreal. Giant sand dunes all around, surrounding the Deadvlei pan, this a unique place like no other in the world where Acacia trees that died over 600 years ago are preserved by the lack of humidity and insects.
We were actually the first to climb Big Daddy (the largest dune in the area) in the morning, which was amazing. It felt like we had the place to ourselves. We climbed about halfway up Big Daddy, when we noticed the sunlight start to hit the pan below, so we decided to take a bee line down the hill to start photographing in Deadvlei.
We strongly recommend staying at the Sesriem campsite, as lodging there gives you privileged access to Sossusvlei for an hour, prior to when the outer gates open for those staying outside Sesriem (you also get an extra hour in the evening).
Cheetah sanctuary near Solitaire ★★
We never thought that we would get to see these impressive felines from such a close distance. This organized visit allows you to visit a family of seven cheetahs (mother and her six grown up cubs) from within the confines of the safari jeep. They live in a large fenced-in lot as these cheetahs are not fit to be released in the wild, having initially been raised in captivity. This activity was booked through our lodge, the Solitaire Desert Farm. At the time of our visit, tours ran daily from 9h00-10h00 a.m..
Kayaking with the seals in Walvis Bay ★★★
This was such a fun experience. The seals were so playful and were constantly hovering around the kayak. It was rare that there weren’t a dozen seals within paddle distance.
This was one of the few organized activities we did during the trip. We did a kayak (morning) and Sandwich harbor (afternoon) combo tour. The kayak portion of the trip was organized by Pelican Point Kayaking, whereas the 4×4 expedition to Sandwich harbor tour was organized by Sandwich Harbor 4×4.
4×4 Expedition to Sandwich Harbor ★★
This was just loads of fun. We sat back as passengers while an adventurous driver drove us up and down giant sand dunes along the coast. The adventure was neatly capped off with fresh oysters and champagne on top of one of the giant dunes.
Etosha National Park (NP) ★★★
Words cannot do this National Park justice. The perfect place to do a self-drive safari where you are allowed drive throughout this fantastic park filled with outstanding wildlife (Giraffes, Elephants, Zebras, Wildebeests, Springboks, Lions, and so many more).
We started off with a bang. No more than 10 min. after crossing the entry gate to the NP, we were greeted by a herd of elephants that decided to cross the road no more than 20 ft in front of our car. If anybody is worried about not seeing animals, don’t be (especially during early spring). We saw hundreds of zebras, springboks, and wildebeests. Probably close to a hundred elephants (including nearly 50 at the same time at the Moringa waterhole). Also a few dozen giraffes, impalas, kudus, and jackals. We also were saw six female lions, including a few that gave us a show by running after giraffes to chase them away from a waterhole. We also saw a few rhinos, but only under the floodlight waterhole of Okaukuejo at night. Only the leopard really escaped us.
Our favorite waterholes were: Okaukuejo, Nebrownii, Moringa, Rietfontein, and Gemsbovlakte. We strongly recommend using a map of the waterholes to help plan your navigation throughout the park. Note that we mostly covered waterholes in the central/eastern portion of Etosha NP, between the Okaukuejo and Halali camps. They are situated approximately 1.5 hr from each other with more than a dozen waterholes in between. The Etosha lookout spot just east of Halali is also worth a stop to get a sense of the vast emptiness of the Etosha pan. It’s also one of the few spots (excluding the camp sites) where it’s permitted to exit your vehicle and walk around.
We usually went for game drives (self-drive) in the morning (8 a.m.-2 p.m.) with snacks to keep us going, and spent our late afternoons by the Okaukuejo waterhole with a few cold beers before eating dinner at the camp restaurant. The Okaukuejo waterhole is just next to the fenced campsite, where several park benches are laid out in a perfect position to observe the large variety of animals that come along for a drink. It is also lit after dark for some nighttime viewing of the variety of nocturnal animals that come out to drink (e.g. rhinos, small wild cats)
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