On this 13-day journey through Namibia, embark on a self-guided tour by car. You will spend time among the ancient sand dunes in Sossusvlei and experience the timeless coast of Swakopmund with its fusion of African and German influences. Ultimately, you will have access to exceptional game viewing, from the cozy Hobatere Lodge to the world-famous Etosha National Park.

Highlights

  • Explore the famed, mountainous sand dunes of Sossusvlei 
  • Discover the cultural quirks of Swakopmund and its surrounding harbor
  • Embark on a night drive to spot game at Hobatere Lodge
  • Spend four days amongst the stunning wildlife at Etosha National Park

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Travel to Namib Desert Sesriem
Day 2 Tour Sossusvlei Sesriem
Day 3 Travel to Swakopmund  Swakopmund
Day 4 Swakopmund - Self-Guided Tour Swakopmund
Day 5 Travel to Erongo Region Omaruru
Day 6 Travel to Hobatere Lodge Kamanjab
Day 7 Tour Hobatere Lodge Kamanjab
Day 8 Travel to Etosha National Park Etosha National Park
Day 9 Tour Etosha National Park - Southern Region Etosha National Park
Day 10 Tour Etosha National Park - Northern Region Etosha National Park
Day 11 Tour Etosha National Park Etosha National Park
Day 12 Travel to Okonjima  Otjiwarongo
Day 13 Travel to Windhoek  Windhoek

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Travel to Namib Desert

Namib Desert
Namib Desert

Welcome to Namibia! Once you arrive, you will pick up your personal vehicle. You will spend the evening in Windhoek, and depart in the morning for the Namib Desert.

The first part of your adventure will take place in Sossusvlei. Here, you will find the iconic red sand dunes of the Namib. The clear, blue skies contrast with the giant red sand dunes to make this one of the natural wonders of Africa–and a photographer’s paradise.

You will visit some of the main attractions in Sossuvlei, including:

  • Dune 45, a star dune that is famous for its size.
  • Hidden Vlei, an unearthly, dry dune that is low and open in its landscape.
  • Big Daddy, the tallest dune in the area and measures more than 1,000 feet high.
  • Dead Vlei, which is known for its white clay pan.

Additionally, popular stops in the area to visit include the Sesriem Canyon and Namib-Naukluft National Park, where the mountains of the Namib meet the plains.

Day 2: Tour Sossusvlei

Sossusvlei
Sossusvlei

Good Morning! Early on, you will take a trip into the Namib-Naukluft National Park to the Namib Sand Sea. This area has some of the highest known sand dunes in the world! Sossusvlei is situated at the end of the Tsauchab River, a dry riverbed that only flows in the years of exceptional rainfall.

The Namib-Naukluft National Park is a protected area located on the Atlantic Coast, where you can explore the surrounding desert and mountains. Eventually, you will reach the Namib Sand Sea, where you will find a parking area. If you have rented a sedan, you will not be able to continue beyond this point, because an all-terrain vehicle is needed to navigate the next 3 miles of the Sossusvlei Dune belt. This last stretch can easily be reached on foot and can be incorporated into visiting either the Nara Vlei or Hidden Vlei, both found in the area.

While you are on your visit, take in the history. Sossusvlei is a word from Nama descent, which, when directly translated means, “a place with many endings.” Many visitors to Namibia say that there no part of the desert more stunning than Sossusvlei, with its monumentally high dunes and shadows of twisting crests that continually change with the day. You will witness the magnificent mountains of sand. With warm tints ranging from pale-apricot to brick-orange to deep-red, the colors contrast vividly with the dazzling white surfaces of the clay pans at some of the dune bases.

Once you have had your fill of exploration, you will return to your car, or take a shuttle back to the parking lot. You will then make your way back through Namib-Naukluft National Park toward the exit. In the afternoon, you have the option to visit the Sesriem Canyon, approximately 2 miles away. The Sesriem Canyon is a small-yet-picturesque canyon carved over millions of years around the Tsauchab River.

The remainder of the afternoon will be yours to relax and enjoy the splendor of the desert scenery with its unique fauna and flora. This is not a game-rich area, due to the harsh environment; however, the game that you may spot is dramatized by the contrast between desert and the magnificent animals like springbok, oryx, and ostrich, who survive on–and exist among–these arid plains.                                                         

Day 3: Travel to Swakopmund 

Swakopmund
Swakopmund

You will depart from Sossusvlei in the morning and drive through the small settlement of Solitaire. Make sure to stop off in Solitaire for some of the iconic apple strudel! You can fill your gas tank, too, before arriving in Swakopmund in the afternoon. You will spend two nights in this famous coastal town.

Founded in 1892 as the main harbor for German Southwest Africa, Swakopmund is often described as being “more German than Germany.” Now a seaside resort, Swakopmund is the capital of the Skeleton Coast tourism area and offers plenty to do. The quirky mix of German and Namibian influences, colonial-era buildings and the cool sea breeze make it a very popular and fun destination.

On your first day, you can rent a Land Rover and drive across the Welwitschia Plains, visit the Swakopmund Jetty and watch the sunset on the pier, and more. After sunset, enjoy a dinner featuring the local flavors. Suggestions include Brauhaus, known for its authentic German fare, and seafood-heavy The Tug.

Day 4: Swakopmund - Self-guided tour

Flamingos in Swakopmund
Flamingoes bathing in the sea in Swakopmund

Good Morning! You will have another day in Swakopmund to explore the town. Some activities to consider include:

  • National Marine Aquarium of Namibia: Peruse the native marine life, and enjoy the walk-through tunnel featuring a live scene from the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Woermannhaus: This old colonial home is a museum that holds a collection of artifacts, as well as beautiful views of the coastal town from the tower overlook.
  • Living Museums: Go on a day trip curated by the Living Culture Organization, where you can take an organized tour of the everyday life of African tribesmen.
  • Swakopmund Museum: This is a quaint location where you can learn about local biology, ecology, the colonial period, and the nearby tribal history.

Additionally, make sure to take advantage of the coastal surroundings. You can book private tours to go whale and dolphin watching or watch the locals fish for sharks!

Day 5: Travel to Erongo Region

Spitzkoppe
Ached rock formations at Spitzkoppe

After a leisurely breakfast, you will depart from Swakopmund and continue to the central parts of Namibia. Your next stop is the Erongo Region, which is near Omaruru.

The Erongo Region is one of the largest of the 13 regions found in Namibia and is named for the majestic Erongo Massif mountain range that dominates the area around Karibib, Omaruru, and Usakos. The region reaches up to the Atlantic Ocean and includes the coastal towns of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, its northern boundary ending at the Ugab River where the Skeleton Coast National Park begins its stretch to Angola.

Once you arrive, get acquainted with the area. Once you arrive, get acquainted with the area. You can visit Bull’s Party on the Amieb, which is a collection of granite rocks and makes for a beautiful photo opportunity. Then, make your way to Phillipp’s Cave, which features iconic rock paintings from thousands of years ago. Finally, you can stop by Spitzkoppe, which is a majestic mountain known as the “Matterhorn of Namibia.” You will be spending the night here in the Erongo Region, where you can enjoy the vast mountain views.

Day 6: Travel to Hobatere Lodge

Himba Woman
A Himba tribeswoman 

Today’s journey takes you into the Koakoveld, where you will spend the next two nights at the very special Hobatere Lodge. The Kaokoveld is a dry, mountainous, and relatively undeveloped region that takes in the harsh beauty of the Skeleton Coast and the coppery sands of the northern Namib Desert. The area is inhabited by three main ethnic groups–the Damara, Herero, and Himba people–each with their unique customs, traditions, and rituals.

At the Hobatere Lodge, you will be able to coexist alongside nature. You will stay in a chalet with a thatched roof for the next two nights. Other guests that frequent this destination include birdwatchers and photographers. On your first day here, feel free to take advantage of the amenities on site. You can go for a swim in the pool, enjoy a drink with views of the surrounding wildlife, and relax by the fireplace.

Day 7: Tour Hobatere Lodge

Southern Yellow-Billed Hornbill
Keep an eye out for the Southern yellow-billed hornbill in the area

Good Morning! Enjoy a scrumptious, wholesome breakfast on the veranda or deck of the restaurant. As a guest of Hobatere, you have the opportunity to experience different game drives in open vehicles and optional nature walks with well-knowledgeable rangers. Begin the day by embarking on an early-morning journey to view the nearby wildlife. Then, your guide will meet you at the lodge to explore the area on foot. You will have an opportunity to see and learn about the local flora and fauna, and perhaps encounter the shy wildlife living in the area.

When you are back at Hobatere Lodge, take some time to yourself. Then, as night falls, you can elect for a night drive to view the many nocturnal animals, such as aardvark, cape fox, bat-eared fox, aardwolf, and genet.

Following an active day of spotting game, relax in the lodge, and take advantage of the accessible accommodations before your epic, four-day safari tour begins.

Day 8: Travel to Etosha National Park

Animals at Etosha National Park
Animals congregating at a waterhole in Etosha National Park

Once you have had breakfast, prepare to depart from Hobatere Lodge. You will begin the first part of this four-day leg to Etosha National Park. You can drive around the park or within the park to find your camp (driving around will provide a shorter route). Keep in mind, the park gates open at sunrise and close at sunset.

As you begin your exploration of the southern portion of the park, you will enter around Anderson’s Gate. The nearest camp to Anderson’s Gate is Okaukuejo Rest Camp. Most visitors pass through this camp, because of its floodlit waterhole and easy-to-spot stone tower. You will find essentials here like gas and a general shop, a restaurant and bar, and a swimming pool to unwind in after a hot day.

By the watering hole, you can expect busy wildlife activity beginning early in the day. At night, the illuminated space hosts plenty of bigger game, including the endangered black rhino, along with lions, elephants, and leopards.

In terms of onsite accommodations, you can choose between waterhole chalets, bush chalets, and double rooms. Once you are settled, take some time to learn the grounds. Since you will spend your first two days exploring the southern region in your own vehicle, you can remain at this camp for two nights.

Day 9: Tour Etosha National Park - Southern region

Zebras at Etosha
Zebras hydrating at sunset

It is time to prepare your vehicle for a full day of exploration in the park! Make sure you review the rules of the park before you begin your touring. You must:

  • Remain in your vehicle at all times when on game drives.
  • Obey any and all traffic signs posted within the park.
  • Be able to show a valid driver’s license in order to drive within the park.
  • Leave all wildlife and plants as is; none can be removed from the park.
  • Confirm waterholes are open for viewing and remain silent when present.
  • Not feed any wild animals.
  • Not bring firearms or projectile/shooting weapons into the park.

In addition, make sure you do not have any pets in the park. Littering and motorcycles are also not permitted.

The waterholes that are located near camp include Ombika, Gemsbokvlakte, Olifantsbad, and Aus.

Once you’ve had your fill of exploration for the day, you can head back to your camp. Relax by the pool, and then enjoy dinner at the restaurant and a drink at the bar. Don’t forget to visit the floodlit waterhole at night!

Day 10: Tour Etosha National Park - Northern region

In the morning, it will be time to pack up your belongings and head out for more park adventuring. You will be headed from the southern part of the park to the northern area, and there is much to see along the way!

As you begin your travels, you can work your way to the Etosha Pan. The salt pan is so large, it can even be seen from outer space! Here, you are likely to cross paths with wildlife, thanks to the many waterholes. During the rainy season, you can expect to see the active flamingo population, along with many of the 340 bird species native to the area. The Etosha Pan is actually known as a large flamingo breeding ground!

Continue your drive north to the Halali Camp. Here, you can take a break for lunch, as well as stock up on any necessities at the shop. You will also be able to gas up your vehicle here. You can keep exploring as you travel north. King Nehale Lya Mpingana Gate is the northernmost gate, and you will prepare to exit here for the night, where you will settle at a lodge outside the park.

Day 11: Tour Etosha National Park

Giraffes at Etosha
Giraffes gathered by the waterhole 

This morning, you can regroup at your lodge outside of the park before you enter for your final day of discovery. Since you are adventuring on the northern portion of the park, you will enter through King Nehale Lya Mpingana Gate.

There are plenty of new waterholes to view today, including Stinkwater, Tsumcor, Aroe, Groot Okevi, and Klein Okevi.

After a full morning of game spotting, you can head over to Onkoshi Camp, where you can enjoy a nice lunch and views of the pan–which may be saturated with flocks of flamingos. After lunch, you are free to take a break from your own navigation and hop into a guided, private tour accommodation, if you’d like. Or, you can continue driving around the grounds to your heart’s content until the park closes at sundown.

 You will spend your final evening in Etosha at your lodge parked outside of the gates.

Day 12: Travel to Okonjima 

Okonjima
A leopard on the Okonjima Nature Reserve

After breakfast, you will depart for the Otjiwarongo area, which is the capital city of the Otjozondjupa Province of Namibia. Although the city is located near some of the game reserves, it is the biggest business center of the province and has a population of 70,000 residents.

Once you arrive in town, head to Okonjima Nature Reserve, which is home to the AfriCat Foundation. This is a family-run lodge famous for its leopard and cheetah sightings that happen at the onsite safaris. The mission of AfriCat Foundation is conservation, while also ensuring the survival of Namibia’s animals in their natural habitat.

You will be staying the night at this incredible locale, where you will have access to night drives, along with opportunities to hike, bike, and birdwatch.

Day 13: Travel to Windhoek 

Masks in Okahandja
Wooden African masks in Okahandja

After breakfast, you will depart from Okonjima and make your way back to Windhoek on a 4-hour drive. Along the way, you will pass through the small town of Okahandja. Okahandja is one of Namibia’s oldest established settlements and is the administrative center of the Herero-speaking people. Many of the former Herero leaders are buried here, and an annual procession through the town to the Herero graves commemorate those who died during the wars against the Nama and Germans. Optional excursions on your route include a visit to the open-air Woodcarvers Craft Market and the Herero Graves.

After your town visit, continue on your way to Windhoek, where you can either travel directly to the airport for your afternoon flight or stay an extra evening in Windhoek at a guesthouse.