Namibia has the world’s largest populations of cheetah and of black rhinos living outside of protected areas, and if you're lucky you may be able to spot some of them on this 13-day trip. Drive yourself across the country's extensive parks, through neighboring Botswana, in search of wildlife both secretive and easily spotted.

Highlights

  • Visit the marine life in Walvis Bay Lagoon
  • Explore the rock formations of Damaraland
  • Wander the Makgadikgadi Pans
  • Meet the Hoba meteorite, the world’s largest
  • Scope out the wildlife in Chobe National Park

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Namibia! Arrive in Windhoek Windhoek
Day 2 Road Trip from Windhoek to Sossusvlei Sossusvlei
Day 3 Road Trip from Sossusvlei to Swakopmund Swakopmund
Day 4 Road Trip from Swakopmund to Damaraland Khorixas
Day 5 Road Trip from Damaraland to Etosha National Park Etosha National Park
Day 6 Game Drive in East Etosha National Park Etosha National Park
Day 7 Road Trip from Etosha to the Caprivi Strip Caprivi
Day 8 Caprivi Strip to Chobe National Park Chobe National Park
Day 9 On Safari in Chobe National Park Chobe National Park
Day 10 Chobe to Makgadikgadi Pans Makgadikgadi Pans
Day 11 Makgadikgadi Pans to Moremi Game Reserve & Okavango Delta Okavango Delta
Day 12 Okavango Delta to Central Kalahari Game Reserve Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Day 13 Central Kalahari to Windhoek & Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Namibia! Arrive in Windhoek

Park and garden
Park and garden

Welcome to Windhoek! Arrive at the airport, then pick up your rental car along with all your travel documents. You'll wrap up all paperwork by early afternoon, then spend the rest of the day relaxing and settling in. 

In the evening, head into town for dinner at one of Windhoek's cozy restaurants.

Day 2: Road Trip from Windhoek to Sossusvlei

And down the dunes
And down the dunes

After breakfast, hit the road for the six-hour drive to Sossuvlei (226 miles/ 365 km away.) Along the way, you'll pass by grand scenic passes and the infinitely vast Namib Desert, which stretches along the base of a mountain. Stop for lunch at Spreetshoogte Pass before continuing to Sossuvlei. 

Sossuvlei is located in Africa's largest conservation area, the Namib-Naukluft National Park. The area is a large salt and clay pan surrounded by towering red dunes that create striking views in the morning and evening. The dunes here are some of the world's highest, reaching nearly 1,312 ft (400 m) and provide photography enthusiasts plenty of opportunities for incredible shots. 

Day 3: Road Trip from Sossusvlei to Swakopmund

Old jetty
Old jetty

Wake up in time for one last sunrise at the Sossusvlei dunes, then start the drive to Swakopmund, a five-hour drive (250 miles/ 400 km) to the north. As you drive along the coast, the scenery gradually changes from mountains and dunes to rolling grass-covered hills, dotted with stands of acacia trees. 

On the way, watch for the endemic Hartmann's mountain zebra and other Namibian wildlife. Stop in the town of Solitaire (about halfway) for some homemade bread and an ice-cold drink. Another 1.5-hour drive down the road is the scenic Kuiseb Canyon—stop here for a picnic in the shade and to take in the views. Springbok and ostrich roam the vast gravel plains of the Namib, and welwitschia plants cover the arid ground. 

After a beautiful drive, arrive in Swakopmund in the early afternoon. 

Day 4: Road Trip from Swakopmund to Damaraland

Cape Cross seal colony
Cape Cross seal colony

In the morning, drive from Swakopmund to Damaraland, a 5-hour (270 miles/ 430 km) drive to the north. The drive along the Skeleton Coast to Damaraland is full of incredible views, from grassy plains and dry riverbeds to coastal panoramas. The route takes you past Cape Cross, home to the world's largest breeding Cape fur seal colony in the world. The sound of 100,000 seals can be deafening, but the sight of the animals is worth the stop. 

Continue to Cape Cross Lodge or a picnic spot for lunch, then keep driving north. Other stops along the way include lichen fields and the salt pans—an excellent birding spot.

Arrive at Damaraland in the afternoon. Here, wind and rain have spent eons carving enormous granite outcrops and dolerite dikes into incredible formations. Endless open skies and geologic formations add to the region's beauty. 

Spend your time in Damaraland enjoying game drives on private reserves in search of the famed desert elephants, black rhino, giraffes, Hartman''s Mountain Zebras and other herding animals. Explore the region's geologic formations, including the Twfylefontein Rock Paintings, Vingerklip, the Petrified Forest, and the Organ Pipes. For a view of the area hike up Brandberg Mountain (Damara: Dâures; Otjiherero: Omukuruvaro), Namibia's highest point at 8,442 ft (2,573 m).

Day 5: Road Trip from Damaraland to Etosha National Park

Why did the springbok cross the road?
Why did the springbok cross the road?

Head out in the morning for Etosha National Park, located three hours (210 miles/ 340 km) to the north. Drive through scenic Damaraland to reach Etosha's southern gate, reaching the park by early afternoon. Along the way, stop at the small town of Outjo for a coffee break and the Ugab Terrace for photos. 

Arrive at Etosha in time for lunch, then spend the rest of the day relaxing and enjoying the scenery. Spend the day exploring the park. Etosha has a plethora of wildlife with an estimated 250 lions, 2,500 giraffes, 6,000 zebras, 20,000 springbok, and 2,000 elephants. 

Head out for an evening game drive, then fall asleep to the sounds of the African bush at night.

Day 6: Game Drive in East Etosha National Park

Giraffes at the watering hole
Giraffes at the watering hole

In the morning, continue to the east through Etosha National Park to your next lodge. Stop at water holes along the way to catch sight of wildlife, or head directly to your lodge for a guided afternoon game drive. 

This region of Etosha is well-known for its incredible game viewing. The park's watering holes draw an astonishing variety of animals and birds from miles around, as they're the only source of water for the area. Sunrise and sunset game drives are the perfect way to see elusive wildlife like leopards, and if you spend time at the park's 30+ waterholes, you're bound to see something incredible. 

At night, listen to the sounds of the nighttime, and catch glimpses of nocturnal animals on nighttime game drives.

Day 7: Road Trip from Etosha to the Caprivi Strip

Elephant herd
Elephant herd

The full-day  (520 miles/ 840 km) drive east to the Zambezi Region requires an early start. The roads there are paved, making for a comfortable and beautiful journey.

Along the way, stop to see Otjikoto and Guinas Lakes, Namibia's only two permanent natural lakes, created by collapsed karst caves. The Hoba Meteorite, weighing more than 60 tons, lies near Grootfontein. It's the largest known meteorite of its kind in the world. 

Stop at Roy's Camp for a coffee break before continuing east. Arrive in the late afternoon in time to relax before dinner. 

Day 8: Caprivi Strip to Chobe National Park

At the watering hole
At the watering hole

Today you transfer to Chobe National Park in neighboring Botswana, a 5-hour drive (155 miles/ 250 km) away. Start the day with a drive through the town of Katima, then to Ngoma Bridge, where you enter Botswana and the national park. As you drive, the sub-tropical woodlands give way to lush, riverine floodplains where vast herds of grazing animals gather to drink. 

Pass through customs and immigration at Ngoma, then drive through the game park to your safari lodge. Check in, then head out for your first game drive around the park.

Day 9: On Safari in Chobe National Park

Grazing
Grazing

When it comes to game viewing, Chobe does not disappoint: it's home to the world's largest concentration of African elephants and many other animals. Within the park, the wildlife you see depends on the ecosystem you visit—the Chobe Riverfront in the northeast, the Savute Marsh in the west, Linyanti Swamps in the northwest, and the dry hinterland in between. 

The Chobe Riverfront is a popular destination. Safari boats travel along the river, giving guests unparalleled looks at the vast herds of elephants on the banks. By mid-morning, zebra and a variety of antelope replace the elephants. In the afternoons, massive herds of several thousand cape buffalo congregate on the riverfront. Where there are buffalo, there are predators, so look out for lions, leopards, and hyenas in action. In the water, large pods of hippos gather along the shore while African fish eagles fly over the river, hunting for their next meal. 

Nearby, the town of Victoria Falls in western Zimbabwe is a gateway to the incredible nearby waterfall of the same name. The native Lozi name for the falls, Mosi-oa-Tunya, means "The Smoke that Thunders." Here, the Zambezi River plunges over a cliff before rushing through a series of steep gorges. It's worth taking a full day to see the falls and explore the town.

Day 10: Chobe to Makgadikgadi Pans

Baobabs at sunset  in the Makgadikgadi Pan
Baobabs at sunset in the Makgadikgadi Pan

After breakfast, transfer to the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, a seven-hour (250 miles/ 400 km) drive south of Chobe National Park. Makgadikgadi Pans is a massive salt pan, situated in the dry savannah in the location of what was once Lake Makgadikgadi. It's comprised of many salt pans with sandy desert in between, which together form the great Makgadikgadi Pans area. Of these, the largest individual pan is about 1,900 square miles (4,921.0 square km).

Accommodation in the national park ranges from affordable tent camping to luxury hotels. One excellent option is Planet Baobab, which has been voted as one of the top 10 most extraordinary places to stay in the world by Lonely Planet. 

Day 11: Makgadikgadi Pans to Moremi Game Reserve & Okavango Delta

Okavango Delta from above
Okavango Delta from above

Drive three hours (1320 miles/ 193 km) northwest to Maun, then take a light aircraft flight over the Okavango Delta to your lodge, where you'll stay for the next two nights. Land at camp, then check-in for your fully inclusive stay.

Day 12: Okavango Delta to Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Wheeee
Wheeee

Take a short flight back to Maun, then pick up your car before continuing west through the grasslands of the Kalahari Plains to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, a 5-7 hour (150 miles/ 250 km) drive south (depending on how often you stop for photos.) 

Inside the park, you'll find two permanent camps, although mobile safaris are an excellent way to see the park.

Day 13: Central Kalahari to Windhoek & Departure

Windhoek residences
Windhoek residences

A half-day (330 miles/ 530 km) brings you back to Windhoek. Get an early start, as the drive will take 5-6 hours along empty roads. Drop off your rental car, then catch your connecting flight home.

Map

Map of Namibia & Botswana Safari Road Trip - 13 Days
Map of Namibia & Botswana Safari Road Trip - 13 Days