Whether you're hoping to spot some hippos in the Okavango Delta, scope out seals at Cape Cross, or eye the elephants in Etosha National Park, you're sure to get in some quality animal viewing on this three-week trip. The self-drive safari route takes you across the wide range of terrain in Namibia and Botswana to visit multiple protected areas and introduce you to just some of the many flora and fauna that southern Africa has to offer.


  • Visit the marine life in Walvis Bay Lagoon
  • Explore the rock formations of Damaraland
  • Safari in Etosha & Chobe National Parks
  • Meet the Hoba meteorite, the world’s largest
  • Scope out the wildlife in the Okavango Delta

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Windhoek Windhoek
Day 2 Road Trip from Windhoek to Sossusvlei Sossusvlei
Day 3 Explore Sossusvlei Sossusvlei
Day 4 Road Trip from Sossusvlei to Swakopmund Swakopmund
Day 5 Explore Swakopmund Swakopmund
Day 6 Road Trip from Swakopmund to Damaraland Khorixas
Day 7 Road Trip from Damaraland to Etosha National Park Etosha National Park
Days 8-9 Game Drive in East Etosha National Park Etosha National Park
Day 10 Road Trip from Etosha to the Caprivi Strip Caprivi
Day 11 On Safari in Caprivi Caprivi
Day 12 Caprivi Strip to Chobe National Park Chobe National Park
Days 13-14 On Safari in Chobe National Park Chobe National Park
Day 15 Chobe to Makgadikgadi Pans Makgadikgadi Pans
Day 16 Makgadikgadi Pans Makgadikgadi Pans
Day 17 Makgadikgadi Pans to Moremi Game Reserve & Okavango Delta Okavango Delta
Day 18 On Safari at Moremi in the Okavango Delta Okavango Delta
Day 19 Okavango Delta to Central Kalahari Game Reserve Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Day 20 On Safari at Central Kalahari Game Reserve Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Day 21 Central Kalahari to Windhoek & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: 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 mi/ 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 feet (400 m), and provide photography enthusiasts plenty of opportunities for incredible shots. 

Day 3: Explore Sossusvlei

Don't forget your water bottle
Don't forget your water bottle

Spend the day exploring Sossusvlei. The name translates to "dead-end marsh," from the Afrikaans vlei (marsh) and the Nama sossus ("no return" or "dead-end").  It's a drainage basin with no outflow for the ephemeral Tsauchab River; however, the river seldom flows this far, and the pan is bone-dry most years. During the rare rainy seasons, the river fills the pan, transforming it into a briny desert marsh. When the pan fills, it can hold water for up to a year, providing visitors incredible views of the glassy water reflecting the orange-red dunes. During these times, migrating birds arrive in giant flocks, making for great bird watching.

Despite the area's harsh desert conditions, a wide variety of plants and animals have adapted to life here. Unique characteristics and behaviors allow life to flourish: for example, the endemic Namib Desert Beetle has evolved behavior to collect early morning fog into drinking water through bumps on its back.  Other wildlife includes arthropods, small rodents and jackals, antelope, and ostriches.

Nearly all of the landscapes surrounding Sossuvlei are easily accessible, as all but the last 3 miles (5 km) of the 40-mile (65 km) drive to the vlei is asphalted. Shuttles provide access for the remaining stretch for visitors without a 4WD vehicle. Make sure to wear sunscreen and bring a hat and plenty of water when you visit the dunes, as the sun here can be quite intense.

Day 4: 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 5: Explore Swakopmund

Distinctive architecture
Distinctive architecture

Spend the day exploring Swakopmund. The city, which lies at the mouth of the Swakop River, was first occupied by the Herero people (also known as Ovaherero,) who named the location Otjozondjii—a name which derives from the seasonal river floods which carried dead wildlife to the ocean. During the Herero Genocide of the early 1900s, the city operated a concentration camp for thousands of Herero people.

These days, the quiet resort town has a distinct German heritage with German still a prominent language, a throwback to the town's 19th-century role as the main harbor for Imperial German Southwest Africa. There's plenty to do: visit the Swakopmund Museum to see exhibits on cultural and geologic history, browse the shops and cafés downtown, or explore marine life with a trip to the National Marine Aquarium

Get out in nature with a trip to the Walvis Bay Lagoon—a Ramsar wetlands site—where thousands of flamingoes, pelicans, and other waterfowl feed in the nutrient-rich shallows. For a view of it all, enjoy a scenic flight over the Skeleton Coast or a boat cruise on Walvis Bay to see dolphins, sea lions, and whales. Thrill-seekers will love quad biking over the dunes, which lie just outside of town. 

End the day with dinner and a stroll on the beach to catch the sunset.

Day 6: Road Trip from Swakopmund to Damaraland

Cape Cross seal colony
Cape Cross seal colony

In the morning, drive from Swakopmund to Damaraland, a five-hour (270 mi/ 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 rhinos, 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 feet (2,573 m).

Day 7: 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 mi/ 340 km) to the north. Drive through scenic Damaraland to reach Etosha's southern gate, reaching the park in the 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.

Plan your trip to Namibia
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Days 8-9: 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.

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

Day 10: Road Trip from Etosha to the Caprivi Strip

Elephant herd
Elephant herd

The full-day  (520 mi/ 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 11: On Safari in Caprivi

Nothern carmine bee-eaters
Northern carmine bee-eaters

The Zambezi Region (formerly known as the Caprivi Region) is renowned for its wildlife viewing and often compared to the Okavango Delta in Botswana, with easier accessibility and more affordable stays. Enjoy game viewing in Mahango Game Park, river cruises and water safaris, bush walks and game drives, as well as excellent birding and fishing.

Day 12: 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.

Days 13-14: On Safari in Chobe National Park


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 15: 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 deserts in between, which together form the great Makgadikgadi Pans area. Of these, the largest individual pan is about 1,900 square miles (4,921 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 16: Makgadikgadi Pans

African aloe vera
African aloe vera

The landscape is an arid, salty desert where animals and plants struggle to survive under the harsh, hot winds of the dry season. With only saltwater available, the only plant life that survives the dry months is a thin layer of blue-green algae. However, the arrival of the rains signals the beginning of one of the world's biggest wildlife migrations, bringing vast herds of wildebeest, zebras, migratory birds, and the predators that prey on them. The pan is also the home of the only two breeding populations of Greater Flamingos in southern Africa.

Spend your time here enjoying game drives, bird watching, and exploring the town of Gweta.

Day 17: Makgadikgadi Pans to Moremi Game Reserve & Okavango Delta

Okavango Delta from above
Okavango Delta from above

Drive three hours (1320 mi/ 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 18: On Safari at Moremi in the Okavango Delta

Yellow-billed stork
Yellow-billed stork

Spend the day on safari at the Moremi Game Reserve, which sits on the eastern side of the Okavango Delta. The combination of year-round swamps and seasonal floodplains leads to unexpected wildlife and geographic features. Mopane woodlands and acacia forests give way to floodplains and lagoons. Most prominent in the area, Chiefs Island and Moremi Tongue lie in the middle of the delta. The bulk of the reserve—roughly 70%—is situated in the Okavango Delta, with only 30% located on the mainland.

The Okavango Delta sits at the terminal point of the Okavango River, where the water flows into a tectonic trough in the central part of the Kalahari Basin. The water in the delta does not connect to any sea or ocean and ultimately evaporates into the atmosphere. It's the world's largest inland delta and exists as a result of seasonal flooding.

From January to February, the water drains and evaporates. From March until June, a surge of water from the Angola highlands spreads slowly over the delta. The flood peaks between June and August during Botswana's bone-dry winters. During this time, the delta swells to three times its usual size, attracting animals from all over and creating one of Africa's highest concentrations of wildlife.

Visitors to the area can expect to see animals year-round. Explore the waterways by motorboat to see thousands of breeding herons and storks. Head to the thickly forested upland savannahs to see rare African wild dogs and leopards, cheetah, jackal, impala, red lechwe, and other animals. African elephants, giraffes, hippos, tsessebe, sitatunga, blue wildebeest, black and white rhinos, warthogs, and chacma baboons all call the area home. Several hundred species of birds also live here, including Pel's fishing owl, crested cranes, the lilac-breasted roller, hammerkop, and sacred ibis.

Spend your days exploring the area on game walks and relaxing in the peaceful countryside. See wildlife on game drives and motorboat trips or relax by the swimming pool. 

Day 19: Okavango Delta to Central Kalahari Game Reserve


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 mi/ 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 20: On Safari at Central Kalahari Game Reserve

African wild cat
African wild cat

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is one of Africa's more remote game reserves, with large swaths inaccessible to visitors. The park only gets a handful of travelers per year, making it the perfect destination for travelers who want to get off the beaten path. Compared with the abundant wildlife of the Okavango Delta, the wildlife viewing in the Central Kalahari can seem sparse. Springbok, oryx, kudu, eland, and giraffe roam the area, and leopards and lions prey on them. Because of the lower density of other predators, the Central Kalahari is an excellent place to view cheetahs.

Day 21: Central Kalahari to Windhoek & Departure

Windhoek residences
Windhoek residences

A half-day (330 mi/ 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.

More Great Namibia Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Namibia? Check out these other Namibia itineraries, with outdoor adventures, self-drive road trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 


Map of Namibia & Botswana Safari Road Trip - 21 Days
Map of Namibia & Botswana Safari Road Trip - 21 Days
Written by Sonya Pevzner, updated Sep 12, 2022