Namibia

When We Were There: April 15-25, 2009

Places We Visited:
Fish River Canyon, Aus, Sesriem/Soussevlei, Namib-Naukluft Park, Swakopmund, Etosha National Park, Tsumeb, Caprivi Strip.

View all of our posts about Namibia here.

Exchange Rate: $1 = 8.5 Namibian Dollars
See a breakdown of our Namibian budget here.

WHAT WE DID

Fish River Canyon
The second largest canyon in the world, behind Arizona’s Grand Canyon, Fish River Canyon is a sight to behold. We hiked along the rim and returned in the evening to watch the sunset over the canyon. There’s a multi-day hiking trail through the canyon that looks pretty amazing, but unfortunately for us, it wasn’t opening for a few more weeks (it’s seasonal due to the rains).

Aus
This tiny town is home to a large herd of wild horses, which we were lucky enough to see grazing and romping around. we also went for a hike through the arid landscape, up a small mountain for the sunset. On the way between Fish River Canyon and Aus, we made a small detour to visit the Quiver Tree Forest, which was very picturesque.

Sesriem/Soussevlei
The place to come to see the dunes of the Namib desert, Soussevlei is an amazing landscape of bright red sands, which change shades in the various lights. We rose early in the morning and climbed Dune 45 to watch the sun rise over the desert. We then went out to Dead Vlei and Soussevlei, where we hiked up another dune and explored the crazy landscape.

Naukluft Mountains
We camped out and spent time hiking through this beautiful park near Soussevlei. The scenery is spectacular, and there are a couple of great trails. We wish we could have stayed longer to do some of the longer distance hikes.

Swakopmund
This German-style town was quite the change of pace after many days and nights in the Namibian wilderness. We caught up on Internet, checked out the shops, ate some good food, and did all the typical town things.

Etosha National Park
The main game park in Namibia, Etosha wowed us with its endless views across the pans and its great wildlife. We got lucky with the cats spotting both cheetahs and lions, and we enjoyed the large herds of more common animals. The floodlit watering holes were amazing.

Tsumeb
An overnight spot between Etosha and the Caprivi Strip, Tsumeb turned out to be a nice little town. We enjoyed chatting with the locals at the pizza place and the beer garden, as well as strolling through the nice park and checking out the craft market. I wouldn’t really recommend the Tsumeb Cultural Village, however, as it was just a bunch of huts with no real explanations, artifacts, or anything of interest.

Caprivi Strip
This area was very different from the other parts of Namibia that we had seen, with people living very traditional lives. We enjoyed the scenery and stopped to check out a few villages and chat with some local kids.

WHERE WE STAYED
Accommodation options in Namibia are not cheap. There’s upscale or there’s camping for the most part, though we did find a couple of backpackers. Camping in the parks is not cheap either, but it’s often the only real way to experience them. Reservations for park campgrounds should be made in advance through Namibia Wildlife Resorts.

Fish River Canyon Campground: A rather small campground, it was a bit overcrowded as multiple groups shared many of the spots. After sunset we came back to find our chosen spot packed, so we picked up the tent and moved it to the back to a much quieter area. The sites have grills and water taps, but are pretty basic. The bathroom facilities were adequate with flush toilets and hot water. There was a pool that looked inviting though we never made it in. 400 Namibian Dollars for two people to camp, first come first served.

Klein-Aus Vista (Aus): This lovely small hotel had rooms a bit out of our price-range, but also offered a very nice campground. The spots were large and shady with grill, table, and tap, as well as great views. The bathrooms were clean with flush toilets and hot water, and there was a kitchen clean-up area. 150 Namibian dollars for two people to camp.

Sesriem Campground: The campsites were large but weren’t much more than sandy spots to pitch a tent. There was a shop, pool, and restaurant in the campground. Bathrooms were adequate. This campground is extremely overpriced, but it’s the only place you can stay and make it out to the dunes in time for sunrise because of what time the gates open to the outside world. 600 Namibian Dollars for two people to camp.

Naukluft Campground: This small campground is cozy with beautiful views of the surrounding sites. Fairly basic, the campground does have showers and toilets, though no electricity so take your flashlight with you.

Desert Sky Lodge (Swakopmund): A very pleasant place, Desert Sky Lodge offered comfortable, large doubles with private baths for less than it cost to camp in the parks. There was a kitchen and dining area, as well as both indoor and outdoor common areas. 300 Namibian Dollars for a double with private bath.

Kai Oms Backpackers (Outside Etosha): Located in the town nearest the west entrance to Etosha, Kai Oms was very basic, offering a (comfortable) bed in a concrete room. The shared bathrooms were clean, but not particularly convenient to the rooms. The kitchen was large and well-equipped, and the owners friendly. They had just taken over and were making improvements. 360 for a double with shared bath.

Okaukuejo Campground (Etosha): The camping spots were pretty basic, though they did have a small table to eat at, and were shaded. The bathroom facilities were clean wtih flush toilets and hot waters. There was also a small area in which you could cook and clean your dishes. Campground facilities included a shop, restaurant, and pool. The watering hole here was the best. Very cool. When I’m rich, I’ll return to this campground and get one of the waterfront chalets with the balconies overlooking the watering holes.

Namutoni Campground (Etosha): This campground was adequate but seemed a bit in need of renovation. The sites were fine as were the bathrooms, but everything seemed a little tired. The watering hole was not as good as the one at the other camp.

Mousebird Guesthouse (Tsumeb): With friendly staff and comfortable rooms, this was a nice backpackers. The kitchen was large and well-stocked, and there was a comfortable common area with DSTV. If full, the bathroom could get crowded, but we didn’t have a problem. 300 for a double with shared bathroom.

Tambuti Lodge (Caprivi Strip): A bit of a splurge, this lodge on the banks of the Okavango River was still a good value. Each room was its own building. We had a huge bedroom with sitting area and table, and another room with a clawfoot tub, and then a regular bathroom. The porch had lovely sunset views out over the river. 612 Namibian Dollars for the chalet with breakfast.

PLACES WE ATE

As with South Africa, we cooked for ourselves quite a bit as the grocery stores were good and we were often camping. Other times we’d just pick up pies or other quick and cheap to-go foods.

Solitaire Restaurant (Solitaire): The name of the town is telling as this gas station, restaurant, and convenient store all-in-one is pretty much the entire town. The shop does really nice sandwiches, something that can be quite hard to find. Jeff went for a burger that was also good. 65 Namibian dollars for lunch for two.

Kuchi’s Pub (Swakopmund): In the very German-incluenced town of Swakopmund, we thought it only appropriate to eat German food. We were hoping to go to the Brauhaus, but it was closed on the day we were there. So instead we went to the pub run by the same people, and had schnitzel and beer. It was pretty authentic and tasty. 200 Namibian dollars for dinner for two.

Village Cafe (Swakopmund): We enjoyed a big, tasty, Western-style breakfast at this cafe with really good hot chocolate to boot. 100 Namibian dollars for breakfast for two.

Pizza Place (Tsumeb): I’m not sure this place has a name, but it’s the only combo bakery/pizza shop/video rental store in town. The pizza is made by the Italian wife, and the pastries by her German husband. Both will talk your ear off, but they’re interesting and funny and the pizza’s pretty good. 130 Namibian dollars for lunch for two.

Baobob Cafe (Caprivi Strip): We enjoyed the wraps at this restaurant as well as the wi-fi access. 120 Namibian dollars for lunch for two.

NOTES
*Namibia is practically impossible to get around if you don’t have a car or aren’t on an overland tour. We highly recommend renting a car. The overland tours we encountered seem to be on a race, speeding from one sight to another with time enough for a photo and that’s it.

*If you want to get too far off the beaten track, then rent a 4WD. Roads in Namibia are rough, almost exclusively gravel. Off-the-beaten track, the roads are sand. We made it in our little Kia with only one flat tire, but we had to go pretty slow. If I were to travel exclusively through Namibia, I’d splurge on one of the trucks with the pop-up tent on the roof and all the camp gear you need.

*It’s uncommon to find Internet at any hotel or hostel or campground, but in the towns you can find Internet cafes with pretty good connections. Also a number of restaurants have wireless connections. The access isn’t free, but you can buy pre-paid cards that are a pretty good deal.

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