Namibia: The 1,727 km Journey

While living in South Africa, I knew I had to get to Namibia as I’ve heard it’s an incredible country. With only a few months left to live in South Africa and budgets being tight, I didn’t know if it was going to be feasible. But I realized I’m not going to be living in this region ever again and it’s a lot cheaper to get to Namibia from South Africa than from the U.S., so I decided to go for it! I told myself that I was saving money in the long run 🙂

Other than hearing good things about Namibia, I honestly didn’t know very much about the country or what to expect. I went with 5 friends, 2 of whom did most of the planning such as the route we were going to take, so I just packed my bags the night before and mentally prepared for the adventure!

I flew direct from Cape Town to Windhoek (the capital) on South African Airways and the flight was an easy 2 hours. Once in Windhoek our planned itinerary was 1 night in Windhoek, 3 nights in Etosha National Park, 1 night in Uis, 3 nights in Swakopmund, 2 nights in Sossusvlei and 1 night in Windhoek before returning home. The total journey in Namibia: 1,727 km.

Screen Shot 2014-01-18 at 10.13.51 AMWe rented a large 8 passenger VW van (emphasis on large) and after 1 night in Windhoek we got on the road headed to Etosha National Park. In Etosha National Park we stayed at Okaukeujo Rest Camp and rented a camping site. I’m starting to get slightly used to camping as living in South Africa has been my first experience with camping. It’s definitely a fun experience and I’ve learned to embrace the outdoors in a whole new way!

IMG_0436IMG_0444If you’re ever planning a trip to Etosha National Park, I’d highly recommend staying at Okaukeujo Rest Camp (they have nice rooms and lodges for those on a larger budget) as one of the highlights of the Camp is the watering hole. There is a watering hole right next to the Camp that you can venture to throughout the day and at night there are spotlights on the hole so that you can view the animals 24/7 in their natural habitat. I spent every evening at the watering hole, 1 sunrise and then periodic trips there throughout the day to see what I would wonder upon. Off the top of my head, I saw an elephant, numerous zebras springbok and wildebeast, wild dogs and rhinos. It was so fascinating to observe them there.

IMG_0443 IMG_0474 IMG_0475 IMG_0463 IMG_0465The entire stay at Etosha was very relaxing and laid back, which I enjoyed. We went on a guided sunrise drive and then we did an afternoon self drive the day before we left. Other than trying to spot as many animals as we could, we hung out by the pool and played games at our camp site. We fully stocked up on food and (more importantly) alcohol while we were in Windhoek before we got to Etosha. There is a small convenience store (with food, alcohol, ice and fire wood) inside the Camp, but we were glad that we did a big grocery shopping trip before we arrived. Our diet for the 3 days consisted of bread, peanut butter, rice, pap (pronounced more like pop – Wiki article explaining it), apples, bananas, beans, corn, rice and chakalaka. I’m going to gender stereotype and say thank goodness for the 3 guys with us who were always around to start and keep the fire going. That’s one camping skill I haven’t quite mastered yet.

The meal highlight of Etosha was the 3 course meal that the guys prepared for us girls. It included a thoughtful restaurant name (Franklin’s Beerhouse, named after Franklin the bug who wouldn’t leave our campsite no matter how hard we tried), menu with presentation for each dish, candle light, cocktails and a 5-star wait staff. They came up with this idea all on their own and were quite proud of the meal and I was pleasantly surprised with their creative genius. You gotta think outside of the box while camping!

IMG_0476 IMG_0477 IMG_0478 IMG_0480IMG_0479I’ve been on a few game drives and walks in southern Africa, but the landscape in Etosha was very different. I had also never been on a sunrise game drive, so that was something I highly enjoyed even though it was cold and I was sleepy, but it was well worth it.

After driving around for approximately an hour and seeing some of the same animals over and over, one of the fellow passengers made an amazing discovery! From a far distance, she spotted a family of lion’s resting in between bushes. Where they were was significantly off of the path. However, the guide was nice enough to break the rules and drove the truck off rode. We saw the lion’s for literally 5 seconds before we had to turn around as another car was coming and the guide didn’t want other cars to pull the same illegal move. The guide was nice enough to then be on the lookout for another 10-15 more minutes to make sure no cars were in the nearby vicinity. After he made sure we were the only car around, he did another quick trip so that we could see the lion’s up close and personal. This time, we were able to observe them for about 2 minutes and it was definitely the highlight of my day. They were so calm, yet intimidating and powerful at the same time. It was my first time seeing a whole family of lion’s.

IMG_0455 IMG_0453 IMG_0454 IMG_0452More animals…including the endangered black rhino and a giraffe carcass.

IMG_0446 IMG_0448 IMG_0449 IMG_0450 IMG_0482 IMG_0484 IMG_0485 IMG_0487 IMG_0486After we left Etosha, we headed for Swakopmund, with one night in Uis to break up the drive….