Gladiator Self Drive
Waterberg, Etosha, Damaraland, Swakopmund, Sossusvlei, Luderitz & Fish River
This 14 day camping self-drive tour offers a variety of Namibia's main tourist hotspots, with the added attraction of venturing deep into the stunning countryside, interspersed with a few nights on the coast. The northern leg starts when you leave your accommodation in Windhoek (or the airport if you decide to start the self-drive on the day you arrive) and heads towards Waterberg Plateau which supports over 200 species of bird including black eagles and Namibia's only breeding colony of Cape vultures. There are several short, self-guided bush walks and two longer hikes for the energetic.
Next up is o Etosha National Park one southern Africa's most important game reserves with an outstanding wildlife menagerie. Home to 114 mammal species, 340 bird species, 110 reptile species, 16 amphibian species and believe it or not 1 species of fish! After 2 days of game drives and spotlit waterhole wildlife viewing, your journey continues into a fascinating and weather-beaten semi-desert area called Damaraland.
Damaraland is home to Namibia's highest mountain, the white lady rock painting & thousands of Bushman engravings, a pointed inselberg, a petrified forest and a towering finger of rock. A welcome break from driving in Swakopmund follows with its iconic jetty, adrenalin sports, great restaurants and timeless Germanic architecture. Two nights here allow time for relaxing or joining some of the many adrenalin activities is optional.
The southern leg heads south towards the beauty of the Namib Desert, the breathtaking Fish River Canyon and a night under the stars in the tranquil Kalahari Desert, before returning to Windhoek. Even Russell Crowe would find this self-drive tour a challenge!
In good rainy seasons (such as 2011) the clay pan better known as Sossusvlei fills with water, however this is unusual and most visitors can expect to find it dry and completely devoid of water. Sossusvlei and the surrounding Namib Desert Dunes are a photographers dream and walls around the world are adorned with images from this area.
Luderitz offers historical buildings and national monuments, as well as a visit down memory lane to the once thriving diamond community of Kolmanskop(now an abandoned ghost town). Round off your coastal visit with a relaxing Sedina Boat Cruise with only the wind and a dolphin or two for company.
The Fish River Canyon is part of a nature conservation park. Those still with a bit of stamina and energy may want to spend a bit longer in Namibia and tackle the 86km (four day) Fish River Canyon Hiking Trail, one of the most famous hikes in Southern Africa.
While it is possible to book this itinerary 'as is', all our self drive safaris are customisable. We can add or delete days, change the accommodation used and generally design the tour to suit your individual requirements. If you do not like the idea of driving yourself, ask for details for this itinerary to become a guided safari.
- Day 1: Windhoek - Waterberg
- We start your Namibian adventure with an easy 300km drive, the majority of this is on good tarred road followed by a short 24km section of gravel driving. Once you pass through the town of Okahandja the landscape becomes flat and the road is straight - pretty much the only notable geographical feature along this section of the road are the Omatako Mountains. Clearly these mountains have made quite an impression on Namibian's for several centuries as the Herero word 'Omatako' is translated as 'bum' (or 'butt' for our American readers).
On reaching the Waterberg, settle into your accommodation and then scramble up to the top of the Plateau and enjoy the magnificent views of the surrounding plains. A few buck species inhabit the slopes of the mountains, but the real game is on top. The top of the plateau is a wildlife reserve and hosts several endangered species including rhino, sable & roan antelope. Unfortunately (for tourists, not for the animals) the dense bush makes this area unsuited for game viewing, and although there is a guided game drive we recommend you give it a miss - there will be plenty of time for game viewing in Etosha.
Camping: Waterberg Camp
- Day 2: Waterberg - Etosha Park
- From Waterberg it is about a three hour drive through the towns of Otjiwarongo, Otavi and Tsumeb to the Etosha Park. Otjikoto Lake, just north of Tsumeb, is a popular stop for lunch, or you could decide to push on and enter the park via the von Lindequist gate as soon as possible. The chances are that immediately on entering the national park you will start to see interesting wildlife - so covering even the shortest distance can be a rewarding and time consuming business. Do remember that you have to be inside the Namutoni gates before sunset - otherwise you face the prospect of a fine, or even having to sleep in your car with the animals as your companions.
- Day 3 & 4: Etosha Park
- It is really worth waking early and heading out on your game drive as soon as the gates open at sunrise. Animals are most active in the cool of the day (early morning & late afternoon) and in order to maximise your chances of good viewings it is worth imitating their behaviour. The roads in Etosha are unsealed gravel roads but are in reasonable condition - and the general tourist behaviour is to drive between various waterholes searching for animals.
As the day gets hotter head for shade, and lunch, at one of the parks three camps, Okaukuejo, Namutoni or Halali. When things start to cool down again head out for another game drive. With two full days in the park you should have sightings of most of the parks inhabitants (although be warned the cats are notoriously hard to find - and of course what you see is determined by luck and more importantly your ability to spot wildlife)
The waterhole at Okaukuejo is spot lit to allow for night game viewing, so after dinner head down to the waterhole and wait for the wildlife to come to you.
Campsite: Okaukuejo Campsite
- Day 5: Etosha - Damaraland
- Hopefully by now you will have seen everything the park has to offer and are ready to move on. From today onwards the geographical features you encounter will become more striking as you head into the Namib Desert.
Leaving Etosha via the Andersson gate head south to the Town of Outjo and from there westwards to Khorixas. Those interested in geological matters may be inclined to take the short detour from the main road to visit the Vingerklip (Rock Finger). From Khorixas continue westwards until you reach the Petrified Forest, here you will need to pay for a local guide to show you the remains of million year old petrified tree trunks (interesting, if not exactly riveting stuff). Luckily the highlight of this part of the trip is still to come - from here head to Twyfelfontein, this world heritage site has an extremely high density of bushmen rock engravings. After hiring a local guide you will be shown some of the more striking of these petroglyphs.
Leaving Twyfelfontein drive south towards the Brandberg Mountain, this is the highest point in Namibia. You will be camping at a lodge in this area of Damaraland.
Camping: Brandberg Rest Camp
- Day 6: Damaraland - Swakopmund
- A short drive followed by a slightly longer walk will bring you to the 'White Lady' rock painting. For many years it was speculated that this Bushman painting was a depiction of a European woman (it seems to have escaped those doing the speculating that the drawing was done thousands of years before Europeans visited the southern part of Africa, and even more worryingly close inspection of the drawing seems to indicate it is not female!)
From the Brandberg you begin driving towards the coast, and after 130km jarring kilometers (this road is often very corrugated) you will arrive at Henties Bay. Here turn northwards along the Skeleton Coast and head for the seal colony at Cape Cross. Despite this being one of the smelliest places in Namibia the seals make for a fascinating time. when your senses can no longer take the pungent smell of seal hop back in your car and drive down the coast, back through Henties Bay and then a further 70km to Swakopmund. As the weather in Swakopmund can be a bit damp (or very windy & hot) we think it best not to camp for the nights we are here, so instead have chosen a guest house which offers good value for money) On arrival in check into your accommodation before heading out for a drink, dinner and a night on the town.
Accommodation: Alternative Space
- Day 7: Swakopmund
- There are a host of adventure activities to participate in while in Swakopmund. These range from sandboarding through quad biking to sky-diving. No activities are included in this package but they can be pre-arranged when you book this itinerary or left for you to arrange on arrival is Swakopmund
Being a German inspired town good food and beer is never hard to find, so we are sure you will find something productive to do!
Accommodation: Alternative Space
- Day 8: Swakopmund - Sossusvlei
- Today you have a drive of around 300km's which will take you around 4-5 hours. Your route will take you across the gravel plains of the Namib Desert and through the Kuiseb & Gaub passes. Aim to arrive at your accommodation in the late afternoon,
- On arrival at Sesriem Campsite, which is also the entrance to the Namib Naukluft Park and the dunes, check in at reception and set up your camp. This evening you could decide to have sundown drinks at the nearby petrified Elim dune
Camping: Sesriem Campsite
- Day 9: Sossusvlei
- If you are an early bird and are fascinated by the idea of being at Sossusvlei for sunrise have a word with the park staff to find out at what time the gate opens (normally about an hour before sunrise) and head out towards the dunes as early as you can. For those more inclined to sleep and less fussy about having to be in the dunes for sunrise still try to get an early start as the dunes are best experienced before the sun reaches it zenith.
The first major dune you will encounter goes by the imaginative name of Dune 45 - many people choose to stop and climb this dune but we suggest you continue onwards towards Sossusvlei. Park at the the 2x4 car park (unless you have a 4x4 vehicle this is as far as you can drive), Sossusvlei is a further 4km from here but you are already amongst fairly large dunes. The walk along the dry river bed into Sossusvlei is lovely but for the very unfit or terminally lazy there are 4x4 shuttles from the car park to Sossusvlei.
Deadvlei, so named because it is a large pan with sculptural dead trees, is close by and definitely worth a visit. When you have had enough sand - head back to your vehicle (there really is no shame in taking the shuttle back - the sand is likely to be hot, and the walk less pleasant than the one in the cool of the morning)
This afternoon you can relax around the campsite pool before heading to the nearby Sesriem canyon.
Campsite: Sesriem Campsite
- Day 10 & 11: Sossusvlei - Klein aus Vista
- Today is a long drive of around 450km - and you will traverse most of southern Namibia, so it is best to get an early start. The length of the drive is made up for by the fact you are driving through some of the most beautiful desert scenery imaginable. As Luderitz is a very windy place and the only campsite in town is on the extremely windy island (Shark Island is linked to the mainland via a cause-way) we have decided it is prudent to camp at the beautiful Klein Aus Vista Campsites (around 125km inland). There is plenty to do at Klein Aus Vista and of course a day trip to Luderitz is also possible.
On a visit to Luderitz there is plenty to do including driving along the rugged coast-line to Diaz Point, Agate Bay and GrusseBucht; visiting the ghost town of Kolmanskop; taking long walks along the coast; or joining an early morning boat cruise.Klein Aus Vista is a beautiful area for hiking and is famous as for being the area where the Namib Desert Feral horses can be found
Campsite: Klein Aus Vista - Desert Horse Inn
- Day 12: Luderitz - Fish River
- Today you will head back into the interior driving along a good tarred road. As you near the town of Aus keep an eye open for the wild horses of the Namib Desert. At the settlement of Seeheim turn south towards the Fish River Canyon. You will be camping at Hobas which is very close to the main look out point over the canyon.
- Day 13: Fish River - Kalahari Desert
- Heading north from the Fish River you begin to enter the Kalahari Desert the small red dunes are punctuated by long golden grass. Many buck and bird species can be found in Namibia's 'second' desert. This is an area often overlooked by tourists but the beauty and tranquility of the area is amazing.
Campsite: Anib Lodge
- Day 14: Kalahari Desert - Windhoek
- On the last day of the trip you head northwards back to Windhoek. Your route leads you through the village of Rehoboth before you finally arrive back in Windhoek. If you are flying out tonight you can leave your vehicle at the airport however we can also book you accommodation in Windhoek if you require
- All your meals and activities as specified.
A welcome pack including maps and vouchers for the places that you'll be visiting.
See the individual lodges for precise inclusions & exclusions
A 24 hour emergency assistance phone number
- Vehicle & Fuel
Park entrance fees (these need to be paid on arrival).
Tips and gratuities (which are optional).
Any meals or activities not specified.
See the individual lodges for detailed inclusions & exclusions.
- Although we have excluded the cost of renting a vehicle from the quoted rate we are happy to advise you on the best possible vehicle and arrange a rental for you. For an idea of what is available have a look at our car hire in Namibia section
3 Days - Visits Sesriem & Sossusvlei in the Namib Desert
4 Days - Game viewing in Etosha National Park
10 Days - Waterberg, Etosha, Damaraland, Swakopmund & Sossusvlei
14 Days - Waterberg, Etosha, Damaraland, Swakopmund, Sossusvlei, Lüderitz, Fish River Canyon & Kalahari Desert