From windswept dunes to remarkable wildlife encounters, 4x4 adventures and desolate scenery, here’s our list of the best things to do in Namibia.


Namibia feels like a new country.

With independence only achieved in 1990, it has a youthful vigour in an ancient land. A nation discovering their own identity, establishing the rules, and only just starting to realise their potential. It makes Namibia a sheer pleasure to travel around – a place that’s just beginning.

Finding the best things to do in Namibia took us along expansive horizons to dramatic scenery; along bumpy unkempt roads to walk with cheetahs; over rolling sand dunes while locals shared stories of a nation balancing tourism with old ways of life.

As a roundup of everything we think is great about this country, here’s our personal highlights of the best things to do in Namibia.

BEST THINGS TO DO IN NAMIBIA

Sossusvlei  / Eating a picnic lunch straddling Big Daddy

Etosha / Witnessing the mass of game at Ozonjuitji m’Bari waterhole in Etosha

Pelican Point / Keeping the seals entertained kayaking at Pelican Point

Sandwich Harbour / Riding the dunes on a Sandwich Harbour 4×4 tour

Damaraland / Driving to Grootberg Lodge through Damaraland

Okonjima / Walking side by side with a cheetah at Okonjima Lodge

Swakopmund / Signature Gin & Tonic in Swakopmund

Dolomite Camp / Stargazing with a beer by the fire at Dolomite Camp

1 / EATING A PICNIC LUNCH STRADDLING BIG DADDY

A riverbed – dry for many years – cuts a road through the imposing sand dunes at Sossusvlei. Large flowing shapes curve their way up on either side of our car, their colours muted in the early morning light ready to burst into brilliant orange under the hot Namibian sun.

The sand originated in the Kalahari Desert where it was carried out to sea by the Orange River and pushed north by strong currents, before being dumped back on land. Over the years, the wind has created folds of precise sand dunes, home to tiny beetles carving intricate patterns, and a go-to destination for quintessential Namibian scenery.

Equipped with a cheese sandwich, we set off on foot to climb Big Daddy – the largest of the dunes which overlooks Deadvlei, a parched white pan scattered with fossilised trees. As our shoes filled with sand, we rose to the summit and walked along the narrow ridge that provides 360-degree views. In each direction, layers of sand curled into geometrical contours, undulating towards the never-ending horizon. As we tucked into lunch straddling Big Daddy we agreed: easily one of the best things to do in Namibia.


Info / Sossusvlei is located in the southern part of the Namib Desert in the Namib-Naukluft National Park. The drive to the dunes from the entrance (Sesriem Gate) takes about 1 hour. The road is accessible in a 2WD vehicle, however, a 4×4 is required for the last section to the carpark near Big Daddy or a frequent shuttle service is available. Entry cost: N$80 per person + N$10 per car. + N$170 per person for the shuttle. Time: Gates open at sunrise.

2 / WITNESSING THE MASS OF GAME AT OZONJUITJI M’BARI WATER HOLE IN ETOSHA

Spending 4 days in Etosha gave us the chance to see some fantastic wildlife scenes. Our days were spent searching for an elusive lion as it hid in the shade or a giraffe as it sauntered across the plains searching for food. But one of our top moments in Namibia was at Ozonjuitji m’Bari.

Ozonjuitji m’Bari is an artificial waterhole that sits midway between Dolomite Camp and Okaukuejo. This vital source of water attracts wildlife from near and far. Springbok, zebra and oryx in their hundreds squabble over the best spot to stand, dozens of ostriches elegantly respect the perimeter, wildebeest lumber around aimlessly, elephants muscle their way in and giraffes stand tall overlooking the scene. It’s like Noah’s Ark departure lounge.

Sitting in the car eating stale cheese sandwiches and biscuits, we watched as new throngs of animals marched in, slowly approaching the water, analysing the dynamics and deciding on the best place to position themselves. Cliques were formed, intimidation tactics were deployed, a bit of bullying was used and there was a fair amount of posturing. Ozonjuitji m’Bari is a rare opportunity to catch a plethora of wildlife and observe the relationships that play out in this harsh environment.


Location: see map here.

3 / KEEPING THE SEALS ENTERTAINED KAYAKING AT PELICAN POINT

The instructions on our kayaking tour were clear: give the seals a little time to get used to you, then engage in their playful escapades. We were told they like their bellies rubbed and enjoy chasing oars, but fingers should be kept away from their sharp teeth in case they accidentally take a nibble.

Pelican Point, just outside Walvis Bay is home to one of the largest colonies of Cape Fur seals in Namibia. With no predators in the area, the seals haven’t developed any sense of danger around other animals, tourists included. They also stick close to the shore, so very little rowing is required; most of your effort is used waving oars around to attract their attention.

Lucky, because it’s difficult to row while somethings chewing on your oar. After getting a few metres away from the beach we were met by families of seals keen to greet the new arrivals. They’d chase an oar, bob up for a photo opportunity, roll over to expose their tummies in the hope of getting a rub, then chase the next kayak that seemed more appealing. The seal kayaking tour at Pelican Point was a thoroughly entertaining morning in Namibia.


Info / Kayaking tours leave from the Waterfront in Walvis Bay, booking in advance is required. Cost: N$700 per person. Time: 7:45-12:00 Sep to April; 8:30-13:00 May to Aug.

4 / RIDING THE DUNES ON A SANDWICH HARBOUR 4X4  TOUR

As we raced over sand dunes our driver Joost explained life in the desert. Pointing out holes dug by black-backed jackals in desperate search for water, and plants that springbok eat making their meat taste so bad they never appear on menus. Never missing a beat, Joost took us up over sand dunes then back down ridiculously steep sides as the sand rumbled and roared beneath us.

Sandwich Harbour is the wild and dramatic location where the dunes of Sossusvlei drop into the South Atlantic Ocean. The harbour is only accessible on a 4×4 tour under the expert navigation of a skilled driver. It’s exciting, entertaining and educational all in one roller coaster afternoon.

But the real star of the day is the scenery. After a couple of hours driving over dunes, we stopped at a lookout point to indulge in champagne and local oysters while taking in the views all around us. Huge curls of sandy coloured dunes crash into the wild ocean below, the strong Atlantic winds blur the dunes like an impressionist artwork. It’s an otherworldly location and a top thing to do in Namibia.


Info / Sandwich Harbour 4×4 departs from Waterfront at Walvis Bay. Advance bookings are requiredCost: N$1490. Duration: 4 hours. Note: You can book both the Pelican Kayak Tour and the Sandwich Harbour 4×4 as a combo here allowing you to do them in one day.

5 / DRIVING TO GROOTBERG LODGE THROUGH DAMARALAND

It would be fair to say the Skeleton Coast was a slight disappointment to us. Not because it didn’t have appeal, more because the superlatives streaming from our guidebook had our expectations pegged slightly too high. But setting off from Terrace Bay at the far northern end of the coast, our perceptions improved with each passing mile.

The Skeleton Coast is a bleak, grey landscape, where flat rocky plains provide a huge expanse of nothingness and a tough existence for life. But, as we made the long drive away from the coast and into Damaraland, the nothingness underwent a transformation. Grey gravel turned to red rock and the long endless flat horizon became cut by deep valleys and high mesas. Desert grasses and silvery shrubs pushed through the sand providing sustenance for the springboks, oryx, jackals and giraffes that slowly appeared.

Over a 2-hour drive through Damaraland, the remarkable transformation was a revelation and, for us, one of the best things to do in Namibia. It ended perfectly at Grootberg Lodge, a community run hotel perched high on a plateau. Following an afternoon game drive, we pulled up by the edge of the plateau and sipped our Gin & Tonics as the sun set on this remarkable landscape.


Info / Terrace Bay Lodge is a government-run camp, bookings can be made here. Grootberg Lodge is run by the local conservancy, all details hereDrive: 3 hours, 15 minutes, Directions: download our map.

6 / WALKING SIDE BY SIDE WITH A CHEETAH AT OKONJIMA LODGE

One of the challenges facing Namibia is the balance between ensuring a decent livelihood for farmers while embracing tourism. Big popular game – the ones tourists flood in to the country to see – regularly kill the local farming livestock.

Okonjima Lodge, the home of AfriCat Foundation, is rising to this challenge by fencing off the wildlife in a massive park (22,000 sq km), thereby protecting other farmers livestock and creating revenue for the local community from tourism. They take baby cheetahs, whose parents have been killed by farmers protecting their cattle, and offer them sanctuary in the park.

On an early morning drive, we went out searching for these cheetahs. All are geotagged in Okonjima, but this doesn’t make them easy to find. Our guide was tracking them with what looked like an old-school TV antenna. Eventually, when the beeping from the TV antenna was just right, we left the vehicle and quietly progressed towards our target. With instructions to respect them as wild animals, and keep some distance, we crept to within 20 feet of the cheetah and walked with him as he went about stalking his territory. Definitely one of the best things to do in Namibia.


Info / Okonjima Lodge is located in Okonjima Nature Reserve, the home of AfriCat. Accommodation bookings can be made here.

7 / SIGNATURE GIN & TONIC IN SWAKOPMUND

Swakopmund is steadily growing as a tourist destination and getting a name for itself as the adventure capital of Namibia. We were in the area to do both the Sandwich Harbour tour and the Seal Kayaking tour, both of which were excellent. But we were also impressed with the town.

It has a reserved vibrancy. A town full of locals who are eager to learn new skills in the tourism industry and embrace new prospects. While the number of German-inspired bland eateries still outnumbered more traditional African offerings, one place stood out for its local charm.

Bar Zonder Naam has a sleek modern, African feel with a large selection of local beers and gins. The smiling friendly staff are happy to offer recommendations for their numerous gin offerings. My pick was the local gin served with ice cubes infused with rosemary and orange. It didn’t really work because I downed it before the ice melted, so no additional flavour was released. But I did love the effort they went to, and their cool, relaxed surroundings.


Info / Bar Zonder Naam is located at 2 Tobias Hainyeko, Swakopmund. Find them on Facebook here.

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8 / STAR GAZING WITH A BEER BY FIRE AT DOLOMITE CAMP IN ETOSHA

It was a mere 172 km of road but it took us 9 hours to drive. The quality of game viewing on our way from Okaukuejo to Dolomite Camp in Etosha National Park was so good that we found ourselves stopping every 5 minutes. Lions hiding from the midday sun, zebra and giraffe grazing on what little plant life exists, and a pair of rhinos slowly ambling towards a waterhole.

Buzzing from our excellent day spotting wildlife, we arrived into the warm welcome and trendy surroundings of Dolomite Camp, an expertly designed camp on one of the few hills in Etosha. The balcony from our bush chalet opened up to the plains of the national park which stretched out below us under the expanse of an endless horizon.

But feeling tired from our drive but exhilarated by our surroundings, we rugged up, and headed to the camp fire as the cold night desert air quickly surrounded us. With beers in hand, we sat watching the burnt orange sky turn into a black canvas pierced by a mass of stars. It was a moment of pure perfection and one of our best things to do in Namibia.


Info / Dolomite Camp is government run, up-market camp. Cost: N$1820 – N$3230. Location: download our map. Bookings can be made here.

MORE READING

For more wild Africa adventure, read about our safari experience at Kruger National Park. For more of our top moments on holiday, check out our roam page or read our 5 day Cape Town itinerary to help inspire you African travels.

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Our collection of the best things to do in Namibia. / Top moments in Namibia / #sossusvlei #skeletoncoast #etosha

Our collection of the best things to do in Namibia. / Top moments in Namibia / #sossusvlei #skeletoncoast #etosha

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