Namibia, Self Drive Safari – Part 3, Week One
Namibia, Self Drive Safari – Part 3, Week One

Namibia, Self Drive Safari – Part 3, Week One

Welcome to the final parts of this series! If you haven’t, check out parts one and two. After all the planning that went into this trip, I want to show you all the fruits of my labor. I can say hands down my two week trip to Namibia was one of the greatest adventures of my life thus far. What a beautiful, friendly, amazing country!

I have divided this last part into two because I want to give you all the juicy details. The first part will cover the first week while the second part will cover week two. I will take you through my itinerary as I designed it and we’ll talk about what went according to plan and what went a little awry…(flat tire in the desert anyone?). But before we get to that, our first week in Namibia was full of nature and wild animals thanks to Etosha National Park! Let’s get into it!

Day 1, 2, 3 – So Much Flying

First, let me say I love flying. Honestly! I think it is such a privilege and technological wonder to be able to step into a metal cylinder, fly at cloud level without dying, and land anywhere in the world in a matter of hours, or at most days. That being said, wow was this a long flight! Our first leg was about 14 hours from the mid-US to Doha, Qatar. This was the longest flight I have ever been on. We flew with Qatar Airways, which I must say provided one of the better flight experiences I have had (even in economy, where we were).

We left around 6 pm on Day 1 and arrived in Doha around 4 pm on Day 2. Talk about jet lag. As soon as we tumbled off the plane, I knew booking the hotel room at the Oryx Hotel inside the airport had been a great idea. We had about nine hours until our next flight, which would take us from Doha to Windhoek in about nine hours of flight time.

We checked into the hotel room and got settled before going to grab a quick bite for dinner. I cannot overemphasize how much I love the Oryx Hotel and the whole idea behind it. Nothing is better than a fresh bed and a hot shower after 14 hours of flying. And I didn’t even have to leave the airport! Looking back, Zandt wished we had taken a quick layover tour of Doha – and I do wish I had gotten to see the city. But honestly at the time that hotel room was my own little slice of paradise.

Oryx Hotel
Oryx Hotel
Oryx Hotel

On Day 3 around 2 am we left Doha for Windhoek, arriving on Day around 11 am. Again we were quite tired but we managed to pick up our truck from Advanced Care Hire Namibia and drive just a few miles to the local Hilton. Driving on the opposite side of the road was certainly a shock, especially after 23 hours of flying, but Zandt managed like a champ. Exhausted and eager to be off into the wild the next day, we ordered some food once we got to the hotel, ate a quick dinner, and immediately passed out.

Day 3 – Windhoek to Etosha Safari Lodge

Because we had limited time in Namibia, we did not stay longer in Windhoek then our first night. When morning came we headed to the truck (which I nicknamed Tony for no reason) and got ready to set out. We had two main goals for the day – stock up on groceries (we weren’t sure what we would find once we left Windhoek) and make it the Etosha Safari Lodge, which would be our accommodations for the night. The Etosha Safari Lodge is located right outside the gates of Etosha National Park and a great starting place for any Etosha adventure. The drive would take us about four hours based on my google calculations but we got an early start just in case.

Our first shock came immediately, as we left the Hilton and began driving through town to the nearest grocery. Apparently the grocery we had picked was in a highly trafficked area – the streets were packed with cars and pedestrians. Street attendants were everywhere trying to direct traffic and help (or simply convince) people to park and shop. It was loud and busy and bustling. It was sensory overload for Zandt and I, who were honestly still probably a little shell shocked from 23+ hours of travel. I’ll be honest here guys – we simply gave up and drove out of Windhoek immediately! We decided we would find another grocery, hopefully in a less busy area (which eventually we did). The moral of this story being: preparation is key! Know what you might expect before you hop in the car and drive.

After we secured groceries, we happily started driving north to the lodge. Our nerves, which had been keyed up through exhaustion and culture shock (again can I say what a great job Zandt did driving on the opposite side in a new city) began to settle as we drove through what seemed like vast unpopulated areas. The roads were good quality though, and we made it to the lodge easily.

As soon as we turned into the drive, we were greeted by a group of giraffes! The adventure had truly begun! After I fawned over the giraffes (from the car) for an embarrassing amount of time, we went up to the lodge and checked in. Our stay that night was beautiful and the lodge became one of our favorite places we stayed.

Warthog Street Sign
Warthog street sign
Etosha Safari Lodge
Etosha Safari Lodge, main room
Etosha Safari Lodge Dining
A guest at dinner

Day 4, 5, 6 – Inside Etosha National Park

On day 4 we entered Etosha National Park! Our plan was to drive a little each day and stay at different lodges inside the park. We planned to spend the first night at Namutoni Lodge in the eastern part of the park, the second night at Halali Lodge nearer the southern middle and our final night camping on top of the truck at Olifantsrus Campsite. Zandt had convinced me to do at least one night of actual camping even though I was terrified of being eaten.

Map of Etosha
We spent Day 4 at Namutoni, Day 5 at Halali and Day 6 at Olifantsrus Camp (not pictured further east)

We entered via the Anderson Gate which is the southern entrance, about midway through the park. Each day we would spend about 5-8 hours driving through the park and working our way to our next lodge. This sounds like a lot of driving but remember – this was Etosha! Wildlife was everywhere and I could not have asked for a better self-drive safari experience.

Overall the experience in Etosha was easy and one of the highlights of all my travels thus far. The roads were easy to drive and not highly trafficked. The animals were abundant – there was a drought at play so the water holes were popular. The weather was hot and dry. I have never ever experienced dryness as I did in Namibia. Water was precious and important! We spent our days cruising through the main drives, excitedly pointing out zebras, elephants, and giraffes. On our very first day, we were lucky enough to spot a rhino! Even luckier, we spotted lions on our last morning right outside Olifantsrus. We were so lucky we even saw two shy cheetahs one hot afternoon after noticing a cluster of other vehicles pulled over on the side of the road!

He looks like he is smiling
A hungry giraffe
Not going to mess with him

As we drove through Etosha, I was awestruck at these animals and nature itself. What a wild, beautiful, and sacred place. To get to see these massive elephants, graceful springboks, and fierce lions in the natural habit – unrestrained by cages or walls was truly something special. I felt small and fragile and human in the best way.

Each of the lodges and campsite was clean and comfortable. I did not get eaten while camping 🙂 Everyone we encountered was extremely welcoming and shared a smile and kind word. The food at the lodges was generally simple fare – rice and game meat for dinner, delicious omelets at breakfast.

Etosha Lodge
A lodge in Etosha
Jacuzzi at Honeymoon Suite
Jacuzzi at one of the lodges
Rooftop Camper
Our rooftop camper

After spending the night of Day 6 at Olifantsrus Campsite, we prepared to leave Etosha on Day 7. I was incredibly sad our time at this amazing place was over, but excited for what was in store next: a trip down the Skeleton Coast, a 3 day stay in the beach town of Swakopmund, and later adventures around the great dunes surrounding Sossusvlei.

Check out the final part of this series here!

— Lauren

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