Thank you to everyone who assisted us with comments and suggestions on this forum to make our trip to Namibia a success! I have given a brief report of our experience during this time and I am happy to answer any questions you may have! Lodges will be reviewed separately.
Arrival -21st April 2018
We arrived in Namibia on Saturday the 21st of April 2018 around 11am and cleared immigration fairly fast as ours was the only flight at the time. I did notice that several banks including Western Union was open at the time and did not appear to be too busy. As we had already paid for accommodation, we had decided to bring whatever cash we needed for fuel and other expenses in Rand to save time. My Australian Visa card did not go through at a couple of lodges (Grootberg and Eagle Tented Lodge to be specific) hence was glad we had cash! Our travel agent Atelier Africa had arranged a Toyota Prado 4x4 through Asco Car Hire and Richard was waiting for us when we came out of immigration to transfer us to Asco.
Asco Car Hire
Was very professional and took time to answer our million questions – we have been to Africa a few times, however this was our very first self drive and the drivers were a bit apprehensive! Although we had paid the agent for a fridge and this was on our voucher, we were told that we could only have a cooler box as there was no connection for a fridge – not sure where the miscommunication took place but all went well as we did not have room even for a cooler box when we packed in 5pax luggage!
Stopped en-route to buy a few essentials like water and snacks before arriving at our first night stopover Gocheganas Lodge. (reviewed separately) We arrived in time for the afternoon game drive – did not take much time to track down the almost tame white rhinos – the driver knew exactly where to find them. While it was not the same feeling that we had encountering a rhino in the wild, it was still good to observe them at close quarters!
22nd April 2018
Left after breakfast for Le Mirage Lodge (2 nights) in Sesriem stopping many times for photos specially at the Spreetshoogte Pass.
23rd April 2018
Was at the sesriem gate to queue up before sunrise – vehicle number and number of passengers was noted and payment (N$80 pp+10 for vehicle) had to paid at the office before exiting the park. A few photo stops and we were at Dune45 scrambling to get to the top – some of us did! We opted to park at the 2WD car park and pay the ridiculously high fee of N$170 pp (return) for shuttle bus to 4x4 car park and walked to deadvlei – only photo stops at other dunes before the sun became too hot to bear. We saw at least three vehicles stuck in the sand and was glad we did not take that chance being in-experienced in driving in sand. Filled up petrol at sesriem to save time next morning.
24th April 2018
Stopped at Solitaire Bakery – did not think much of the apple crumble but the savoury pastries (chicken and mushroom) we bought for lunch was good.
The drive to Walvis Bay (Oyster Box Guest House – one night) was scenic and the Kuiseb pass dramatic. What strikes you most is the changes in scenery – rarely did we have a boring drive. Plenty of Flamingos in the Lagoon – none in the salt works area. Dinner at the Raft was great – may be the best meal we had in the two weeks we were in Namibia. We drove to the spot where we saw the flamingos next morning and took more photos in the morning light.
25th April 2018
We stopped at Swakop only to refuel as we had a long journey ahead to the fur seal colony at cape cross and then back track to Henties Bay to get to Doro Niwas! Lodge for the next two nights. While the seal colony is seriously smelly (we expected it to be so) – in my opinion the visual impact out weighed the smell factor by far. Watch out for seals who block your path! Entrance was N$100+10 for vehicle. The “salt road” scenery was quite unique even though a bit monotonous at times
The journey to Doro Niwas! was long but we did get there just before sunset. The next day we did the desert elephant tracking activity in the morning – the elephants (just 3+baby) appeared to be quite used to vehicles with at least three to four parties observing them from fairly close quarters. The driver/guide appeared to know exactly where they could be found and was quite unconcerned about the proximity of the vehicles to the elephants which was of concern to us. In the afternoon we did the tours at Twyfelfontein (N$100pp) to see the rock art and then the organ pipes and burnt mountain (N$50 pp). It is possible to re-fuel at Twyfelfontein Lodge but unfortunately for us, they only had diesel petrol pump was out of action leaving us no alternative but a drive to Khorixas to re-fuel the next day.
27th April 2018
Stopped at Khorixas the next day to re-fuel and stopped at the official site for petrified forest (N$100 pp) – several unofficial sites as well!
The drive to Grootberg Lodge (2 nights) was relatively short and we got there in time for afternoon tea. Stunning scenery all around us! We did the Rhino tracking activity the next day – this was nearly N$2000 pp not to mention the tips! –A lot of driving and waiting to see one solitary Rhino (de-horned and tagged but we were assured that no tracking device was used) – when they located him we walked about 5 mts on not too difficult terrain to observe the Rhino – We are still trying to decide if this activity was really worth it both from our perspective and that of the Rhino!
29th April 2018
One of the best sights we saw was on the next day – having talked to some guides at Grootberg Lodge we decided to do the long journey to the Angolan Border to view the Ruacana Falls as we would not be coming back to Namibia any time soon. It was a sight to behold and fully worth it! A boring journey but we had a good tarred road, C35, all the way. We paid the price for this de-tour by getting lost on our return journey as it was almost 6pm when we got back to Kamanjab from where we had to get to the Eagle Tented Lodge – the road map given to us by Atelier Africa with the route highlighted and the written instructions given by them was not the same. It would not have been a major issue in the light of day but getting lost on D roads after sunset with no phone connections was a bit scary. Plenty of Kudu and Oryx on the road hence we had to take it slow. In the end we got back to main road (C40) and managed to ring the agent – we were advised to stay on the major roads – hence we ended up doing another 150 KM via Outjo and got to the lodge at 11.30pm! The manager who had been informed by then had dinner ready for us and we are thankful to the lodge for their warm welcome at this ungodly hour!
30th April 2018
Took it easy – plenty of bird life around. Did an afternoon game drive to Etosha. Did not see much compared to our previous visits to the Serengeti, Botswana and South Africa which were also done around April/May. Plenty of Zebra, Oryx, Impala Kudu and birds of all kinds (blue crane and saddle billed Stork among the best). The recent rains meant plenty of water in the park and less of big animals at water holes and close to the road.
One thing we observed was the lack of enthusiasm or welcome at the NWR payment office specially at Namutoni– the staff looked bored and had no interest in helping us. Our questions were answered in an abrupt manner if at all! It would have helped us if we knew that we could pay for 3 days entrance on day one. As it had to be written at the gate, we had to do this the next day. ($80 pp per day+ N$10 for vehicle)
We exited from the Namutoni gate as we were staying at Mushara Lodge the next two days – the service at this lodge was far more professional than the other lodges we stayed at. The distance to the Etosha gate was not much and we were able to get in at sunrise and hang around at a water hole close to the gate until 30mts before time to exit the park. This worked out well for us as we saw the most animals at the dik-dik water hole close to sunset. Also saw Rhino and one Lion with a kill and cheetah with 3 cubs – all at a distance but elephants up-close and personal with a mindful driver at the wheel made the journey worthwhile!
Long journey back to Windhoek – stopped en-route at the Cheetah Conservation Fund close to Otjiwarango and did the drive to see the orphaned cheetahs being well cared for. The volunteers do a great job here! Once again the directions on the road map given by our travel agent did not specify the exact name of exit for our accommodation in Windhoek and we got there after sunset due to the cheetah stop-over but we managed OK as it is hard to get lost in Windhoek! The second best meal was at Hotel Thule in Windhoek, ,perched on a hill with lovely views from restaurant!
Quick and easy handover of vehicle at Asco and seamless transfer to the airport. In the end we never needed the spare tyres but were glad to have two spares considering the time we got to our accommodation on some nights. The clearance a 4x4 gave us was useful specially on some of the gravel roads and for better views at all times. Recommend a good torch which we forgot! Most of the lodges we stayed at did not provide a torch/light and believe me the lighting along pathways and the stones jutting out made the walk to our chalet quite an event at times! We did not need a GPS for our route and the maps provided by the travel agent and car hire company were adequate.