Namibia hot air balloon ride

Why Namibia? How Our Epic African Trip Came to Be

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Why Namibia? It’s a question we got so many times in the year leading up to our Africa trip—and yes, we booked this trip nearly a year out—and perhaps rightfully so. While it’s not unknown in the slightest, Namibia has only been a sovereign nation since 1990, and it’s really only the last few years that it’s been covered more widely in the American media as a viable destination for travelers. So if you know nothing about this multifaceted African nation, don’t feel bad—that’s why I’m here.

Planning an epic Africa vacation in Namibia

But let’s start with the genesis of this trip and how we wound up here in the first place.

Around the time I was planning my 40th birthday trip, a friend was also planning hers: an African camping adventure in Namibia and Botswana. That trip turned into a group trip with my husband and me tagging along, then the original friend dropped out. But the fourth, Emilie, was still down for adventure; the three of us began plotting.

As we were planning our Namibia itinerary, sans the car camping as your girl loves herself a glamping adventure or luxury lodge, a few other friends—and my mom!—expressed interest in going. We are the-more-the-merrier kind of people (uh, provided you are a chill, go-with-the-flow traveler), and our group of three quickly expanded to seven. SVV and I kind of felt like anyone who was willing to go to Namibia with us on a wing and a prayer was going to be a good fit for the vibe of this trip.

Planning an epic Africa vacation in Namibia

Emilie and I had both been to Africa several times, both with tour companies and also both solo, and so we started reaching out to reputable African travel planners and pricing out our trip. In the end, Go2Africa had the most responsive team, and after I hopped on a call with one of their planners Mary, I knew we were going to book with them. They would continue to be amazing through the very end. Every last activity they planned for us was right up our alley!

Namibia hot air balloon ride

Yes, that is my 74-year-old mother speeding through the desert on an ATV.

Originally, we thought we wanted to do a combination trip with Botswana and Namibia. Like many American travelers, we tend to try to cram too much in and once we realized that kind of dual-country trip would not only significantly up the pricing, but mean we would spend a lot of time in transit and less time exploring, we focused on Namibia. We each had our dream destination—for me, the red dunes of the Sossusvlei Desert; for Em, the skeletons surrounding Shipwreck Lodge—and made those desires known to our planner.

Planning an epic Africa vacation in Namibia: staying at Shipwreck Lodge

She got back to us with a game plan that not only looked dreamy, but had us wanting to extend our time in Namibia—which we wound up doing, of course (this is why trip planners are good at their jobs!). If I had to do it again, I would have taken more private charters and spent less time in a van, but all that time together made for the best memories so I also wouldn’t trade it for anything.

You can reach out to Go2Africa here to start planning your Namibia trip. I usually plan my own vacations, so it was a complete treat handing over everything to this very capable team!

If you’re looking for an African adventure that is less mainstream than, say, Kenya or Tanzania but still offers wildlife, I cannot recommend Namibia more. Here are some other reasons we loved it.

Planning an epic Africa vacation in Namibia

The ease of getting there and around

First things first: You don’t need a visa for Namibia if you’re a US passport holder, nor do you need to get any specific vaccines. This is one of the safer parts of Africa without weird insects that transmit disease. On past Africa trips to countries like Rwanda, I had to carry a yellow fever vaccine passport. For Namibia, we didn’t need anything of the sort.

There are regular direct flights to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, from Frankfurt, Germany, as well as from Doha. So if your home base airport has a direct flight to Frankfurt, you can be in Namibia in two hops.

For us, it took a bit more than that. We flew from Nashville to DCA, then direct from DC to South Africa, spent a few days exploring Cape Town, then caught a flight on South African Airlink to Windhoek.

Our flight from Cape Town to Windhoek cost less than $300 round-trip and was about two hours. It could not have been easier, and the in-flight service far exceeded that of U.S. airlines (we got a meal! and so much wine!). So if you can reach South Africa from where you live, you can get to Namibia almost as easily.

The diversity in landscape

You can’t go wrong with a trip to Africa, no matter where you go. Part of the reason I’m so in love with South Africa—which I’ve now visited on three extended trips—is because it’s got safari offerings, an iconic coastal drive, city culture and so, so much more. Namibia was like that, too, but in a different respect.

On this Namibia trip, our custom itinerary went something like this:

  • Windhoek
  • Okonjima Nature Reserve
  • Etosha National Park
  • Damaraland
  • Skeleton Coast
  • Swakopmund
  • Sossusvlei Desert

We went on several game drives a day, had sundowners overlooking the Atlantic Coast, tracked black rhinos by foot, star-gazed in the desert then got up before dawn to see it by hot air balloon. Talk about an epic, bucket list level trip.

Planning an epic Africa vacation in Namibia

The desert-adapted species

What I loved about Namibia was the stark landscape and the dramatic twists and turns it took as we drove deeper into the country. Much of Namibia is desert landscape, which means the species that live there have had to adapt to get water where they can, like in the spring-fed watering holes of Etosha’s salt pan.

Planning an epic Africa vacation in Namibia

This is not the Serengeti. You will not see her wildebeest roaming the Savannah by the hundreds. But you will see solitary elephants, ornery rhinos, drunk baby warthogs, hungry giraffes in search of a snack, so many black-backed jackals and just about every bird you could ever imagine (and plenty you couldn’t).

And you’ll see all sorts of desert roamers like baboons (so many baboons!), zebra, oryx, springbok and dik-dik. You probably won’t see kangaroos or snow leopards, but you never know.

Planning an epic Africa vacation in Namibia

The people, the people, the people

I’ve yet to go on a trip to Africa where I didn’t fall in love with the people who made my trip magical. But in Namibia, it was just a different level of hospitality. No pretense, no obvious annoyance at tourists (because let’s be honest, tourists can suck), just curious locals who want to know how a group of predominantly Tennesseans (and a long Minnesota) found their way to their corner of Africa. Every guide, every driver, every lodge employee, every sales clerk every server went above and beyond to ensure we fell in love with their country (especially at Desert Rhino Camp, which I’ll get to in a future post).

Most importantly, they made us feel like Namibia was not just theirs, but ours, too.

Planning an epic Africa vacation in Namibia

So why Namibia? Why not Namibia? Why wouldn’t you want to experience something so outside of your norm, and possibly beyond your comfort zone? After all, isn’t that why we travel in the first place?


 

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Why you should plan a trip to Namibia
Why you should plan a trip to Namibia
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