Go Big is a 13 day self-drive safari that highlights the very best of the country. It offers the perfect combination of Namibia’s greatest attractions, breath-taking scenery and African wildlife. The route incorporates two ancient deserts, the Kalahari and the Namib, the awe-inspiring Fish River Canyon, the charming coastal town of Swakopmund nestled between ocean and desert, and in the heart of the country, Etosha National Park one of Africa’s most renowned wildlife sanctuaries. Go Big is the perfect trip for first-time visitors and showcases a wide range of Namibian delights.
Day 1 Kalahari Desert
Day 2 Fish River Canyon
Day 3 Fish River Canyon
Day 4 Wild Horses, Kolmanskop
Day 5 Wild Horses, Kolmanskop
Day 6 Sossusvlei
Day 7 Sossusvlei
Day 8 Swakopmund
Day 9 Swakopmund
Day 10 Damaraland
Day 11 Etosha National Park
Day 12 Etosha National Park
Day 13 Windhoek
Day 1: Kalahari Desert
The first day takes you southwards for 250km, out of the Windhoek hills and past the town of Rehoboth towards Mariental. Before reaching the town, a turnoff will take you east and into the red sands of the Kalahari and the stylish Kalahari Anib Lodge. For those who want to try a more adventurous route for the last stretch, a gravel alternative to the tar road will lead you through the countryside along small rolling sand-dunes.
Day 2: Fish River Canyon
Namibia’s Fish River Canyon – the second largest canyon in the world – is calling! Take the tar road southwards to Keetmanshoop, this capital of the Karas region features a small monument to karakul sheep farmers and a museum housed in the old church. Another, more adventurous route will take you along Gochas and Koës, through hills and past memorials to fallen soldiers. From Keetmanshoop, turn onto the gravel road near Naute Dam, passing an emerald oasis of palm trees and vineyards. Make a stop at the Naute Kristall distillery to taste a range of desert schnapps. The road now leads through the Gondwana Canyon Park, a 130 000-hectare private nature reserve, past the old limestone kiln at Holoog, which is visible before the turn-off to the Fish River Canyon and Canyon Roadhouse. The redroofed Roadhouse appears 16km further on with its wonderful collection of classic automobiles. You have reached your friendly and colourful home for the next two nights, to rest, explore, fill up on smiles and its famous Amarula cheesecake.
Day 3: Fish River Canyon
After breakfast in the quirky Roadhouse restaurant, the day is yours to explore the area at a leisurely pace. A short drive from the Roadhouse leads to Hobas, where payment of a small fee will give you access to the canyon viewpoints (a ten kilometre drive from the gate). Stretch legs by walking to Hikers’ Point along the edge of the canyon or drive along the rim roads to gain different perspectives of this awe-inspiring natural masterpiece.
Day 4: Wild Horses, Kolmanskop
Choose between the more adventurous route to the south that follows the Orange River before circling up to Rosh Pinah and Aus. Or you could follow the route northwards via Naute Dam, turning westwards on the B4 towards the Namib Desert. The flat-topped mountains provide company along the way as you follow the road over small bridges that cross several temporary rivers. A good place to stop for lunch is Alte Kalköfen lodge, a short detour off the main road and a chance to visit the small lithoparium – a lithops nursery and the only place in Namibia authorised to propagate these ‘flowering stones’. The warm family-owned Klein Aus Vista Lodge is a few kilometres after Aus. The lodge, which celebrates the spirit of the wild horses, is the perfect base from which to explore the area, and reconnect with your own sense of freedom.
Day 5: Wild Horses, Kolmanskop
The exquisite views of grassland merging with desert around Klein Aus Vista, transform into the gravel plains of the Namib as you drive the 100km westwards to the coastal town of Lüderitz, nestled in the gnarled rocks of the desert. Time your trip to venture out on a catamaran to view Lüderitz’s bays or to join a short tour of the deserted old diamond town of Kolmanskop on the outskirts of the town. The day is for exploring this unusual desert town in your own time. On your way back, pay a visit to the century-old population of Namib wild horses at the Garub viewpoint, where you can watch the horses gallop in to drink at the waterhole before you return to Klein Aus Vista for a delicious dinner.
Day 6: Sossusvlei
Today’s journey is on the gravel, so take your leave after an early breakfast to head towards the exquisite desert scenery further north. Travel the route via Helmeringhausen (a good place for a coffee break), Maltahöhe and Büllsport (with an optional route from Maltahöhe via the Tsaris Pass), or the more scenic and sandier D707 that skirts the Namib Naukluft Park. Betta is a good place to stop along the way for a bite to eat before the drive through the Namib Rand Nature Reserve. Slow down and keep eyes open for wildlife along this section of unfenced road. Sixty kilometres north of Sesriem, at the foot of a ridge of 20-million-year-old fossilised sand dunes, Namib Desert Lodge appears.
Day 7: Sossusvlei
This relaxing day is one to enjoy the famous dune area around Sossusvlei and Dead Vlei. (Leave early to be at the Sesriem gate at sunrise to catch the cooler weather and magnificent morning light. Entrance fees can be paid at the office. From Sesriem it is a 60km drive over the dry Tsauchab riverbed and between the massive red dunes to the Sossusvlei parking area. Park your car and catch a ride on the shuttle. Wear closed shoes and take a small bottle of water with you for the walk to Dead Vlei, the ancient and picturesque pan studded with dead acacia trees and surrounded by towering sand dunes. Sossusvlei, slightly further on, is best appreciated from a height. Be sure to take a short stroll up the surrounding sand dunes, or if you feel more energetic, climb to the top of the Big Mama dune to view the spectacular view from up high.
Day 8: Swakopmund
Be prepared to be delighted in Swakopmund! But first, there’s an interesting journey through the desert northwards to the coast. Solitaire is a must-do stop along the route to refuel and enjoy a slice of apple pie from the bakery. The road north takes you through the fascinating landscape of the Gaub and Kuiseb canyons. It crosses over small bridges where the rivers rush down in flood after heavy rainfall. Gravel plains lead to Walvis Bay (its lagoon decorated with flamingos at certain times of the year) and then an intriguing drive between desert dunes and sparkling sea to Swakopmund. Here, you’ll be welcomed by the friendly staff at The Delight Hotel, a breath of fresh air in the desert.
Day 9: Swakopmund
Enjoy The Delight’s delicious breakfast spread, complete with oysters and champagne, before exploring Swakopmund, an old German town with ample coffee, curio and book shops – and a large museum – to tickle your palate and keep you entertained for hours. It’s also the adventure hub of Namibia and offers a choice of excursions from scenic flights, paragliding and dune-boarding to the more serene dolphin trips and living desert tours. (Enquire about your options at the hotel’s activity desk on your arrival and select your favourites). Reserve your spot for dinner at one of the many restaurants and head out for the day. Savour the sunset over the sea from the end of the wooden jetty that extends out into the crashing waves.
Day 10: Damaraland
Follow the salt road along the coast northwards towards Henties Bay, before heading inland on the gravel to Damaraland via Uis and the Brandberg, Namibia’s highest mountain. As you near the Ugab River, look out for the striking Herero women with their colourful stalls. During the long summer days, and if you leave early enough, consider taking the extra loop to view the intriguing rock engravings at Twyfelfontein. Your overnight stop, Damara Mopane Lodge, is 30km east of Khorixas. Set amongst the mopane trees, the chalets are built in a semi-circular labyrinth design with a turquoise pool at their centre. Each chalet has its own veranda and small garden planted with a selection of fresh vegetables. Scarecrows peep out between the sunflowers and spinach, adding extra charm to this refreshingly different lodge. At the end of the day, don’t miss the walk up the hill for sundowners and a sensational view of the lodge and surrounding mopane savannah, with Brandberg, the highest mountain in Namibia, visible on the horizon. An alternate tarred route from Swakopmund leads inland from the desert and northwards to Damaraland via Karibib, Otjiwarongo and Outjo.
Day 11: Etosha National Park
Enjoy breakfast amidst the mopane trees before the gentle drive northwards towards Etosha National Park via the small town of Outjo. (Early birds have the option of visiting the Twyfelfontein engravings in the morning and travelling to Etosha Safari Camp in the afternoon.) Relax by the pool or visit the national park to spend time at the large Okaukuejo waterhole or the nearby waterholes before returning to the lodge before sunset. A highlight of a stay at Etosha Safari Camp is the colourful and lively Shebeen restaurant, modelled on Namibia’s informal bars or taverns of old, where people gathered to meet, have a drink and listen to music. Enjoy the mouth-watering dinner served inside around fireplaces in the cooler months. Or on warmer evenings in the courtyard under the stars, where the resident band ‘The Etosha Boys’ strum their guitars and sing local melodies.
Day 12: Etosha National Park
Explore the wonders of the Etosha National Park, a thriving wildlife sanctuary, where animals congregate around the waterholes. As the best game-viewing times of the day are in the morning and afternoon, head out early, returning to relax around the lodge’s pool for a midday siesta before setting out again. Make your way back to the lodge for cocktails and dinner, and to once again tap toes to an African beat, before your return journey to the capital the following day.
Day 13: Windhoek
After a leisurely breakfast you make your way back to Windhoek where you will return your rental vehicle. You can opt to either spend an additional night in Windhoek or continue to Hosea Kutako International Airport for the departure of your scheduled flight. Please note that check-in times for departures is at least 2 hours prior to the flight departure time.