Namibia is all about landscapes, scenery and vast tracts of open space: it is less about cities, towns and gated nature reserves. In other words, a large point of visiting the county is the actual driving between places and what you see on the way. So some of the destinations we’ve suggested are quite focused on wildlife, but there is always more at the place or on the way to the place than just wildlife to see and enjoy.
The ‘northern circuit’ in Namibia is characterised by four distinct zones. There are the desert areas of the Namib Naukluft, Dorob and Torra. Then there is the Skeleton Coast, Etosha National Park and the coastal towns of Walvis Bay and Swakopmund.
As you know, we’re an ethical travel consultancy and as far as possible, we focus our journeys on those places that are sustainable (good for the planet) and also ethical (support local communities). One such place is Grootberg Lodge (already on your itinerary). Many of the other ethical places in Namibia are set in very remote places, though. There is for example Nambwa Tented Camp in the far north of the country and also Serra Cafema managed by a large organisation called Wilderness Safaris in direct collaboration with the local Himba people, who are semi nomadic. Both these places offer engagements with local communities. There are two problems with offering these kind of places to you: they are very hard to get to by self-driving (and we do not want you stressed) and also, it’s hard for us to make a call on just how ethical a place like Serra Cafema actually is: for example, we don’t support organisations that allow tourists to interact with children as research has shown this is too destabilising for the community.
There are ways to visit traditional Himba villages in Damaraland which are not cultural pastiches for tourists and these we can arrange as separate trips from Grootberg. You may also be interested in the Living Museums offered by the Living Culture Foundation, which is a German-Namibian partnership. The latter has laudable aims and funding (which is very important) but we note that all the board members appear to be European, which does not feel very inclusive to us: again, there is permitted interaction with children which again raises a few questions. However, they offer an amazing six camps all with the aim of encouraging more understanding both between Namibian tribal groups and between Namibians and non-Namibians, which is very important.
You may like the offering of Erindi which like most places in Namibia focuses on wildlife as the central attraction but has many on-going conservation projects you can visit and even work on. It also offers encounters with the San people in a nearby village as part of the experience of staying there. The village you visit is created especially for visitors but this does mean the San who don’t actually live in it, have more control about how many tourists they meet or interact with.
We can suggest a broad mix of accommodation, from the small and owner-managed B&B (Sam’s Giardino and Belvedere Boutique) right up to luxury, fully inclusive, places like Pelican Point Lodge and Onguma The Fort. Of course, we can scale up or scale down on the accommodation.
Do not underestimate the amount of time you will spend in your vehicle in Namibia! It’s very important to get this component right. We strongly recommend a 4x4 camper: that’s a large double-cab 4x4, fully equipped with a rooftop tent, camping gear and a fridge. You don’t have to have a camper, of course: a normal 4x4 would be fine and is normally much cheaper. However, many of our guests find that having the option of camping in Namibia is particularly pleasant as many places offer the opportunity to camp and to stay in the lodge on the same property (so you can camp when you want to and get a proper bed and bathroom when you want to). As such, you don’t have to worry about cooking, buying food, cleaning up, etc. etc. which makes camping a drag.
Also, if you get irritated with camping then no matter: you just get a room at the lodge. The big advantage of camping is that you get much more privacy and isolation than you do always staying in a lodge room and with Namibia being all about open spaces, starry skies and utter tranquillity, that’s important. It’s also important to note that the driving itself is the holiday. As such, having deck chairs, a table, a fridge, a sun awning means that you can stop where and when you want and enjoy what you’re driving through.
If you can, avoid high summer (late December to early March). The heat is so intense that it will marr the experience. However, the best months June, July and August get very busy. It would be easier with fewer humans around travel in September, October, November if you can.