It was probably when we were handed the maps, the GPS and the keys to the white truck, shown where to find the spade and the axe, and shown how to change a spare tire that it hit home we were about to drive 2500 kilometres around Namibia.
Ahead lay two weeks of exploring this south-western corner of Africa, with incredible game-drives, unique experiences, remote corners of coastline and vast, empty deserts all awaiting us.
We’d flown into Windhoek, Namibia’s capital, and been picked up directly from the airport before being shown to our trusty truck, pretty much our lifeline for the next fortnight.
After a stop at the supermarket to load up on provisions, we set off into the wilderness.
Incredible Wildlife and Vast Spaces
We began driving south, through a fairly green and lush landscape, with visibility stretching for miles in all directions. After hours of driving, seeing barely another living soul on the way, we arrived at our first stop organised by Rannveig, our partner who had set up each stop, each activity, and every incredible bit accommodation we were lucky enough to rest at.
Otjiwa Lodge, near the town of Otjiwarongo, was our first stop, and it made the perfect base for our first game drives.
Not much beats the feeling of cruising through the dust and empty spaces of an African plain, spotting white rhinos, vultures and gazelle with the help of our local guide. With the horizon as wide as it was and the enormous blue skies that seemed to stretch on forever, it really felt as if we’d truly got lost from civilisation.
And that feeling only intensified when we stopped the truck in a secluded little spot with a view of the magical sunset, and enjoyed a bush picnic in the wilderness.
We stayed at Otjiwa Lodge for two nights, getting great Namibian food each night whilst drinking in the landscape of endless views and distant hills. We visited a wild cat sanctuary near Otjiwarongo, where we got a close up view of a family of cheetahs, our first of many big cat encounters.
Eventually, however, it was time to leave Otjiwa, and head for Namibia’s wildlife capital – Etosha.
Traversing Etosha National Park
The next two days were spent driving from the east entrance of Etosha National Park to the southern, following maps provided to us by Rannveig.
Etosha is the biggest game reserve in Namibia, and one of the biggest in Africa. And it certainly feels like it.
Endless swathes of green, shrubby savannah, punctuated by trees silhouetted against the huge blue sky, and driving across the entire length of the park, you really get a sense of just how huge it is.
We spent our first night in the Mushara Lodge, near the eastern gate of Etosha, before heading into the park itself and crossing via the winding dirt roads. It’s a surreal experience to cross such a natural landscape, with no signs of human development anywhere, passing lions snoozing in the shade.
We followed our map – that handily also showed us where the watering holes were – until we reached the incredible Okakuejo Lodge, a government-provided lodge actually within the confines of Etosha.
This spot allowed us one of the most ‘up close and personal’ experiences with wildlife on the entire trip, as the nearby watering hole attracted elephants to the area. Sat watching them by the pool, they started wandering over to eat from branches above our heads – a truly unique experience and as they wandered away, the sun set over the national park leaving one of the most lasting images from the entire adventure – as the purple-orange sky bled into the perfectly still pool.
We continued to drive through Etosha, encountering zebra, oryx, more lions, vast salt pans and beautiful sunrises, until we reached the southern entrance to Etosha and our last stop on our drive round the area.
Pretty weary at this point, Rannveig had set us up in a beautiful lodge near the southern entrance of Etosha National Park, where we could rest up, lie by the pool, and read in front of the stunning views.
This was the point we really appreciated how well the trip had been planned for us. After miles and miles of driving, early mornings for sunrise game drives and hours carefully navigating the dirt roads, we were more than ready for a place to recharge and prepare to go again for the second half of our time in Namibia.
Knowing we had a comfortable place to stay, a place to aim for and collapse in at the end of a strenuous day was hugely satisfying, and spending a while in Epacha Lodge, lounging by the pool, drinking in the panoramic views from the outdoor shower, and enjoying some great food and a few beers was the perfect way to prepare us for what was to come next.