We traveled across Namibia for six days as part of a longer two-week cross-Africa roadtrip that would see us visit six fascinating countries. We had arrived in Windhoek on an early morning flight from Cape Town and within a few hours, our rented 4x4 truck was broken into and luggage was stolen. It was an unsettling feeling to starting the trip and as soon as we had filed a police report, we were desperate to get out of the city and into the wilderness of Namibia.
We started our massive adventure with a long drive into the red desert to visit the iconic landscapes of Sossusvlei and hike into the much-photographed clay pan of Deadvlei. We then drove north to Swakopmund, crossing the Tropic of Capricorn, commemorated with a sign, and signifying that we were now closer to the equator than the South Pole.
From Swakopmund, we packed up our roof tent and truck and headed inland towards the majestic Spitzkoppe, a collection of bald granite peaks, thought to be more than 120 million years old. The most symbolic of them all is the pointed triangular mountain rising more than 1700 metres high. The stunning red rocks make for an otherworldly landscape to explore and are home to stunning rock art, thought to have been painted over 2000 years ago by the local bushmen as they traveled through the region depicting their hunting and animal sightings.
After Spitzkoppe, we headed north to Twyfelfontein, a beautiful stretch of landscape home to the country's best preserved rock carvings thought to be between 2000-6000 years old and depicting both what the bushmen saw in the area and on their nomadic travels.
Arriving to Etosha National Park
From Twyfelfontein we excitedly turned our attention toward our very first national park of the roadtrip and what we hoped would be a fruitful few days of wild animal sightings. Far before we even reached the first gate where we received our entry permit, we already began to spot some animals in the park that stretches for 22,270 square kilometres across northern Namibia, one of the largest in Africa and ringing the mostly-dry Etosha Pan.
At the first gate, we received our entry permits and showed our confirmation of campsite bookings and received a short brochure detailing some of the facts and rules of the park. The payment gate was a further 17km drive into the park at Okaukuejo, where we'd be camping for the night.
Within just a few minutes of crossing that first gate, we already spotted a big family of elephants at the Ombika Waterhole and spent time in total awe sitting in our car aware of our incredible early luck at this magnificent sighting.
Barely able to tear our eyes away, we continued deeper into the park, shortly arriving at the spacious and well-maintained Okaukuejo Campsite, one of the main ones in the park located on the western side of the pan, and a great place to base yourself on your first night. After we had checked in and paid our national park daily access fees, with the afternoon stretching into the early evening, we went through the gate into the park for a short drive up to the Okondeka Waterhole. Even this short drive along the beautiful stretching plains already offered us so many incredible wild animal sightings.
We returned to the Okaukuejo campsite well before the closing hours - they keep the park gates shut when it's dark for safety; you can check the daily seasonal opening and closing times at reception - and pulled into our campsite. The campsite is huge and there are loads of people staying here so it's safe and pleasantly busy. We had electricty and water at our campspot which was great. The only thing was for such a big campsite, there weren't many toilets or showers and they were both in pretty bad shape.
The best thing about Okaukuejo campsite is that there is a waterhole right next to the camp so you can literally walk from your campsite and try to spot wildlife right near where you're staying! We got exceptionally lucky with a visit from a family of five giraffe all spending sunset by our waterhole... a totally surreal moment.
Driving from Okaukuejo to Namutoni
We rose early the next morning - not necessarily with the sunrise as every ounce of sleep we could get these days was precious what with our jam-packed high-intensity days - to enter the gates at Okaukeujo and make the 134km drive east across the park across the southern part of the Etosha Pan to reach Namutoni, the exit gate on the far side of the park.
The drive was spectacular. This was the greatest national park we visited of our entire trip. Within a few minutes we had animal sightings of all kinds across the plains. The road was gravel, but well-maintained and easy to drive. We took our leisurely time and spent five glorious hours poring over Maps.Me to figure out where we could take every possible detour (it's the detours in the national parks that always offer more animal sightings, away from the busier main roads) and with our noses glued to the windows, camera and iPhone in hand to document the exceptional experience.
Not only were we lucky enough to spot all the most-seen animals such as giraffe, zebra, springbok, ostriches, wildebeest, baboons and many birds, but we also got to see two rhino and even saw a leopard, hiding high up in the branches of a tree just before the exit at Namutoni.
Etosha National Park can be visited with a guided safari tour; they depart three times per day from Okaukuejo. We chose to self-drive, taking our sweet time to stop whenever and wherever we wanted for a surreal day.