The Great Namibia Road Trip – Part 2
Namibia, the land of beautiful dunes, massive canyons, and amazing wildlife, also turned out to be a land of rugged coastlines, unique plant life, and increasingly bizarre landscapes.
Here’s part two of our Namibian road trip (for part one, click here)…
The Skeleton Coast
Standing on a rugged coastline, with waves crashing on the shore and a salty breeze in our faces, it was hard to believe that we were still in Namibia, the country of arid landscapes and sweltering heat.
Adam and I started our very brief trip up the Skeleton Coast in Swakopmund, a popular coastal town just 350 kilometres from Windhoek, where we had spent the evening strolling along the jetty. From here we had driven north along the start of the Skeleton coast.
While the entire coastline north of Swakopmund is commonly referred to as the Skeleton Coast, some sticklers may argue that that name only refers to the protected stretch of land contained within the Skeleton Coast Park, some 300 kilometres from the town.
Whether we were within the official boundary or not, as soon as we left Swakopmund our surroundings certainly matched the Skeleton coast that we had heard about: long stretches of crashing waves, rolling sand dunes, and the shipwrecks for which the coastline is famous.
Tips for Visiting the Skeleton Coast:
Most visitors start their journey in Swakopmund, from where you can spend anything from a day to several weeks driving north along the coast. The further north you go, the bigger the sand dunes get.
Though most visitors come to see the landscape, impressive wildlife can also be found in the area, including elephants, turtles, antelope, and big cats.
Believe it or not, it gets cold here! So bring layers for the evenings, especially when walking along the beach.
Common day trips from Swakopmund include visits to shipwrecks and sea lion colonies.
To get really off the beaten track, take a fly-in safari to the restricted area in the far north of the Skeleton Coast. Read more here.
Northern Namib-Naukluft National Park
Thankful that our days of covering massive distances in the car were behind us, Adam and I took another day trip from Swakopmund, this time to the the north of Namib-Naukluft National Park.
We began by following the route known as Welwitschia Drive, to see the unique Welwitschia plants. While they look like simply a sprawling pile of dead leaves, these plants are a big deal in the botany world, as they survive in one of the most inhospitable places on earth by absorbing tiny amounts of moisture from fog, and they can live for an incredible 2,000 years. While I was a bit underwhelmed by seeing them in the flesh, Adam, a bit of a botany geek, was more impressed.
After strolling around the plants, we drove onwards on to the park’s Lunar Landscape. By then we thought we’d seen every bizarre landscape the country had to throw at us, but Namibia had one more sight in store. The undulating grey sand really does resemble the surface of the moon (if perhaps a bit more colourful), and was one more in a long list of other-worldly landscapes we had seen during our Namibian road trip.
Tips for visiting northern Namib-Naukluft National Park:
Permits must be bought in Swakopmund in advance, at the Ministery for Environment and Tourism office.
The permit costs N$40 per person, plus N$10 per vehicle. While there are no entrance gates to the park, and nobody checked our permits while we were there, if you decide to go without buying a permit you do face a fine of N$300 if caught inside the park without one.
Guided day trips to Namib-Naukluft NP are available, or visitors can simply rent a car and explore by themselves.
Be careful how much time you spend outside your vehicle. The sun here is scorching, and, after a few minutes of taking photos and walking around the Welwitschias, we were relieved to return to our air-conditioned car.
Our great Namibian road trip ended back where it began, in the capital city of Windhoek. While it’s not the most exciting city we have been to, it was a pleasant enough place to pass a few days and catch up on work before saying our goodbyes to Namibia.
These few days happened to include Adam’s birthday, and, tasked with creating a fun day out in a city with little to do, I was at a bit of a loss. While Windhoek has plenty to offer in terms of places to eat and drink, there didn’t seem to be much to do between eating and drinking (not that this has been a problem for us in the past!).
Eventually I decided to appeal once again to Adam’s inner botany geek, and, after a morning of opening presents and eating a slap-up breakfast, we headed to the botanic gardens.
Thankfully, the National Botanic Gardens of Namibia are actually really impressive! For those with any interest in plants, the gardens are incredibly well laid-out and informative, and feature a massive range of plant life from throughout Namibia. Even for those with little interest in botany, the gardens make a really nice place to stroll around and admire the massive trees, bizarre cacti and colourful flowers.
After another slap-up meal, we headed to a bar overlooking the city, where we sat and drank on the terrace, taking in the scenic nighttime view of Windhoek. It was the perfect way to celebrate both Adam’s birthday and the end of our time in the incredible country of Namibia.
Stay tuned for a list of my top travel tips for Namibia, coming soon!