I never go on a trip without a good book in my backpack. Whatever the title or genre, books are an important part of an adventure for me. Sitting down with one is the only time I shut off from everything (the new experiences, being constantly on the move, taking all the photos). But, more so, I love discovering those special little settings to curl up with an I-can’t-put-this-down read. That sounds kinda random, but hear me out.
Like, I smile when thinking of devouring the last, nail-biting pages of Terry Hayes’ I Am Pilgrim while lying on the beach in Beau Vallon on Mahé island, Seychelles. Looking back, I can hear the waves lapping gently against the shore and the screech of the Blue Monster bus as it raced along the road in front of me. Or, paging through A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini in a cosy bungalow with the Drakensberg mountains just outside the window. I’m even known to read in the car while on the road, looking up from the pages intermittently to gauge the landscape. Speaking of sweeping landscapes, one of my favourite destinations to curl up with a read must be Namibia.
A friend of mine is heading out there at the end of the year and, when she asked for recommendations, one of the first things I thought about was sitting next to the camp fire with tea and a book. It’s such a simple thing, but also so synonymous with all our family trips to Namibia over the years.
Whether it’s in the desert or next to a watering hole at Etosha National Park, South Africa’s north-westerly neighbour is characterised by wide open spaces, crispy fresh air, the peaceful quiet and skies filled with stars. In other words, it’s the perfect environment to a take a break from all the action and get involved in someone else’s story. If you’re planning on heading to Namibia anytime soon (June/July is the best time to go!), be sure to pack your book and find yourself a campfire to settle beside.
Here are a couple more Namibian experiences to add to your bucket list:
The place of toffee-coloured mountains and striking rock formations, Spitzkoppe is one destination in particular that I’m dying to return to. I’ve only camped here, but the site has recently been upgraded with snazzy-looking tented camps which could totally be a vibe, too.
2. Swakopmund in general
On my first two visits, this oasis of a seaside town went unappreciated for the most part. But, on my most recent stint in 2015 (can’t believe it was that long ago), my eyes were opened to a place of German architecture and bakeries as well as of iconic morning mist, sunset dining on a peer and the contrasting beauty of desert dunes melting into the ocean.
Speaking of which, Swkaopmund is also a great place for adventure fanatics looking to get involved in all kinds of sand dune-related sports. I went sand boarding once and ate so much dirt.
3. Flamingo-watching in Walvis Bay
While driving between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, we happened upon a massive flamboyance of flamingoes. They were gathered in their thousands along the lagoon right next to the road, making for the ultimate animal encounter and photo-op. It remains one of the most special wildlife moments of all our Namibia trips.
4. Climb Dune 45
The thing about climbing Dune 45 is that it looks so doable from far. But, once you’re up close and personal and start your ascent, that incline gets so real so quickly. That being said, paying a visit to one of Namibia’s most iconic sand dunes is a must! Spend the night before in Sossusvlei (we stayed at the Sossus Oasis campsite) and head out at sunrise to watch the dunes change colour from deep maroon to a striking orange.
5. Get the shot at Deadvlei
You know the one, right? Where striking skeletons of petrified trees contrast against those towering red dunes and a crisp, clear blue sky. Head here after you’ve climbed Dune 45 and rewarded yourself with a pre-breakfast of coffee (don’t forget to pack a flask!) and rusks (a twice-baked, very South African biscuit best served with a warm drink).
Speaking of breakfast (I literally can’t write anything without digressing at this point)…the first time I attempted to climb Dune 45, I was 15-years-old and on a school trip. I remember so clearly the vetkoek (balls of deep-fried dough and also a v. South African treat) made by our tour leaders for brekkie. I sat there devouring them, mandatory metal mug of sweet coffee in hand, contemplating the 2 whole minutes I’d spent trying to climb Dune 45. And not worrying about very much else.
6. Drink Amarula at the Okaukuejo waterhole in the Etosha National Park
I didn’t even know I liked Amarula until I had it while watching the sunset at the Okukuejo waterhole in the Etosha National Park. It is so quiet here. Besides for the ice clinking in your glass and the soft click of a camera shutter here and there, the only other sounds are those of the wild. The whisper of the elephants as they come down to drink in their herds, the splash of a baby allies as it crashes into the water, the springbok delicately picking her way over the rocks.
7. Camp at Ongongo Hot Springs
Set in a gorge, this campsite has a name that translates to “magical” in Herero (one of the many languages spoken in Namibia). This makes a lot of sense because even my 15-year-old self appreciated the peaceful experience of swimming underneath a waterfall with hardly any other campers around. A terrapin gave us some side-eye while we splashed around, and at dusk all the bats came out to swoop around our heads. I often think about returning to Ongongo and experiencing this special oasis through older eyes.
8. Camp at Doro Nawas, Damaraland
We camped at Doro Nawas so long ago (it was on the same trip as the Ongongo experience) that I couldn’t remember the name of this campsite until I’d consulted a map – an actual paper map the size of our dining room table, even. But! What I do clearly remember is the toilet. And that’s because it had the most incredible views. Set between boulders, it looks out over the kind of seemingly endless plains that Namibia is so well known for – all for your enjoyment while you’re doin’ ya business.
9. Dinner at Joe’s Beerhouse in Windhoek
You can’t be in the vicinity of Namibia and not pay Joe’s a visit. Simple as that.
10. Chill out at Ai-Ais before heading home
Set in the Fish River Canyon, Ai-Ais Resort and Spa is a the ultimate relaxing spot to spend your last few days of a Namibian trip. After weeks of camping and driving, this kind of overland adventure can make you feel like you need another holiday upon your return. But, pull into Ai-Ais and I promise that, after a couple nights, you’ll be feeling refreshed for the journey home. You can look forward to bird watching, baboons stealing your biscuits, lounging about in the spa, strolling along the riverbed and paddling in the pool outside. DIVINE.
Writing this blog post is making me SUPER nostalgic for all these special outdoorsy, wildlife-y, dusty and (mostly) barefoot camping adventures. Let me know in the comments below, do you have any more recommendations for adventures in Namibia?