Is Namibia a family friendly destination?
Leora recently traveled with her family to find out:
The first part of my Namibia safari I traveled with my family, my two girls, 6 and 9 years, and my husband. The camps we visited are not specifically family safari camps, and while there was not entertainment for children, at many of the places we had our own private guide and vehicle. Depending on the children’s ages a private vehicle and guide is a must. We had opportunity to indulge in all there was but at our own pace. So while I would say yes bring the family, I would caution very young children on such a trip as some of the distances can be extreme and the drives long. Family travel needs to be carefully thought out and planned to ensure plenty of good quality downtime in between activities and camps must be allocated in the right order to ensure a successful family safari.
We arrive into Windhoek
After 24+ hours of being en-route we arrived into Windhoek ready for action as it was just 10 AM. I am a strong believer that you have to get your mind wrapped around the time zone where you are immediately. So set your clock before the plane even touches down to the local time, it’s a way of tricking your brain, and don’t think twice about what time it is back home. Spending the entire day in Windhoek was a bit challenging as there is really not much to do so we spent the afternoon exploring downtown. I found the shopping boring and not worth the energy so if you really want to stretch your legs go for it otherwise rather take a swim at your hotel or walk around the neighborhood, go for a run or hit the gym. The only other worthwhile option would be to take a tour into the townships. This I would suggest only if you are not going to do something cultural on the rest of your trip. If you are looking for a fun casual dining experience Joes Beer House has a lovely atmosphere, local feel and the food was good. And it got us out of our hotel for a bit.
In Windhoek I stayed with my family at the Hilton Hotel and the second time I stayed on my own, after my family left me at the delightful Olive Exclusive.
Sossusvlei and the Namib Desert
Our safari started with a one hour flight into the oldest desert in the world! This desert stretches for more than 1,200 miles along the Atlantic coast and is almost completely uninhabited besides a few small indigenous groups and settlements. Being in the desert means the temperatures can be extreme more inland so you need to pack accordingly. For me that means lots of layered clothing and I used it all!
Our first stay was Wolwedans Lodge. Most appreciated by those who are surrounded on a daily basis by lots of buildings, people and activity. This place will blow you away (in fact many places in Namibia will).
During the day you are surrounded by the stark, pristine wide open expanses of breathtaking desert scenery. In the evenings with literally no light pollution, its completely dark making this one of the best places in the world to stargaze. Looking up at the millions of stars that shone so brightly around our little tented suite, was a gentle reminder that I was not alone.
What we did here: Our days were spent exploring the undisturbed nature that surrounded our lodge. We enjoyed an interpretive bush walk following the footsteps of the Bushmen, who have traversed these plains for centuries, our guide spoke in the native click language which was interpreted into English. Our children were fascinated by their stories and the click click of their tongue!
If you know me well you will know that I am an arachnophobic! On one of our walks our guide decided to dig up a ‘white lady of the desert.’ He assured us the spider was ‘small’ – next minute a huge white dancing lady ran out and popped right onto his shoe! I was finished and had to remove myself from the situation. Luckily it seems my girls don’t have moms terrible phobia and watched on as it danced on his shoe!
After 2-days here we drove north (about 2.5 hours) to a natural wonder of the world – the stunning sand dunes at Sossusvlei. We climbed the knife edge of one of the dunes. Some rise as high as 380 meters or a quarter-mile from their base and are known to be some of the highest in the world and believed to be 60 to 80 million years old. My eager husband wanted to go all the way to the top, its one step forward and 2 steps back due to the powdery soft talcum powder consistency of the sand and there was no way our girls could make that. Our climb was indeed an accomplishment nonetheless with our 6 year old leading the way. Sweaty but feeling great we reached the ‘top’ of our dune, and gazed across the barren valley at the silhouetted outlines of the towering rich deep orange-red dunes that surrounded us.
We then proceeded to roll, run and laugh all the way down our dune into an area called ‘Dead Vlei.’ Centuries ago this area held a lake, now all you find are the blackened petrified acacias rising above the crusty hot and hardened ground that crackled beneath our feet as we walked taking in the contrast of this area surrounded on all sides by dramatic dunes. As the blazing sun got more intense closer to midday we headed back to camp. Our lodge for the night was Desert Lodge where we slept under the stars and reflected on another perfect day!
Our Cessna carried us over the stunning Sossusvlei dunes and along the Atlantic Ocean until we reached Swakopmund. We would not particularly plan a trip for you around visiting Swakopmund, but if you have a night to spare this is a lovely little town and our preferred hotel here is by far the Hansa Hotel. Full of character and history this is one of the oldest and finest hotels in town. The downtown area is characteristic of a German town and has a great variety of shops, restaurants as well as delightful little coffee shops.
Stay tuned for more of Leora’s journey!