Self – driving journey through northern Namibia
Okonjima – Onguma – Ongava – Palmwag – Purros – Twyfelfontein – Windhoek | 2.200 km | 4×4
This is my blog of our August 2022 dream trip through Namibia.
The trip had been postponed from 2021 due to Covid, but , finally we were able to do it with the help of our dear friend Lisl Matthews from Southern Destinations in Cape Town. You can check out the whole itinerary with all the details here: https://wetu.com/Itinerary/Landing/b59ea4f6-a1a2-49c6-a997-d28920245448
We flew with Lufthansa from Frankfurt with a connecting flight on Airlink through Johannesburg, while the return flight was direct from Windhoek on Eurowings Discover. We were able to redeem airmiles for First Class tickets on Lufthansa to Johannesburg and on Business class from WDH to FRA. Our first class tickets allowed us to check in at Lufthansa’s famous First Class Terminal in Frankfurt, which is indeed an oasis of calm. There is valet parking service for our car, everything went quickly, private check – in and security. We had a glass of champagne and some light dinner We were driven to the plane in a Porsche Cayenne and could board easily and were welcomed by very friendly flight attendants.
We were driven to the plane in a Porsche Cayenne and could board easily and were welcomed by very friendly flight attendants.
Being driven to the airplane allows you to take pictures from the tarmac! Rather unique!
I am not going to review the flight as this blog is about Namibia and not about airline services.
Just to say that connection in Johannesburg was smooth, but alas, our luggage did not make it to Windhoek. We had the assistance of Cliff from nature Friends Safaris, who efficiently handled our lost luggage report and promised to pick up the luggage once it arrives and transfer it to the lodge where we would be, near Etosha, as we were obviously not going to wait in Windhoek for days until it arrives. One should indeed check at Johannesburg at the transit desk whether your luggage has been loaded on the flight to Windhoek! I must add that we were not the only guests whose luggage did not arrive, during the trip we met a number of people whose luggage had not arrived for weeks! We were lucky, as the suitcases arrived after two das and were brought to Onguma by Cliff. Great service! Great service!
We got our car from the Europcar office, who upgraded us to a brand new Nissan XTrail which was the ideal car for our two weeks’ roadtrip through northern Namibia. We had been a bit apprehensive about the roads and eventual punctures, but luckily, everything went very smoothly, and the car was excellent! No flat tire, no problem at all, and the 4×4 proved very efficient. I must add that driving through Namibia in the dry season is no problem at all, as roads are very well maintained. In the rainy season in February/ March this could be a challenge because of flash floods in the riverbeds.
By 14:00 we were hitting the road , driving straight to Okonjima, where we were upgraded to the bush camp. We had excellent directions from Nature Friends Safaris, a good map, so it was not a problem finding our accommodation all through the whole trip!
Okonjima is an animal sanctuary and research centre for Cheetah and a good stop on the way to the Etosha National Park. The lodge is good, rooms well appointed, food is ok. Obviously, it being winter, and all our warm clothes in the lost luggage, it was a bit of a challenge for us. But a good fireplace plus hot water bottles in the bed made us get through the coldest night of the whole trip, with -6 C in the morning, plus no hot water because the pipes had frozen. The next morning we did not go on a drive as I prefer seeing cheetah in the wild and not necessarily in a fenced environment. After breakfast we continued our journey to Onguma tented camp, right next to the entrance to the Etosha National Park. The road is tarred all the way to the Namutoni gate of the National park, passing through the towns of Otjiwarongo, Otavi and Tsumeb.
Onguma is a private game reserve adjacent to the Etosha National Park and consists of 5 separated camps at different levels of luxury, Camp Kala being the most basic one and the Tort being the most luxurious one, while Tented, Bush and Forest Camp being in between them. We stayed at the beautiful Tented Camp, which is set right in front of a very busy waterhole, where giraffe, kudu, zebra and elephant come regularly during the day , and some predators at night. The camp is well appointed, great tented rooms with a wooden deck, a sparkling pool and a boma area. Food and service are excellent, so this is a camp I would definitely recommend, as it is intimate and well kept. You can either do some game drives into the park with their vehicle and guide, or drive into Etosha yourself.
After three nights in Onguma Tented Camp we drove all the way from the eastern part of Etosha to the western part. his was spectacular, with lots of animal sightings at waterholes and a glimpse of the white salt pan . We drove for about 5 hours and arrived at our next stop, Ongava private reserve, right next to the Andersson’s gate. Ongava is a large reserve with four different accommodation options : The classic Ongava lodge, where we had already stayed many years ago, Little Ongava, the most luxurious option, Ongava tented camp and Andersson’s at Ongava, which is brand new and which we chose to try this time.
Andersson’s is modern in design, right in front of a busy waterhole ( 4 black rhino came to drink!), with a sparkling pool and right next to the Ongava research centre, which can be visited by guests.
Rooms are large, modern, very well appointed, air-conditioned, with a heating option for cold winter mornings. It is indeed a good option for modern luxury, even though there some teething problems with their dinner area and the quality of their food, but I am sure this will be overcome soon.
Game drives are very good, and we were lucky to have a vehicle with a guide for ourselves most of the time. We saw lots of game, predators and 11 white rhino while tracking on foot. This was the most thrilling experience in 28 years going on safari! This was the most thrilling experience in 28 years going on safari!
After three nights at Andersson’s we had a drive in the morning, followed by a light lunch before driving the 270 Km to Grootberg Lodge near Palmwag. A good part of the road is tarred, but then it turns into a gravel road, which is actually very good After about 3.5 hours we got to the entrance to the Grootberg lodge. You can leave your car at the parking and be driven up to the lodge or drive yourself, only with a 4×4 vehicle, as that road is incredibly steep!
The lodge itself sits on the edge of the Klip River valley, a large canyon, with incredible views. The lodge itself is good, with a large terrace looking over the canyon, a swimming pools and the rooms are dotted on the edge of the escarpment. Unless one wants to do excursions from there, one night is enough, especially if you continue to Kaokoland . I would recommend it as a stop on the way, even if you you go to the Wilderness Hoanib Skeleton coast camp, as the distances are very long and the gravel roads take quite a long time to drive, even if they are very well kept, as it is the case during the winter season. The rainy season may be very challenging, especially crossing the river beds.
We drove all the way from Grootberg lodge to the Okahirongo Elephant Lodge in Purros, a highlight of our journey! Right after leaving Grootberg lodge there was a Namibian traffic jam : Two adult giraffe on the road!
We drove through the small village of Palmwag, through the gate and on to Kaokoland, the village of Sesfontein and on all the way to Purros, with incredible landscapes and colors on the way. There are some very small Herrero villages on the way, and we even took a Herrero lady with us from one village to the other!
Okahirongo Elephant Lodge is situated in the Purros Conservancy in Kaokoland, one of the last truly wild areas in the North West of Namibia and it features beautiful mountain landscapes and rugged tranquility. This is one of the most beautiful places we visited. The lodge sits on an escarpment overlooking the Hoanib river oasis and the village of Purros in the distance. There is a feeling of remoteness, as you see the mountains, the desert and the trees of the oasis. Giraffe, zebra, ostrich and kudu are regular visitors just in front of your terrace.
We went on drives to track desert elephant and lion, and visited a small traditional Himba village, where ladies in their traditional dress and hairdos show you their crafts and how they make their ochre past with which they cover their bodies and hair.
Services at the lodge, as well as the food were excellent! I definitely recommend this place, despite the long drive. It is definitely worthwhile!
After three nights in Purros we drove back to Sesfontein, Palmwag and to Mowani lodge near Twifelfontein. Mowani lodge sits in the midst of large granite boulders, and the suites are built imitating the form of these boulders. The place is magic! From here you can go on excursions to find the desert elephants and the san paintings in Twifelfontein. A two night stay would be enough, I would say.
We spent three night here before we drove back to Windhoek, where we arrived in the afternoon and checked in at the Olive Exclusive all-suite hotel, which is in a residential area of Windhoek. Accommodation is in large suites overlooking an olive grove I personally, for next time, would opt for the Zannier Omaanda lodge, halfway from Windhoek to the airport, as it gives you another glimpse of the wilderness of Namibia.
We had our flight home at 19 :00 with Eurowings Discover to Frankfurt, so, thankfully, we could keep our room at Olive until 16hrs.
Thankfully, we could keep our room at Olive until 16hrs.
This trip to Namibia was most memorable and 14 days self driving quite a challenge, but everything went very well, no incidents nor flat tyres!
Namibia is such a large country that it is almost impossible to cover the whole country in two weeks. An ideal itinerary would also be going to Etosha directly from Windhoek as a highlight, Etosha east and west, then driving through Damaraland, on to Swakopmund and on to the Sossusvlei area, with at least three or four nights. My favorite lodge in Sossusvlei is &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert lodge:
We stayed here for four nights in february 2020, and it was an out of this world experience!
Then, perhaps adding the Fish River Canyon in the south. One has to bear in mind the long distances if you are driving, either yourself, or with a driver.