Namib Desert (Namibia)
The Namib Desert and Skeleton Coast is about as remote as it gets. A gradient of sands from white to fiery red sprawl across endless planes, untouched by mankind for thousands of years. Never has a country had so little and so much to see all in one region. The Namib Desert is remote, beautiful and is honestly like nowhere else on earth. The historic German settlements of Swakopmund & Luderitz add a touch of kitsch and add to the weirdness of the area...
Where is the Namib Desert?Windhoek to:
Swakopmund 353kms (on B2)
Luderitz 684kms (C14 & B4)
Walvis Bay 394kms (on B2)
PLAN PLAN PLAN! Make yourself familiar with the distances involved and the quality of the roads. There can be vast distances between towns in Namibia, so you’ll need to make sure you have loads of fresh water and petrol. A big trap in Namibia is the road quality. Namibia is full of unsealed roads and sand tracks - do your research before hitting the road!
The first time I travelled through Namibia, I was driving with a friend from Cape Town. We were cruising the South-West Coast hunting for isolated waves and remote desert setups. We hadn’t really researched the trip too well and the sheer distances involved in driving this vast expanse nearly got the better of us. Crossing the border at Noordoewer from South Africa was a breeze. After that you can either choose to stay on the B1 for around 800kms until Windhoek or you can try to shortcut your way across the Namib on the dirt tracks. Looking at a map after filling up the tank, we thought we’d give the Unsealed C13 a try and bolt through to Aus by nightfall. The road was quite good for the most part, but we were in a 4WD - I certainly wouldn’t recommend in a 2WD Camper.
By the time we’d reached Aus, the cabin of our 4WD was filled with sand and dust. Even with the windows up, there is no escape from the dust. It was in our hair, our eyes and basically everything we owned. But no worries, as we reached the tiny desert settlement of Aus.Aus has a population of about 200 people. We camped out at the local campground, which was actually a very premium resort! About 10kms outside of Aus, wild horses abound on the desert sands. Flocks of wild ostrich and herds of Oryx also gathered by the B4 as we motored west to the strange German settlement of Luderitz. At this point, Namibia felt more like the Middle East - sand stretched as far as the eye could see. After 100kms or so, we reached the abandoned ghost-town of Kolmanskop. Be careful about your timing with this one. Kolmanskop Ghost Town is open to the public every day - except Sunday, the day we happened to arrive...typical! Anyway, after a few pics of houses covered in sand, we headed another 10kms to Luderitz and the wild South Atlantic Coast. Luderitz has a strange feeling to it. The people all seem a little stir crazy, and no wonder - the nearest major town is Keetmanshoop about 500kms to the East.
We waited around a couple of days for waves, but the ocean didn’t want to cooperate. And so, after a few days we decided to bolt back north to Windhoek and civilisation. Windhoek isn’t a very big city on the scale of national capitals, but it does have its charms. We were able to stock up on water and supplies and had a few too many beers and Steaks at Joe’s Beer House on Nelson Mandela Ave. Next up we headed to Swakopmund, where things get even stranger. We took the B2 from Windhoek as we’d heard all kinds of stories about the quality of the roads on the C28. Even though we had a 4WD, we weren’t travelling with any other groups and didn’t want to take the risk of getting trapped in the dredded Nambian sandpits!
As we crossed into the remote Namib desert, the vegetation disappears and the sands take over. There’s no towns, no livestock, no farms - not even a single tree for about 100kms heading into Swakopmund. As we got withing 15kms of the town, a dense coastal fog swepped over our blue skies, blanketing the desert in an eerie gray mist.Swakopmund has about 40,000 inhabitants and a strong German heritage. Which means there’s going to be more beer and meat! No complaints from us! We stayed in Swakupmond and spent the next few days exploring the region, including Walvis Bay to the south. The drive from Swakupmond to Walvis Bay follows the coast. With the cold, dark waters of the Southern Atlantic on your right and giant sand dunes on your left, this is a truly unique strech of road! Add the dense fog that appears after lunch and you’ll soon realise that this region is like nowhere else on Earth!
Just outside Walvis Bay is Dune 7, a mighty big sand dune with panoramic views that sweep across the vast Namib Desert. We climbed the dune and sat in admiration of the strangeness of the land around. After this little taste of the desert we decided we’d drop a few hundred dollars ($US) on a charter flight over the incredible giant red sand dunes of Sossuvlei. We had spent days pondering our path to Sossuvlei. We considered driving our 4WD there, but were warned by several parties that it was not wise without a few other vehicles to travel with. And so, we parked the 4WD in Swakopmund and jumped on the tiniest plane I have ever seen. A single-engine cessna from about 1950, flown by a pilot who looked about 22.... Nonetheless, the money and the panic of flying in a car-sized plane was well worth it. From 500ft up you can really appreciate the remoteness of the Namib Desert. The colours are constantly shifting from creamy pale to fiery red as the plane approaches Dune 45 and Sossuvlei and a slight sense of anxiety strikes me as I realise we are a long way from anywhere.
There’s an eerieness, an anxiety and an overwhelming sense of wonder that stays with you. It’s an adventure in every sense of the word, a true Indian Jones experience in the land that time forgot.
If you’ve driven your 4WD Camper across the wild unsealed roads to reach Sossuvlei, you’ll find limited camping sites. If you’re travelling in Namibia during the Dry Season (May to December), you’ll need to book your camp sites well ahead of time. Swakopmund & Walvis Bay
There’s plenty of camp grounds in these regions and there should be room at all times of year
Other Information:PLAN PLAN PLAN! Make yourself familiar with the distances involved and the quality of the roads. There can be vast distances between towns in Namibia, so you’ll need to make sure you have loads of fresh water and petrol. A big trap in Namibia is the road quality. Namibia is full of unsealed roads and sand tracks - do your research before hitting the road!
Road Quality:Major Highways:
The B1 - B8 are all well maintained, sealed roads. Secondary Roads:
Most roads starting with the letter ‘C’ however are not sealed and quality is dependant on weather conditions. If it’s been raining, a lot of these tracks will be unpassable. Check in at local tourist information centres before heading out onto major treks - particularly in the Namib Desert. Campervan Village in Windhoek has a fleet of AWD & 4WD Campervans for hire, perfect for exploring Namibia! We’ve got 4 great locations across Southern Africa, so give us a call and book your campervan today: +27 87 80 83 960.