We all remember the media frenzy that was the adoption saga of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in Namibia a few years back, bringing a large, seemingly obscure, yet beautiful African country on the radar.
However, most of us are not celebrity philanthropists and therefore cannot enjoy Namibia on their budget. The Jolie-Pitts actually rented an entire hotel in Swakopmund for their stay while enjoying privately chauffeured adventure tours all over the country.
In Namibia you can literally drive for hours and hours without seeing a single soul…which is both disconcerting and liberating…reverting your psyche back to a time when people were not encroaching as much on the planet…Here’s a picture of some people we drove past after four hours of seeing no one…they drove off into the distance in a old pick up truck but we had no idea where they were heading…no place in sight
Because Namibia is such a tremendously large and spread out country, with a population of only about 1.8 million people, the task of seeing everything is economically and physically daunting, while the airfare to he country is expensive to begin with. The density of people in Namibia i roughly about 6.6 people per square mile…compare that with another vacation destination, Bermuda, which has a density of 3,140 people per square mile. Getting around can get expensive.
I lucked out.
I spent the past semester studying at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, and when Spring (South Africa’s Fall) break came around, I heard the red deserts of Namibia calling my name. Because Namibia borders South Africa, I did not have to fly, and to save money, a few friends and i decided to join an “Overland Tour” through Nomad Travel. Yes, one of those camping, roughing it, big bus (well we were forced to call it a truck, not a bus) tours. They do provide tours that are luxury, or accommodated, or camping depending on your budget, age, and type of traveling you want to do.
The experience was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. It was more luxurious and laid back than I could have thought, and I was able to travel to so many parts of this beautiful country, but I’ll focus this post mainly just on the “adventure” part that Brangelina explored just outside Swakopmund and the Namib Desert.
My tour only covered southern Namibia and yet we covered a lot of ground. We started off in Cape Town, naturally and, over the course of about 8 days, we traveled through Springbok, camping at the Namibian border at the Orange River, to Fish River Canyon (the oldest canyon in the world), to Solitaire (the smallest town in Namibia), to Soussesvlei, to the Namib Desert, to Swakopmund, to the capital Windhoek and back down again.
The whole trip, including extras, nights in guest houses, sand-boarding and adventure sports, nights at the pub, and miscellaneous purchases probably cost me a total of $600.
The most expensive part about traveling in Namibia is the initial cost of airfare…however, once you are there, it is extremely cheap, especially if you book hotels and tours once you are there. Also, even there off-season has good weather, so stay flexible in your plans and stay for a long time, at least 2 weeks…there is so much to see!
I couldn’t believe it either…
We stayed the first few nights just south of Namibia and then drove up to the border and camped out there at an adventure travel campsite called “Bushwacked” click here. This place was a blast! It was beautiful, the people were friendly, the facilities were wonderful, and the bar was a party!The camping is also only about $6 per night!!
We were able to jump into the Orange river and swim across it literally crossing over from Namibia to South Africa, as well as canoe up to the river on a day trip!
We then drove up to Fish River Canyon (pictured above) which was a trip, literally and figuratively. The drive was long, but it was magical. Fish River Canyon transported us into a different time and place because the Canyon is so incredibly old. For more info…click here
We then camped at the smallest town in Namibia…Solitaire. population: ~30 people and the town mayor is also the manager of only store…the General Store…which is famous for its apple pie….weird enough.
You can camp out like we did, or stay at the town’s only hotel: the Country Lodge, complete with a refreshing pool and great little restaurant! (click here)
We then made our trek down to Sossusvlei canyon to watch the sunset and camped out nearby at a great lodge and campsite also complete with pool. For info on Sossusvlei click here. There are plenty of camp sites and luxury lodges nearby that offer the ability to self-drive to the canyon, or guided drives that are reasonably priced.
In the morning we made the highlight of our trip…watching the sunrise at Dune 45 in the Namib desert located in Naukluft park and then touring the desert with a seasoned Bushman. The Dunes are among the highest and oldest in the world, tinted with a brilliant shade of red which we learned is because of the amount of iron in the sand. For more info on the Namib Desert click here…
Swakopmund is the largest vacation destination in Namibia. It’s mild weather-wise because it lies on the ocean at the edge of a desert.
Because Namibia was a German colony, the town is filled with German people and its architecture…which is strange in appearance and emotionally disconcerting when considering the implications of the colonization. However, the town is a fantastic place for people looking for a relaxing beach vacation in a serene town, and for adrenaline junkies alike.
There are numerous adventure travel tours…and the one we went on to go sand-boarding was actually the same one celebrities use and is located right outside the center of town! You can customize your own adventure trip which may include skydiving, sandboarding, quad-biking, and anything else you want! I decided to go for the sand-boarding-quad-biking combo and it was amazing. A private tour through the desert with me and two of my girlfriends on quad-bikes and stopping to sand-board! The whole morning ran me about $50 bucks total.
For a great company- use “Desert Explorers”– they were amazing! Click here for their website!
According to their owners, and photos, the Jolie-Pitts used their services over 13 times! While most of us cannot afford that, a day trip is worth the money!
My tour-mates and I were able to forgo the tents after a few nights in the Namib desert and stay at a fantastic and cheap guest house that was complete with an indoor pool!
The great think about Swakopmund is you can literally walk the entire town.
If you want to stay where Angelina and Brad Pitt stayed during their trip and are looking to splurge in Swakopmund, try The Burning Shore . The Jolie-Pitts actually rented out this entire hotel during their stay, but you can rent a room for only $100 per night!
If you decide to travel into Windhoek and want to stay on a budget, even though we didn’t stay overnight while there, a friend of mine stayed at this unique backpacker’s lodge called the Chameleon for only $12 per night! click here
For more information on the Overland tour that I participated in Nomad Tours, click here…
For more information on traveling to Namibia in general click here…