From the entrance of the Sossusvlei National Park, it was sixty kilometres on paved roads to the first car park for two-wheel drive vehicles. From there, the road turns into sand so we lowered the tire pressure on our four-wheel drive and drove the final three kilometres to the parking area for Deadvlei. The key to not getting stuck in the sand is to drive at a steady pace and not to stop until at the car park.
We drove this route back and forth several times over the next two days. We watched how the light shifted from sunrise to sunset over the Sossusvlei dunes and Deadvlei—a clay pan so dry the skeletons of trees dead from 600-700 years ago have yet to decompose.
NamibRand is a private nature reserve located on the edge of the Namib desert. The reserve started in 1984 when a man named J.A. Brückner integrated a number of former farms for land and wildlife conservation. Today the reserve consists of more than 215,000 hectares (or 2,150 square kilometres).
Wolwedans DuneS Lodge
Wolwedans is a collection of camps on the nature reserve and eco-tourism is what allows the reserve to be financially self-sustaining. We stayed at the Dunes Lodge, which has ten chalets resembling tented camps. The first morning we went on a scenic drive in an open Land Rover to explore the vast and untouched reserve. We saw plenty of oryx, Namibia’s national animal, some ostriches and springbok and a few zebras off in the distance. The reserve is not where you would go for a typical animal safari as the highlight here is the unique landscape.
Later on we had sundowners on the dunes and then a private dinner under the stars. That night it started to rain and it did not stop until the next morning. We couldn’t believe we were rained on yet again in the desert. It rains only once every couple of years in Namibia. While we felt we had the worst luck with the weather, the staff didn’t seem to share our sentiment. In this part of the world, rain is a blessing.
The Skeleton Coast in northern Namibia is virtually uninhabited and the vast majority is largely inaccessible except for a select few who venture out on a flying safari. However, a new lodge, and the only one in the Skeleton Coast National Park, has opened up the area for more to visit. Even then, only 800 visitors are allowed a permit into the national park each year.
From the entrance of the national park at Ugab Gate, we drove as far as we could to Möwe Bay. We barely saw another vehicle during the four hour drive on the sandy gravel road. At Möwe Bay, we were picked up by a truck which drove another hour through sand to Shipwreck Lodge. Along the way, we stopped at the Möwe Bay seal colony and a few shipwreck sites.
Once we arrived at the lodge, we found ten cabins in the middle of nowhere facing the Atlantic coast with endless sand dunes behind them. Fitting for such a desolate place, activities are limited. We set off early the next day on the top of a Land Cruiser and drove through the Hoanib river, which is completely dry except when rain floods the river once every few years. As we made our way inland, the fog slowly lifted, the landscape changed and wildlife appeared. We saw oryx, springbok and birds like the Egyptian goose and secretary bird. At the end of the drive, we saw the famous clay castles formed over the last 15,000 to 30,000 years.
Our last day was spent quad biking through the sand dunes behind the lodge. We ripped through the dunes and patches of ocean fog with no end in sight. We then drove down to the coast for sundowners and watched as the sun set over the waves.
Namibia is one of the least densely populated countries in the world (second only to Mongolia). It is a vast country so exploring the different regions requires covering long distances. We decided to self-drive and at times we would drive for hours without seeing another vehicle. The road network is extensive but consists mostly of gravel roads and sometimes even sand. We hired a four-wheel drive, packed lots of water and snacks and set off for 10 days in Namibia. In total, we covered 2,300 km on our road trip.
Walvis Bay to Skeleton Coast National Park | 500 km
1 night | Cape Cross Lodge
3 nights | Shipwreck Lodge
NamibRand Nature Reserve to Sossusvlei | 100 km
1 night | Sesriem Campsite
1 night | Sossusvlei Lodge
Sossusvlei to Windhoek | 350 km