Namibia destination information: Sossusvlei, Sesriem, Namib Desert, Kalahari, Naukluft Mountains, Namib-Naukluft-Park, Rehoboth

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Destination Info: Hardap - Namib Desert - Part 1 < / >>

     

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Namib Desert Routes

4x4 Off-road Experiences in the Namib Desert

   

Lisa Berl, of Compass
Marketing Namibia
,

participated in a
Namib Desert Crossing adventure in the Namib-Naukluft-Park,
in July 2010.
Here is her story:
 

This fantastic trip into mostly unknown territory had long been my dream which should finally become true. The journey is generally designed for the adventurous traveller, for tourists renting 4x4 vehicles and for residents in the Southern African Region who would like to use their own 4x4 vehicles suitable for Namibia's dune desert terrain. There is also an option to take part as passenger in the leading or the back-up/recovery vehicle. I took the latter option on this special camping trip.

 
We assembled at the tour leader’s house in Windhoek and, after stowing away personal luggage and discussing last minute details, we were soon on our way to the Namib Desert in south-western Namibia. At Betta, 400 km into the journey, we met our other travel companions and filled up petrol for the last time, before entering the Namib Naukluft Park and the operator's concession area. Our group consisting of 13 participants in 7 fully equipped 4x4s was in good spirits as we carried on along one of Namibia’s most scenic routes, the D707, for another 71 km passed sheep farms and the Tiras Mountains. As we entered the Namib Naukluft Park, the afternoon sun based the beautiful landscapes in pastel colours - ideal for photography. We spotted desert adapted wildlife in great numbers en route to the first camp site in the wilderness, next to an imposing granite hill.

 
 

It soon became obvious that the operator was perfectly organised, everything was at hand: satellite phone, two-way radios, wind breakers, chemical toilet (surrounded by a sheltering tent), various fridges for  meat, drinks  as well as frozen ice-cubes (which lasted the whole trip),  ample wood for the camp fire every day, chairs, tables  and even various adapter plugs for charging camera batteries.  Throughout the tour, meals supplied by the crew was of excellent quality to satisfy every taste.


The next day we travelled along waving grasslands surrounded by picturesque hills and again came  across a variety of antelopes, bat-eared foxes and black-backed jackals. Then the first chance for the drivers to negotiate some smaller sand dunes - an excellent practice run to acquire the right skills and techniques for driving in lose sand.
The weather was sunny and warm, although unrelenting winds required wearing wind breakers all day long. Covering an area of over 5 million hectares, the Namib Naukluft Park is the third largest park in Africa. The magnitude of its seemingly never-ending wilderness becomes clear as one carries on deeper into the park. This is a true oasis for the soul and a place to become aware of the self. As we passed the Awasib Mountains, the bushman grasses seemed to get higher and soon we had to negotiate undulating dune landscapes. By then, the vehicles' tire pressures had long been deflated to around 1.0 in order to negotiate them smoothly. We had covered about 100km when we set up camp in the wilderness sheltered by dunes.


In order to  leave camp sites as clean as we had found them, we extinguished camp fires with the remaining dishwashing water and carried larger coal pieces home in refuse bags, of which 5 large bags had accumulated at the end of the tour. Wind would soon have covered the remaining traces of our presence. Our route through the concession area led us north-westwards where Namib dunes became progressively higher and more imposing. Driver skills were tested constantly as vehicles got stuck in the sand. The recovery vehicle with its impressive thick tow rope had to work its ‘magic’ a few times while everyone enjoyed the excitement of things happening around us. We saw one of the "Small Five" of the Namib Desert, a side winder snake, a truly special experience. The 100 metre high dunes became ‘roaring dunes' as we descended down their slip-faces -  another thrilling experience. Since entering the park, we had not seen any other traffic or soul, this was solitude at its best! Shortly before sunset on the third day, we reached the Atlantic Ocean coast, where we set up camp between towering dunes with beautiful seas views. Again, we had travelled just over one hundred kilometres and were spoilt with a delicious bushman’s fondue dinner. That night an exceptionally strong sand storm made it necessary to bolt down tents firmly in order not to get blown away.
Like magic, the wind had subsided the next morning and the temperature had already risen to 25 degrees Celsius by 8h30. A perfect day for relaxing at the beach. Our photo cameras had the chance to capture a captivating stretch of beach between Sylvia Hill and St Francis Bay. The concessionaire travelling with us had organized fishing permits and the men were soon down at the beach trying their luck, cool box with beers and whisky & coke at hand. Everyone welcomed the opportunity to “recharge their batteries” after the strenuous dune driving and to get vehicles and equipment back into shape. The children in our group, aged 8 and 11 years, had a great time exploring the beach and running up and down the surrounding dunes. We encountered quite a few jackals strolling through the dunes as well as Cape Fur seals lazily lying on the beach or even up to 100 meters from the shore, between the warm sand dunes. Although our hopes for a delicious dinner of fresh caught fish were disappointed, we enjoyed this leisure day to the fullest. Like every day at this time of the year, the clear evening sky would show its famous star constellations, the Southern Cross, Scorpio and Orion, at their best.
 
Next morning, our drivers got briefed about the forthcoming beach-driving because we had to circumnavigate St Francis Bay during the morning hours, before the tide rolled in. As most drivers agreed, it must be one of the most dangerous routes to drive between 100 meter high sand dunes and the sea. It was a frightening thought to get stuck at the beach with the waves rolling in. Any miscalculation and the vehicle would be a right-off. After an easy 20 km stretch on wet sand, we came across a major obstacle. The beach was interspersed with black rock and we had to ‘build’a road to pass through. In true expedition style, we started packing rocks and shovelled sand until after only half an hour, we had a compacted route for everyone to pass without major difficulty. A few more kilometres and we found a suitable ‘way out’, away from the beach, into the high dunes towards Meob Bay, a distance of 50 km. Turning back to the coast, the boys tried their hand at fishing again, unfortunately with no luck. Our destination that day would be Fischersbrunn, which was reached shortly before sunset. Total km that day = 60 km.

Continued on page 2...

 
 

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