Johanna Read runs Travel Eater, a blog focused on food and travel. Today she shares with us five essentials that will help you make the most of your safari through Namibia...
Photos and words by Johanna Read
Safari in Namibia- there's nothing quite like it.
Namibia is a great place to go on safari. Not only will you see amazing animals — leopard, cheetah and desert-adapted elephants anyone? — but you can also see shipwrecks on the otherwise empty Skelton Coast, climb red sand dunes, and walk through canyons. On top of this Namibians are amongst the nicest people on the planet and they love sharing their gorgeous country with visitors.
One of the Skeleton Coast's many wrecks.
What you need to bring with you on a Namibian safari will, of course, depend a great deal on the way you travel. If you are driving yourself and camping, your needs will differ greatly from if you are being driven by a guide and staying at the top lodges. I was lucky enough to be driven around in a Land Cruiser (by the greatest guide ever – Perez, from Ultimate Safaris), so my advice is based on that...
The most useful thing I had with me were my Crocs. They weren’t the dorky ones — I could get away with wearing them with a skirt for dinner (not that I brought a skirt). They were extremely comfortable (and I am prone to blisters). I wore them every day except on rocky hikes. Most importantly I could rinse them off in the shower every night, and they dried almost instantly. This is extremely important in such a dusty environment.
You’ll be thankful for washable shoes if you unexpectedly encounter rhino dung on a walking trail.
A carabiner is always useful to attach your hat, water bottle, or whatever to your day bag. When you walk up a sand dune, or walk the 1.1 km to Deadvlei, the carabiner is useful for attaching your (washable multi-purpose) shoes to you belt or your day-pack.
It is much easier to move through the sand in bare feet, especially climbing a steep sand dune before breakfast. Your toes will help you dig in to the sand so instead of two steps forward, one step back, you will be two steps forward, 1/2 back. Yes, you could wear your boots, but on the dunes the sand will leak in, and you won’t get the toe help. And yes, it is a bit chilly on the sand in bare feet until the sun comes up, but just dig your toes under the surface a bit to warm them up. Clip you shoes to your pack and you won’t have to carry them. Nor will you worry that they get lost at the base of the dune, hidden by blowing sand during your climb.
Deadvlei, in bare feet.
You’ll probably want the air on your toes to walk to Deadvlei. There is a mixture of loose sand and hard-baked (but nice and smooth) salt pan. Most people do this walk around 9:00 – 10:00 in the morning, when it is starting to get warm. It just feels more fun in bare feet. But under no circumstances should you leave your shoes in your vehicle — you must carry them with you (leave your hands free for photos with your carabiner). If you walk back from Deadvlei after about 10:30 am without shoes, you will burn your feet on the sand. The guides will tell you the story of the guy who had to take off his t-shirt, and borrow his friend’s, and tie them around his shoeless feet to walk back. Don’t be that guy.
Also useful are closed toe shoes or boots — Blundstones in my case. You’ll need these for rocky hikes, like the Sesriem Canyon in Sossusvlei and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Twyfelfontein rock engravings. You’ll also need closed toe footwear in the evenings.
In the winter (June – September), it can get very chilly at night, and you’ll need the warmth of boots and socks. (And, despite the chilly mornings and evenings, winter / early spring is when you want to go to Namibia because the lack of leaves on the trees make it a lot easier to spot wildlife). Closed toe boots are also essential for foot protection from mosquitoes, especially in the malarial zones (Etosha National Park being a main one). Mosquitoes are rarer in the winter, but you may find some at dawn and dusk.
If you want to catch the last golden hour of the day outdoors you'll need to keep warm.
You’ll also want protection from snakes. In the winter it will be unlikely that you’ll see them — in the afternoons they’ll be warming up in the sun and in the evenings they’ll be cold and practically hibernating, under a rock or in a tree. Your chances are only a little greater at other times of the year, as they are more afraid of you than you of them- but it is wise not to take chances.
Hiking through varying terrains makes having appropriate shoes a must.
Travelling with Ziploc bags is a great way to keep your stuff clean and organized, whether it be to separate your dirty socks and underwear from the rest of your clothes, stash your leak-potential toiletries, or keep fresh that bag of cookies you bought from the market (and prevent crumbs from getting in your clean underwear). Most importantly, Ziploc bags are the best way to keep dust out of your electronics.
Your new best friend.
There is a lot of dust in Namibia. A lot. Again, depending on how you are travelling, your dust issues will vary. If you are driving yourself, you will find yourself in public open safari vehicles to get to Deadvlei and other 4-wheel drive necessary places. Even if you are travelling in a Land Cruiser, you will need to transfer to the lodge’s open vehicle when in private game reserves. And in these open vehicles, any time another vehicle passes you will get blasted by dust. So, keep your camera in a Ziploc bag. For these open vehicles, you may also want to bring a scarf or a buff to put over your nose and mouth too (particularly for the drive to Deadvlei).
It can get mighty dusty on the mighty dunes of Sossusvlei.
Ziploc bags are also useful to protect your camera when you’re climbing dunes (there is a constant breeze of gritty sand), on the beach along the Skeleton Coast, and for storage in your bag, as the dust will get everywhere.
The desert is dry. Dryer than you think. So bring all the humectants you can fit in you bag — conditioner, moisturizer, sunscreen, hand cream, chapstick, whatever. Yes, the nice lodges will supply some of it, but you’ll want the extra strong varieties that you know work for you.
Elephants have always known the importance of a moisturising mud bath.
Your safari in Namibia will be spectacular no matter what. You’ll be especially happy if you bring the above essentials with you.