Looking for a getaway destination for you and the kids, that doesn't involve jam-packed fairgrounds, 24hour Xbox relays or shopping malls and cinemas? When children come into the mix, it can really leave you stumped for holiday ideas. Somehow "the desert" doesn't come to mind. But it should.
There's a reason why National Geographic ranked the Namib Desert as the best family trip in the world. Cast your family out into the middle of nowhere, and life as you know it comes to a standstill. Just you, your family and the great outdoors.
Namib Desert, Photo courtesy of Namib Rand Family Hideout
Go climb a mountain. Play in the dirt. Let a beetle crawl on your hand. Surf down a dune. Smell the seals. Let cloud shapes tickle your imagination. Discover dinosaur footprints. See a rhino in the flesh. Fall asleep on the backseat of the car. Find the creatures of the living desert. Pitch a tent. Camp under the African sky. Sit around a fire. Listen to stories. Tell stories. Hear the hyenas laughing at the moon. Count the stars in the Milky Way. Catch the sunrise. And start all over again.
Being the second least densely populated country in the world, it sometimes feels like you are the only people on earth. But never fear - help is always close at hand should you need it.
Namibia is one big adventure for everyone in the family, no matter what age. Bring your kids out to Namibia, and Namibia just might bring the kid out in you.
Namib Rand, Photo courtesy of Tok Tokkie Trails
NamibRand Family Hideout has all the flexibility of self-catering accommodation surrounded by one massive sand pit... the desert! Older kids can go sandboarding or try a 4x4 self-drive trail for themselves. Why not invite more families to join you? Or if you'd like something a little more private, there's a one-party campsite, which is always fun.
Take the time to explore all the life in the desert, big and small. Tok Tokkie Trails offers a 2 night/3 day guided, leisurely walking safari, with "desert luxuries" for nature lovers who would rather not be roughing it. The trail is conducted in small and personal groups from 2-8 people - perfect for a family.
Organise a tour with Mabaruli African Safaris with anything from game drives, quad bike rides and dolphin boat cruises to visiting the Himba and San for an unforgettable cultural encounter.
Camping is a family adventure in itself! Pitching the tent, cooking together and sleeping outside with Namibia as your back garden. Some good family campsites are Brandberg White Lady and Epupa Camp. Or have a look at some of these campsites in Namibia.
For older and more adventurous children, there is sandboarding, quad biking, camel riding and a host of other adventure activities available. To find out more, download our Adventure Travel Planning Guide here.
Onguma Game Reserve offers the option of accommodation in a separate fenced-off camp for families that would rather not have wildlife roaming freely around their rooms
Andersson's Camp, Wilderness Safaris is a self-acclaimed "family camp", situated just outside Etosha, with a waterhole of its own, and has two family units tents connected by a raised boardwalk.
Namib Grens guest farm lies en route to Solitaire, built into the natural boulders, with dedicated family accommodation at Bushman's Rest - a completely private thatched house ideal for a large family or group of friends.
For a totally relaxed atmosphere, Farm Okomitundu has a bungalow playhouse right by the pool so the little ones can play to their hearts content while you sip a little something by the water.
Small and fascinating creatures of the Namib Desert, Photo courtesy of Tok Tokkie Trails
Around the campfire near Etosha, Photo courtesy of Andersson's Camp, Wilderness Safaris
Time together in Deadvlei; Photo courtesy of Mabaruli African Safaris
Break up the long drives: Namibia is a vast land, and you'll be tempted to try and squeeze it all in. The scenery along the way definitely makes the long distances worth your while, but small kids might not be as enthusiastic about it as you are! If you’re driving for a long time, try stop every couple of hours and take in the sights along the way. If driving long distances is not ideal for your family, there are also internal flight options.
Pack a few distractions: Make sure you pack something for them to do in the car if they start getting restless on the long drives - some games, an ipad or books, but be careful of car sickness.
Take extra snacks and refreshments: It can get mighty hot in the car, and the next pit stop can take a while in a country as empty and expansive as Namibia. So be sure to pack some water and cool drinks to keep the family going on the road.
Make them part of it: Sometimes, game watching can be a test of patience. Make the search part of their experience, and see who can spot what first. Hand them the camera every now and then so they can start documenting the sights and sounds for themselves, and really get into it.
Don’t be too demanding: There will be many early mornings and long drives which can take its toll on the younger ones, so don’t expect them to be attentive all the time. Let them sleep when they want to and just wake them up when something more interesting happens. Try not pack in too many drives, and make sure you have some time to relax back at the lodge.
Save the best for last: Instead of rushing through to the big five straight away, get them excited about even the smallest of discoveries along the way – from beetles in the sand to baboons along the road.
Watch the small kids: Most lodges in Namibia have swimming pools, which you'll want to dip in and out of on a hot day. However, they are not covered with safety nets, so be vigilant if travelling with small children. And don’t forget that you are in the wild - respect that wild animals are wild!
Ask about child policies: Most lodges will do their best to help you and your family, giving early dinners to small children, helping clean baby bottles and even sometimes even baby-sitting. But it’s best to check before booking, whether or not the lodge can accommodate your needs.
Let the little ones read up about Namibian wildlife in National Geographic for kids.