Travelling through Namibia can be an incredible experience. This is a country that contains some of the least inhabited and most romanticised locations in traveller lore: the great Kalahari Desert with its population of indigenous San people from whom we are all thought to have descended; the Skeleton Coast replete with shipwrecks littering its shores; and Etosha National Park, home to the most fruitful black rhino watching on the African continent.
Picture star-dappled skies illuminating ancient sand dunes, scores of animals quenching their thirst at waterholes and a desolate coastline stretching as far as the eye can see.
To see the best of the country, don’t restrict yourself to public transport. Pack that gas bottle and stove, step into your 4x4 and hit the road – just don’t forget that spare tyre (or two).
Here are seven reasons why self-driving around Namibia is the raw wilderness experience you have always wanted.
1. There’s endless freedom
Your worldly possessions are on the back seat. Your home is now a tent folded onto the roof rack. There aren't any other human beings for miles and your world is packed up in your vehicle.
But look beyond your confines and a vast open plain swells out to the horizon in front of you, dotted with herds of impala and pierced by granite towers that burn a garnet red in the morning sun. It’s all yours to explore.
2. You get to discover it all on your own terms
How many times have you driven past an interesting looking side road, only to see it hurtle by while you’re trapped on a bus driving at death defying speed along its set route?
Self-driving in Namibia gives means no more succumbing to others’ itineraries or missing that fantastic photo opportunity. Your itinerary is entirely flexible, opening up experiences you may never have had on a tour.
3. You don’t have to go far for adventure
When self-driving through Namibia, you don’t even have to enter a national park to have a good chance of spotting wildlife.
In Damaraland, herds of elephants follow ancient migration routes in their quest to seek out water sources in the arid landscape. Stopping to let a passing herd cross the road right in front of you is surely one of the most mind-bending travel experiences, and being the only people to watch a baby feeding in front of this staggering backdrop is a true privilege.
4. Even the campsites are stunning
Camping in Namibia makes for some exciting nights in… Forget wedging your tent into a cramped corner or tripping over guy ropes in the middle of the night, the campsites here are somewhat more remote. Many are in the middle of the bush, where you'll have to light a fire under the water tank for a warm shower and watch out for nightly visitors like honey badgers and elephants. Camping is one of the best things to do in Namibia.
5. The basic becomes beautiful
Showering in a roofless room with walls are made of cow dung may not seem like the obvious draw to camp in the African bush. But what better way to wash than with the milky way as the roof over your head?
6. Because you can braai under a bed of stars
With a star filled sky almost every night, there is no greater excuse to find any and every reason to spend your evenings out in the open.
The ubiquitous braai (southern African barbecue) provides the perfect outlet to cook under the cosmos. Almost every camping pitch has one, and all but the most remote sites will sell firewood. Finding a market, buying the supplies and cooking in the bush after a hard day hiking or game watching is the definition of simple, gratifying pleasure.
7. The wildlife watching is easy
Namibia is one of the few countries in Africa where you can safari solo. Self-driving in Etosha National Park is a unique opportunity to encounter colossal quantities of animals without the services of a guide.
Braking hard as a black rhino dashes into the road, reversing alongside a leopard as it saunters through the undergrowth or having a huge bull elephant stare you down are just a few of countless, unique and sometimes heart pumping encounters Etosha can deliver. And best of all, you can say that you found them yourself.
Get up early, get to a waterhole and wait. The animals will gradually appear from the surrounding plains and give you a window into their lives. Try narrating in your best Attenborough accent. Go on, no one will hear you.
Top image © Galyna Andrushko/Shutterstock