Namibia’s less famous than neighbouring South Africa or Botswana and not as iconic as legends like Kenya and Tanzania.Yet it’s now one of the most tourist-friendly and accessible African safari destinations.
As well as having over a quarter of the world’s cheetah population, only in Namibia can you see free-roaming Black Rhino and few places anywhere are more spectacular than the Namib Desert’s dune landscape or unearthly Skeleton Coast.
Self-drive safaris are an option in Namibia: the roads are generally well-surfaced and safe and most major parks allow private vehicles. But the country’s vast and sparsely populated so long journeys are inevitable and independent family holidays with under 10s aren’t recommended.
Direct flights from the UK to Johannesburg take just over 10 hours and direct daily flights from Johannesburg to Namibia take less than two hours.
Namibia’s 11 national parks include world famous Etosha, considered to be one of the greatest of all African game reserves.
The Skeleton Coast in north west Namibia’s known by the indigenous San people as, ‘the land God made in anger’. The area’s now a national park and included in some family safari itineraries.
Several UK operators specialise in multi-centre family safari holidays in Namibia including Expert Africa, Audley Travel and Go2Africa.
Namibia’s game reserves and national parks have an extraordinary variety of innovative, eco-conscious and beautiful accommodation ranging from wood and canvas ‘hotels’ to luxury camps, historic fortresses and wilderness lodges.
Namibia’s larger than France with a population of only 2 million, borders Botswana, South Africa and Angola and has an 1572km Atlantic coastline.
With barely any rainfall and a predominantly desert environment, Namibia’s good to visit at any time of year. The weather’s warmest and clearest from April to August; September and October are best months for wildlife viewing.
Where to go
Namib-Naukluft National Park, South West
Erindi Private Game Reserve
Namib-Naukluft National Park, South West
Monumental sculpted sand dunes are one of Namibia’s most iconic landmarks and the Sesriem and Sossusvlei section of the Namib-Naukluft National Park is where to see them rising to heights of 300m and stretching to infinity in every direction.
Namibia’s largest park and fourth largest in the world, Namib-Naukluft covers an area of 40,000km² and is divided into four sections.
This is not a classic safari park and its large population of wildlife, including zebra, oryx, springbok, kudu and klipspringer, tend to be elusive.
Over 200 species of birds are recorded here with eagles, buzzards and falcons common overhead and close-up sightings of peach-faced lovebirds and hornbill not at all unusual.
The Sesriem and Sossusviei area has a variety of camps and lodges with shuttles to the dunes – seeing the dunes at sunrise is unforgettable.
Big Daddy is the dune to climb with older kids. It’s a strenuous hike to the top, but the views are sensational and running back down is ridiculously good fun.
Swakopmund began as a German colonial port in the late 19th century. Since Namibia became independent in 1990, the main industry’s been tourism and the city’s grown into a lively seaside resort with good restaurants, shopping and a wide choice of mid-range hotels and guesthouses.
Known for pretty colonial architecture, big beaches, seafood cafés and outdoor activities.
Makes a fun seaside breather, before or after Etosha, as part of a self-drive family holiday.
Swakopmund’s coastal belt is famous for enormous sand dunes. Best known is Dune 7 (11km from the city). Low impact climbing and sand-surfing are available here.
Shopping on Moltke Strasse is not to be missed for oddities, antiques and unusual local crafts.
The historic German influence is still strong in Swakopmund: the beer’s better than anywhere else in Namibia and there’s even an annual Oktoberfest.
Erindi Private Game Reserve
What Erindi lacks in Etosha’s fame it makes up for in a huge range of guided and self-guided activities most of which are perfect for kids. This is a very family-friendly park, the standard of lodges and camps is high and it’s just over two hours drive from Windhoek. You may not want to replace mighty Etosha, but this is an excellent addition to a holiday itinerary.
Two hours drive north of Windhoek (on-route to Etosha National Park).
Over 70,000ha; malaria-free; over 300 bird species; 10,000 plus animals including lion, leopard, hippo, elephant, giraffe, wild dogs, wildebeest, honey badger, baboon, oryx, impala, crocodile, leopard tortoise.
Significantly less busy than Etosha year round and accommodation from luxury resort lodges to eco-camps.
Situated on Namibia’s stunning central plateau.
What to do
Desert Rhino Camp, Damaraland An amazing wilderness experience in one of the most remote and breathtaking areas of Namibia. Suitable for teenagers.
Nhoma Safari Camp, Tsumkwe This small, activity based camp in north eastern Namibia is partly hosted by the extraordinary San people (once known as Kalahari Bushmen). The local village and community directly benefit from the camp’s income. Children over six are welcome.
Etosha National Park Namibia’s most famous national park is one of the best places in the world to see rare black rhino, it also has larger elephants than any other game reserve in Africa.
Sossusvlei Dunes, Namib Naukluft National Park The massive sand dunes at Sossusviei are Namibia’s biggest tourist attraction, a spectacular adventure for older kids and best seen at sunrise.
Erindi Private Game Reserve With over 10,000 animals, hundreds of birds and dozens of activities and experiences this is an ideal reserve for kids of all ages.
Chobe National Park, Botswana Botswana’s exceptional northern national park is famous for its vast herds of elephants and Chobe River safaris. It shares a border with eastern Namibia and can be visited from the country’s Caprivi Game Reserve.
Sand-Surfing, Swakopmund A day out learning to sand-surf on Swakopmund’s coastal dunes is fantastic fun, safe and low-impact.
Skeleton Coast Safaris The Skeleton Coast is in the mist-shrouded north west of Namibia. Called ‘the land God made in anger’ by the San people, it’s one of the most haunting landscapes on earth and only accessible by a handful of registered and carefully vetted operators.
Cape Cross Seal Reserve, Dorob National Park An insanely huge breeding colony of more than 100,000 Cape Fur Seals on the Namib coast an hour north of Swakopmund. It’s a riveting sight, hugely entertaining and very smelly.
Sandwich Harbour Tour, Walvis Bay The Walvis Bay Wetlands are stunning: vast dunes drop straight into the Atlantic, flocks of flamingos wade in lagoons and the sea rages against the desert. A phenomenal adventure for older kids and teenagers.
Educational value for kids
Make a guided visit to Mondesa Township just outside Swakopmund where kids can meet local children, experience community life and learn about Namibian customs and traditions.
Visit Damaraland with older children and teenagers and spend time in a San village – communities should directly benefit so make sure you use a recommended company.
Spend a day kayaking at Dorob National Park and kids can get even closer to the Cape Cross Seal Colony.
You can self-drive Etosha, park up next to a watering hole and just wait until the wildlife arrives. But the park also has a variety of guided game drives, walking tours and treks.
Take a living desert tour from Swakopmund and kids can see strange and wonderful creatures like geckos and sand-diving lizards, surviving and thriving in the most inhospitable environment.
Erindi Game Reserve is home to several San families who welcome small group visits. Interesting for kids and every penny goes to the San hosts.
Erindi small-group eco-treks with local conservationists are exceptional learning experiences.
Getting about with kids in Namibia
Namibia’s roads are mostly very good, surfaced and well-signposted. Major national parks and reserves permit self-drive safaris and 2WDs are normally up to most routes. Sossusviei needs a 4×4 and makes quite demanding driving. If you aren’t confident, there are shuttle services and private tours. Several of Namibia’s parks are only accessible with registered operators but they tend to have challenging environments and aren’t suitable for kids.
Flying’s an option and worth considering for multi-centre holidays covering several parks or visits to more remote areas like Damaraland and the Skeleton Coast.
A few things to remember if you self-drive: book accommodation in advance and let someone know when you expect to arrive; leave plenty of time to get to your camp before dark in large parks like Etosha and Namib-Naukluft; don’t drive at night, dawn or dusk as wildlife’s most active then; slow down and avoid sudden braking on gravel surfaces; watch your fuel and know where the next petrol station is; carry plenty of water and snacks; keep your phone charged; carry local emergency numbers and have a paper map as back up.