Deciding what to wear on safari is easier said than done. The weather in Africa is nothing like one would expect: most people think that this part of the world is constantly warm, if not unbearably hot. Nothing could be more farther from reality. Africa, especially southern Africa, does get quite cold, indeed!
I visited Southern African between May and June, in what is winter in the southern hemisphere. I traveled for 5 weeks across the region, concentrating on South Africa, where I visited Cape Town, Stellenbosch and Johannesburg, Botswana and Namibia and with a quick stop in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. I went on 3 different safari trips and I realized the importance of knowing what to wear for safari.
Indeed, there are some items that need to be on any packing list for Africa, as they are simply essential. This post highlights what to wear on safari and includes a packing list for Africa.
I admit that I didn’t always blend in with the background on my trip to Africa – I was not sure about what to wear on safari
What To Wear On Safari – The Ultimate Packing List For Africa
What To Wear On Safari
When deciding what to pack for a trip to Africa, and especially when thinking about what to wear on safari, there are a few things need to be kept in mind. My general tip, which I actually apply whenever I have to pack for any place I am traveling to, is to pick items that can be easily mixed and matched together in terms of colors, in order to create a good number of outfits with just a handful of things and which, with the right accessories, can be used either as day-wear or as evening-wear.
The main things to consider when deciding what to wear on safari are comfort, ease, temperatures, colors and style. Let me go through these important factors in more details.
Both men and women can look stylish on a safari, and yet stay comfortable. The main recommendation I have on what to wear for safari is to pick clothes that are breathable, neutral and that can adapt to the changing temperatures throughout the day.
Another thing to consider is that safaris hardly involve any physical exercise – most of the day is spent sitting in the car, looking for animals. Yet, getting on and off the jeep for the occasional bush stop, or to stretch the legs, calls for comfortable attire. Keep this in mind when thinking about what to wear on an African safari.
One thing to remember when picking what to wear on safari is that driving around the bush all day in an open car, one is bound to get covered in dust. T-shirts, pants and whatever else one may be wearing are bound to get dirty. After all, Namibia is mostly a desert and the bush of Botswana is also mostly sandy.
Yet, especially if camping in Botswana, and even more so when in Namibia, there are no laundry facilities. Thus, when deciding what to wear on a safari in Africa, remember to bring items that can be easily hand-washed and that are quick dry. Cotton is by far the best material, as well as technical one that dries in no time.
When deciding what to wear on safari, keep in mind the temperature changes throughout the day
There is a common misconception that all of Africa is warm, if not even hot, throughout the day and night, and year round. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I realized this on my first day on a safari, where, after a full afternoon admiring wildlife in Botswana, the temperatures started dropping as soon as the sun started to set. This is an important factor when deciding what to wear on safari.
Remember that game drives are usually timed to follow the lifestyle of animals. This means that the typical safari will have two game drives per day: one starting soon after sunrise, before the animals find a hiding spot from the afternoon heat; and one in the late afternoon – with some private game reserves allowing drives to linger on after dark. Thus, when deciding what to wear on safari, it is important to wear layers.
A good packing list for Africa will include plenty of cotton shirts to wear during the day, and a few sweaters and a light jacket to wear in the early morning hours and in the evenings. I also recommend bringing a scarf, a hat and gloves.
I love bright colors, but when deciding what to wear for safari, I had to set my personal taste aside. When on a game drive, it is important to blend in with the bush as much as possible. It is recommended to wear neutral colors, such as khaki, beige, taupe or grey. Black and dark blue are thought to attract the African tse tse flies, whereas predators identify red with wounded animals. With the amount of dust in the bush, white is hardly recommended as it gets dirty very easily.
Picking what to wear on safari doesn’t mean being a fashion victim or mocking Maryl Streep in Out of Africa. But being dressed for the occasion (by which I mean being comfortable, fresh during the day and warm at night) is important.
The safaris I did in Botswana and Namibia were completely different one from the other. The one in Botswana was a luxury safari. However, I went mostly camping in Namibia. Either way, there was no need for me to wear anything fancy at night for the evening meals: a pair of nice pants and a nice top usually did the trick. My packing list for Africa was made of informal, easy to wear items.
When thinking about what to wear on safari, remember it does get cold in Africa
The Ultimate Packing List For Africa
Now that I have clarified what to wear on safari and all the things that need to be considered, it is time to compile a good packing list for Africa, with all the essential items that should be taken.
Clothes and shoes
Having considered what to wear on safari, here’s a selection of the clothes I recommend taking:
A good camera is a must in any packing list for Africa
First of all, remember that a safari is a photography extravaganza kind of trip. I don’t think I have ever taken as many photo on any given day as I did when I was in Africa. Any packing list for Africa has to include a good DSLR camera – sorry, but not even the best compact camera will do here!
Here’s what my packing list for Africa included in terms of photography gear:
- Nikon D3300 – I find it fairly easy to use and I took some amazing photos with it.
- 70 / 300 mm lens – it’s the minimum I recommend, it reaches quite far for fantastic wildlife photography.
- 24 / 70 mm lens – for all around photos.
- 10 / 22 mm lens – for wide angle photography. This is great to capture animals and landscape during great migrations.
- A spare battery and extra SD and CF cards and a wallet to keep the memory cards organized – the last thing I’d want after such an intense photographic experience is loosing my cards for not having kept them stored in a good place!
- A cleaning kit – to keep my lenses clean.
- iPhone – I used it to take short spontaneous videos.
- Vrikoo camera vintage shoulder bag – I love all its pockets and compartments for the camera and the lenses.
- A pair of binoculars – perfect to spot wildlife even when it is hiding in the bush.
Picking the right bag for a trip – any trip – is important. The good news is that a safari isn’t a challenging kind of trip in terms of the amount of walking and carrying around bags there is to do, whether on a luxury safari where butlers are going to handle the luggage, or on a budget one where the distance between the truck and the tent is very limited.
The one thing to keep in mind, however, in the case of a budget adventure safari like the one I did in Namibia, is the size of the tent. The last thing one wants is to have a bag that is so big to the point that it doesn’t fit in the tent, especially when this is shared with someone else.
Therefore, when thinking of a packing list for Africa, make sure to limit the number of things to carry, and keep the weight and volume to a minimum. Packing smartly is the way to go.
In terms of bags, I recommend one of these:
- Osprey Ariel 65 – this is the backpack I normally use on all my trips, and it came with me to Africa. It’s big enough to carry what to wear on safari, and very comfortable to walk around. Light packers may go for something smaller, such as the Ariel 55. I don’t recommend anything over 65 liters.
- A medium size soft duffel bag – it can be more easily stored in a truck and it takes less space in a tent; plus it’s big enough to take what to wear for safari.
I do not recommend a hard suitcase, as this occupies too much space and it is generally too heavy (something that has to be considered even on luxury safaris where there are occasional flights on small planes to move from one game reserve to the other).
A good day pack is a must in any packing list for Africa
A good day pack is fundamental on any trip. This is where I normally carry things such documents and whatever I may need during the day, such as snacks, water, tissues, hand sanitizer, sunblock and that much needed extra layer of clothes for when the temperatures drop at the end of the day.
Here’s my favorite day packs:
- Osprey Daylite – it’s my favorite day pack. It’s small enough to be comfortable, yet it can carry a lot of stuff thanks to the internal and front pockets.
- Cabin Zero 28L light khaki – a good size day pack that works perfectly as hand luggage and it’s just the perfect safari color. It matches what to wear on safari!
Keeping everything organized
Packing smartly means knowing where everything is in a bag, and storing items so that they can be found easily. Quite important when in Africa, especially if the space in a tent is limited and there is not much time to decide what to wear on safari.
Here’s what I recommend using:
- Packing cubes – they help to keep clothes organized either by color, clothing type or even outfit. They are perfect to easily find what to wear for safari.
- Dry bags – to be honest, I find that large ziploc bags do the trick whenever I am traveling with my Osprey backpack. They take even less room than packing cubes.
- A good toiletry bag – I like those that have multiple pockets and zips and that can be easily hanged.
- Another small purse – I always have an extra purse where I keep any medication (prescription or emergency) I may need during the trip.
Have you ever been to Africa? Do you have any further recommendations on what to wear on safari? Anything to add to this packing list for Africa?
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There are many more things to do in Namibia than one would expect. This southern Africa country is incredibly vast, yet it marks as the second less densely populated country in the world, dominated as it is by the desert. Needless to say, the landscape is beautiful and one of the best ways to visit Namibia is on an overland trip that goes to both the north and the south of the country.
An overland tour of Namibia provides the opportunity to discover the best nature, wildlife and culture that the country has to offer. I went on a 2 weeks overland Namibia safari with Wild Dog Safaris and it was a memorable experience. I fell in love with this incredibly underrated African country, and I wish to visit it again soon.
This post highlights some of the unmissable things to do in Namibia. Keep in mind this list is not exhaustive, as I have only spent 15 days in the country and didn’t get to see some of the places to visit in Namibia such as the Caprivi Strip. Also, hint: it’s possible to enjoy all of them, and to get to all the places to visit in Namibia, while on an overland Namibia safari with Wild Dog.
Doing a Namibia safari is a must when in Africa!
35 Simply Unmissable Things To Do In Namibia
Do An Overland Safari
I suppose this is the most obvious of all the things to do in Namibia. Doing an overland Namibia safari is a great way to get to know the country, to see its amazing landscape, to meet other like minded travelers and to live plenty of adventures. I did one with Wild Dog Safaris and it was a fantastic experience that I wholeheartedly recommend. I actually went camping in Namibia (read more about my experience camping in Namibia here).
Taking a photo under the Tropic of Capricorn sign is one of the things to do in Namibia
Take A Cheeky Photo At The Tropic of Capricorn
Ok, this really isn’t a must at all. But while there, why not? One of the silliest yet most fun things to do in Namibia is taking a cheeky photo under the sign that marks the Tropic of the Capricorn. I had done this years ago during my first trip to Argentina, so I didn’t want to miss out while on my Namibia safari.
Enjoy A Sunset Game Drive In The Kalahari
There’s nothing quite like a good game drive. I did a few while in Botswana and sure enough I jumped at the chance of doing one in the Kalahari. In fact, a sunset game drive in the Kalahari is one of the nicest things to do in Namibia. My game drive started at Bagatelle Kalahari Game Ranch, and during that I could admire several species including kudus, impalas, oryxes, jackals and ostriches. The views of the desert at sunset were beautiful (and the fact I was enjoying a glass of wine had nothing to do with it, I promise!).
Be Mesmerized By The Desert Sky
The best places in the world to look at the stars are all in the desert. I learned this when visiting Atacama, in Chile. With so much of its surface covered by desert of semi-desert, with no clouds ever obstructing the view and little to no light to disturbi t, it is quite obvious that one of the top things to do in Namibia is admiring the stars.
On my very first night of my Namibia safari, which I spent camping in the Kalahari, I was speechless as I admired the moon rise in the sky and then completely illuminating the deserta round me. The starts never looked so bright.
Brace Up Against The Cold Night In The Desert
Speaking of desert, on the the things to do in Namibia is being prepared against the cold. My first night camping in the Kalahari was mostly sleepless. I honestly thought I was going to freeze in my tent as it was so cold (the temperatures got down do 0 degrees Celsius in the middle of the night). I wasn’t properly geared for the cold that night, I surely had underestimated the weather. After that first night, I successfully devised several ways to keep the cold away at night.
Check out my post on what to wear in Africa for a full packing list and detailed tips on what to carry.
One of the most interesting places to visit in Namibia is the Mesosaurus Fossils Site
Visit A Mesosaurus Fossil Site
One of the most interesting places to visit in Namibia is the Mesosaurus Fossil Site right outside Keetsmanshoop. The best part of it is that the man who takes visitors around, explaining enthusiastically what each fossil used to be and the various research project and excavations in the area, is the same person that, as a child, actually found the first fossils in the area.
Quiver Trees are what to see in Namibia
Admire The Quiver Trees
Quiver trees are one of the most unique sights in Africa. To be fair, they are not trees at all: they are a type of aloe that dot the landscape of Namibia and that, for as common as they are here, are one of the world’s rarest flora species. Needless to say, admiring the quiver trees is one of the most unique things to do in Namibia.
Classic cars are scattered around the country: photographing them is one of the most fun things to do in Namibia
Photograph Classic Cars In The Desert
Who doesn’t love vintage cars? I have seen many of them when I visited Cuba, but this is not the only country in the world where old Ford and vintage Chevrolets, as well as vintage motorbikes complete with side cars can be admired. Classic cars are scattered around the desert in Namibia, and in fact one of the nicest things to do in Namibia is taking photos of them. I saw many of these cars in the desert near Mariental.
Stop the traffic – it’s one of the things to do in Namibia
Cause A Traffic Jam (Or not)
Much like with the photo of the Tropic of the Capricorn sign, one almost stereotypical photo to take in Namibia is while sitting or standing in the middle of the road, with absolutely nothing or nobody around. I know, it has been seen many times before. Yet I could not resist the temptation of sitting down to see how little traffic this country gets. It’s one of the stereotypical yet unmissable things to do in Namibia.
The Fish River Canyon is one of the unmissable places to visit in Namibia
Explore The Fish River Canyon
One of the unmissable things to do in Namibia is exploring the Fish River Canyon, or at least admiring it from above, where the views are simply astonishing. This is supposed to be the second largest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon, measuring 170 km in length, 27 km in width and almost 500 meters at its deepest. There are many hiking trails around the area.
One of the nicest things to do in Namibia is watching the sunset in Luderitz
Luderitz almost feels like it doesn’t belong to Namibia. This lovely small coastal city would look more in place in Bavaria, for its colonial style buildings are right in style with those of a traditional German town. The city is right in the middle of the desert, and faces the ocean – be prepared for some splendid sunset views. The surrounding areas are wonderful to explore (more about this later) and it is a great place to gorge on delicious seafood. This is one of the unmissable places to visit in Namibia.
Visiting a Township is one of the things to do in Namibia
See The Other Side Of Luderitz At Its Township
Namibia used to be part of South Africa until 1990. This means one obvious thing: apartheid was a thing here too. One way to discover a bit more about the troubled past of this incredible country is by visiting one of the townships that are scattered around the country. The one in Luderitz is a good one for this purpose. I’d recommend going as one of the most interesting places to visit in Namibia.
Diaz Point is one of the places to visit in Namibia
Get Up To Diaz Point
Diaz Point is at about 18 km from Luderitz and it makes for a nice visit during a tour of Luderitz Peninsula. The wooden causeway isn’t exactly in good shape, yet walking all the way to the top is fairly easy and once there, the views of the Atlantic Ocean and of the marine life (it’s possible to spot seals) incredible. Easy to see why visiting is one of the top things to do in Namibia.
One of the nicest things to do in Namibia is seeing the pink flamingoes
See The Pink Flamingoes In Luderitz Peninsula
During a Namibia safari there’s many chances to admire wildlife. Not far from the city of Luderitz, pink flamingoes can be found. They are a common sight for me, as there’s many of them in Sardinia. What’s unique in this case is that it is possible to get quite close to take incredible photos – though keep in mind that making a lot of noise or walking up to them too quickly will make them fly away.
Kolmanskop is one of the top places to visit in Namibia
Wander Around The Ghost Town Of Kolmanskop
I have a passion for abandoned cities. After visiting Chernobyl when it was covered in snow, I was definitely keen to explore Namibia’s ghost town, Kolmanskop. Located at a mere 10 km from Luderitz, the city was founded at the beginning of the 20th century, when diamonds were found in the area, and later on abandoned when it was no longer profitable to extract them. Since then, the desert took over the city, which however remains well preserved. Visiting this eerie place if one of the things to do in Namibia.
Kolmanskop can be visited every day, on guided tours that last around 1 hour (but visitors can stay as long as they want for photos and to explore the area on their own), from 9:00 am to 1.00 pm.
Seeing the wild desert horses is one of the things to do in Namibia
See The Wild Namib Desert Horses
The fact that horses can live and thrive in the desert gives a good idea of how much these animals can adapt to the environment. There’s around 150 horses that live, divided in small groups, in the desert of Namibia, supposedly descending from the animals that were abandoned by the Germans after World War I. Seeing them is one of the nicest things to do in Namibia. They can be easily spotted on an overland Namibia safari while driving from Luderitz towards Sesriem.
Take In All The Desert Views
I guess this should come as a given, since most of the landscape in Namibia is arid. Just make sure to be aware of this when planning a trip to the country. I surely love the desert so to me one of the top things to do in Namibia is spending hours at end admiring the views.
Enjoying the sunset in Sesriem – one of the things to do in Namibia
Admire The Sunset From Sesriem Dunes
Speaking of desert, Sesriem is one of the nicest places to visit in Namibia, and any good Namibia safari should go there. One of the nicest things to do in Namibia is walking up the dunes in Sesriem to admire the sunset. It is a rather sandy experience, and walking on the sand can be quite tiring, but it is worth the effort: the light is simply splendid.
Sossusvlei is one of the unmissable places to visit in Namibia – make sure to go at sunrise
Admire Sunrise From Dune 45 In Sossusvlei
There’s nothing quite like seeing the sunrise in the desert. Among the most incredible things to do in Namibia there’s walking all the way up Dune 45 in Sossusvlei to take in the beautiful light of sunrise. Keep in mind that the access point to Sossusvlei is Sesriem Campsite, whose gates are opened for non-guests at sunrise – keeping in mind that it is a 45 minutes drive to get there, those who are keen on seeing sunrise from the dunes should consider spending the night at the camp for privileged access to the area.
Hike Up Big Daddy Or Big Mama
While Dune 45 is the most popular one to hike in Sossusvlei, other dunes are equally beautiful and even more challenging. One of the most fun things to do in Namibia is hiking up the Big Daddy, which with its 325 meters is the highest one in the area. Another challenging one is Big Mama, located nearby.
Do Not Bag Up Desert Sand
I have yet to understand what the deal is with bagging sand from around the world and taking it home. Tourists do it in Sardinia all the time, and get fined when caught (sand is protected here). Besides, what do people do with it once they are back from their travels? I have seen several tourists do it in Sossusvlei, although this is a highly protected area and a UNESCO site and bagging sand is forbidden. This definitely is not one of the things to do in Namibia.
Walking around Deadvlei is one of the top things to do in Namibia
Walk Around A Dead Trees Forest In Deadvlei
The most iconic images of Namibia are probably those of the seemingly petrified trees of Deadvlei. Located at around 6 km from Sossusvlei, these trees are not petrified at all. Indeed, they are simply dead – they have been so for 900 years. The combination of hot and dry air is such that they do not decompose. The contrasting colors of the black tree trunks, bright orange sand and the intense blue sky are such that this is an incredible place to walk around and take photos: this is one of the ultimate things to do in Namibia.
Hike Around Sesriem Canyon
Sesriem Canyon isn’t as majestic as the Fish River Canyon, but it’s a nice place to spend a couple of hours when in the area, and a good location from where to admire sunset. I recommend it as one of the places to visit in Namibia.
Africat is one of the coolest places to visit in Namibia
Visit The Africat Foundation At Okonjima
Feline lovers should mark down Africat, in Okonjima: visiting this conservation center is definitely one of the nicest things to do in Namibia. Okonjima used to be a cattle farm that regularly lost calves to leopards. It was created in 1991 with the intention to rescue the many large carnivores that had been trapped by other farmers. Since 1993, 1080 predators have been rescued, with 85% of them being released back into the wild.
Since 2010, Africat and the Okonjima Nature Reserve are used as environmental education and research center, and as a rehabilitation center for captive carnivores. There is a campsite on the ground where it is fantastic to spend a night or more, as well as many hiking and mountain biking trails and plenty of activities to make it one of the nicest places to visit in Namibia.
Etosha is one of the places to visit in Namibia to admire wildlife
Admire All The Wildlife In Etosha National Park
Speaking of wildlife, Etosha National Park is a must stop on any overland Namibia safari. The park is vast, and there’s plenty of opportunities to see animals. On a lucky day, it is possible to spot various antelopes, zebras and giraffes, elephants, lions, hyenas, cheetahs (I was lucky to see one with 3 cubs), ostriches and even rhinos.
Walk Up To Okaukuejo Waterhole In The Middle Of The Night
If visiting Etosha is one of the unmissable things to do in Namibia, so should be walking up to the Okaukuejo Waterhole. Sunrise and sunsets are great times to see animals drinking or bathing at the waterhole, but even the middle of the night is a great time to do so. I walked up at around 4:00 am, all bundled up in my warm clothes (other visitors carried their sleeping bags there) and with my flask of hot coffee and listened to the lions call. It was incredibly peaceful and truly enjoyable!
I am not sure that visiting a Himba village is one of the things to do in Namibia
Visit A Traditional Himba Village
To be completely honest, I am not sure that visiting a traditional Himba village should be one of the things to do in Namibia. Sure enough, learning about the traditional way of life of this indigenous group is interesting. These people have managed to survive to date with very little water. They are famous for putting red clay on their skin and hair, to protect from the sun and pest, and their traditional source of income is animal (usually cows, but also goats and sheep) farming.
But for as interesting as this traditional way of life is, I am always a bit wary about the spectacularization of an entire group of people, especially when this relies on money coming from tourism in order to survive and the traditional economic means are no longer viable to survive.
Is it worth preserving at all costs a culture that appears to be dying out, or changing? One of the biggest points of my research on culture and cultural identity in the years I worked in academia is that culture is ever changing, and not a fixed thing, and that just because a group embraces modernity it doesn’t mean that its traditional culture has died. I guess the point I am trying to make is that yes, the Himba villages are some of the places to visit in Namibia – but when going, ask yourself a few questions.
Eat The Best Apple Pie In Solitaire
Lovers of pie, beware! On the way from Sesriem to Wolvis Bay there’s Solitaire, nothing more than a settlement, really. What’s important about it, and what makes stopping here one of the coolest things to do in Namibia, is that there is a vintage general store and petrol station, with plenty of classic cars ready to be photographed, and a bakery that makes the most delicious apple pie in the continent. It’s a pleasant place to stop, stretch the legs and refuel on gas and energy.
Admire The Highest Mountain In Namibia
With its 2573 meters, the Brandeberg is the highest mountain in Namibia and a fantastic sight when driving through Damaraland on a Namibia safari. Known as the Fire Mountain, hiking it is one of the coolest things to do in Namibia. There’s many trails going to the top, but as they are quite hard it is better to hire a guide to get there.
Twyfelfontain is one of the most interesting places to visit in Namibia
Discover The Rock Engravings At Twyfelfontein
One of the nicest places to visit in Namibia is the Twyfelfontein rock engravings that date back to around 6000 years ago. It is thought that the engravings are the work of hunter gatherers that used to live in the region. The site is UNESCO protected since 2007.
Enjoy The Sunset In Damaraland
Sunsets in Namibia are stunning – I have said this before. The ones in Damaraland are unmissable. One of the top things to do in Namibia is to climb up the rock formations that can be found in Damaraland, a drink at hand, and enjoy the view as the sun goes down. The crips air, the silence, the light make it a memorable experience.
Visiting the fur colony is one of the nicest things to do in Namibia
Visit Cape Cross Seal Colony
Visiting the seal colony of Cape Cross is one of the things to do in Namibia. There’s around 100000 seals that live in the colony, and watching them getting in and out of the water and fight for their territory is definitely fun. These animals are very vocal, so expect it to be noisy. And make sure to take a scarf or something to put around your nose: the smell is overwhelming!
Although visiting the Cape Cross colony is a must when in Namibia, there are a few things to keep in mind when doing that. This post by How Dare She helps bring clarity to the issue, but let me sum it up here for as much as I can. This is a very large breeding colony, and when the pups are born the pups are born the population goes as high as 210000 seals.
Namibia is one of the very few countries (actually, just 2 at the moment: the rest have finally changed their ways) in the world that is still infamous for culling the seals. Though the seals are free to move, come and go as they please, and they are not fed or enticed in any way to stay in the reserve, every year around 80000 seal pups are clubbed to death. According to the Namibian authorities, this is done for the purpose of “sustainable seal harvesting.”
Most countries have come to terms with the fact that they can no longer argue that killing seals has a positive impact on fish stocks and that there’s a need to control the population of seals. They can no longer hide that there is nothing responsible in this practice and that the harsh reality is that they make a lot of money from the seal pelts and oils that they (illegally) export to the rest of the world.
So, with all this in mind, why would visiting a seal colony be one of the things to do in Namibia? For the simple fact that it is a way to get to know about the issue, and to convince the local government that there is a great monetary value in protecting the seals for tourism purposes.
The Skeleton Coast is one of the places to visit in Namibia
Drive Along The Skeleton Coast
Any good Namibia safari goes along the Skeleton Coast. Shipwrecks are scattered along the coast, giving it its name. What’s most impressive is that here, the sand dunes get all the way to the Ocean. This is the only area of the country where the sun doesn’t shine all day and the air isn’t terribly dry: in fact, it can be quite hazy!
Visiting Swakopmund is one of the things to do in Namibia
Swakopmund may well be the most fun of all the places to visit in Namibia. This small city located on the Atlantic coast is a fantastic place for any adventure sports lover. There’s plenty of things to do – sand boarding, sky diving, walking in the desert are just a few of them. To top this off, the restaurant scene is fantastic, with a great selection of places to enjoy the most delicious seafood. Visiting is one of the unmissable things to do in Namibia.
Spend A Night Out In Windhoek
Fair enough, Windhoek certainly isn’t the most interesting of capitals. Most travelers use it as a base to start their Namibia safari, and end up spending a few nights there. The good news is that there’s a few good places to hang out. One of them is Joe’s Beer Home. A favorite of the locals, tourists go there to try exotic meats such as kudu and zebra. Personally, I don’t think this is one of the things to do in Namibia. But to each their own!
Here’s a nice tour of Windhoek for those who wish to explore it:
Windhoek has a good selection of places to stay. Here’s my favorite ones:
How To Get To Namibia
The main airport in Namibia is Hosea Kutako International Airport, which is at about 45 minutes east of Windhoek, the country’s capital. South African Airways runs direct flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg. Air Namibia also has direct flights Gaborone, Botswana’s capital. There also are direct flights to other African countries, and some intercontinental flights too.
One of the nicest things to do in Namibia is getting there by bus, which is possible to those that already are in Southern Africa. This is the most budget friendly way to travel across the continent. Intercape Mainliner runs services to and from Cape Town, Victoria Falls, and Johannesburg. Traveling to and from Botswana is not nearly as easy: it is a mix of local buses and taxis, with no real departure and arrival times. As it was so uncertain, I resolved to fly from Maun to Windhoek via Johannesburg.
One of the coolest things to do in Namibia is self-driving. It is possible to cross the border in the northwest of South Africa, at the Vioolsdrift/Nordoewer land crossing. Other land crossings between Namibia and South Africa include: Mata Mata, Rietfontain, Nakop, Onseepkans, Sendelingsdrif, and Alexander Bay. It’s also possible to cross easily from Botswana, Zambia, and Angola.
Traveling Around Namibia
Namibia is one of the easiest African countries to travel around. One of the nicest things to do in Namibia is renting a car, better if a 4×2 (click here for some good deals), and drive around. Keep in mind that I do not recommend doing this to solo travelers: the driving times can be very long, the desert hard to cope with, and in case of emergency there’s hardly other cars around to ask for help. Sure enough I don’t like the idea of being stuck in the desert with nobody to help me!
Thus, especially if traveling alone I recommend joining a guided tour. It certainly is one of the top things to do in Namibia. Wild Dogs runs fabulous tours, that are very budget friendly. They also provide help in organizing self guided tours.
Whichever way one chooses to travel around the country, getting travel insurance is a must do in Namibia. Click here form some good deals on insurance.
When To Visit Namibia
Namibia is a great place to visit at any time of year. I went in June, and it was pleasantly hot (but never unbearable) and dry during the day, and very cold at night. My sister went in October, and she told me the same thing. Sure enough, one of the best things to do in Namibia is being prepared for the weather and layering up, especially at night.
Have you ever been to Namibia? What are the things to do in Namibia that you enjoyed the most?
Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of Wild Dog Safaris during my trip to Namibia and I wish to thank them for the incredible time I had. Needless to say, the views expressed in this post are mine.
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There are many places to see wildlife in Botswana. Rumor has it that this is one of the best countries on the continent to observe animals in their natural environment, and to do so in a completely responsible manner. I was curious about it, but knew nothing about this country nestled between Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
People who had been to Southern Africa before me suggested that I should visit Botswana. It made sense to insert it in my itinerary, since I would be going to South Africa and to Namibia already. I did a bit of research then, and that’s how I concluded that my friends were right: Botswana national parks looked like the perfect places to see Botswana wildlife, and I surely was up for that. That’s why I went camping in Botswana.
To read more about my experience camping in Botswana, check this post.
Lions are among the most beautiful wildlife in Botswana
Is Botswana The Ultimate Ecotourism Destination?
But you know me. For as interested as I may be in Botswana animals, I tend to be wary when animals are involved in the tourism industry. I am afraid that they may be exploited or that they may be endangered, just for the sake of my entertainment, much like I saw happening in some places in India and Sri Lanka. Rather than be the cause of animals’ suffering, I’d go out of my way to seek alternative places where I can see animals in a responsible way (so I went all the way to Gal Oya, in Sri Lanka, to see elephants).
Read more about the use of animals in tourist attractions on this post.
Upon further readings, I learned that the local authorities in Botswana have been making a serious commitment to protect and conserve the country’s natural environment and its wildlife. This is a country that has been successfully implementing anti-poaching measures, where trophy hunting has been completely banned, and where a whopping 38% of the territory is protected. Botswana national parks are many, they are huge and Botswana wildlife is thriving.
Ecotourism is the second biggest source of revenue in Botswana. Ecotourism attracts increasing numbers of travelers to Botswana each year. This kind of approach to tourism has been so successful there, that the country went from being one of the poorest in Africa, to having a growing middle class and an ever increasing GDP. All the more reasons for me to visit Botswana.
Impalas and other beautiful antelopes can be seen in the top places to visit in Botswana
Joining A Wilderness Safari in Botswana
So, I decided I’d go on a wilderness safari in Botswana. The safari I went on was my first ever. This is to say, I do have a limited experience in Africa. But I doubt that it can get any better than that. Because really, I saw many more animals than I had hoped for! Visiting Botswana national parks and going on a safari with And Beyond was an incredible experience.
I spent 9 full days traveling across the country – mostly overland, but I also took a couple of those tiny planes to reach the most remote places to visit in Botswana. Trying to write down my experience isn’t easy, because for as many words as I may use, there’s certain things that simply don’t translate well on paper, things that are too amazing for me to express properly.
Words simply can’t describe how thrilling it is to hear lions call in the middle of the night; or what it is to listen to a hyena walk around the campsite, calling. For as much as I write, I will never be able to explain what the air feels and smells like in Botswana – the mixture of bush, wild basil and sage, and the smell of the carcass of an animal that’s been killed a few days prior. Words can hardly describe the starry sky, or the thrill when spotting a leopard for the first time. One really has to visit Botswana to understand!
One thing is for sure, though: I will do my best to show the beauty of the country and all that it has to offer. This post will focus on the top places to see wildlife in Botswana, with a few insights on the animals that are typically spotted.
Chobe is one of the best Botswana national parks to see elephants
Where To See Wildlife In Botswana
Chobe National Park
Chobe is the third biggest of Botswana national parks, but the one that is most biologically diverse. The Chobe river marks the border between Botswana and Namibia on the north, on what is known to be Namibia Caprivi Strip. Among the species to be seen in Chobe there are: crocodiles, hippos, elephants, impalas and kudus, spotted hyenas, lions, leopards and cheetahs. No doubt this is one of the nicest places to see wildlife in Botswana.
Botswana wildlife in Chobe
Chobe may not be the biggest among Botswana national parks, but it’s the first that the country ever recognized, and it definitely is one of the best places to see wildlife in Botswana, hence why I recommend doing a safari in Chobe. It was the first stop on my Botswana itinerary – I arrived from Kasane, after crossing the border from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, and had I stopped right there, I would have still been pleased with my trip.
My exploration of Chobe started with a boat ride on the river. The slow moving boat proved to be an excellent vantage point to admire some of the best Botswana wildlife. On any given day, along the Chobe, a great variety of animals can be spotted. The bird life along the river is thriving; and it’s easy to come across crocodiles laying in the sun. But there’s more.
There’s many hippos on the Chobe, though during the day they typically lay under the surface of the water, only their ears, eyes and nose sticking out, and only come out of water at night. They make the funniest of sounds – almost pig-like. It’s interesting to know that these seemingly peaceful animals are actually quite aggressive and among the most dangerous wildlife in Botswana (actually, they are among the most dangerous animals in Africa, killing each year an average of 2900 people).
Yet, one of the most impressive Botswana animals sighting in Chobe is elephants. There are so many that it is easy to see why this is thought to be the best of Botswana national parks. These are truly impressive creatures, not only for their size (they are the biggest mammal on land) but also for their very interesting social structures.
A female lion spotted in the early morning in Chobe, one of the nicest Botswana national parks
Elephants can be spotted at any time of day living either in large groups – females and the cubs; small bachelor groups; or lone males. They are generally peaceful, though it can happen that, if they feel threatened, they charge against a jeep. Elephants love and need water – that’s why Chobe is a great place to spot this and other wildlife in Botswana.
Indeed, elephants can be seen pretty much in any place where there is water. Along the banks of the Chobe, they can be seen drinking and, more interestingly so, bathing – either rolling on the mud and then getting in the water, or walking along the river in and out of the water. Seeing them in large groups, playing, eating and drinking is impressive.
As if this is not enough to make Chobe one of the top Botswana national parks, there’s other species that can be seen in the area. Antelopes such as impalas and kudus are common; there’s buffalos and then there’s the lions.
Lions definitely are among the most impressive wildlife in Botswana. These big cats are night creatures. That’s when they go hunting, or roam around, roaring: this is a way to mark their territory by signaling their presence. Their very deep call can be heard for up to an 8 km radius. Hearing their call in the middle of the night is a thrilling experience. The best time to actually see lions is either in the early morning hours, before they look for a spot in the shade to rest and stay away from the heat, or right around sunset, before they set to hunt.
If lions have a prey that they have been feeding on for a day or more, the smell in the air is quite distinctive – that of rotting meat. If the meat is rotting, chances are there will be more Botswana animals around, typically scavengers such as hyenas, but also jackals and vultures.
It’s not just wildlife in Botswana: the sky is gorgeous
Savute (Chobe National Park)
Savute is a remote corner of Chobe, going from the northern boundaries of the park to the Linyanti river. Here, the Savute Channel flows and dries up regardless of rainfall. What makes Savute one of the top places to see wildlife in Botswana is the variety of animals to be seen. Here, there’s lions and hyenas, but there’s also massive, old bull elephants, giraffes and thousands of zebra.
Botswana wildlife in Savute
Savute is actually a part of Chobe, one of the top Botswana national parks, and a great place to see Botswana wildlife. For around 30 years the area was mostly dry – to the point that animals were sustained by artificial waterholes and lions resolved to hunting elephants (which they wouldn’t normally do!). However, in the last few years the Savute Channel has started flowing again: the nature is as lush as it could be here, and there are a lot of animals, to the point that it is thought to be wilderness heaven.
Aside from the many lone elephant bulls that are easy to come across in this part of Chobe; there’s various lion prides, a result of the split of the larger prides that used to live in the area during the dry years. But lions are not the only Botswana wildlife that can be spotted in Savute.
Indeed, Savute now proves to be one of the nicest places to visit in Botswana to spot zebra, who come here during their annual migration in the rainy season, between January and February, and can be seen roaming around at any time of day. There’s also large amounts of wildebeest, impalas, kudu, buffalos, lots of birdlife such as the kori bustards and the large batelieur eagle, and there’s the beautiful giraffes.
Aren’t giraffes some of the most beautiful wildlife in Botswana?
Giraffes can reach 5 meters in height, and they are among the most beautiful wildlife in Botswana. I saw my first one in Savute. Seeing their heads peak through the thick vegetation (by the way, those that most people think are horns are actually part of the skull and not made by keratin); observing them walking ever so slowly; admiring them while they graze on the tallest branches and watching them bending down to drink from the river is a fabulous experience. Giraffes can be spotted at any time of day.
Yet, it is big cats that I find the most attractive and one of the reasons I am glad that Savute was included in my Botswana itinerary with And Beyond is that this part of Chobe has quite a bit of them. Here it is possible to admire leopards: I saw a female one, who was up on a tree feasting on an impala (that’s the typical diet of leopards), and her cub, who later on joined the party. Much like lions, leopards are night creatures: hunting at night, resting in the shade, in the bushes or up a tree, during the warmest hours of the day.
But that isn’t all. Savute is also home to cheetahs, some of the most amazing wildlife in Botswana, the fastest animals on earth. Cheetahs are solitary animals. Females can typically be seen with their cubs; whereas when there’s two of them, these are typically male brothers. Contrary to other large cats, cheetahs don’t have night vision, and thus hunt during the day. The thick dark tear marks actually to protect them from the glare of the sun when they are out hunting.
The fact that cheetahs are day hunters doesn’t mean that they can be easily seen hunting. Much like other felines, they tend to hide from the sun during the warmest hours of the day, at most browsing around to see if there’s a prey in the vicinity. It’s easier to see them move around towards sunset. I suppose that the beauty of observing wildlife in Botswana is also knowing that animals live according to their rhythm!
Cheetahs are also observed in South Africa, especially at Phinda Game Reserve. To read more about it, check out this post.
Cheetahs are by far some of the most incredible wildlife in Botswana
Moremi Game Reserve (Okavango Delta)
Moremi Game Reserve is the only proclaimed reserve located on the eastern side of the Okavango Delta, and it is one of the nicest places to visit in Botswana. Here, the vegetation is rather thick and the presence of water (only 30% of the reserve is actually on land, most of it actually within the Okavango Delta, composed of lagoons, floodplains and islands) makes it a great place to observe wildlife in Botswana. Animals that can be spotted at Moremi include lions, leopards, cheetahs, elephants, zebra and much more.
Botswana wildlife in Moremi Game Reserve
The Okavango Delta, the largest inland delta in the world, is one of the most amazing places in the world – so unique that is has been enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is by far one of the top places to see wildlife in Botswana. Known as “the river that never finds the sea,” Okavango is unique for it sinks into the Kalahari Desert, creating a series of oasis, floodplains, lagoons and small islands that are the perfect habitat for Botswana wildlife.
Moremi Game Reserve makes up for about a third of the Okavango Delta. Among Botswana national parks, this is an area of incredible contrasts: dry areas leave way to tall palm trees and permanent waterways to create a fantastic environment for Botswana wildlife. One can really appreciate these contrasts and the presence of animals on board of a small tourist plane. Needless to say, the views from the sky are fantastic.
Botswana national parks are perfect for spotting zebra
This is one of the best places to visit in Botswana to spot hippos. There are several observation points from where it is possible to admire these huge animals as they play in the water while being very vocal and, once the sun sets, get out to feed, leaving their marks on the wet land. Accompanying the sound of hippos there’s also that of the many frogs that populate the region: bell frogs produce a constant, delicate and relaxing bell-like sound.
Other wildlife in Botswana that is best spotted at Moremi is large groups of elephants, especially bachelor heads or lone bachelors. With so much water year round, at Moremi it’s easy to find places where these majestic mammals stop to eat their favorite grass throughout the day, ripping it off the ground and shaking it intensely to clean it off earth before eating it. Just as it is not uncommon for them to get close to the campsites as they eat their way around the bush.
Giraffes are quite easy to spot at Moremi, making it one of the nicest Botswana national parks for that. Lions, spotted hyenas, cheetahs and leopards, as well as wild dogs live in the area too. I was not so lucky to see any during my two days in the area, but that’s part of the beauty of visiting a country where animals are protected.
Indeed, those who plan to visit Botswana should be aware that though wildlife in Botswana is easy to come across, animals won’t be chased or put under stress just so that visitors can leave the country with a full portfolio of pictures.
Last, but definitely not least, Moremi Game Reserve is birdwatchers’ paradise: around 500 species of birds live in the area, from water birds to forest dwellers. One more reason to include it among the top Botswana national parks.
Hippos are among Botswana wildlife that is easy spotted in the Chobe and Okavango Delta
Nxabega Concession (Okavango Delta)
The Nxabega Concession is a small area located at the center of the south-western area of the Okavango Delta. It’s one of the best places to see wildlife in Botswana, and the presence of open floodplains makes it a wonderful place to explore on boat. The area is rich with lion prides, leopards and cheetahs, as well as wild dogs.
Botswana wildlife in Nxabega Concession
Nxabega may well be one of the nicest places to visit in Botswana. Floodplains are typically flooded between May and September, and they are dotted with small islands that are fun to travel across on a mokoro boat (one of the traditional modes of transportation in the region) – this is a great way to observe elephants from a different point of view, as well as other small animals, like tiny frogs hanging on grass in the water.
Waterways are lined with miscanthus grass and papyrus; water lilies can be seen on the clear waters, and a sunset boat ride along them is an excellent opportunity not only to enjoy the beautiful light at that time of day, but also to admire some of the most unique bird species in the country. It’s easy to see why Nxabega is one of the nicest places to visit in Botswana.
Among the Botswana wildlife that it is possible to come across in Nxabega, there are giraffes and zebras, elephants, hippos (whose loud sounds provide great company at night), impalas and kudus, wildebeest, baboons and vervet monkeys (who love hanging out around the tented camps and causing a bit of a commotion especially around sunrise). As in other parts of the country, there’s several bird species too.
The best time to spot wildlife in Botswana is sunset: that’s when the leopards go out!
However, what makes Nxabega one of the top places to admire wildlife in Botswana is the presence of several lion prides, hyenas, leopards and even wild dogs. Leopards and their cubs can be seen feeding on impalas right under or up a tree at sunset time; female lions face a challenge to protect their cubs from the spotted hyenas that roam around the area; and male lions make their presence loud and clear at night with their roars.
Yet, the cherry on the cake at Nxabega is seeing one of the most endangered species in the world: wild dogs. These animals live in small prides (typically a female and two males, and sometimes their puppies) and are some of the fiercest hunters in Africa, managing to run very fast for a long time when they are chasing their preys and literally biting them off while they are still running. They are absolutely fascinating animals. It was one of my best spotting of wildlife in Botswana, one I wasn’t even hoping for!
Wild dogs are among the most endangered species in the world, and one of the most incredible wildlife in Botswana
Best Time To Go To Botswana
I visited Botswana in May, when I did a 9 days / 8 nights mobile safari with And Beyond. The best time to go to Botswana is between May and September, during Botswana winter. This is the dry season: the temperatures are milder during the day (it is chilly at night, though, so pack some warm clothes); there’s less mosquitoes (and thus there’s a much lesser risk of getting malaria); rain is rare; and the sky is mostly clear. Dry weather also means that it is much easier to spot Botswana wildlife around the waterholes and rivers.
Most people visit Botswana during the dry season, but Botswana national parks are so vast that they never feel crowded. The only one where there may be more visitors is Chobe.
How To Visit Botswana
I went to Botswana on a guided safari with And Beyond, and I am glad I did so. Though it is possible to go on a self-drive, renting a 4×4 and sleeping in assigned camping areas within Botswana national parks, this is a country where having a good guide does make a difference. My And Beyond guide, KD, made the difference during my safari, so knowledgeable he is about Botswana wildlife.
Guides typically know where to find wildlife in Botswana; they can recognize the sounds they make and where they are coming from; they know how to follow animal tracks and they communicate among each other via radio to give tips and clues on animal sightings; they know their way around and provide reliable safety advice too. Those who plan to visit Botswana are better off investing a bit more money to join a guided safari and get more out of their time there.
How To Get To Botswana
The 3 main airports in Botswana are those of Gaborone, the capital; Kasane, near the border with Zimbabwe, and Maun, in the Okavango region. Although all of them are international airports, they only offer flights to other African countries. Those who want to visit Botswana typically fly through Johannesburg, where they may have a long layover.
Check out my post on the things to do in Johannesburg on a layover.
People holding passports from one of the countries of the European Union, Australian, the United States and Canada can get a visa on arrival when they visit Botswana.
Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of And Beyond during my trip to Botswana, and I wish to thank them for the incredible experience. Needless to say, all the views expressed in this post are mine and unbiased.
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