Those who are planning a trip to southern Africa but don’t have a budget to splurge should definitely consider camping in Namibia. It’s a fun way to travel around this gorgeous country and visit all the most interesting places, and at the same time get close to the amazing nature. I would actually say it is one of the nicest things to do in Namibia (to check the rest, go ahead to read my post).
I spent two full weeks touring the south and the north of the Namibia with Wild Dog Safaris. It was the trip of a lifetime. During my tour of Namibia, I mostly camped. It was an incredible experience, and I wholeheartedly recommend it. Yet, there’s a bunch of things that I wish I had known before camping in Namibia.
This post highlights everything one should know before camping in Namibia, in order to make the most of it.
27 Things To Know Before Camping In Namibia
The camping sites are actually great
I must admit I have never been a big fan of camping. I tried it in Italy when I was a broke teenager and the camping sites were so crowded, the facilities so dirty, that I gave up after a few times. However, camping in Namibia is different.
Some sites are located near major tourist attractions, so the sites get quite a few visitors who also are on a Namibia safari. These are nice places: they typically have very good facilities (toilets and showers); a bar and a basic restaurant; a shop for basic groceries and souvenirs, and at times even a pool to hang out.
Other sites are more isolated, and in lovely settings. During my tour of Namibia, I had the chance to sleep at the incredible Okonjima, at the Africat Foundation campsite, and truly enjoyed the starry sky at night. Likewise, the sunset views over Damaraland at the Madisa campsite are incredible.
Everything is spotless
One of the reasons I am generally reluctant to camp is that campsites tend to be dirty. However, after having hiked the Inca Trail in Peru and having endured the worst possible toilets one could think of, I feel I am pretty much ready for anything. The good news, however, is that camping in Namibia doesn’t have to be a dirty experience. Toilets are pretty much spotless, and all showers have powerful hot water, for that much needed shower at the end of the day.
It is very dusty
Speaking of a much needed shower at the end of the day, one thing to know before going on a tour of Namibia is that it is a very dusty experience. Whether traveling by bus, by car or, even worst, by motorbike, expect to get covered in dust every single day – there’s simply no escaping it.
It is very dry
The main reason why Namibia is so dusty is that it is very dry – as it is easy to notice during Namibia tours, most of the territory is either a desert, or semi-desert. In order to keep hydrated, it is necessary to drink copious amounts of water. I consumed more than 2 liters per day!
Another thing to keep in mind in such dry conditions is that the skin gets dry, to the point that hands crack! I recommend to those who plan to go camping in Namibia to pack a good hand cream, and a moisturizing lotion. As it gets cold at night and in the tents, the best lotions are those that can be applied “under the shower”: quick and easy to use. Almond oil may be the best option.
Tap water is actually safe to drink
With regards of drinking water, the good news is that tap water in Namibia is safe to drink and available in all camps. My recommendation to those who are thinking of camping in Namibia is to make sure that they carry a good bottle with a filter (just in case) that they regularly fill up, and buy large bottles (ie 5 liters) to carry for long journeys, when they won’t come across a shop or a fountain to refill.
Be prepared for the long drives
Whether planning to drive or joining a guided tour of Namibia, one thing to be prepared for are the long drives to move from one attraction to the other. Distances in Namibia are huge, and on any given day quite a bit of time will be spent driving or sitting in the car / bus. Chatting, listening to music, reading a book (unless driving, obviously) are all good ways to pass the time.
In any case, when covering long distances on a Namibia safari, the landscape is actually quite interesting and regularly stopping for photos will help time pass a bit more quickly.
Things to keep handy during long drives on a Namibia tour are:
Animals roam freely
Much like when camping in Botswana, whenever camping in Namibia one should expect wild animals to roam freely around the camp, usually at night. On my very first night in the Kalahari, I got out of my tent at 2:00 am to go to the toilet and found two lovely white donkeys wandering around among the tents. When I was in Sesriem, a jackal dove into the garbage bag we had left hanging outside.
There’s less mosquitoes than one would imagine
It may well be that I went on a tour of Namibia during winter, or that I mostly visited dry areas (the one with most water was Etosha, and even then it really wasn’t wet at all), but other than during my first night at Bagatelle camp in the Kalahari, I didn’t see many mosquitoes in Namibia. Either way, I do recommend carrying a good mosquito repellent with DEET and a bug / mosquito spray for the tent, just in case.
It is pleasantly hot during the day
I did my tour of Namibia during what is meant to be its winter, in June. The weather was nice and sunny throughout my trip, and the temperatures rose up to 26 and even 28 degrees Celsius during the day. This is to say, that even in the winter it is pleasantly hot during the day, but since it is dry it never feels overwhelming.
But it gets terribly cold at night
Namibia is mostly a desert and semi-desert land. What this means is that, as in any proper desert, the days are dry and quite warm, but the temperatures drop dramatically at night. In other words, it is very cold at night. The first night during my tour of Namibia was freezing, with temperatures dropping to 0 degrees Celsius. It was impossible to sleep.
Those planning to go camping in Namibia must make sure to be properly equipped for the cold nights. As a minimum, I recommend bringing along a heavy duty sleeping bag and thermal underwear, as well as a warm hat to wear during the night.
A hot water bottle is a good idea
Yes, using a hot water bottle at night, let alone carry around one while traveling, may feel a lot granny – like. But trust me, when camping in Namibia, it will provide some much needed comfort and warmth during those cold cold nights. It saved me from many sleepless nights.
And so is a flask
One would never appreciate the real value of a flask until going on a tour of Namibia. I used mine to keep my coffee hot and ready for the early mornings, so that I’d have something to warm me up as soon as I got out of the sleeping bag, and a much needed dose of caffeine to start the day.
Forget about a late night
Late nights are not a thing when camping in Namibia. The typical day starts very early, moments after sunrise (and at times even before then), and once dinner has been eaten, the lack of electricity and the long day that has just passed call in for an early night.
And about sleeping in
There’s no such thing as sleeping in when camping in Namibia. Between the cold temperatures and the long day ahead, waking up early is a given. Considering that lights are typically off at 9:00 pm or so, even a 6:00 am wake up call means getting 9 good hours of sleep. I wish I got that much at home!
Gloves are very much needed
Having heard that the temperatures drop down dramatically at night, I brought a pair of gloves to keep my hands warm. It turned out that, when camping in Namibia, gloves come in very handy in order to undo the tents in the morning, as the hooks are quite hard to undo without. I recommend a pair of heavy duty ones.
And so is a headlight or torch
Carrying a torch when camping in Namibia is a must. It is needed as soon as the sun goes down, to go around the camp (though camping sites in the most touristic areas are illuminated, the ones in the most remote places don’t have any light!), and to have at least some light in the tent.
The sky is as starry as it gets
Wherever there is a desert, the complete lack of clouds and humidity in the sky mean that star gazing reaches a whole new level. I noticed this in the Atacama Desert, in Chile, and I experienced the same in Namibia. Any average night, when camping in Namibia, is a good night to do some star gazing.
Everyone has chores
A typical day during a tour of Namibia with Wild Dog Safaris (and, from what I have seen while camping in Namibia, also with other tour companies) starts nice and early. Members of the group are asked to clean up and undo their tents (I became a pro at this after a week!) and pack up everything before they are invited to have breakfast.
Everyone is expected to contribute to the smooth running of the tour, helping the packing and unpacking process and setting up and putting down the tents; everyone is expected to wash dishes and give a hand in meal preparation, at least at lunch time (lunch is usually on the go).
Whenever camping in Namibia, the first thing to do upon arriving at a new camp and being able to enjoy the sunset, have a drink or a shower, is setting up the camp. Guides are actually very good at organizing the day in order to arrive at the camping site when it is still bright and early and there is time to do everything without having to rush.
There are no washing machines
I am not a big fan of chores, whether at home or when traveling. I am always thankful for laundry service at hotels. Camping sites in Namibia don’t have laundry facilities, so it goes without saying that during a tour of Namibia it is necessary to do some hand washing. I recommend packing clothes that are easy to wash and quick dry (though the weather is so dry that this is hardly ever an issue).
All meals are al fresco
Literally, I should add, given it can be so cold! When camping in Namibia, all meals are consumed outside. Breakfast and dinner are typically eaten around the fire, whereas lunch is a more simple (though at the same time filling and healthy) pic-nic style meal.
The chefs can cook
On Namibia tours with Wild Dog Safaris there always are a guide and a chef who does pretty much all of the cooking. And cooking he can! Expect to eat earthy portions of stews and fantastic barbeque.
Fresh fruit and vegetables shouldn’t be taken for granted
Although on any tour of Namibia dietary requirements are accommodated, one thing that is often lacking is fresh fruit and vegetables. It’s understandable: shopping is done at the beginning of the tour, and once or twice during the tour, and only so much can be stored in the fridge.
Though most camping sites have a small shop that sells groceries, it’s hard to come across fruits and vegetables there. A good thing to do before setting up for camping in Namibia is to stock on fruit that is easy to store, such as apples, or even dry fruit, for the much needed fiber and vitamins.
Forget about the internet
Camping sites in Namibia are usually meant to have some sort of wifi, but for one reason or the other this never works. During my two weeks tour of Namibia I hardly came across any internet, and for someone like me who is online 24/7 on a daily basis, this was a welcome change.
It’s a great opportunity to make new friends
Camping in Namibia is a great chance to meet like-minded people. Whether on a guided tour or on a self drive, camping sites are perfect places to meet other travelers with whom to share an incredible sunset, a drink and a chat.
Tipping is recommended
This is obviously valid for those who plan to join a guided tour of Namibia. The guide and the chef work really hard to ensure the smooth running of the tour, so a decent tip is appreciated!
It’s ok to stay in a hotel every now and then
Though camping in Namibia is a great experience, I won’t hide the fact that it can be very tiring. A good thing to do during a tour of Namibia is to spend a night in a hotel every now and then. Luderitz and Swakopmund, two of the cities that are typically visited, are good places to do so and have a decent selection of hotels.
The best hotel in Luderitz is the Luderitz Nest Hotel, which has lovely room facing the ocean and a fantastic restaurant that makes the most delicious seafood. Click here for the best prices and here for reviews.
When back in Windhoek, it is nice to treat oneself to a good room. This is a selection of the nicest places to stay in the city:
- C’Est La Vie, a guest house for animal lovers. Click here for the best prices and here for reviews.
- Windhoek Gardens, a lovely boutique hotel. Click here for the best prices and here for reviews.
- Hilltop Guest House, for the best views of the capital. Click here for the best prices and here for reviews.
Packing smartly is essential
Those who plan to go camping in Namibia need to pack light yet smartly. Carry only what’s essential, make sure to have a good selection of comfortable and versatile clothes, and bring a few other important items. For a complete guide on what to wear in southern Africa, check this post.
Here’s what I recommend packing for a tour of Namibia:
- 3 pairs of khaki pants. I took my Kuhl Kliffside Air Cargo and my Kliffside Convertible pants. I also had my Mova Zip pants, they are super comfortable to wear after a long day on the road.
- A pair of shorts. I love Kuhl Kontra.
- 4 cotton t-shirts, best if in light colors. I love Kuhl Tate, Inara and Sona.
- A few long sleeves shirt, to wear when it gets colder. I am a fan of Kuhl Trista Hoody and Alva Thermal. I also brought my Kinsley Flanner.
- 2 sweaters. I wore my Lea Pullover and my Nova whenever it got cold, either at night or in the early morning hours.
- A light yet warm jacket. I wore the Firefly Hoody.
- A scarf and a hat. I wore the hat at night, even as I slept.
- A pair of thick gloves, and not only because it gets cold!
- A pair of walking shoes and a pair of sandals or even better a pair flip flops to get in the shower and to wear around the camp.
- Eco-friendly toiletries and mosquito repellent. Bug spray for the tent is a bonus.
- A very good moisturizing oil, better if it can be used in the shower. I love almond oil.
- A large quick dry towel.
- A torch or headlight for the night and in the tent.
- A good sunblock and lip balm
- A day pack where to carry around a camera – I shot with my Nikon D3300 and lenses. I recommend taking at least a 70-300 mm. I also had my iPhone to shoot short videos. Carrying binoculars may be a good idea too.
- A plug adaptor, for in Namibia sockets are different from those of Europe and the US.
- A hot water bottle. It may be granny-like, but it makes the sleeping bag nice and cozy.
- A heavy duty sleeping bag and a liner.
- An inflatable pillow.
- Clothes’s line and clothespins for laundry.
- A water bottle and a water filter, since tap water is safe to drink, this is a good way to care for the environment.
- A flask, to keep coffee hot!
- Ear plugs, because it’s inevitable that someone snores and the tent doesn’t provide much protection against the noise.
How to get to Namibia
Hosea Kutako International Airport, is Namibia main airport. This is located at about 45 minutes east of Windhoek, Namibia capital, which is a good starting point for tours of Namibia. There are direct flights to Cape Town and Johannesburg with South African Airways and Air Namibia, which also flies to Gaborone, in Botswana. There also are direct flights to other countries in Africa, and some intercontinental flights too.
It is possible to get to Namibia by bus – this is the most budget friendly way to travel across the continent. There are Intercape Mainliner bus services to and from Cape Town, Victoria Falls, and Johannesburg. The same can’t be said about Botswana: in order to get to Namibia from Botswana it is necessary to take a mix of local buses and taxis, with no real departure or arrival times.
Those who are driving across Southern Africa can cross the border in the northwest of South Africa, at the Vioolsdrift/Nordoewer land crossing. There are also other land crossings between Namibia and South Africa. These include: Mata Mata, Rietfontain, Nakop, Onseepkans, Sendelingsdrif, and Alexander Bay. It is fairly easy to
Traveling around Namibia
Namibia is a fairly easy country to visit in Africa for those who want to go on an independent tour of Namibia. It is possible to rent a car, better if a 4×2 (click here for some good deals), and drive around. It may not be a good idea for solo travelers: distances are wide and the desert hard to cope with, and I would not like the idea of being stuck in the desert with nobody to help.
Solo travelers should consider joining a guided tour of Namibia. Wild Dogs runs great tours and they are very budget friendly. They also provide help in organizing self guided tours.
Whichever way one decides to travel, I recommend getting a good travel insurance when planning a tour of Namibia. You can find a good one here.
When to visit Namibia
Namibia can be visited at any time of year. I went in June, and it was hot and dry during the day, but very cold at night. My sister went in October, and she experienced the same. Those planning to go camping in Namibia have to keep the weather conditions in mind.
Have you ever been camping in Namibia? What did you like the most about it?
Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of Wild Dog Safaris during my tour of Namibia and I wish to thank them for the incredible time I had and for finally teaching me how to put up a tent. Needless to say, the views expressed in this post are mine.