Embark on an unforgettable budget safari in Namibia, where desert hikes and camping under the stars await. This article, brought to you by National Geographic Traveller (UK), takes you on a journey through Namibia’s most-celebrated national park, Etosha, and highlights the conservation efforts and wildlife encounters you can expect. Get ready for an immersive experience that combines adventure, nature, and the allure of the African wilderness.
Observing Wildlife at Okaukuejo Waterhole:
In the late hours of the night, I find myself captivated by the live and screen-free experience of binge-watching a YouTube sensation. This particular episode features a rhino, majestically marked with dust and water. The water hole, Okaukuejo, situated in Etosha, acts as a lifeline in this harsh, arid landscape. Equipped with floodlights and a YouTube webcam, it offers a front-row seat to the nocturnal wonders of Africa’s wildlife. Watching online is addictive, but nothing compares to the real-life experience of being there.
Conservation Success and Challenges:
The creatures I observe at Okaukuejo Waterhole are not just captivating; they are also ambassadors of a conservation success story. Through enhanced security measures and the provision of water holes like this one, Etosha’s endangered black rhinos are making a remarkable comeback. However, their future remains uncertain. Rhino poaching reached an alarming peak last year, with a 93% increase compared to 2021. Data from Namibia’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry, and Tourism revealed that 61 black rhinos fell victim to poachers, 46 of which were in Etosha. This knowledge makes witnessing these animals in their natural habitat even more special.
Camping Under the Namibian Sky:
As the night draws to a close, I make my way from the upmarket chalets of Okaukuejo to the public campsite. In the darkness, the Milky Way shines brightly, providing the only light I need. Navigating past the rooftop tents on the 4x4s, I locate our truck—the comfortable home for my nine-night overland tour. This journey brings to life my long-held dream of traveling overland in an African tourist truck, complete with tents and a cool box. Guided by experts and accompanied by fellow adventurers, I anticipate the incredible experiences that lie ahead.
The Adventure Begins:
Before our expedition commences, we gather at a leafy overlanders’ lodge near Namibia’s capital, Windhoek. Amongst the chatter and excitement, our diverse group quickly forms a bond. Our enthusiastic driver and guide, Samora Omumborombonga Hoveka, hailing from the Herero people, welcomes us with exuberance, declaring that we are now a family. Aware of the early mornings awaiting us, we engage in convivial evenings that strike a balance between socializing and getting a good night’s rest.
A High-Energy Desert Exploration:
Unlike leisurely safaris, our adventure is fast-paced and energy-filled. Organized by Much Better Adventures, a travel company that promotes active exploration and supports local operators, our itinerary showcases Namibia’s extraordinary desert landscapes. The first half of our journey is a whirlwind of tent pitching, pre-dawn packing, and exhilarating hikes. Each day, we relocate to a new basic campsite, forging strong bonds within our group. We traverse the Namib-Naukluft National Park, exploring scented gorges, resting beneath fig and kokerboom trees, and refreshing ourselves in spring-fed pools. The highlight is ascending a sand dune in Sossusvlei and descending into the dry valley—a rewarding yet exhausting feat.
Discovering Namibian Life:
While our truck transports us between picturesque destinations, we keep an eye out for desert-adapted wildlife, eagerly pointing out oryx, ostriches, and weaverbird nests along the way. We also take detours to towns, where we immerse ourselves in the local culture—a facet of Namibia that many safari-goers miss. Browsing supermarkets and fuel stations, we engage with the locals, purchasing Namibian newspapers, South African biscuits, and purified water from advanced refill points. In Solitaire, a remote highway stop, we indulge in the renowned apple pie at McGregor’s Bakery, supporting local businesses.
Community Impact and Reflection:
Beyond the hustle and bustle, we encounter instances of poverty that prompt deep reflection. Passing Spitzkoppe Village en route to the majestic granite peaks of Spitzkoppe, we learn about the settlement’s history. Founded by families of the Damara ethnic group, who were displaced by the South African regime in the 1970s, the village survives through sustainable tourism. Our tents find their place at Spitzkoppe’s pristine campsite, nestled beneath colossal boulders, offering endless views of the plains. Guided by a local expert named Jeremy Muteka, we embark on hiking trails that lead us to ancient rock paintings, offering a glimpse into the past and reminding us of the rhinos that once roamed these lands.
Wildlife Encounter in Etosha National Park:
Etosha National Park is where our safari experience reaches its pinnacle. Minutes after entering the park, we arrive at the Ombika Waterhole, positioning our truck for optimal viewing. It’s nature’s rush hour—a magnificent spectacle. Lions may be absent, but their absence allows other animals like antelopes, zebras, and giraffes to take center stage. Among them, elephants command attention as they navigate through the crowd, revealing every dust-covered wrinkle. The next morning, with the dawn breaking, we become the pioneers, determined to find the elusive lions ourselves. No scouts or spotters—just us and our determination. After hours of searching, we are rewarded with the sight of a sleeping male lion and a lioness with her cubs. Samora reminds us that on safari, the unexpected often surpasses our expectations.
Farewell and Future Connections:
As our adventure comes to a close, our emotions run high, but we vow to stay connected. Within days, we find ourselves virtually reunited at Okaukuejo Waterhole, raising our screens in a virtual toast as elephants and rhinos grace the scene.
How to Embark on Your Namibian Safari:
Much Better Adventures offers a remarkable nine-night group hiking, safari, and stargazing experience in Namibia, starting at £1,397 per person (excluding flights). Departures are available from March to November, allowing you to witness Namibia’s natural wonders and support local operators. With more than 20 wildlife trips available, Much Better Adventures, a B Corp-certified travel company, ensures unforgettable and responsible travel experiences.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about budget safari
What is the cost of the budget safari in Namibia?
The cost of the budget safari in Namibia starts at £1,397 per person, excluding flights.
How long does the safari tour last?
The safari tour lasts for a total of nine nights, allowing ample time to explore Namibia’s desert landscapes and wildlife.
What is included in the safari package?
The safari package includes accommodation, guided tours, camping equipment, and the expertise of a knowledgeable guide throughout the journey.
Is airfare included in the safari cost?
No, airfare is not included in the safari cost. Participants are responsible for arranging their own flights to and from Namibia.
Are meals included during the safari?
Meals may not be included in the safari package. It is advisable to check with the tour operator or travel company for specific details regarding meals.
Is the safari suitable for all fitness levels?
The safari involves hiking, camping, and active exploration, which may require a moderate level of fitness. It is recommended to assess your own fitness level and consult with the tour operator to determine if it is suitable for you.
Can solo travelers join the safari?
Yes, solo travelers are welcome to join the safari. It is a great opportunity to meet fellow adventurers and form new connections during the journey.
Are there age restrictions for the safari?
Age restrictions may vary depending on the tour operator or travel company. It is recommended to inquire about any age restrictions or guidelines before booking the safari.
What is the best time of year to embark on the budget safari in Namibia?
The budget safari is available from March to November, allowing travelers to choose a time that suits their preferences. It is advisable to consider weather conditions and wildlife migration patterns when selecting the best time for the safari.