Squeals of excitement as you spot your first giraffe, zebra, elephant, cheetah, lion, or rhino. Plus the unadulterated joy and sheer amazement of travelling through this land of open spaces with its jaw-dropping landscapes ranging from salt pans and red sand dunes to coastal vistas… Namibia really is quite unlike anywhere else on earth.
Possibly Africa’s best-kept secret, Namibia can be overlooked in favour of better-known safari destinations but its wildlife is immense. In fact, we’d go so far as to say it combines the best of East Africa (the superb lodges and wildlife spotting) with some of the highlights of South Africa (the sheer array of activities and breathtaking scenery).
There are different ways to approach holidaying in Namibia with kids. Flying by light aircraft between lodges is a thrill, but a self-drive holiday between lodges gives you the exhilaration of the open roads. You can still hop aboard guided safari drives from the lodges. The truly adventurous may like a 4×4 self-drive with rooftop camping.
Our top 10 activities you can enjoy in Namibia with kids
1. Get (amazingly) close to wildlife on a safari in Etosha
This is a truly stupendous national park that can be experienced on a self-drive, stopping when and where you like – after all, there’ll be no one behind you (bar a jackal perhaps!). Or take a guided excursion from your lodge. Even on its main ‘highway’, a bull elephant might loom out at you (put your windows up!) or you might spot lions resting in the shade of an acacia. Picking your own route between waterholes, you’ll be able to turn off the engine and soak in the bewitching spectacle of lapping zebra, giraffe sauntering around your car, wildebeest grazing on the plains and skittish impala prancing between ostrich. Check out our sample Namibia itineraries, both including Etosha.
2. Track big cats at Okonjima
Heading off into a private game reserve with knowledgeable guides is a fantastic element of any family holiday to Namibia. Guides are reliably excellent, with eyes in the back of their heads when it comes to spotting well-camouflaged mammals and birds. They are also able to relate facts in a fun way and hence keep even those with short attention spans interested. At Okonjima, leopard sightings are good because you track them using radar technology, while you can also observe cheetahs close up at the famous AfriCat Foundation. Okonjima is included in both our Highlights of Namibia (2-weeks) and Highlights of Namibia (3-weeks).
3. Climb Big Daddy or Dune 45 at Sossusvlei
You’ll have seen these on the tourist posters, but nothing prepares you for experiencing them in the flesh at any time of day, not just sunrise – though the ‘crowds’ at dawn are minimal by the standard of other destinations. Still, we recommend Dune 45 for a quieter, easier ascent over Big Daddy. The slog uphill is worth it for the photos but most of all for the run back down afterwards – accompanied by lots of whooping. Beyond the dunes, a meander in the cool between the fascinating rock formations of Sesriem Canyon, at the entrance of the Namib-Naukluft National Park, provides a living geography lesson. See Places to Visit for more on what to see in Namibia.
4. Hike to clay pans at Deadvlei
The white clay pans (vleis) of the Sossusvlei form a dazzling contrast with the vibrant red and blue of the sand and the sky. Hiking to the ghostly expanse of Dead Pan will reveal a landscape eerily dotted with the skeletal remains of ancient camel-thorn trees that died more than 500 years ago when the formation of the vast sand dunes interrupted the flow of the Tsauchab River. Both our both Highlights of Namibia (2-week) and Highlights of Namibia (3-week) holidays feature the Deadvlei.
5. Track Rhino in the Waterberg
Kids love talking about ‘poo’, so what better way to entice them on a walk than to track various droppings and paw prints, and to learn about survival in the bush, the medicinal values of plants and how to thwart a hyena? Taking a picnic and following well-marked trails makes for a great mini-walking safari. In the Waterberg Mountains, older children join in with rhino-tracking or you can set on a fabulous morning plateau hike with glorious views over the plains, learning which trees make the best toothbrush. There’s also the Porcupine Trail, where you can walk with scurrying rock dassies and tiny dik dik. Waterberg is part of our Highlights of Namibia (3-week) itinerary.
6. Enjoy land and sea activities at Swakopmund
Providing a wonderful contrast to all the land-based wildlife adventures, the coastal resort of Swakopmund and its surrounding area offer up fabulous activities including kayaking with seals at Pelican Point and sharing a catamaran cruise from Walvis Bay with pelicans as you spot dolphins, flamingos, and even whales. There are super-scenic flights along the Skeleton Coast and trips to see vast seal colonies. Active kids will enjoy fat-bike trips or dune-bashing on the 4×4 Sandwich Harbour excursion – just hold onto your stomachs! Both of our Namibia Itineraries include time in and around Swakopmund.
7. Saddle up and explore the Namib Desert on four legs
There’s something for all levels of rider when holidaying in Namibia with kids. The experienced can head to the Sossusvlei in the southern part of the Namib Desert, for extensive trips with the Desert Homestead Lodge. Here, you can ride out into its private reserve and overnight in comfortable tents. You’ll ride through changing terrain including sandy open fields, rockier mountain trails and dry riverbeds, under the nests of sociable weavers, and around camel thorn trees, spotting the likes of oryx, springbok, zebra, jackal and bat-eared foxes. Or for beginners, there’s fantastic horse riding in the Naukluft Mountains. Sossusvlei features in our Highlights of Namibia (2-weeks) itinerary.
8. Game drive in Damaraland and look for desert elephant
Namibia’s wild scenery is at its most extraordinary in Damaraland – a true wilderness of solitude and utter peace, with rock paintings to ogle and a population of elephant and rhino that have adapted to life in the desert. Staying in one of the gorgeous lodges in mindblowing spots is the way to get to the heart of this region. Grootberg Lodge, for instance, repays you for the hair-raising drive up with gasp-inducing views from its infinity pool and during its sunset drives. At Etendeka on a remote plateau, you can hike to wilderness camps or take the transfer/safari to the main lodge with its ensuite tents with bucket showers.
9. Embrace the open road on a self-drive camping trip
This is one for those truly adventurous families who love the outdoors and sleeping under canvas, with twin tent options. Self-driving in Namibia with kids allows you to simply pitch up at your pre-booked site – which is often strategically placed by a waterhole – and pull the tent up and over. Hey presto! – there’s your room with a view for the night (just be careful if you need to get up for a wee!). Campsites have bars and restaurants that give you the flexibility of being catered to, but for some of us, nothing beats barbecuing supper around the braai while listening to the sounds of the bush. See Where to Stay in Namibia for more about camping vehicles.
10. Take advantage of all that freedom for some bonding time
With all those wide open spaces, deserted roads and unfurling vistas, along with thrilling activities and fiery sunsets, Namibia is a great destination for some family bonding time – see who can be first to spot a lion, challenge yourselves to try out daring new activities such as sky-diving, and cuddle up around a campsite braai to relive the adventures of the day. Our advice is not to obsess about which lodge to stay at – all are excellent, especially in Damaraland – and to come for as long as possible: the three-week trip really allows you to immerse yourself in each area and its activities. Check out what other parents have to say in our customer review section.
Next step to planning a holiday in Namibia with kids
Our top tip is BOOK AT LEAST A YEAR IN ADVANCE (with limited capacity in key locations such as Etosha and Sossusvlei, lodges and camps are taking bookings as far ahead as 3 years time). So talk to us as soon as you can about routes, distances, lodges versus campsites and the activities you can enjoy holidaying in Namibia with kids.
And if you’re wondering about the food, all wildlife lodges offer fantastic cuisine and guest farms provide excellent bush-meets-Bavaria home cooking – zebra schnitzel, anyone? Or for the quintessential African experience, head to a campsite and snaffle a boerwurst from the braai.
Check out our Namibia family holidays section for itineraries, reviews, and more, or snuggle up with the kids and let yourself be inspired by this fabulous Namibia Tourist Board video. Or to start planning your trip, just call us on 01728 752751 or use our website contact form.
Liddy Pleasants, MD Stubborn Mule Travel
Please do send us your reviews and feedback about travelling in Namibia with kids – we always love to hear from our customers. Thank you – [email protected].