I fell in love when I first saw a photograph of the endless vista that is the NamibRand Nature Reserve in southern Namibia, and I’ve wanted to experience it ever since. Now that I have, I recommend that you put it on your life list if you’re the sort of person who gets joy from beauty and wilderness.
Despite some corrugations in the gravel road, our drive through the Tirasberg range (along the D707 and C27) to get to the NamibRand was hauntingly beautiful as only desert mountain landscapes can be. From the turn-off to the nature reserve, our path became lined with green valleys, red dunes and layers of mountains behind them, mauve and then grey in the distance. (Technically, they’re inselbergs, or isolated mountains rising abruptly from a plain. And that’s perhaps part of their beauty; you can see the whole of them because there’s little to interrupt your view.)
Scaly feathered finches, just one of about 150 bird species in this reserve, welcomed us to our campsite at the NamibRand Family Hideout. Our site was called Orion, and we had private ablutions and a dish-wash area. It was one of only two camp sites and they were about a kilometre apart and not within sight of each other so it was like having the entire world to ourselves. [Update March 2019: a third site, Jupiter, has just been built.] We weren’t too keen on the flies that latched on to us when we arrived hot and sweaty, but by dusk they were gone and the world was perfect.
After breakfast we ventured out along the 4x4 route starting at a dune behind our campsite. We’d expected a drive of dune landscapes but very little game. We were wrong. The track swept down on to Oryx Plain where lots of gemsbok were grazing, two of them having a bit of a horn-tossing contest. On Bat-eared Fox Plain we were unlucky, too late to find any of these sweet little animals in search of a breakfast of termites, dung beetles, scorpions or spiders.
The 4x4 route would probably take about 40 minutes if you didn’t stop to ogle the view, enjoy the wildlife or take photos, but we made the most of it and it took us three hours.
Apart from game viewing, star-gazing and the 4x4 route, other things to do here include dune-boarding, bird watching, wildlife photography and hot air ballooning (which you should arrange beforehand). If you don’t have a 4x4 you can go for a dune drive with a guide in the Family Hideout’s vehicle. Someone will come to check you’re ok at some point during your first afternoon at camp, so just talk to him and he’ll make a plan for you. Alternatively, you can just chill at your campsite, drink in the views and appreciate how lucky you are to be here.
We stayed at the NamibRand’s Family Hideout which offers three campsites and a self-catering cottage. For us a private campsite was a perfect way to experience the area on a budget.
A luxury alternative is to stay at one of the Wolwedans lodges. Or for a really special adventure, book a three-day, two-night walking trail with Toktokkie Trails to get close to the environment on foot and discover some of the small creatures that live here.
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5 campsites in Namibia: the southwest