Namibia by car. From Walvis Bay to Sesriem - Sossusvlei.

3 months road trip in Southern Africa, 
Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. 
October - December 2014   

Average exchange rate: 1 € =  13,75 N$

We did the route between Walvis Bay and Sesriem in 3 days, including a small extra km east heading to Naukluft National Park. It´s around 350 km.

All the roads are gravel, mainly in good conditions, when we went in dry season. You don´t need a 4x4 to reach the places.
It´s really beautiful! You can see wild animals on the road: ostriches, zebras, oryx, antilopes, etc.


Warning: all this area is remote and empty, no villages. You will just find a gas station with shop, restaurant and accommodation, every 100 or mostly 200 km, on the road. Some farms, spread out (sometimes the house is 20 km away from the main road), with accommodation, basic or luxury, some are hunting farms. Plan well you route, specially where to stop and sleep and bring enough food. Driving on gravel roads for many km is tiring!

   Things to see on the route from Walvis to Kuiseb  

Quite monotone, just a few disperse camps (some far away from the main road), inside the Namib-Naukluft National Park (you need permits, even if we don´t know who will control them in such an empty and remote place; only for adventurous, off road). 
  • Kuiseb Canyon:
The road crosses the canyon,160 km east of Walvis Bay. New landscape! Beautiful all the way to Solitaire and further south for hundred of km.
  • Solitaire:
Nice place to stop on the way to Sesriem. Old cars and machinery.


To sleep in Solitaire, only one option. The Solitaire Country Lodge, campsite and rooms. We stayed here and was a good idea.
Price for Camping: 100 N$/pp.  
Very well maintened, clean. Pool (near the lodge).

There´s also a gas station, a bakery, a restaurant and a shop. Nice atmosphere.
  • Naukluft National Park:
Access to the park is from road D854, 65 km east of Solitaire. We read there were walks around, natural pools, campsite. But it was really hot and we found the place not so special compared with other sites in Namibia and prefer to save energy.
If not staying inside the park or walking, maybe it´s just better to go directly from Solitaire to Sesriem.

Here´s some information if interested in walking in the Naukluft park:

- Olive Trail (10 km, 4-5 h)
- Waterkloof Trail (17 km, 6-8 h).
- The natural pools are not too far from the start and seem to have water all year round.

Price - entrance fee: 40 N$ pp + 10 N$/car. 
You just open the gate and go inside (no control, at least in October). You pay the fee at the camp (10 km from the gate). We just drove inside and had a look.
You can sleep with your own tent, in NWR Naukluft Camp
Price for camping: 130 N$/pp.

We were looking for a cheaper place, not too far from Sesriem, so we stayed 2 nights in :

Betesda Lodge Camping.
Price: 80 N$/pp for the campsite.
Pool and free wifi. Empty, nice place, not too far from Sesriem.

Location: 40 km southeast of Sesriem, on road D854, 5 km from the crossroad with road C19.

Note: Betesda is ok, but, if you want to visit Sesriem, we recommend you sleep near the park, in Sesriem itself. It´s a bit more expensive (120 N$/pp) but you don´t have to go and come back (80 km extra). And the detour via Naukluft was not that interesting in our opinion.


   SESRIEM - SOSUSVLEI   

We really recomend this place. It´s the most famous and tourist area of the Namib - Naukluft National Park, so this means a lot of tourists, but the area is really amazing.
It´s a desert, red dunes, colors, magic!
Really a must to do in a visit to Namibia.

Price - entrance fee: 80 N$/pp + 10 N$/car.
Open from sunrise til sunset (November, 6:30 to 19:00).
Maximum speed: 60 km/h.


How to do the Visit of Sesriem - Sossusvlei ... by normal sedan car:

You can visit Sesriem as an independent travel, without organized tour. You can even reach the place by normal sedan car (our case). Like this, you can really enjoy the place, take your time to look around and walk wherever you want.

It´s better if you have a complete day to enjoy the place, even if some people visit it quicker. The visit it´s not only observing the landscape, you can climb the dunes, walk in the desert, and enjoy special places alone (places where the tours don´t go or do just a short visit).
 

Plan the day according to the season and heat. In November, we had a “fresh” day, great to walk.
Many groups visit the place early morning (for the sunrise), it´s a crowded time. Latter, many spots are empty. And the light is beautiful too, even more red!


Attention: You are visiting a desert area, so carry a lot of water, sun cream, an hut or umbrella, and take your time ... You are on holidays.


   TIP´s to visit   

  • Start early morning.
We passed the gate at 7:30 and left at 18:00 ... So we arrived a bit after the sunrise (less crowded). 
It took us a complete day, cause we walked around too. 
And because without a 4x4 car, if you don´t want to pay the shuttle jeep (quite expensive), you  have to walk the last km of desert (beautiful walk!). Or you can always try to hitck-hike (as we did the way back).

  • Enjoy the views crossing all the valley. Wild animals!
From the gate, there´s a tarred road crossing all the valley, from Sesriem to Sossusvlei (around 60 km). Dunes start from km30, just before there´s a view point over the valley.
The tarred road finishes in a parking, with WC and picnic tables.

We were very lucky and we saw 4 cheetahs on the way. Incredible, amazing surprise early morning, few km from the entrance.

  • Climb the dunes
Two dunes are open to the public and you can climb them. Dune 42 and Dune 45 (at those km points). There are parkings. Great experience!
Other dunes, roads and areas around are closed, forbidden.

It´s famous to climb for the sunrise, all the tours are there at that time… We climbed late afternoon, very few people and nice light too!

 

  • From the 2WD parking, without a 4WD: the best of the park it´s at the end of the valley! Hiddenvlei, Deadvlei and Sossusvlei.  

From the 2 WD parking, no more tarred road. Just a very sandy trail (4 or 5 km) to the end of the valley (Sossusvlei area), only for experienced 4x4. But it´s not a problem, you have options:

- If it is early morning and the day it´s not too hot, you can walk. We walked and it was very interesting and beautiful and not that long. But, the way back we hitch-hiked. It´s a great plan, recommended for low-cost travellers. Lots of pictures on the way!

- You can also try to get a lift both ways. A lot of tourists around, with their 4x4 and usually with free seats.

- There´s public transport. There are shuttle jeeps. Price: 100 N$/pp, return ticket. 
  • Visit the Hidden Valley or Hiddenvlei (first)
Hiddenvlei is a place with white ground surrounded by dunes, 2 km walking from the 2 WD parking (follow the sign passing the WC, direction sticks). Very sandy, so take it easy. Beautiful but not as incredible as Deadvlei, so it´s better to visit Hiddenvlei first. Not many people go there and it worth it too.
  • Take your time enjoying the amazing views in the Dead Valley
The Deadvlei is the most popular place. Top, magic, a white oasis with dry trees surrounded by dunes! Of course, all the tours go there. But just wait for a while (they don´t stay so long) and you will enjoy the place alone. It´s 1.1 km walk, from a parking (there´s a sign). 

  • If you are tired and don´t have a 4x4, save energy and don´t go to Sossusvlei.
Sossusvlei, a bit further from the Deadvlei sandy parking, is just the end of the valley, with a big picnic area. No special interest for the formations or landscapes, just a place to have a break (if walking, it´s not worth going, just picnic tables and more "normal" dunes).

We went there by walk and it was quite hard, very hot, and finally nothing special there (yes, we say a few antilopes), it was really disappointing after Deadvlei. Up to you !

  •  See the wild animals

Even if Sesriem - Sossusvlei it´s not a “game park”, there are wild animals. Ostriches, oryx, antilopes… We even saw 4 cheetahs! So, always pay attention on the way.

  •  More places to visit, if you have time, energy ...
If you still have time and energy, near the entrance gate lays Elim Dune (not a real dune, it looks more like an hill), with views over the Sesriem camps (so many tours go there), but for us it was not interesting, so we didn´t go.

And Sesriem Canyon, outside the park, just south of Sesriem (access from C27), where many groups go in the afternoon. We didn´t go ... not enough time.

Warning: Sesriem is not a town, just a few lodges and camps, a couple of petrol stations with shop and ATM. Bring food.


   Cheap accommodation in Sesriem   

You have 2 campsites: one inside the national park and another one outside the park.

Sossus Oasis Campsite: 

-  Price for camping with shared toilets: 120 N$/pp if camping at the group area. You have to ask for this option, if not they will only offer you the expensive ones.

- Price for camping with private toilet: 166 N$/pp + 120 N$/site. Quite expensive.
Location: at the gas station, outside the park, with pool.

NWR Sesriem Campsite: 

Inside the park, just after the gate. So when entering, you have to pay the NP entrance fee first (24 h avalaible... so if staying 2 nights you will have to pay twice the fee!).

Price for camping: 150 N$/pp.
There are also rooms.

If staying at the NWR camp, you can get to the park earlier and latter than the normal visitors (1 hour sooner and latter before the gate is open/closed for the public), for sunrise and sunset.

Note: we didn´t know about the "cheaper" option at Sossus Oasis Campsite (at least when not too crowded, outside holidays). So we slept 40 km away (south) in Betesda Lodge.

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