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Self-Drive Safari Trip Report

Namibia-South Africa-Botswana-Namibia

September 10 - October 27, 2016

"Are you ready to rumble?"

It's time for all you arm-chair safari-goers to get up from your easy chair and join my DH and me as we drive together through some animal-rich parks in southern Africa. The days are short and the temperatures cold, (well, at least on the northern side of the equator) the tank is full and the world is round, so buckle up, - oh wait, no need to buckle when going game-driving speed - here comes your winter safari fix!


​This is your ride, so hop in or ride on the roof rack

I'm also writing this trip report as a resource with tips in order to help any future self-drive safari goer to plan their adventure. When we first started, I was grateful for all the help and advice I gIeened from experienced safari enthusiasts. I know, some of you will skip the text and go straight to the pics, hey, whatever works for you. Just a warning: I'm totally in love with lions of all ages, so there WILL be lots of lion pics. We did see 157 lions, after all and no, there will NOT be 157 lion pictures.


​Next post will describe our car rental experience, the drive from Windhoek to Solitaire and from there to Sossousvlei,

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Looking forward to the ride!!

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I am sitting on the roof rack ready for the off! Pen

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I am sitting on the roof rack ready for the off! Pen


Looks like it won't be too crowded, so get off the roof and sit on the suitcase in the backseat!

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Here goes my third TR on safraitalk:

After having driven a similar route in 2014, we wanted to experience many of the same places again, but this time without another couple in tow. I found that the stress of having to worry about fellow travelers took away from my enjoying the trip to the fullest. So we decided on a do-over.

In the summer of 2015, I got in touch with Peter Weber, a wonderful travel agent in Windhoek, who had arranged our second trip to the region to perfection and I can highly recommend his services again. He is very prompt and clear in his correspondence and it is a pleasure to work with him. In addition, he has a car rental partner, Peter Kehrer, of Classic Car Rental, who got our Hilux 4x4 ready with some extras.



Here is the route and camp sites I submitted to Peter and he booked all the accommodations to perfection, including the hard-to-get ones in National Parks. The KTP accommodations, however, I booked online through sanparks.org

  1. Windhoek: Klein Windhoek Guesthouse
  2. Solitaire: Solitaire Guest farm campsite # 3
  3. Sesriem: Sesriem campsite # 3
  4. Sesriem: Sesriem campsite # 3
  5. Bagatelle Guest farm campsite # 4 (no power plug)
  6. KTP Kalahari Transfrontier Park aka Kgalagadi: Mata Mata CS
  7. Nossob campsite
  8. Grootkolk wilderness chalet
  9. Nossob campsite
  10. Nossob campsite
  11. Urikaruus riverside cabin
  12. Urikaruus riverside cabin
  13. Mata Mata campsite
  14. Buitepos: Zelda's Guestfarm campsite # 5
  15. Maun, Botswana: Kamanga Hotel, room with AC
  16. Magadikgadi NP: Khumaga campsite KK2
  17. Khumaga campsite KK2
  18. Nxai Pan: South Camp NX 1
  19. Moremi Game Reserve: South camp MQ 6 (got 9, better)
  20. Xakanaka campsite XA 4
  21. Xakanaka campsite XA 4
  22. Khwai campsite MK 5
  23. Khwai campsite MK 5
  24. Khwai campsite MK 5
  25. Chobe National Park: Savuti CV 3
  26. Savuti CV 3
  27. Kasane: Thebe River Lodge room with AC
  28. Thebe River Lodge campsite # 4 A
  29. Chobe National Park River front: Ihaha campsite # 6
  30. Ihaha # 6
  31. Ihaha # 6
  32. Divundu, Caprivi, Namibia: Riverdance campsite #4
  33. Grootfontein: Seiderap Guesthouse, room, no AC
  34. Etosha NP, Halali campsite #37
  35. Namutoni campsite #12
  36. Namutoni campsite #12
  37. Halali campsite #37
  38. Halali campsite #37
  39. Okaukuejo campsite # 8 (bad)
  40. Okaukuejo campsite #29 (good)
  41. Okaukuejo campsite #29
  42. Olifantsrus campsite #7
  43. Olifantsrus campsite #7
  44. Okaukuejo campsite #29
  45. Windhoek, Klein Windhoek Guesthouse, self-catering room with AC

Peter agreed to make it a rental time of 44 days, as we would only pick up the car at 4 pm on the first day and then return it by 4 pm the last day. I also asked for new MUDD tires, a second spare tire, extra LED lighting on the flap doors for those dark Botswana nights, a stepping stool to reach the content of the cool box and to give us more height when tying down the roof tent. In addition, Peter suggested a fridge/freezer combination cool box. (Extra daily charge of Nam $ 40 for fridge/freezer) and a jerry can for extra fuel for the Savuti leg of the trip.

It was all done as asked and handed over to us with a proud smile. I especially like Peter's Hilux, because they are outfitted with two huge pull-out drawers in the back for ample storage, as well as a contraption under the roof to store the table out of the way.

Tip: If you are over 60 like we are and a little height challenged, you will appreciate the stepping stool and it will make set-up and pack-up a breeze


Here you see the stepping stool, as well as the way the back of the car is well organized: second spare, fridge/freezer, two huge pull-out drawers.

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Car rental experience summary:

Positives: Peter Kehrer is a rather laid back, generous, and very friendly man. Without added fees, he offered us two solar table lamps, and a Garmin GPS. He provided us with a reliable car and good camping equipment. Thanks to the new MUDD tires, we never had a flat tire even after having driven on horrible and thorny roads. We had TWO spare tires for added peace of mind. We never had any engine trouble of any kind.

Negatives: The air-conditioning unit of this car was weak and ineffective for the 100F+ temperatures (40+C) and we suffered from the heat because of it. In addition, Peter's sleeping bags were too thin and did not keep us warm when the temperature dropped to 32F (0 C) in the Kalahari in the middle of September. It would be best to bring your own warm sleeping bag. Peter forgot to add the warm blankets I had asked for. He does not work with a checklist and maybe that's why I also forgot about it in my jet-lagged stupor.

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Trip report summary Day 1-14

Windhoek to Sesriem to KTP to Buitepos


Highlights: Deadvlei at sunrise, meeting friends at Grootkolk, lions, cheetah hunt and kill, cape fox, brown hyena, camping at Bagatelle


Lowlights: not having a room upon arrival, Solitaire Guest farm, little activity at waterholes in KTP.


We fly on a red-eye from San Francisco to London with BA, then on another night flight to Johannesburg, then on to Windhoek. There, we get picked up by a friendly Classic Car representative. We exchange some money at the airport and get a SIM card for my iPhone. At the depot, we greet Peter and get all the paperwork done and then Peter Weber, the travel agent arrives with all the booking vouchers and some extra information and maps.

After the hand-over of the Hilux, we drive to Klein Windhoek Guesthouse to check in. Big ugly surprise (first snag): they are only expecting us the next day and they are fully booked for tonight. Ughhh.

Peter arrives all embarrassed and gets us checked into Pension Uhland, not too far from there. It's ok, but I find the room on a slightly lower level than the ones at Klein Windhoek Guesthouse. But, that's not as important as actually having a place to sleep during high season in Windhoek. It is clear to me that the faulty booking is the guesthouse's fault and not Peter's. Turns out I was correct.

Dinner at Pension Uhland is nothing special, but at least we can eat in-house after our grueling 2 day trip from California.

In the morning, we load our car with all the stuff we bring along for added comfort, (self-inflating mattresses, a pillow, tea, coffee, ice-tea packets, thermal mugs, etc.) We use our two small carry-on suitcases as our "closet" in the backseat and Peter will store our big suitcases. Then… second snag. The right signal is working intermittently, so we go back to Peter's depot to have it fixed. See what I mean about snags?

It takes some time to find the source of the problem, so after waiting for half an hour, we ask for a car to go shopping instead of waiting around. He lets us use a pick-up truck and off we go to Klein Windhoek Mall to buy groceries at Woerman Supermarket. We also need to exchange Rand for use in the KPT which is in South Africa, but just like last time, we can't find a bank that carries Rand. It is our good fortune that a friendly bank customer overhears our problem and offers to sell us his Rand for the same rate as the bank. Wonderful. We do the transaction in the parking lot! Feels a little uneasy, but he is a wonderful man and nothing untoward is happening. Win-win situation. We also visit the Kalahari meat market and buy lots of good cuts of meat for the braai.


Tip: Plan on a big chunk of time to get your car, shopping, and banking chores done; it can easily take 5 hours or more, depending on how many snags there are, and we already had two within a few hours' time. As our six trips to Africa have taught us, there are always some snags to be expected. Plus, we are not very sharp being jet-lagged and bone tired.

Another tip for first-timers: Pack A LOT of patience when you come to Africa and DO NOT expect things to work as they do at home!


After lunch, we hit the B1 towards Rehoboth, then veer west on the C 24 and after that it's D roads, because our goal is the Spreetshoogte Pass before Solitaire. The scenery is getting more and more dramatic, but the best view comes atop the pass. Miles and miles of desert mountains stretching blue and purple below us. The drive down hill is very steep, but parts of it are actually paved.





We then overnight at Solitaire Guest farm on a big campsite. No hot water and the drain is clogged. No Wi-Fi either and the employees are talking and hollering way past midnight. So I can not recommend staying there, even though the scenery and campsite are lovely.



It's our second visit to Sossusvlei and its magical dunes, but our first time staying inside the National Park, past the first gate.

Tip: Stay inside the first gate so you will be able to leave via the second gate one hour earlier than the people outside the first gate. Yes, they discriminate! It's worth it, because you can reach Deadvlei for sunrise or be on top of Dune 45 by sunrise.

We are assigned campsite number 3. It has a big camelthorn tree for shade, a low stone wall and a Power Point. Quite nice.


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We visit Elim dune for our first sunset there and enjoy the beautiful scenery, colors, and wide vistas.






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oops, sorry for the double pic


After a cold night in our RT, we leave the site at 5:15 AM and the second gate is already open. We drive in the pitch black, trying to be mindful of any animals along the road. It's dawn by the time we reach the last 5 km which are deep sand tracks. No problems with our 4x4 engaged.

We have a great visit at Deadvlei before and after sunrise. It's very photogenic there with all the black dead trees piercing the blue sky in front of orange dunes. We take a huge amount of pictures and then walk around Little Vlei, before going back to the car and driving to Sossusvlei dune parking. There we have breakfast under a camel thorn, then walk around the pan finding weavers, gleaming bugs, a hawk, an Oryx, lizards, and mice.















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There in the distance is the Deadvlei parking lot. We were the first car there at dawn!



Having breakfast with mice, weavers, and lizards



First animal of this TR. There will be many more!





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Lovely trip report, @@KaliCA , and just in time as our own first camping trip to Namibia is approaching fast! Will it be a nuisance for the driver if I will ask questions along the drive?

BTW I am the one sitting in between the driver and the passenger :) .


Anticipating your positive reply here is my first batch of questions:

1. how long was a drive from Windhoek to Solitaire (ourselves we will stop at Barchan Dune Lodge)?

2. did you buy meat "as you go" or a large quantity at your first top? If second, who/how did you deep froze it?


I am thankful for each and every little detail that will made our upcoming camping a better experience, so don't spare with any details!

Edited by xelas
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Ask away, I'll tell my DH to drive the gravel and track roads, which he did with great skills anyway.


When do you leave for your trip?


1. We took the back roads on purpose to drive the Spreetshogte pass, so I think we left WDH at 1PM and got to the guest farm about 5:30, this included a stop for a second lunch on top of pass.


2. Did you understand about the fridge/freezer we had? see pic of back of truck. We froze it in our freezer and it was a huge space, so we had meat all through dunes, KTP and into Bots. Don't know your stops, but getting meat in Nam is no problem as you go, just know where your supermarkets are. They are usually well stocked.

If you are going in the hot season, would recommend you get a fridge and separate freezer box. it made our trip so much better. We also used a collapsible cooler where we added frozen ice tea bottles then put vegetables and fruit in there that took up too much space in the fridge side of the cool box.

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That itinerary will provide plenty of rumbling! Beautiful dune climbing.

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In the evening, we climb Elim dune expecting to see the horizon for sunset. It's the never-ending climb to nowhere. Where is the horizon? Well, we never find it, but enjoy the fantastic colors of the setting sun on the golden grass, red sand, and "oh purple mountains majesty…"







The next pic with the fog coming in should have given us a clue of what was to come.





After another freezing night in our thin sleeping bags, wearing hat, gloves, base layer underwear, and down jackets, we wake up to a totally overcast sky. Oh no! There will be no light and shadows on the dunes. Indeed, Dune 45 is almost boring to look at as there is no contrast of light and dark anywhere.

We make do with the light there is, all the while feeling sad, because earlier, we have seen a porcupine that has gotten run over, but was still dragging himself around on its front paws. Poorest!


Compare this to the next pic taken on a sunny day in September 2012.


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Later, we have breakfast by Elim dune and then leave the park (they check the permit as you are leaving, so keep it handy) heading south along the C24 and the very dramatic mountain scenery of the Naukluft range. Along the way we find springbok, oryx, and jackals.


We find a Spar Supermarket in Mariental and stock up for our KTP visit. Bagatelle Ranch is another 40 km from there and we find it easily. An eland antelope is on the wrong side of the fence, the herd on the other side. After a warm welcome, the owner assures us that eland can jump a low fence easily and not to worry. So I don’t.

We spend some time with the resident meerkat colony and watch their antics digging, keeping watch and a baby keeps whining. One reason I chose this place was to see the meerkats and we were not disappointed, in fact, we caught them in the warm evening light.





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Bagatelle number 5 camping is pure magic. We are just below an apricot colored dune covered by golden grass and the sun is setting. DH is taking a walk and there are a few springbok about and also horses grazing. The private ablutions are a luxury and the only thing missing is a power point to connect our cool box. Not to worry, the temperature drops to near freezing again and we suffer through another cold night.


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Canadian Robin

I am sitting on the roof rack ready for the off! Pen


I'll be up on the roof with Pen - great view from there! :)

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Canadian Robin

As always, your photos are lovely - especially the shots of the dunes and Dead Vlei. I always admire your ability to accept the snags and carry on - hopefully, there were not many more after the first two. Wonderful photo of the two of you at the start of the trip. Looking forward to more!

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As always, your photos are lovely - especially the shots of the dunes and Dead Vlei. I always admire your ability to accept the snags and carry on - hopefully, there were not many more after the first two. Wonderful photo of the two of you at the start of the trip. Looking forward to more!

Me too! Hope we don't fall off Robin, it's a long way down :)
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@@KaliCA - I love the photos of the Martian-looking landscapes in posts #8 and 10!


The first photo in post #8 is superb! Really, the composition is fantastic - crunchy foreground of rich colors sloping down to reveal soft desert and hills in the background.

Edited by offshorebirder
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@@KaliCA - I love the photos of the Martian-looking landscapes in posts #8 and 10!


The first photo in post #8 is superb! Really, the composition is fantastic - crunchy foreground of rich colors sloping down to reveal soft desert and hills in the background.


Thanks, your critique means a lot seeing what a great photographer you are. Just had a quick look at your flickr pics. Man oh man.. we have a long way to go and improve.

There will be a few birds coming up and I hope you will identify them for me.

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The next morning we are off early for the long drive across the dunes and then follow the Auob River valley south to Mata Mata, the entrance to the Kalahari Transfrontier Park, in neighboring South Africa. the road is nicely graded and we pass some farms on the way, but otherwise, quite a desolate place. Crossing the border is fast and easy, and there is no line! We check into Mata Mata campsite around 2 pm, choose a spot by the fence, and have a late lunch.

Tip: Check border crossing times before you go as they differ from summer to winter.




I'm very excited to be in this park for a second visit and also because I will meet my friend from the UK here. Our first game drive is not very far and we see the usual suspects, wildebeest, springbok, giraffe, and oryx.

We have seven full days to explore this arid park, which is part of the Sanparks system. I made my own reservations online and was happy to be able to find camping spots in Nossob and also stay three nights in wilderness chalets which are unfenced and quite the hit with many people in the know. They get booked up the first few hours when booking first becomes available.

Tip: Book your KTP stays as early as 11 months ahead of time.





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In KTP, one has to drive around quite a bit in order to see game. There are pumped waterholes every 6-10 kilometers and usually that is where game can be found. This time, though, many waterholes are deserted, and I find that in general, we see less game than during our visit in 2014. We manage to see 10 lions, among them a mating pair, and two individual males, and later a female, quite close up. The others were not what I would call intimate sightings.

We are happy to see a brown hyena at Grootkolk with the first sunrays and 11 spotted hyena at night. Try as we might, the leopard eluded us. I am also happy to finally see some Cape Fox, pointed out by my friend along the Auob River valley, a first for me. We are especially lucky to see 20 cheetah in all. Among them a mother with four cubs on a recent springbok kill and then watching a different mother hunt and kill a springbok for her four small cubs in the Nossob river bed. There are no pictures of the hunt as it was over so fast and there was a cloud of dust where the kill happened.

Here some pics of some of our finds:


Any guess why his muzzle is so green?



Brownie at Grootkolk



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Taking off! Quite comical to watch






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The pic with the two lions peering out from behind tall grass is not very exciting, however, I found these two by the black of their ears that were wiggling as they were feeding from something in the grass. Practice makes perfect is really true, because at the end of the trip I was really much better at spotting game.







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