Southern Namibia Route
T he south is a preferable option for travellers with their own wheels and time on their hands, as it is far and – if you want to do it justice – takes time and effort. Southern Namibia is characterised by vast, open landscapes with expansive vistas displaying a magnificent array of colour and textures. The ‘deep south’ forms part of the Succulent Karoo biome, one of the top biodiversity hotspots in the world. This alone makes it well worth a visit. The least densely populated area in Namibia, this is also where you’ll find peace and tranquillity at its very best.
Brukkaros from above. Photo ©Paul van Schalkwyk
Start your trip in Windhoek. We suggest you hit the road as soon after breakfast as possible, as the 482-kilometre journey to Keetmanshoop is a long stretch. Even though most of the magic awaits you south of the town, the Brukkaros Crater (accessible from the village of Tses, just north of Keetmans) makes for an interesting stopover if you’re into geological wonders.
Once in Keetmans, grab lunch or picnic goodies – there are several places where you can do this – before heading out to the M29 to explore the Quiver Tree Forest. Then backtrack to Keetmans before taking the C17 to view Giant’s Playground and the Mesosaurus Fossil Site of filter-feeding amphibious reptiles that lived in the shallow seas of Southern Africa and South America 250–270 million years ago, resembling baby crocodiles with long snouts. These sites shouldn’t take you more than an afternoon to explore, and offer great picnic opportunities. Overnight in Keetmanshoop.
The Fish River Canyon from above. Photo ©Paul van Schalkwyk
Go south on the B1 until you reach the C10 turnoff to Ai-Ais. From Ai-Ais you’ll be able to explore our greatest southern attraction, the Fish River Canyon, as well as the /Ai-/Ais Hot Springs, a resort that hosts a spa complex. Spend the rest of the day exploring the area before relaxing with a cold sundowner while enjoying spectacular views over the second-largest canyon in the world.
Boating on the Orange River. Photo ©Paul van Schalkwyk
Take a day to absorb the grandeur of the canyon and the /Ai-/Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park. Hiking trails in and around the canyon, or exploring it from the back of a mule, are the best ways to gain a feel for this majestic geological phenomenon. See page 185 for activities in the area. (If you’re planning on doing the five-night canyon hike, you’ll need to adjust your itinerary accordingly.)
If you’re into water sports, we recommend that you take a break from your itinerary and go to Noordoewer on our southernmost border to spend time in a canoe on the Orange River before heading back up into the dry landscapes of southern Namibia.
Wild horses. Photo ©Ron Swilling
Take the road to Seeheim on the B4 and continue westwards until you reach the settlement of Aus. As you near Aus, the scenery transforms into streaks of burnished sand interspersed with grass in ‘forever’ vistas that offer rest to the eyes, and relief and splendour to the soul.
The centre also gives you the opportunity to stretch your legs and indulge in a good cup of coffee. Twenty kilometres or so in a westerly direction, the wild horses of the Namib Desert can be spotted from the Garub viewpoint, a short drive from the main road. These legendary animals provide a brief glimpse into myth, mystery and a wild, free life. There are also Prisoner of War camp ruins, and First World War bunkers in the vicinity to view. Overnight in the coastal town of Lüderitz.
Abandoned house at Kolmanskop. Photo ©Paul van Schalkwyk
The unique blend of history embodied in the coastal harbour town of Lüderitz reveals itself as you wander through the streets and the elaborate and distinctively quaint German architecture stemming from the diamond rush sparked in 1908.
The residual energy of the era is tangible at the intriguing old mining town of Kolmanskop on the outskirts of Lüderitz. Here the desert is in the process of burying the remaining artefacts of opulence, greed and dreams of wealth under its apricot-coloured sands. Walking up Diamantberg Street to the 1912 Felsenkirche (rock church) and looking down onto the town, you can imagine an affluent time of diamonds, champagne and finery. Although Kolmanskop can easily be accessed from Lüderitz, the subsequent settlements of Pomona and Bogenfels lie abandoned and can be visited only on an organised tour. The highlight of the tour is Bogenfels, a massive rock arch that straddles the coastline, jutting into the sea. At an impressive height of 55 metres, it is as lofty as a 20-storey building.
Lone Oryx at NamibRand. Photo ©Paul van Schalkwyk
Start the day with a morning trip to Diaz Point, where you can enjoy a light breakfast, before heading back to Aus. Take the C13 towards Helmeringhausen until it reaches the D707, on the border of the Namib-Naukluft Park. This road is recommended as one of the most scenically beautiful routes in the south, a description that is confirmed as swirls of apricot Namib Desert sand appear amidst the vegetation.
Stop at the tiny settlement of Betta, to refuel and indulge in a fresh coffee and sandwich. From here take the D826 for about 20 km until you reach Duwisib Castle. Depending on your speed and mood, set up camp here; otherwise backtrack to Betta and undertake another scenic drive on the C27 through the NamibRand Nature Reserve. Overnight in the vicinity.
Dead Vlei. Photo ©Paul van Schalkwyk
Spend the day taking in the magic of Sossusvlei. Along the 65-kilometre drive from Sesriem, climb the challenging slopes of Dune 45 for some spectacular shots of Dead Vlei. Then soak in the romance of a hot-air balloon excursion, or go on a scenic flight over the dunes, and when you return, explore Sesriem Canyon.
If you’re a hiking fanatic, you’re in the right place. The Naukluft area offers trails for people of all levels of fitness. So make sure to add a couple of days to your itinerary to fit in a hike; it will be well worth the effort.
Spreetshoogte. Photo ©Paul van Schalkwyk
Enjoy a slow morning, have breakfast at leisure, and head back to Windhoek via the scenic Spreetshoogte Pass.
TIPS: Air Namibia flies from Hosea Kutako International Airport to Lüderitz three times a week. Alternatively, rent a car here and set out on your journey to the coast.