The crazy folks down at Top Gear have just aired the part one of their epic drive through Africa, calling it “one of the most fun trips we’ve ever undertaken”. Self-drives are one of the best ways to experience Africa. It can sound a little daunting at first, but with the right information and planning, you’re in for an adventure of a lifetime.
Here in Namibia, we’ve got it all – the long open roads of easy-riding tar, grueling sand and rugged gravel surrounded by epic landscapes. But what makes it even more attractive is that Namibia is a safe and stable destination, so the closest you’re probably going to come to danger is encountering a wild animal or getting stuck in a ditch! We've put together some top travel tips and information to help you plan your next self drive in Namibia.
Namibia is a big place, so there are lots of options for an ultimate self drive. The Namibia Holiday & Travel has some great itineraries for self drives:
Classic itinerary: perfect for first timers, a 14 day circular route that takes you to the Namibian greats like Sossusvlei, Skeleton Coast, Twyfelfontein and Etosha National Park
North-western Itinerary: great for those with a cultural curiosity, this area is home to the Himba and Damara people, and this 10-14 day self drive will take you through expansive sand dunes, steep mountain ranges, ancient valleys, seasonal rivers, boulder strewn floodplains and peculiar rock formations.
Southern Itinerary: Namibia’s “deep south” is the least densely populated part of Namibia, perfect for those looking for peace and tranquility. Experience the world’s second largest canyon – the mighty Fish River Canyon, in this 8 day self drive.
Eastern Itinerary: Spend 4-5 days driving through the eastern farm lands of Namibia
Coastal itinerary: See the dunes disappear into the sea, on this 7 day self-drive to the heart of Namibia’s local holiday destination and adventure activity hub
Caprivi Itinerary: 7 days in the captivating wetland area that is sanctuary to over 400 bird species, abundant wildlife, herds of free-roaming elephants crossing the rivers between the neighbouring countries.
For the full itinerary details, download the Namibia Holiday & Travel iPhone and iPad app for free. To read more about the regions of Namibia, click here, and use the drop down menu to make your selection.
Before you head off on your self drive, it’ s good to acquaint yourself with the local scene. The laws might be different to your country – here in Namibia, we drive on the left hand side of the road and all passengers and drivers have to wear seatbelts at all times. Because the surroundings in Namibia are so different you’ll need to be more aware of things like your tyre pressure and watching out for wild animals on the road. Here is a handy list tips for driving in Namibia. And you can find a place car rental company here.
Probably the most thrilling and challenging part of your self drive will be the dunes. The experts will tell you sand driving is all about momentum and tyre pressure. Momentum and speed stop the vehicle from becoming mired in the sand, while dropping your tyre pressure creates a bigger tyre ‘footprint”, spreading the vehicle’s weight over a larger area and giving you more grip. So drop your pressures when you are driving in hot sand or on gravel (it will give you a more comfortable ride), but remember that fast cornering on soft tyres is highly dangerous (you can roll the tyre off the rim), and don’t forget to re-inflate when you are back on hard ground! Discover more do’s and don’ts of dune riding in this article from African Adventure.
The Africa Special: Part 2 is showing on BBC HD and BBC Two this Sunday 10 March