Quick Travel Tips for Desert Namibia

C. Fraser Claire

Quick Tips for the Namib Desert, Sossusvlei, Etosha, and Damaraland

The Namib Desert has plenty of attractions for anyone travelling for the tranquility of wide open spaces or scenic activities.

Namib Desert Links:
Desert Namibia | Namib Naukluft National Park & Sossusvlei | Namib Desert and Namibrand | What To Pack For A Desert Namibia Safari | Quick Tips For The Namib Desert & a Desert Namibia Safari |

Desert Namibia Travel Advice by The Safari Store

Namibia attracts scores of travellers on a quest for striking, remote, scenery. As the oldest desert in the world, the Namib Desert features dunes that are among the tallest in the world, ancient dune seas that are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and dark sky reserves that are some of the best locations for stargazing.

Large tracts of the Namib Desert are preserved by the Namib-Naukluft National Park, which is one of the largest protected areas in Africa. For anyone planning a trip to Southern Africa, the Namib Desert, Sossusvlei, and Namib Rand are the perfect desert complement to traditional safaris at these latitudes. With adrenaline-spiking or adventure activities on offer, as well as the chance to observe endemic plants, wildlife, and birds, there's so much on offer for anyone looking to immerse themselves in the world's most spectacular destinations.

In this story, we give some general travel tips for visiting the Namib Desert - for overlanders and luxury safari-goers. We also give advice on what to pack for the desert to ensure you're comfortable and prepared for whatever the day holds.

Shop Safari & Travel Clothing >

Plan A Desert Namibia Safari

Our quick travel tips for the Namib Desert, Sossusvlei, and Namib Rand are very general tips for overlanders and luxury safari-goers looking to explore the beauty of Namibia's deserts. Whatever you are after, the desert regions of Namibia have offerings that cater to every taste - from luxury travellers looking to feel completely cut off from the world to budget travellers and 4x4 overlanders. With a range of accommodation options and activities on offer, adding a desert destination to your itinerary gives you an amazing cross-section of the continent's landscapes and makes for unforgettable African travels.

We are here to help with answers to desert Namibia FAQs and quick travel tips for self-drivers to the Namib Desert, Sossusvlei, and Namib Rand. Finally, we take you through some of the features to look out for in the area.

FAQs Answered: Desert Namibia (Namib Desert, Sossusvlei, and Namib Rand)

  • Where is the Namib Desert (and where is Namib Rand)? The Namib Desert is a cold coastal desert located along the Atlantic Coast of Namibia up to Angola. Namib Rand is a private conservation initiative in south-western Namibia.

  • What is special about the Namib Desert? The Namib Desert is the oldest desert in the world. It is one of the driest landscapes in the world - and yet supports incredible desert-adapted biodiversity. The desert is full of wonders - including the desolate Skeleton Coast; the chance of seeing desert-adapted wildlife like lions, rhinos, and elephants; the monumental dunes at Sossusvlei; welwitschia plants; and great swathes of uninhabited moonscape scenery.

  • What does the name Sossusvlei mean in English? Sossusvlei means 'dead-end marsh'. While it doesn't sound particularly appealing, its exquisite panorama of dunes, salt and clay pans, and immortalised camelthorn trees are some of the most-visited attractions in Namibia. Sossusvlei is so named as this barrier of dunes blocks the flow of the Tsauchab River beyond this point.

  • Which is the largest dune in Namibia? The tallest dune in Namibia is Dune 7 in Walvis Bay at 383 metres high. The tallest dune in the Sossusvlei area is Big Daddy, which measures 325 metres. Which is the best dune to climb at Sossusvlei? Dune 45 is one of the tall dunes people love to climb at Sossusvlei at around 170 metres high. It takes about 30 minutes to an hour for most people to summit.

  • How cold does it get in the Namib Desert? Coastal temperatures tend to range between 9 and 20 degrees Celsius. The further inland you go, the greater the variation, with summer temperatures sometimes exceeding 45 degrees Celsius and plunging to below-freezing temperatures.

  • What is the best time to visit Namibia? Almost year-round sunshine makes many destinations in Namibia accessible all year round. That said, the rainy summer months can make gravel roads and 4x4 routes a little more challenging and can affect game-viewing and other activities. It is worth finding out about accessibility before departure - especially in summer. If you are planning a desert and savanna safari in Namibia and Southern Africa, the dry winter months tend to be more popular for the moderate weather and conditions.

  • Is there malaria in Namibia? If you are visiting the desert areas of Namibia, it is worth consulting a malaria map to gauge the level of risk in the places you plan on visiting. As a general rule, the further north you travel in Namibia, the more the risk of malaria increases. For visitors to the Namib Desert, the Kunene region is considered a malaria area - and the risk carries over to Caprivi and other connected areas of Southern Africa. While the risk of malaria is low in some parts of Namibia, it is worth taking precautions to avoid insect bites all year round and in all locations of travel.

What to wear on safari to the Namib Desert by The Safari Store

Dressing For Desert Namibia:
Our made-for-Africa safari clothing is specifically designed for African and warm-weather travel conditions. Our sun protective technologies and lightweight, moisture wicking technical fabrics are perfect for desert conditions. Whether you're planning activities in the dunes or are taking in the views, make the most of every experience by investing in the right gear. Read our desert Namibia safari packing advice and shop the products.

Quick Travel Tips For Self Drivers: Kruger National Park

  • If You Are Self-Driving, Plan Around Distances and Road Conditions: If you are self-driving in Namibia, take the time to plan your route. While there are tar roads, many roads are gravel, which impacts travel times. Our experience of these gravel roads is that they are well-graded and connected, but you can expect to drive at around 80 to 100 km per hour at the most on some of these roads. Sossusvlei is around 400km from Windhoek and you need to take the different road conditions into account when planning your route.

  • Have a Map Handy: Much of Namibia has good mobile signal, but it is prudent to have downloaded or paper maps at the ready. Also try to avoid deviating from the route or road. The distances can be great, with few inhabitants or fuel stops along the way, so avoid getting lost for stress-free travels.

  • Fuel Your Adventures: It is a good idea to refuel at every opportunity - and to carry spare fuel if you can - just in case. We also recommend carrying cash for fuel in case ATMs or card machines aren't working along the way. If you are travelling to Sossusvlei, there are fuel stations at Rehoboth, Solitaire, and Sesriem Gate.

  • Be As Self-Sufficient As Possible: Many places in Namibia are wonderfully remote. This means you need to be as self-sufficient as possible. Many little towns and road-side stores stock the basics, but we recommend stocking up on water and food when you're in a large centre like Windhoek.

  • Factor in 4x4 Routes: If you have rented a 4x4, there are opportunities to use it on and around popular tourist routes in Namibia and its deserts. While a vehicle with good clearance is all you need on most roads, some of the roads in the Namib-Naukluft National Park are best accessed by 4x4. If you feel less confident about 4x4 driving, there are shuttle options to the dunes, so you can book a guided tour.

  • Include Gate Fees and Park Fees in Your Budget: If you are entering any Namibian national park, you will be required to pay park fees. To visit Sossusvlei, you need a permit if you are staying outside the park. If you opt to use the shuttle service mentioned above, there is also a cost for this.

  • Time Your Trip Around the Best Time of Year: Almost year-round sunny days make the Namib Desert accessible throughout the year. That said, the time of year you choose to travel makes a difference. As with many parts of Southern Africa, the dry winter months between May and October are favoured for more moderate daytime temperatures and to avoid the sometimes heavy summer rains. The severity of the rainfall can affect driving conditions and accessibility in some parts of the country - and the sometimes very high daytime temperatures mean air conditioned rental vehicles are preferred at this time of year. If you are travelling in peak season during winter, this may affect pricing, so bear this in mind as you plan.

Sossusvlei safari travel advice by The Safari Store

The Namib Desert's dramatic red dunes are astounding in height and scope. One of the most visited attractions in Namibia, the dunes and surrounds are an incredible retreat into some of the world's most ancient landscapes. Read the Sossusvlei story.

Namib Desert and Sossusvlei: Features and Activities

  • Accessible by Road and Air: Namibia is an extremely popular self-drive safari destination in Southern Africa for its beautiful and diverse scenery, mix of desert and savanna safari opportunities, and functional (yet rugged) road network. There are plenty of accommodation options for self-drivers - from luxury lodges to comfortable and affordable self-catering and camping or glamping facilities. If you choose to fly, private charters connect major centres like Windhoek with Namibia's many attractions - with views from the air an experience on their own.

  • Hot Air Balloons Over the Namib Desert: To experience Sossusvlei and the beauty of the desert from the ground is but one dimension. To see it from the air is another. Hot air balloon excursions are a unique and unforgettable way to tour the area.

  • Dune Climbing: If you plan to climb Sossusvlei's dunes, get there as early as the gate times allow to avoid the heat of the day. Big Daddy is the highest dune in the park, but Dune 45 is an always photogenic alternative. Set aside about an hour each way to summit.

  • Mix and Match Dunes, Vleis, and Canyons: Take the time to explore the different elements of the Namib Desert. The skeletal camelthorn trees juxtapose these jagged forms with the white clay of the vlei and the red of the dunes. Sesriem Canyon and Hiddenvlei are the lesser-known of the big attractions in the area, while the Namib Sand Sea is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Wherever your itinerary takes you, all these natural features showcase the effects of time on nature.

  • Wildlife: Namibia holds many treasures for birdwatchers and wildlife-lovers. Keep an eye out for endemic species like the Dune Lark. Whether on drives or on foot, spotting the iconic form of oryx or gemsbok, springbok, bat-eared foxes, or more elusive species like hyena or leopard are landmark experiences on any trip. If you are planning a more extensive trip, the Skeleton Coast and surrounds have a chance of seeing desert-adapted wildlife like giraffe, lion, and elephant, which elevates adventures to the realms of the extraordinary.

  • A Walking Wonderland: There are myriad ways to walk in the Namib. Whether you take a stroll up a dune or plan to go on challenging hikes in the Naukluft Mountains or multi-day adventures like the Tok-Tokkie Trail, make sure your walking shoes make it into your suitcase. You'll definitely use them - even if only to walk from the parking lot at Sossusvlei to Deadvlei. Head over to our detailed packing advice page for more details on socks, footwear, and clothing for every excursion.

  • Starfaris: The night sky is something special in this part of the world. Home to one of Africa's Dark Sky Reserves, the skies come alive with stars - with precious little interference from artificial light sources. This makes time around the campfire a must!
Namib Rand safari travel advice by The Safari Store

Namib Rand:
The private conservancy at Namib Rand is the perfect hideaway for families, friends, or couples visiting the Namib Desert. The pace of life slows down from the camps in this part of the world - giving you a chance to reset to desert rhythms and take in the tracks and shadows in scenic tranquility. Read our Namib Rand story.

Etosha safari travel advice by The Safari Store

Etosha National Park:
To get the best of Namibia, balance desert adventures with safari experiences. Etosha is a safari destination where you can take in high-profile African wildlife species and enjoy more traditional safaris in remarkable landscape. Read our Etosha safari story.

Damaraland safari travel advice by The Safari Store

From Galton Gate at Etosha National Park, we realised that the wild feeling one gets in Namibia is truly unfenced. From lion roars at night in Hobatere to the distilled moonlight over the palm-scattered gravel plains at Palmwag, our Damaraland adventure begins. From there, we headed to Ugab along the Skeleton Coast, and finally passed through the incredible petroglyphed landmark of Twyfelfontein to the dry river bed and high canyoned walls of the Khowarib Schlucht. Read our Damaraland story.

Desert Namibia Safari Links:
Desert Namibia | Namib Naukluft National Park & Sossusvlei | Namib Desert and Namibrand | What To Pack For A Desert Namibia Safari | Quick Tips For The Namib Desert & a Desert Namibia Safari | Damaraland: Hobatere to Palmwag | Damaraland: Twyfelfontein Along the Khowarib Schlucht | Damaraland: The Skeleton Coast and Ugab | What To Pack For Damaraland | Damaraland Quick Travel Tips |

View basket