It hardly seems possible to include such a variety of sights and activities in just 19 days. This self-drive tour includes the best of Namibia, the best of Botswana and Victoria Falls in a comfortable, affordable and flexible package.
Between the ancient desert, the wildlife of Damaraland and Etosha, the bounteous wetlands of the Caprivi, Chobe and the Okavango Delta and of course the wonder of Victoria Falls, it will be hard to pick a favourite.
Three countries in one. What more could you ask for? More time perhaps? Well, if you do have more time, let's add more destinations to the route to make it even better or add nights to some of the destinations to give you more down time and to explore and enjoy more activities.
The tour starts and ends in Windhoek (hence the name) but you can start and end it in Chobe National Park, Victoria Falls or even in Maun. Talk to our expert travel consultants to get the best options and prices for this wonderful itinerary and to change things up if you're interested in camping options.
Day 1: Windhoek ( 1 night )
Welcome to Namibia and the capital city of Windhoek. On arrival you will be met and transferred to the car hire company offices in town to complete all rental procedures. Then meet with our representative to hand over your travel package. Go through your route on the map. Ask questions. Then ready. Set. Go!
When you're there: Now the fun begins. Your adventure awaits. Check in at your guesthouse and spend the day relaxing or hop into your rental and take a drive into town, a chance to do some shopping, explore and grab a bit to eat at a local joint. It's also chance to get acquainted with your vehicle.
The Elegant Guesthouse
Day 2 & 3: Sossusvlei ( 2 nights )
Wake up for breakfast and then you're off to the south, Sossusvlei. Endless sand dunes. Vast open plains. This is some of Namibia's finest scenery. Your drive will take roughly six hours but it's a beautiful drive with lots to see along the way.
On the way: Your route will take you south from Windhoek to Rehoboth and then via the Remhoogte or Spreetshoogte Pass. The view from the top is stunning. A good place for a picnic and to get some photos. It's quite the drive down the pass and then you're on to Solitaire. Here you can refuel (recommended to refuel as often as possible) and then it's the last stretch to the area of Sossusvlei near Sesriem. An afternoon nature drive or sundowner drive would be a great way to end the day. Either on your own or join a lodge activity.
When you're there: Staying just outside the park gates, you'll have an early start to grab a cup of coffee and a rusk before the day's adventure begins. Ask the lodges to prepare you a breakfast pack to take along. Enter the Sesriem Gate at sunrise and make your way to Sossusvlei and Dead Vlei first. The light is best early morning. You can stop at Dune 45 and any other spots for some pictures and a chance to climb the dunes on your way back. Find a shady spot and enjoy the scenery.
All the lodges in these parts offer additional activities such as walking trails, nature drives and special sundowners. Be sure to join in on a lodge activity if time allows.
Desert Quiver Camp
Day 4 & 5: Swakopmund ( 2 nights )
Today you will make your way to the Skeleton Coast and the town of Swakopmund. This is also the activity centre of Namibia, there's loads to do and plenty to look forward to, including some cooler weather.
On the way: Rise early to include a hot air balloon safari (book in advance) over the dunes in the desert before departing or enjoy breakfast at leisure and then depart a little later. Your drive today will take about six hours on gravel roads. It's a scenic drive from endless dunes to vast open plains and grassy hills before you reach the coast. Discover the wonder of the the Gaub and Kuiseb Pass, cross the Tropic of Capricorn and detour to view Moonlandscape and the eon old Welwitschias. They're really old and really amazing to see. They've survived in the desert for ages, which is a pretty impressive feat since the desert is seriously dry and really hot all year round. Look out for the Hartmann's mountain zebra, springbok and ostrich along the way.
When you're there: From Swakopmund and Walvis Bay there are plenty of activities on offer. Quad bike or sandboard in the dunes, take a night walk to watch the desert come to life after dark, explore the Atlantic on a dolphin boat cruise or from a kayak at Pelican Point. Sandwich Harbour is the ideal spot to see where the dunes meet the see. A never relenting Skeleton Coast. A scenic flight over is a must!
Swakopmund Luxury Suites
Day 6: Damaraland ( 1 night )
Your next destination is Damaraland and it's another change of scenery from the coast to a dry and harsh rocky environment of granite boulders and distant mountains. The drive can take all day, depending on the route. The journey is worth it.
On the way: Today you can drive all the way along the Skeleton Coast stopping at Cape Cross along the way and heading inland at the Springbok Water Gate. A chance to see some old shipwrecks. Alternatively you can head north to visit Cape Cross and then backtrack to Henties Bay and head inland via the mining town of Uis on to the Twyfelfontein area. In the distance a glimpse of the biggest mountain in Namibia, the Brandberg.
When you're there: This is where you will be able to see the desert-adapted elephants and other wildlife. Best to go with a lodge guide as they know the areas and the dry ephemeral riverbeds. Visit the sights of Twyfelfontein: the Twyfelfontein rock engravings, Burnt Mountain and Organ Pipes. For a look into the culture of the local Damara people, visit the Living Damara museum.
With only one night in the area, you'll need to be selective on what activities you do and how you fit them into your schedule.
Twyfelfontein Adventure Camp
Day 7: Etosha National Park - South ( 1 night )
Today you head east and then north to the incredible wildlife area of Etosha National Park. Your drive will take you about four hours with the first section on good gravel roads and the remainder of the way from Khorixas on tar. It's an easy drive so you should arrive earlier today, depending on your morning activities.
On the way: Stop at the Petrified Forest near Khorixas and then continue on to Outjo. Along the way you could also take a short detour to see Vingerklip and the Ugab Terrace. Last stop Outjo, is a good place to refuel and the bakery here is one of the best ifyou want tograb something to eat. Then it's on to the southern entrance gate of Etosha.
When you're there: Self-drive or guided game drives with the lodge in open safari vehicles. Pay the entrance fee at the gate and then explore the southern side of the park and some of the amazing waterholes in the area: Nebrownii, Gemboksvlakte, Homob and of course the popular Okaukuejo waterhole. Go view the pan. It's large, white and spans most of the park. Animals come and go. There are 114 species of mammal and 340 species of birds here. This is a wildlife extravaganza.
Day 8 & 9: Etosha National Park - East ( 2 nights )
A full day's drive through the park from the southern side to the eastern side. Take it easy. This is your activity for the day. Stop at waterholes along the way or head directly to your lodge to join a guided game drive for the afternoon.
When you're there: Game viewing, game viewing and more excellent game viewing is the order of the day at Etosha.
Go on guided sunrise and sunset game drives; spend a whole day at any one (or of course many) of the 30-plus waterholes in Etosha watching an incredible variety of animals; birding is excellent and if you stay inside the park, you get the best experience of all at the floodlit waterholes when the wildlife action really comes to life. There are also many private reserves bordering on the park with wildlife, stunning waterholes and hides too. A feature of Etosha is the variety of species you can see at one time – thanks to the waterholes being the only the source of water for miles around.
Onguma Bush Camp
Day 10 & 11: Caprivi ( 2 nights )
A long drive to the Caprivi requires an early start. The roads are all paved. There are some interesting stops along the way and loads of places to pull off for a picnic and to stretch your legs.
On the way: Visit the Otjikoto and Guinas lakes; Hoba Meteorite is the largest in the world. Be on the lookout for livestock and children in the streets as you pass through local towns. Today is about getting to your next destination. Enjoy the drive.
When you're there:The Caprivi is a mini-Okavango Delta in Namibia without the hefty price tags and more easily accessible. Enjoy game viewing in the excellent Mahango Game Park and the Buffalo Game Park; river cruises and water safaris; bush walks; and excellent birding and fishing. Visit Popa Falls. Go on a cultural tour to meet the friendly Kavango people.
Shametu River Lodge
Day 12, 13 & 14: Chobe National Park ( 3 nights )
Drive through Katima to Ngoma Bridge where you enter Botswana and the Chobe National Park. Your drive takes you through the Bwabwata National Park, it's a slow drive but it's also a game drive so enjoy the bush and be on the look out for sightings.
On the way: Game viewing on your way to the Ngoma border post. Head through immigration. Welcome to Botswana. Make your way to your lodge near Kasane.
When you're there: If you want to see large herds of elephant, this is the place. The Chobe National Park has the largest population of elephants in the world. From the river or on a game drive in the Chobe National Park, you're bound to see elephant (in great numbers), buffalo and many other plains game as well as predators such as lions and leopards, especially if they are hungry. Birding is excellent so grab your binos. Victoria Falls is about an hours drive (not taking into account the border crossings). You have a day trip to Victoria Falls included.
Our recommended schedule for this leg is:
Day 12: Afternoon boat cruise on the Chobe River - excellent game viewing, birdwatching and scenery
Day 13: Early morning and late afternoon game drives in Chobe National Park. We always recommend doing these drives with the lodge so you can enter the park earlier and exit later.
Day 14: Full day excursion to Victoria Falls - one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Transfer across to Zimbabwe. Enjoy the falls. Spend the day at your leisure and return transfer back to Chobe again.
*Activities included - 1 x game drive, 1 x boat cruise, 1 x private boat cruise and 1 x Victoria Falls Day Trip (unguided with return transfers)
Note: the Victoria Falls Day Trip can be exchanged for 2 other Chobe activities instead
*Chobe park fees for 2 days are included
Chobe Safari Lodge
Day 15: Makgadikgadi Pans ( 1 night )
After breakfast, it's an early start as you make your way south via Padamatenga to Nata and then west towards Gweta. It's all tarred roads so an easy drive but a longer day in the car. A good chance to think back on where you have been so far.
Situated close to the village of Gweta, (also charmingly known as "The Place of the Bullfrogs"), on the Francistown-Maun road and sheltered by a grove of gigantic baobabs, Planet Baobab offers a welcoming base from which to explore the Makgadikgadi Pans system.
Planet Baobab combines style with comfort whilst remaining true to its traditional African inspiration. Accommodation styles vary, with Bushman grass huts, palatial Kalanga mud huts (with en-suite bathrooms) traditionally painted with amazing designs and a shady campsite where you can pitch your own tents.
There's loads to do here, but to explore the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans and the habituated meerkats you'd need to make this a two night stop. Why not? Then you could sleep out on the pan under the stars. Bliss. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Don't miss it.
Day 16 & 17: Okavango Delta ( 2 nights )
Breakfast and then continue to drive west to Maun. Leave your vehicle at the airport and then fly by light aircraft over the Okavango Delta to your lodge for the next two nights. A definite highlight on this trip.
On the way: Now from the skies, you can see the winding channels slither through the green bush and open plains of the delta. It's spectacular to see from above. Look down. There by that waterhole. Elephants. The next two nights are going to be amazing if this is what you get to explore. Yes it is! And there's so much more...
When you're there: Water safaris, birdwatching, guided mokoro rides (traditional poled dugout canoes), walking safaris, game viewing: the quintessential delta experience. Wildlife is prolific and the scenery is wonderful (you know you got to see it from the plane). With a two-night stay you have the option to do a full day mokoro safari through the channels of the delta or a guided game drive.
*Your stay in the Okavango Delta is fully inclusive and includes your scheduled camp activities.
Day 18: Central Kalahari Game Reserve ( 1 night )
On the way: You will take the short flight back to Maun airport where you will pick up your car before continuing west through the villages of the Kalahari Plains to your accommodation for the night.
When you're there: The Central Kalahari Game Reserve offers rhino tracking safaris, Bushman experiences, game drives and scenic sunset drives. You won't have much time for activities though. This is really more an overnight to get you back to Windhoek tomorrow.
Relax and take a breather. Enjoy a sundowner and a chilled afternoon.
Thakadu Bush Camp
Day 19: Windhoek ( Departure / End of Tour )
Quite a long drive but along relatively empty tarred roads takes you back to Windhoek or directly to the Windhoek International Airport. Drop off your hired car and connect with your flight home or onward plans after what has surely been the African self-drive safari holiday of a lifetime.
Our tip: Book a last night in Windhoek or just outside of Windhoek for the night. This gives you time to relax before your long haul flight.