A straight comparison of prices between a self-drive tour and a fly-in might appear as a no-brainer. But it's not that simple. There’s more to consider in order to truly cost compare and then there’s deciding what type of experience you really want to have.
Namibia is an exhilarating and memorable place to visit, offering a variety of captivating and enchanting attractions, with something for everyone.
When deciding on your Namibian travel itinerary, one of your first choices is whether to opt for driving (self-drive or guided) or fly-in. Your preference will usually depend on time and cost factors, but there are other elements which should be considered when deciding on your holiday in Namibia, most importantly of course, is which parts of the country you want to visit.
Namibia is 825,400 km² in size and has many attractions, such as Etosha National Park, Fish River Canyon, the Skeleton Coast, the Sossusvlei dunes, the Namib Desert (known as the oldest and most extreme on earth) and more. If you are booking your trip with a travel company or tour operator, they will offer different packages based on duration and which areas you want to visit and explore, and also on whether or not they are self-drive, fly-in, or a combination of the two.
Namibia has an excellent road network, and a self-drive safari is ideal for the adventure seeker. The distances between attractions are vast, with beautiful scenery along the way, so you will need to allow yourself enough time for this method of travel through the country.
You will be able to make your way unhurriedly along mostly empty roads, with complete flexibility as to which destinations you decide to visit. Most of your driving will be done along gravel roads which are generally well graded, but you need to travel slowly and carefully, so your travel time needs to be factored in carefully. Driving at night is not recommended because of the increased risk of animals crossing the road, and the limited visibility due to no street lights.
Many self-drive visitors to Namibia combine their trip with a camping element as well as lodge stays, for a more versatile and interesting tour, enabling you to explore various destinations at your own pace. That being said, your trip does need to be planned quite sensibly, especially when it comes to issues like fuel planning. Make sure that you are well informed about where the petrol stations are on your route, and it's advisable to fuel up whenever possible, even if your tank is still half full.
Your vehicle should be properly equipped should you need to change a tyre, some knowledge of the basics of vehicle maintenance would also come in handy. You need to ensure that you carry enough water with you for your own consumption and in the event of your vehicle overheating – temperatures in Namibia can reach into the high 40's which can play havoc with your vehicle.
The roads are very well sign-posted and excellent maps are available, so with good planning you will be able to enjoy a comprehensive self-drive tour through Namibia.
Fly-in safaris are generally more expensive, but you don't need as much travelling time, which allows you to spend more time at each destination, or if you do have time-constraints, short overnight stays. You are treated to magnificent aerial views, with rapid transfers between your chosen highlights, and interesting adventures on the ground.
It's worth keeping in mind that a fly-in safari is usually booked on a fully inclusive basis to include all meals, local branded drinks and scheduled camp activities with park entry fees. This in itself adds to the overall cost of the fly-in when comparing the costs to that of a self-drive safari, where in most cases, only specified meals are included, drinks are additional as well as activities (if you opt to do these with the lodge guides) and your park fees will be paid direct at the entrance gates.
You have a variety of options and destinations to choose from on a fly-in safari, and the landscapes are equally spectacular from the air, although quite different to what you would see on a self-drive tour.
A minimum of seven days should be factored in when considering a fly-in tour of Namibia or Botswana, so that you get to see a good selection of the highlights the country has to offer. Your overnight stays will be dependent on the number of attractions in each particular area, which makes this option more about each place and less about the journey.
There are also fly-in camping safari options, rather than staying at lodges, and if your budget is limited, you usually have the option of replacing some of the flights with land transfers.
Adventures on the ground include guided nature walks, game drives and game viewing, excursions to various highlights at each overnight stop, quad bike trails where applicable, picnic lunches, exploring historical towns, and more.
Fly-in safaris operate on a scheduled basis, with a minimum of two passengers, and usually a maximum of four or sometimes six passengers. This is a truly unique way of experiencing Namibia.