Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip

August 08, 2014
Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip

Every now and then, we all need a break. A few weeks ago I decided to take a much needed escape from the daily grind, and set out on a 3000 mile road trip through the south of Namibia.

I didn’t have a set itinerary, just a road map, my four wheel drive vehicle, cameras, and enough supplies to be self-sufficient for more or less two weeks.

Taking a break and traveling solo

I’ve always wanted to do a trip to Namibia. The country’s natural beauty, along with the vast, desolate expanse always appealed to me. I’ve never really gotten the opportunity to do a solo road trip before, and when I got the opportunity to do a solo road trip, Namibia was the perfect destination.

The main purpose of the trip was to visit Namibia to take some landscape pictures, and to take a bit of a break. Since I had limited time, I decided to focus most of my travels around the south and south-west of Namibia. I prefer focussing on fewer places in a country and travel relaxed rather than to rush and see too many places.

Namibrand Nature Reserve - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip
NamibRand Nature Reserve
Driving through the Namibrand Nature reserve was an unforgettable experience. There are no fences on the side of the road, the wildlife roams freely. None of the pictures I captured could convey how beautiful this area is.

Traveling solo affords you a certain freedom that is void when traveling with other people - you travel on your own time and terms, and it’s amazing how different your experience of traveling is when you travel alone. You often meet people you would never have met if you were traveling with someone or in a group.

The Dunes Surrounding Sossusvlei - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip
The Dunes Surrounding Sossusvlei

Namibia in winter

I visited Namibia in during June / July, which is in the middle of winter in Namibia. Since the country has a desert climate, it was cold on most days, with some days hovering around 5 degrees celcius, and most night time temperatures dipping to minus 5 degrees celcius. Some days were warmer, hovering around the low twenties.

Namibian Winter Panorama - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip
Namibian Winter Panorama
This panorama was taken with the Canon 24mm t/s F3.5ii L lens, and really shows where this lens excels.

Taking panoramas by shifting pictures left and right and then stitching it in Photoshop is a cinch with this lens.

Wild Horses of the Namib - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip
Wild Horses of the Namib
The wild horses of the Namib can be found just outside of Aus. A population of about 90-150 horses roam freely in a conservation area. It is not known how exactly the horses got to Namibia as this is not their natural habitat, but it is speculated that the germans bought them over in the early 1900's.

Camera Equipment for Namibia

I took the following equipment with :

Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Canon EF 24-70mm f2.8L MK II
Canon EF 16-35mm f2.8L MK II
Canon EF 24mm t/s f3.5L MK II
Canon EF 85mm f1.2L MK II
Canon EF 100mm Macro f2.8L IS
Manfrotto Tripod
2 x PocketWizard Plus X (for triggering camera remotely)
Pelican 1510 case (for sealing against dust and storing cameras)

I ended up taking the majority of pictures with the Canon EF 24-70mm f2.8L MK II, Canon EF 16-35mm f2.8L MK II and EF 100mm Macro lens. The EF 24mm tilt shift lens also came in handy for a few shifted panoramas. I missed not having a 70-200mm zoom lens, as there were plenty of opportunities where such a lens would have been ideal.

If I could only take 3 lenses to Namibia, it would be a 16-35, 24-70 and a 70-200. This is my ideal choice for photographing landscapes and people.

If I intend on photographing wildlife, I would simply add a 500mm lens with a tele converter to the above selection of lenses.

There’s a lot of dust and sand in Namibia. I managed to shoot with my camera for well over a year without the need for cleaning the sensor, but towards the end of the trip, a number of dust spots started to show up at smaller apertures.

Dead Vlei, Sossusvlei, Namibia - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip
Dead Vlei, Sossusvlei, Namibia
Dead Vlei, meaning Dead Marsh, also commonly referred to as Sossusvlei, is a salt pan with dead camel thorn trees located in between high red dunes. It is arguably Namibia's most popular attraction.

Trees at Dead Vlei - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip
Trees at Dead Vlei

Photographing the Trees of Dead Vlei, Sossusvlei - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip
Photographing the Trees of Dead Vlei, Sossusvlei
The best time to go to Sossuvlei is early morning or late afternoon. The vlei can get quite crowded, especially during European holidays and weekends. If you want to avoid the crowds, be sure to be there early morning or late evening and avoid weekends and holidays if possible.

Spectacular landscapes in Namibia

The light in Namibia has a magical quality to it. The skies have a very rich blue, and the light is unusually warm, with the tones rich. Namibia is breathtakingly beautiful. There’s spectacular landscapes everywhere. It’s a photogenic country, a photographer’s dream.

The Fish River Canyon, Namibia - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip
The Fish River Canyon, Namibia
Located in the south of Namibia, the Fish River Canyon is the largest Canyon in Africa and second largest in the world. It's a spectacular sight, and one worth visiting.

This panorama of the Fish River Canyon was captured with the Canon EF 24mm t/s F3.5L II tilt and shift lens, by shifting left and right and stitching the pictures together in photoshop.

Climbing Dune 45, Sossusvlei - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip
Climbing Dune 45, Sossusvlei
Climbing Dune 45 at sunrise.

Dune Climbers, Sossusvlei - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip
Dune Climbers, Sossusvlei

Remote, desolate beauty


Namibia is vast, desolate and beautiful. I really enjoyed the isolation of Namibia. Even in peak tourist season, you can pull over your car on the side of the road and not see a vehicle for a few hours. You can camp wild under African skies. Some roads are so isolated that you can literally be alone for a day or two.

I deliberately tried to stick to mostly gravel roads. The condition of the gravel roads are excellent. Towns are mostly small, often consisting of a fuel station and a shop, and a few camp sites or lodges scattered around it.

A lot of the roads don’t have any fences. I saw plenty of wildlife, often crossing the road. You quickly learn to look out for animals. It’s well advised to only travel during daylight hours, as night time   brings a high risk of hitting animals.

For the most part, there’s limited or no cell phone coverage. Only the bigger towns and some smaller towns have coverage. The vast, desolate expanse of Namibia, coupled with a lack of communication to the outside world in many areas really allowed me to switch off, relax, and enjoy vistas of this beautiful country.

Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip
Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park
The red sandstone hills of the Ai-Ais Richtersveld nature reserve is a typical sight in this area. If you want to experience nature and desolation on a scale that is unimaginable, I highly recommend that you spend some time in this area.

Panorama taken with Canon EF 24mm Tilt Shift lens.

Gravel Roads in Namibia - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip
Gravel Roads in Namibia
The quality of the gravel roads in Namibia is very good. Wildlife crossing the roads poses a risk, so speed should be kept to about 80km/h.

Old Car Wreck, Namibia - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip
Old Car Wreck, Namibia
An old car wreck on the side of the road in the South of Namibia.

Taken with the 16-35mm lens.

Kolmanskop - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip
Kolmanskop
The ghost town of Kolmanskop, just outside of Luderitz, is a fascinating place to visit.

Once a fully operational mining town with a school, houses and a hospital, this town has been deserted. The town has been abandoned since 1954.

NamibRand - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip
NamibRand

Why you should visit Namibia

I highly recommend Namibia as a destination to visit. It’s a fantastic country.

For photographers, there are so many opportunities. Namibia is a photographer’s paradise, and it’s easy to see why many of the world’s top photographers return to Namibia year after year.

For first time visitors to Africa, it’s a very safe and peaceful country. Namibia has a low crime rate, there’s no wars, and religious or racial tension in the country. It’s commonly known to be the safest country in Africa.

It’s easily the most beautiful country I’ve ever visited. The people are warm and friendly too, always ready to greet you with a smile.

Accommodation was reasonable and top notch, with plenty of lodging and camping options to choose from.

The quality of the roads are great, with the gravel roads being the best I have driven on.  Due to the wide open spaces, and excellent quality of roads, Namibia is the ideal self-drive destination.

There’s so much to see in Namibia, that it’s impossible to see everything in 2 weeks or even 6 or 8 weeks. It’s a country that demands at least one or two return visits.

If you’re someone that enjoys nature and spectacular landscapes, if you want to see world class game, if you want to have an adventure in Africa, or if you simply want to visit one of the most beautiful countries on the planet, Namibia should be at the top of your list of countries to visit. 

I returned home from an epic adventure, refreshed and with my batteries recharged. I met some great people and returned with more good pictures than I thought I would have taken.

But I also returned with an urgency to go back and explore more of this amazing country. There’s so much more to see. Etosha, Damaraland, the Skeleton coast, and the rest of the country.

This time around I will travel with my family. Watch this space.

Red Hill - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip
Red Hill
Somewhere between Aus and Luderitz.

NamibRand Landscape - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip
NamibRand Landscape

Tree Stump at Sossusvlei - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip
Tree Stump at Sossusvlei