Namibia Road Trip with a Toddler

Africa is huge and Namibia was not even on my radar to be honest but once I started planning our trip I discovered this hidden gem of a country! I knew we would fly into South Africa because that’s where we found the best flights, but Grant had already been to South Africa and wanted to check a new country off the list. (Cool or imperialistic? You decide.) I was a tad bit concerned with malaria but also didn’t really want to give Marin malaria meds since he was only one year old so I wanted to stay in the southern countries which tend to be drier and less mosquito-y. So that’s how Namibia got on the itinerary. I soon found out about safari in Etosha and couldn’t wait to visit!

Renting an Overlander in Namibia

I love to do a road trip when traveling. (Easy for me to say as I am not the driver, but I swear Grant loves the thrill of driving abroad too! He likes to tout that he learned to drive in the Fez Medina.) Renting a car is especially awesome when traveling with babies and toddlers because you can go at your own pace, use your carseats, and “explode” in the car aka break out all of the snacks and toys and not have to pack them up every time you move locations. The rental car almost serves as a home base while traveling around. And of course renting a car allows you to do things without a tour and stop wherever on a whim (I’m looking at you side of the road Biltong!) It’s ultimate freedom and flexibility.

Needless to say I love doing road trips to explore new countries so when I found out that renting an “overlander” (slang term for a tent truck) is the thing to do in Namibia I was thrilled! The only problem was they were nearly all sold out. Apparently people book their African adventures months and years in advance…not weeks like me! Luckily I found us a truck through Avis Safari. Our rig wasn’t as badass as some of the other ones I had seen but we had ourselves an overlander!

The overlander was awesome! It was fully equipped with a bed, kitchen (with a fridge and burner), table, chairs, dishes, etc. We left most of our luggage at the rental shop and took a small bag with the essentials. We also traded Marin’s infant carseat we brought from home with a forward facing one so he could see out the windows better. (Although this made sleeping a little more challenging as his head kept falling down!)

Sleeping in an Overlander with a Toddler

We had never really been camping with baby Marin (except one night on the Inca Trail!) so I was curious how this was going to play out, but totally willing to take the risk. It went surprisingly well! Heck, it even improved our sleeping situation. Marin was 16 months old when we went to Africa and I was still rocking him to sleep each night. I realized I wasn’t going to be able to stand up in the tent to rock him. I also realized I couldn’t get him to sleep outside the tent and climb the ladder to the roof while holding him asleep so he would have to learn to fall asleep without being rocked. Turns out being worn out from safari and a couple times of reciting Good Night Moon is all it took!

2 Week Namibia Road Trip Itinerary

Day 1: Windhoek

Our adventure started in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. We flew from Cape Town and picked up our rig. I had started planning our Namibia trip before renting the overlander so I reserved hotels for the beginning of our trip and we merely used the overlander as a rental car. This was definitely not cost efficient or necessary.

We went to the mall (which had a Woolworth’s grocery store!) to stock up on food and supplies. We spent one night at the Town Lodge Hotel to rest up before our trip to Etosha.

Day 2-6: Etosha National Park

Most routes for a Namibia road trip start in Windhoek and head south, saving Etosha for last. We went counter clockwise and started with safari in Etosha! It was incredible. It’s seriously Lion King in real life! From early morning lion spotting tours to sipping night caps at the watering hole, we had an unforgettable safari experience.

For accommodations, we split our time in Etosha between Okaukuejo Resort, Mushara Lodge, and Mushara Bush Camp. Check out our complete guide to Etosha here.

Day 7: Okonjima

I was so excited to visit Spitzkoppe, but when mapping out our route I knew 5 hours was too long of a driving day with a toddler in tow so I looked for somewhere to stop halfway. I found Okonjima, which is a private nature reserve. You can do a safari here and see several high ticket animals (inlcuding the elusive leopard), but compared to the national park it felt like “cheating” to me. We inquired about one game drive since we hadn’t yet seen a leopard (did I mention they’re elusive?) but they had a hard rule that all children must be at least 6 years old as not to startle the big cats!

We reserved a campsite for a steep $90 and this was the first night we slept in the overlander. The campsite was super nice with a full bathroom and fire pit. There was even an onsite swimming pool! We hiked up a nearby mountain to watch sunset and sip sundowners. I left our GoPro on top of said mountain and had to go back up and get it the next day! Luckily I remembered in time and scored a ride instead of hiking in the heat.

Day 8: Spitzkoppe

The next day we drove the remaining half to Spitzkoppe (with a stop at the country hut for biltong aka African beef jerky). Our strategy was basically drive mid day during the heat and enjoy evenings and mornings exploring each spot. Spitzkoppe was pure desert magic!

It reminded me so much of my beloved Joshua Tree and Marin loved scrambling on the rocks. The air was crisp and the stars were the best I’ve ever seen. I guess the artificial light is minimal when you’re in the least densely populated country on earth! Out campsite in Spitzkoppe cost only $25 and was worth every penny.

Day 9: Cape Cross

After leaving Spitzkoppe we journeyed two hours up the skeleton coast to Cape Cross. We had a nice lunch stop at Fishy Corner in Henties Bay and stopped again on the way to get out and admire the vast and eerily empty Skeleton Coast. Compared to coastline around the rest of the world which is usually high end and overdeveloped, this part of the world is largely untouched. It’s moniker is derived from its shipwrecks and deadly currents. So yea, it’s a little creepy feeling!

Cape Cross is the world’s largest seal colony and people usually visit for a day trip. After reading one blog of a family who camped here and made it sound like a delightful seaside time I was excited! You can’t reserve it in online or in advance (which always makes me anxious) so I was relieved when we arrived and the park ranger with the personality of DMV personnel informed me we were the only people spending the night there out of the four available spots. She looked at me like I was crazy and wanted to confirm that this is where we wanted to stay.

At first glance our campsite looked perfect. It was literally in the sand and we got to visit all of the adorable seals. They were cute but man were they stinky! It reminded us a lot of the sea lions in La Jolla.

But upon second glance we noticed not just a few but tons of bones! You could barely walk three feet from our campsite without seeing seal remains including whole skulls and jawbones. This was not the Skeleton Coast we signed up for!

Grant and I said if it were just us two we would have crawled in bed before sunset and read our kindles, but we had to keep a brave face on for the little guy and entertain him until his bedtime. I’m not sure why we didn’t just drive away…half stubbornness, half curiosity I suppose. We slept terrible because it was very windy, and the jackal we saw at sundown didn’t help the situation. It was one of those nights where you’d rather hold your pee than step outside in the dark. Now we know why this campsite is only $20.

Day 10: Swakopmund

After being off the grid for a night we were ready to return to civilization in Swakopmund. But not before one last Skeleton Coast point of interest, the Zeila Shipwreck. I also bought some cool gems on the side of the road! 

Swakopmund is a large city and resort town so we stayed at a city campground, Alte Bruecke Resort. It was nice and had a much needed real shower, but I much prefer wilderness camping to RV parks.

In Swakopmund we had a nice seafood lunch on the water at Tug, Marin found a playground, and we saw the best sunset of our trip at Tiger’s Reef! It was a great refreshing stop on our road trip.

Day 11: Soltaire

The next morning we headed to Soltaire with pit stops at Walvis Bay to see the flamingos (honestly not worth the stop) and the Tropic of Capricorn sign ( worth it, I’m a Capricorn!).

Soltaire was kind of a random place to add to our itinerary, but I kept seeing it come up when researching our route and knew I had to try some of the famous apple pie. It was delicious! Soltaire is also a nice halfway point on your way down to Sossusvlei. We did a little sunset hike and really liked this quirky stop. The only bummer was it was super windy and we literally feared our tent would fly off the roof so we didn’t sleep great!

Day 12: Sossusvlei

We originally were supposed to have 2 nights in Sossusvlei, but I switched it up last minute because the mid-day heat was no joke and we liked our routine of checking out a new place each night with shorter daily drive times. Soussusvlei was a highlight of our trip for sure. The campsite at Sesriem was great. We saw lots of oryx and there was a nice pool!

Everyone recommends to get up at sunrise for the sand dunes, but we know the realities of waking a sleeping baby so we decided to do a late afternoon trip instead which ended up being a great call! We had the place to ourselves. (Which on second thought is kind of creepy because we were in the dead middle of no where!)

We hiked to Deadvlei to see the crazy preserved trees and watched a beautiful sunset on top of a red dune. Seriously magical! Marin had fun climbing up the sand and was a real trooper about the hike and heat.

Funny story: Grant always does the driving and I always do the research. I told him that I read that we should let some air out of the tires before driving on the sand dunes. (I read so many flat tire stories on Namibia road trips!) He said our truck was designed for this and not to worry. Sure enough we got stuck…alone…in the middle of nowhere…in the heat! But we had all of our possesions, a bed, food, and water with us so the prognosis wasn’t that grim. After a lot of sweat and a little shoveling, we were free! I had the best “told you so” of all time.

Day 13: Namibgrens

Before leaving Soussusvlei, we made some pancakes and hiked through Sessriem Canyon. This is underrated and totally cool!

It takes about five hours to get from Soussusvlei back to Windhoek so I looked for a halfway point to break up the drive, which is how I found Namibgrens. I read that they had a few different pools, zebras, and the best gin and tonics so I was sold! We loved this spot. It was like a bed and breakfast meets camping. The property is gorgeous and there are several accommodation options. Our campsite had an awesome outdoor shower and romantic firepit!

Day 14: Windhoek

We completed our Namibia Road Trip and returned back to Windhoek. We spent one night at Urban Camp which had a fun hostel like vibe before returning our overlander and flying back to Johannesburg.

What we didn’t do on our Namibia Road Trip

I really wanted to go to Fish River Canyon and was slightly interested in Kolmanskop but this would have been way out of the way and required many more hours of driving.

Namibia is an interesting place. I don’t know what I was expecting (heck, I thought it was called Nambia until we visited!) but I wasn’t expecting so many white people speaking German! Like South Africa, the recent colonization left a bad taste in my mouth and we witnessed some tough poverty alongside super nice commercial establishments.

If you’re going to do Namibia, definitely rent an overlander. This is one travel adventure I will never forget and if you’re feeling bold, bring your kiddos too!

It’s not Nambia,


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