Etosha road trip with kids

The wildlife of Etosha and the Sossusvlei dunes are iconic Namibia attractions. But would they appeal to kids under the age of six? Tracks4Africa’s Maderi Fourie reports on her family’s road trip and shares essential travel tips.

What a privilege to travel during the current economically challenging times we face! For us, a trip to Etosha National Park and southern Namibia was an opportunity to get away and see new things. We are a family of four with a five- and a two-year-old and we were joined by friends that are retiring this year. While we stayed in self-catering units and lodges, our friends opted to camp. Given the ages of the kids, we planned the trip in such a way that we didn’t have to travel too far on any one day.

From the SA border to Etosha

The first day, we stayed on the South African side of the border with Namibia. Overnighting at Orange River Rafting Lodge ensured an early arrival at the Vioolsdrift Border Post. From there we made our way to Hardap Dam, where we experienced an amazing sunset. We found the Namibian self-catering units somewhat different to what us South Africans are accustomed to. Some of them did not even have cutlery. When we requested cutlery in our “braai unit”, they suggested we eat at the restaurant. Luckily, we had our picnic basket and Waeco fridge/freezer, absolute must-have items!

Endless views: admiring the sunset over Hardap Dam. Pictures supplied by Maderi Fourie

On the third day, we were off to Gross Barmen, a Namibia Wildlife Resorts property. Along the way, we visited Joe’s Beerhouse in Windhoek for an awesome lunch, a place not to miss. Before setting off for Etosha, we stopped at Okahandja SuperSpar for supplies. This is a beautiful store that is fully supplied. Be sure to stock up on everything you might need as the park shops in Etosha do not carry much. Other than cool drinks and alcohol! We stopped at Lake Otjikoto, which was a dumping ground during World War I. Although there are still cannons and ammunition in the lake, the larger pieces have been moved to the Tsumeb Museum.

T4A travel tip: Remember that there are restrictions on moving meat from north to south in certain parts of Namibia. This is to prevent the spread of foot-and-mouth disease and means you can’t bring meat from Etosha back to the south. Therefore don’t buy too much meat in Okahandja, only what you need for your time in the park.

Also read: Veterinary fences in Namibia and Botswana

It’s with good reason that Joe’s Beerhouse in Windhoek is considered a must-visit.

Sightings and onwards to the Skeleton Coast

We spent three days in the beautiful Emanya lodge, 20km from the Namutoni gate. Two nights in Halali and one night in Okaukuejo rounded out our Etosha experience. Although we saw a few rental cars, I wouldn’t drive in the park with a sedan. Note that in August it is the European holidays and Namibia was crawling with tourists. (Perhaps the influx of tourists meant the roads were eroded more quickly than usual. On the whole, Namibian gravel roads are regularly graded to keep them in good condition. – T4A)

We had awesome sightings in Etosha, including lions. Close to Halali, we came across two cheetahs with four cubs. The waterholes are magical, especially in the evening when rhinos, elephants, hyenas, giraffes and more come to call. Our friends lost a tyre near Halali and it was quite a saga to get one from Tsumeb. This is why you don’t travel in Namibia without two spare tyres.

Etosha’s waterholes, like this one at Halali, attract wildlife throughout the day but are especially rewarding in the evening.
The campsite at Halali. This camp also has a restaurant, shop and swimming pool.

Then it was off to Langstrand for two nights to catch up on shopping and washing. We enjoyed a ride on the dunes and had amazing coffee at Slowtown Coffee Roasters. From Walvis Bay, we took the C14 to Agama Lodge and Weltevrede Guest Farm, close to Solitaire. We found the road from Walvis Bay badly corrugated and our friends’ reverse camera and air con paid the price.

T4A travel tips: It is a good idea to check that you use an appropriate tyre pressure for driving corrugated gravel roads. Read our blog on tyre pressure to learn more. Check out our blog on how to fix a tyre by plugging the hole. This will save you having to change the tyre until you reach a tyre shop.

While our friends stayed at Weltevrede Farm, we checked in at Agama Lodge, 5km away. The food was absolutely amazing at Agama: buffet breakfasts and dinners. The hosts at Weltevrede were friendly and entertained us with their sense of humour. The children also enjoyed endless games in the sand and dust, not to mention the amazing sunsets.

Agama Lodge is situated in the beautiful Namib-Naukluft area.

Seeing Sossusvlei with kids

Our next destination was Sossusvlei with shuttles. I would recommend not driving there with a 4×2; rather pay the shuttle fee (currently R180 per person). There were two vehicles stuck when we got out. Because it was a bit later in the day, the sand was hot and loose. With the children in tow, we walked to Deadvlei. Although it was easy to get there, it was not as easy to get back. My husband ended up carrying the kids some of the way back. We waited almost an hour for a shuttle, because it was very busy with all the tourists. Sesriem has a well-stocked shop as well as tyres of all shapes and sizes. According to the general manager, they sell 10 tyres a day on average. Betta Camp was our home that evening.

Could there be a bigger sandpit than Sossusvlei? The kids playing in the red sand on the walk to Deadvlei.

From Betta on the way to Helmeringhausen, our friends got another flat tyre. But all it took was a plug and it was fixed – always good to have these at hand. We had lunch at the Bahnhof Hotel Aus, just a “light meal” but the portions were huge. We returned via the Oranjemund/Alexander Bay Border Post, which turned out to be our quickest border post stop ever. In Port Nolloth, we stayed at The Beach House, what a gem!

On our way back to Worcester, we were spoilt with fields of flowers. Altogether 5,630km later, we arrived home safely through absolute grace – no flat tyres or accidents but plenty of amazing memories. We feel well rested and our children want to return to Namibia regardless of the time we spent in the car travelling!

Our Namibia Self-drive Guide Book is your go-to resource for planning an overlanding trip to the country.  Aside from destination information and accommodation listings, it also covers vehicle preparation and red tape.  The Namibia Traveller’s Paper Map covers distance and travel time while also showing points of interest. Get the guide book and paper map in a Namibia Travel Bundle and save.

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