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7 reasons to plan a Namibia road trip

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When people think of a road-trip abroad, the first routes that come to mind tend to be Route 66 in the States, the Ring Road of Iceland or perhaps Canada’s Cabot Trail. People rarely think of road-tripping in Africa, yet the continent offers so much that is yet to be fully explored.

Attracting a wealth of South African and German visitors each year, Namibia is a relatively unknown or unconsidered destination for many Brits, particularly young Brits. Many of us struggle to even point out the country on a map.

Yet, I found this country - the 5th least crowded on earth - to be a treasure trove of delights, providing an incredible opportunity to take to the roads. Having spent two weeks camping in the country, here are just a few reasons why Namibia should be considered for your next camping road-trip.

1. Few roads mean simple navigation

Simply put, there are not many roads in Namibia, meaning that navigation is straightforward. Nothing more than a paper map and the ability to read road signs is needed - unless you decide to stray from the main roads, then GPS may be required. The long, long roads often make you feel that you are lost forever, but this unlikely to be the case.

2. Camping is the norm for tourists

It is very standard practise for foreign tourists to camp, meaning that you can stick to a relatively cheap budget. Of course, prices will still be higher than if you opt for a European country due to flight costs, but camping is cheaper than the extortionate prices of lodges.

There is a great selection of campsites, particularly in the tourist hot-spots, because there is such a market for it. Car hiring companies also target campers, and most of them will provide you will all the camping equipment, including the popular pull-out tents on top of 4x4s, meaning that camping is not the stressful struggle that many consider it as.

3. It is a relatively safe country

Every time I mentioned a road-trip in an African country prior to my departure, people would question its safety. I can now say that I never felt in danger during my trip and agree with many visitors in saying that it is one of the safest countries on the continent.

Perhaps this is all thanks to its very small, sparse and peaceful population, and general political stability. Of course, you need to use common sense and take certain precautions, as you would do travelling in any country.

4. Communication is easy

This may seem obvious, but English being the official language in Namibia adds to its road-tripping idealness. Everybody who we came across in the larger towns could easily answer our questions, eliminating one of the stresses of a road trip in a non-anglophone country.

I can give only one example when communication was limited: when a friendly young boy could only give us directions in his native tongue, in a very remote village of Damaraland. Hand gestures sufficed, though.

5. You'll become at one with nature

You will acquire something that many people do not have in the 21st century: the ability to appreciate Mother Earth and all the little things in life. With long stretches of often barren landscape, you can really appreciate and value every creature you encounter on the roadside, every little village you pass through, every change in terrain and every colour in the sunrises and sunsets. The basic becomes beautiful.

6. There are incredible landscapes

Although journeys were often incredibly long - some days we drove for over eight hours - the wonderfully diverse landscapes compensated and added to the marvel of the Namibian road trip. It is the true land of contrasts.

One moment you will be passing through the dunes of the Namib Desert, the oldest desert in the world, then the dramatic mountains and hills of Damaraland and, after that, desolate savannahs, stretching as far as the eye can see. The contrast of the Atlantic Ocean meeting the dunes of the Namib desert between Walvis Bay and Swakopmund is particularly striking.

7. ...And even more incredible wildlife.

On the roadside, you could encounter almost any animal that you would in a nature reserve. I will never forget the amazement when we saw our first troop of baboons on the verge, or the sudden panic when a family of warthogs trotted across the road, or the excitement each time we saw a new type of lizard when we stopped for a break.

On top of this, Namibia is one of the few African countries where you can safari solo. This means you can make the most of close encounters with four of the “Big 5” (lions, leopards, elephants and rhinos), witness some of the members of the largest free-roaming cheetah population or learn to distinguish the countless types of antelope in the country’s many game reserves, without the limitations of pricey guided tours.

Being relatively unknown, Namibia remains an unspoiled and unique destination, that many have not yet discovered. Navigating through this astonishingly-empty yet breathtakingly-dramatic country will give you the optimal sense of freedom – certainly a freedom that I had never felt before.

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