Namibia isn’t shy when it comes to being featured on the big screen. From the stunning vistas in Mad Max to the beautiful aerial shots recently seen on The Grand Tour, Namibia is a truly breath-taking country and one of our favourite self-drive destinations.
With a population of just 2.3 million scattered over an area six times larger than England, Namibia is vast, wild and rugged. An eclectic mix of impressive desert landscapes and a historic coastline combined with excellent road conditions, Namibia is the safest self-drive safari destination in Africa. Bleak yet beautiful, stark yet stunning, it brandishes one of the world’s most photogenic and innately cinematic landscapes.Unsurprisingly, it has caught the attention of film-makers and travellers alike for decades.
To celebrate the beauty of Namibia and to showcase why it is such a popular destination with the Hollywood elite, we’ve rounded-up a few highlights you can expect to experience on your Namibian adventure. You’ll soon discover it really is just as it seems on the big screen.
Considered the greatest wildlife sanctuary in Namibia, Etosha National Park is one of the biggest parks in Africa. Home to a myriad of mammals, birds and reptiles, Etosha offers some of the most impressive game viewing opportunities on the continent. With many of Africa’s national parks you can spend days looking for animals, during the dry season in Etosha you simply need to park up next to one of the many watering holes to witness a host of animals wandering down to the water’s edge. Visitors can expect to see many species of bucks, elephants, giraffes, rhinos and lions. Whilst sightings of leopards and cheetahs can often be difficult, without the crowds associated with a traditional safari, a self-drive safari makes it much more likely.
And whilst game viewing is exceptional, Etosha’s most famed characteristic is often considered to be the giant salt pan, so large it is visible from space. The salt pan is an impressive backdrop for a Namibian adventure. Covering an area of approximately 1,900 square miles, the enormous expanse of salt glimmers green in the dry season and is the largest of its kind in Africa.
The park is thriving with game viewing opportunities and unique landscapes, making it a must-see on any Namibian holiday.
The Skeleton Coast features kilometre after kilometre of deserted beach, with seal and flamingo colonies seen up and down the coast. The barren landscape is littered with rusting vessels, shipwrecked many years ago, and a vast expanse of beach and sand meets the Namib Desert further inland.
The landscape is truly breath-taking, dotted with sand dunes, all synonymous with Namibia, it’s not difficult to see why it has been selected as the backdrop for countless Hollywood blockbusters. Most recently as the setting for the Mad Max sequel, Mad Max: Fury Road. The original location in Australia had experienced an unusual level of rainfall meaning it resembled little of director George Miller’s post-apocalyptic vision. So, he ordered that everything be packed up and shipped to Namibia, including 150 hand-built motorbikes, trucks and cars.
Whilst offering an incredible filmic backdrop, the terrain is also home to a surprising array of animals. Desert Elephants trekking through the sands have been said to enjoy sliding down the dunes, while giraffes, lions, zebras, black rhinos, and hyena can also be found.
A visit to the Skeleton Coast may even feel as though you’ve stepped onto the set of Mad Max.
The Namib Desert is one of the oldest in the world and considered by many to be one of the most impressive. The dramatic landscape has inspired filmmakers for decades. With the contrasting colours of the towering deep-orange sand dunes,the bright-white mineral pans and the red, rocky outcrops, the Namib Desert is a natural film set. Driving through its barren landscape is an otherworldly experience, where you can travel for days and not come across another safari-traveller.
It is this that makes the environment so enigmatic. The sand dunes in Sossusvlei are the largest in the world, measuring up to 325 metres. These impressive natural phenomena’s have featured heavily in a number of television programmes and films. Most recently, Jeremy Clarkson and the rest of the team careered around in beach buggies whilst enjoying the large expanse on The Grand Tour’s Christmas special. We’ve been told that the crew made sure the landscape looked exactly as they found it, so despite the hair-raising driving shown in the programme, the desert’s natural beauty remains intact.
The Namib Desert is home to a large number of animals, making it an excellent game spotting destination. The rare Namibian Desert elephant has managed to survive despite the lack of regular rainfall. It has adapted to the arid landscape by evolving longer legs, broader feet and smaller bodies and can survive without water for up to three days. Other large animals that can be sighted include lions, oryx and giraffes, as well the largest population of black rhinos.
Sandwiched between the Atlantic Coast and the Namib Desert, Swakopmund is both a destination in its own right and a launch pad for explorations of the Skeleton Coast and Namib Desert.
With palm-lined streets, seaside promenades and beautiful half-timbered German architecture, the town is a stark contrast to the nearby expanse of the desert. The welcoming beaches and warm climate, make it a popular resort for Namibians throughout the year and it is also the perfect addition to a self-drive itinerary in Namibia.
The quaint image of the town was used as the setting for The Village in the 2008 production of The Prisoner (ITV) and it was also the main base for the Mad Max: Fury Road crew when filming on location in the nearby Namib Desert. When in town, a must-visit for any film enthusiast is the Wreck Restaurant, where Charlize Theron and Director George Miller were often seen dining here during the filming of Mad Max: Fury Road.
Swakopmund is also Namibia’s activity centre. There is a range of activities on offer, from quad biking and sandboarding on the desert sand dunes, to scenic flights up the Skeleton Coast and hot air balloon flights over the Namib Desert. For those on a self-drive, it is also a great stopover to refill on food and fuel.
Whilst Mad Max: Fury Road and The Grand Tour’s Christmas Special are the most recent productions to enjoy the incredible landscape in Namibia, they are by no means the only. Other stars who have visited Namibia to shoot on location include Rupert Graves and Jason Connery for The Sheltering Desert in 1992; Jennifer Lopez and Vince Vaughn for The Cell in 2000 and Ian McKellen and Ruth Wilson for The Prisoner mini-series in 2009.
TV wildlife expert David Attenborough wowed the world with lessons about the topography and wildlife that call Namibia home, showcasing its exquisite beauty long before its discovery as an incredible film set.
Namibia is an incredible safari destination with plenty to offer both the seasoned self-driver and those new to this type of holiday.
If you’ve been inspired by the big screen and would like to see what it’s all about for yourself, we’ve put together a fantastic itinerary to highlight the incredible location the featured so predominantly in films.
To learn more about safari holidays in Africa, download a free copy of the African Safari Field Guide – a useful 37-page book we wrote on the subject.
For more information on Namibia and our safari drive destinations contact our expert team. We offer free consultations, and would be happy to help you create a bespoke safari of your dreams.
January & February are the perfect time of year for a safari drive, with some of Africa’s most impressive safari destinations just waiting to be discovered. The many migrations that are underway, coupled with the temperate weather, means that the New Year offers spectacular experiences across the continent.
With so much to see and take in, we’ve compiled a list of our top safari destinations for the start of 2017 to help you decide where your next safari holiday should be…
Africa has some of the most incredible National Parks in the world, where the varied terrain and breath-taking landscapes is home to incredible wildlife. From the magnificent inland delta of Botswana to the plains of the Serengeti and the Namib Desert, each country offers its own unique experience.
The climate in Southern and Eastern Africa during January is mostly warm and clear, with occasional rain that encourages the growth of an abundance of greenery, making it a particularly beautiful time of year to visit. Safaris at the beginning of the year are also a great time to spot plenty of big cats, as many of the great migrations are underway, whilst migrating birds fill the sky with their vibrant colours and brilliant plumage.
We’ve compiled a round-up of the best African safari destinations this January & February.
Tanzania is home to ‘The Great Migration’, offering perhaps the ultimate game experience in Africa and your best chance to see the animal kingdom; one of the most popular reasons for going on a self-drive safari.
Millions of animals make the annual migration across Tanzania towards Kenya in the east, in search of water. In January, millions of wildebeest and zebra roam through the Nogorongoro Conservation Area, attracting predators such as lions, cheetahs and leopards. Another spectacular sight is the wildebeest river crossing, where the herd traverses the Mara River, braving the raging torrents and the deadly crocodiles that lurk there.
Perhaps one of the most exciting and beautiful safari destinations, over 30% of the country is dedicated to National Parks. The Serengeti National Park is one of Africa’s most famous reserves, whilst the Ngorongoro Crater is one of the largest volcanic craters in the world and an excellent place to spot the so-called ‘Big Five’ – lions, elephants, buffalo, leopards and rhinoceros.
January is known as Tanzania’s ‘short dry season’, with dry conditions before the long rains begin in March. Private campsites located deep in the heart of the many national parks make Tanzania the perfect January destination, with pleasant weather, spectacular sights and extraordinary experiences just waiting to be discovered.
Botswana is a stunning country at any time of year but the green season is an especially beautiful time of year, particularly when visiting the national parks in Moremi and Chobe. With so much to see, a self-drive safari is the perfect way to experience this corner of African paradise, discovering vistas that will take your breath away and the wonderful array of game that roam free there.
An itinerary in Botswana will take you through the Okavango Delta, the world’s largest inland delta system, the salt pans of Makgadikgadi and the flowing currents of the Savute Channel. The Savute Channel is particularly impressive; having not flowed for more than 30 years the channel is now in full flow all year round, resulting in an abundance of wildlife and game who have returned.
The green season also brings with it new life, as the impala and wildebeest begin to calve. Whilst seeing these beautiful young animals explore their surroundings is an incredible experience, it also presents danger, attracting plenty of predators. Botswana boasts a fantastic range of wildlife, including not just the Big Five but other fascinating creatures, such as giraffes, antelopes, puku and hippopotamuses, not to mention over 150 different species of reptile.
Every destination would usually be the crowning jewel in a safari by itself but Botswana is home to all of these and more. With such a diverse range of both wildlife and scenery, all coming into their most beautiful and dynamic seasons, the start of a new year is one of the best times to experience this stunning part of Southern Africa.
South Africa is one of the best destinations for your first self-drive safari, comprising stunning landscapes, extraordinary wildlife and fantastic accommodation to make an unforgettable holiday. Because of its varying regional climates and multiple opportunities to see impressive wildlife, South Africa is a year-round destination but the cooler weather in January & February presents the best opportunities to see big game, whilst the northern rains make it a great time to travel for birding.
Cape Town itself offers a great base from which to explore this vast and majestic country, allowing you to unwind either at the beginning or end of your safari. The winelands are a particularly popular destination and whale watching offers yet another unique experience in a country full of surprises.
The Kruger and Sabi Sands offer some of the best game viewing locations in the world, with the Big Five roaming in abundance. There are many safari camps and lodges that offer unrivalled hospitality, helping to guide you through your holiday and explore the lesser-known stretches of the region.
It isn’t just about the wildlife; the Namaqualand has stunning flora on display, as well as being home to the world’s smallest tortoise, the Speckled Padloper. Also unique to South Africa is the black maned lion that roams through the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park just north of the Namaqualand.
The 300km stretch of good roads across the Garden Route make South Africa the perfect introduction to this vast and beautiful continent, offering amazing experiences through the scenic coastline along the Western Cape. If you’re looking for your first safari experience, South Africa is a destination like no other.
Another excellent destination for your first self-drive safari, Namibia has epic wildlife and landscape viewing, with excellent roads making the country as accessible as it is breath-taking. Sometimes known as ‘Africa for Beginners’, Namibia is best travelled by vehicle, traversing through the diverse regions and getting the full experience that Namibia has to offer.
The exceptional road network is in part due to Namibia’s commitment to making it the perfect destination for a safari adventure, with stunning lodges and campsites, all in one of the safest places to travel. Having embraced touring safaris, the locals are friendly, making you feel welcome during your travels, whatever kind of experience you are seeking.
In terms of sights, Namibia has plenty to offer, from the stunning desert wilderness of the Damaraland to the must see wildlife in Etosha National Park, one of Africa’s most incredible reserves. If the haunting dunes of Sossuvlei and the ship wrecks strewn across the Skeleton Coast weren’t enough, there’s also the unspoilt treasures of Kaokoland and the largest canyon in the southern hemisphere, the Fish River Canyon.
If you’re slightly nervous about embarking upon a self-drive safari, Namibia will show you the very best of Africa that, truly, can only be experienced in person. As an introduction to Africa, Namibia is for many people just the beginning of a long and enduring love affair with this stunning continent.
Regardless of when or where you chose to go, Africa is full of opportunities and safari destinations that are as vast as the land itself. There really is something for everyone.
So whether you choose to follow the Great Migration through Tanzania, opt for game spotting in South Africa or decide to photograph the beautiful sand dunes of Namibia, your safari experience will explore some of the best sights and sounds that Africa has to offer; as long as you’re able to settle on a destination, that is!
For more information on our safari drive destinations contact our expert team. We offer free consultations, and would be happy to help you create a bespoke safari of your dreams.