For some reason Africa never made it to my travel bucket list. Mostly because of safety and health related reasons (predominately the malaria scare) I never really thought about visiting this so waste and fascinating continent. My recent trip to Namibia changed my prospective about Africa completely! Now I seriously can’t wait to visit other countries on this continent.
Sam got invited for a work trip in Windhoek and I decided to tag along so we ended up extended his trip so we could see more of the country. Please bear in mind that Namibia is so incredibly wast, what we saw was probably just a glimpse compared to what the rest of the country has to offer. But nevertheless I hope you enjoy my little travel diary 🙂
Windhoek & Around : If Sam didn’t have his work meetings in the capital we definitely wouldn’t have spent so much time there (3 days). The city is extremely modern and in all honesty there is no much to see. We stayed at the Belvedere Boutique Hotel which was really lovely, situated in a quiet and peaceful part of the city.
In terms of vegan friendly restaurant I visited Klara’s Market which is a great spot for lunch and had few vegan options, a great juices and smoothies menu, dairy free milks and some delicious raw desserts.
The craft market cafe is another great spot for lunch. They have a big salad menu, freshly squeezed juices and the most delicious homemade iced roiboos tea. Downstairs you can also browse on all sorts of local crafts like bowls, adornments, decorations, souvenirs etc..
A great spot to have an aperitif at sunset is the Hilton Hotel Rooftop bar where you can see the whole city from above.
If you are coming or going to Windhoek I would highly recommend to visit the Gocheganas Private reserve (30 minutes drive from the City). It’s a private natural reserve with hotel facilities, spa, restaurant and pool. We only went for the day but I think it would be lovely to also spend a night there as the facilities are really great. We booked a game drive for the evening and we were in utter shock when we spotted a family of rhinos, followed by Giraffes, Zebras and lots of Springbucks. It was incredible as I always wanted to see Rhinos in their natural habitat and these gorgeous animals definitely didn’t disappoint!
Etosha National Park: Although the Etosha National Park is very far from Windhoek (4-5 hours depending on where you are staying) we felt we had to see it as it’s the largest national park in Namibia and home to so many incredible animals.
If you are planning to visit make sure to take a map and a tom tom with you as the road signs are basically non existent. We somehow managed to get lost and it took us way longer than we planned to eventually get there. Please also bear in mind that the actual park is incredible huge so it can take an incredible amount of time to drive from one end to the other.
We booked our accommodation inside the park and I would highly recommend it as you really get to experience being completely immersed in nature and it’s so much easier to book game drives. We stayed at the Halali Lodge which was a bungalows complex with a restaurant, a basic food shop and a pool. The lodges inside the national park get booked up really quickly so make sure to book your accommodation super in advance.
The food at the lodge restaurant was pretty simple but the buffet had some vegan options (normally steamed vegetables and cous cous) which definitely made life a lot easier. For breakfast the options were definitely more limited (only fruit and toast) so it might be worth while to stock up on some cereal, muesli, dairy free milks etc before entering the park.
We booked an early morning game drive (5.30 am start) while we were there and it was just so magical to see the sunrise above the savana. The sky in Namibia cal literally looks like it’s lit on fire at sunrise or sunset so make sure to stop to see this beautiful nature’s miracle during your trip!
We were so lucky we saw a family of lions with 2 males, 2 lioness and 2 puppies. It was just priceless being so close to these incredible animals. I really don’t think I will ever find the words to describe what I felt but it really made the whole trip worthwhile.
You don’t necessarily have to book a game drive to see the animals. We saw so many animals just by driving by ourself around the park but the guides are normally very knowledgeable and they will take you to specific spots where they know normally animals congregate (usually water holes).
Swakopmund is a relatively sleepy seaside town with a mellow and chill-out vibe on the south west side of Namibia. After few intense days in National park (and a very long drive) we arrived in Swakopmund pretty exhausted so we took a full day to just relax, make the most of hotel spa, stroll around town and eat! We stayed at the rather swanky Strand Hotel which Sam’s client booked for us. It’s definitely on the higher price end of the scale for our budget so if we had to pay for it ourself we probably would have stayed somewhere else. But I have to admit it’s a beautiful hotel with ridiculously comfy beds and a lovely spa with plenty of amazing treatments (which they turned out to be relatively cheap). In terms of vegan food Swakopmund has actually quite few options which I was really impressed by! The first and definitely my favourite is Bits & Pizzas which has a full vegan pizza menu + 1 vegan dessert. The pizza was truly excellent, thin and crispy (as I like it) with delicious vegan cheese (not rubbery or gluey). It was also massive! So sadly I didn’t have any space for dessert.
The second vegan is spot is a very homy cafe called Nature’s Path which is super small and super cute. The menu is completely vegetarian with plenty of vegan options. I had a delicious peanut butter African bean stew with brown rice, steamed greens and beetroots. Everything tasted really homemade, with little to no oil so it was by far the healthiest meal of the holiday! The food is entirely made from scratch upon order so it can take up to 30 minutes to arrive so don’t go there if you are in a rush!
The last restaurant we visited was Can Thai Asian restaurant which as pretty much any Thai restaurants had plenty of vegan options. I ordered a Thai green veggie curry with eggless fried rice and it was delicious!
Swakopmund is right next to the Namibian desert so we booked a desert tour (with Charly’s tour). It was a lovely experience and I would definitely recommend it. It was my first time in a desert and I was just in awe of how big and vast it was. Our tour guides were really knowledgeable and manage to show us desert geckos, snakes and other small reptiles. It was also really fascinating to find out more about the desert eco system and how these creature manage to survive in such harsh conditions.
Sadly it was time to leave Swakopmund and head back to Windhoek to catch our plane back to London. I really wished we could have stayed longer! I definitely left Namibia with so much love for this beautiful country, I seriously can’t wait to come back!
Few things I would recommend when visited Namibia:
1- Hire a car: Unless you are on tour a car is essential to travel around the country as public transports are basically non existent. Hire a 4×4 as at some point you will probably drive down some non pavemented road. And especially if you are planning to visit the Etosha National Park a 4×4 is needed. The mains roads are all in really good conditions and the whole country is extremely safe to drive around by yourself. I would suggest to arm yourself with a road map and ask the rental place for a tom tom as the road signs are pretty scarce.
2- Pack plenty of snacks + water when driving. Namibia is huge and scarcely populated.You can drive for over 100 km without passing a petrol station or a shop so make sure you have plenty of water with you especially considering the scorching hot temperatures.
3- Invest in a really good sunscreen. This might be a recommendations more for the ladies than for the boys but Namibian sun is merciless! The weather generally is super dry and the sun is just one the strongest I have experienced! I made sure I applies SPF50 4-5 times during the day and I smothered plenty of facial oil at night to prevent my skin to feel super dry.
4- Take some food with you. I wouldn’t call Namibia a very vegan fried country so if you are eating a plantbased diet it might be worth it to pack few things like snacks, breakfast muesli, dairy free milks etc.
MUST SEEN: Without the shadow of doubt the Etosha National Park. I never really been to a zoo (apart from when I was 8 and I went on school trip just to be horrified by it after 5 minutes) so for me see wild animals in their natural habitat was utterly priceless. It was overwhelming (in a good way) to see these incredible creatures roaming free and it was definitely worth getting lost for hours!
If you want to see more of my Namibian Adventure check out on my Instagram page the highlight “Namibia”. Happy Travels!