Taking on the challenge of a self-drive can seem daunting at first, but the prospect of exploring vast areas, some maybe uncharted, others hidden secret gems, trumps any insecurities you might have about taking on such a task. Namibia is a vast and topographically dynamic country with numerous touristic gems and spots to visit. It would take you a while to experience the whole country. From raging ocean waves to the towering sand dunes of the oldest desert in the world, along with never-ending savanna plains where the largest population of cheetah on the planet roam as well as desert horses, there is always something to see and do in Namibia.
Namibia itself is ranked the 2nd safest country on the continent. Most of the roads are well maintained and the road network itself is very vast and varied. With the majority of the main roads top grade tarred roads, hiring a 4×4 is essential for the gravel and sand roads, as all the major roads have off roads that may be gravel in part or in whole. The roads are well marked, and adequately signed ensuring you always know where you are, where you are heading and what maybe around you.
The weather in Namibia makes for great driving. An average 320 days of sunshine in the year means you are more likely to drive next to a unicorn running across the plains as opposed to finding a bad day. It can get a bit warm, and always having water around makes it easier to manage.
Self-driving tours entail you taking command of a vehicle and exploring on your own without necessarily being chauffeured around by a tour guide or operator. A self-drive is exactly that, drive yourself. Whether in the company of friends, family or alone, a self-drive challenge tests your resolve, but above all, becomes a memory you will treasure forever.
Why opt for a self-drive? The advantages below highlight some of the great aspects of self-drive tours and safaris, but the best advantages are those that you realise on your own, upon completion of your tour.
Advantages of Self-Drive Tours
It’s on your terms
Experience great autonomy when you opt for a self-drive tour. Being in control of the wheel both physically and proverbially has its advantages. You can move at your own pace, head in the direction you want to and stop when you feel like stopping. Granted there are factors such as fatigue that would creep in, a great self-drive tour take such factors into account and they become part of the experience. Taking your time and resting more frequently helps lower fatigue.
Explore and discover more
With a self-drive tour, you have the ability to discover more than you would with a guided tour or safari. Guided trips have pre-determined routes, stops and attractions, which are minimally flexible when it comes to going off the beaten track. The advantage therefore lies in your ability to take a left turn, or a right turn to discover an old colonial farmhouse for a photo opportunity or to spend an extra night in a coastal town so you can take the early morning catamaran cruise to watch the sun rise over the ocean. All these boil down to you being able to see more on your adventure across Namibia.
With time being the most precious resource we have on the planet, using it effectively is paramount. One of the few times (minus the pun) when you are allowed to waste time is when you go on holiday. Sleeping in, and staying out late, dragging your feet from one point to the other is part of the holiday experience. With a self-drive holiday, you can afford to do more of this, without being rushed to breakfast so you can go see the next attraction or move to the next town or city.
Self-drive tours check out to be cheaper than guided tours. With the option available to book a vehicle with sleeping facilities for two or four people, cutting out on lodge expenses where desired allows your money to stretch the distance. Melbic Car Rentals Tours and Transfers provides both options with regards to vehicle rental, all in 4WD format. Camping costs are usually 1/5th the value of a standard room in specialist lodging. Most campsites around the country that are at the site of a lodge allow for a special arrangement for you to take your meals at the restaurant and sleep at the campsite, if self-catering is not on the cards.
Although there are advantages to self-drive tours and adventures, there are a few things you should always keep in mind before starting out.
Know that it is a Challenge
Identify that you are about to take on a challenging but thrilling task, and you are about to join an elite club of individuals. Self-drive tours are special, memorable and the best way to experience a country and its culture. They are also tasking and can be exhausting especially if you do not have a relief driver and push yourself too hard. Your reward lies in the moments you create at the top of dunes, rocky outcrops, in ocean waves, alongside a seal colony or feeding horses and oryx and other wild animals at the end of the trip. Maybe in just one large beer and some sleep.
Choose what type of self-drive
There are usually two types of self-drives generally.
The first entails your hiring a vehicle with us and then getting a tour company to plan an itinerary for you, where you might share certain points of interest you and you group might want to take a look at. This removes most of the planning responsibility and allows you to just pick your vehicle and then drive from point A to B then C, and then finally D before coming back to D, depending on the itinerary.
The second option is the intense autonomous option where you decide where you want to go, and how long you want to be in a specific location. It leaves all the planning responsibility on you in ensuring that you get to where you want to be when you want to be. It is essential to share that plan with the safari/rental company so that they can be able to monitor how you are travelling in case of emergency. Most car rentals offer unlimited mileage on their vehicles (a true saver, Namibia is huge!).
Picking the vehicle
The majority of vehicles used in self-drive tours and safaris are Toyota Hilux 4wd vehicles. The vehicle was perfectly built for the African environment and performs with ease in all environments. So sand, gravel, tar, streams, the Toyota Hilux is sturdy and will get you where you need to go. It is considered the most popular 4wd on the continent. Some come in double or single cab, depending on the number of people that are travelling. A single cab takes 2 people, whilst a double cab sits 4 comfortably, but you can squeeze in that cousin that doesn’t want to be left behind, although for long distances it is not advisable.
Self –drive vehicles come with or without camping equipment attached to the roof of the vehicle. If you are going to be staying in lodges and specialty lodging such as hotel rooms etc., then opting for a vehicle without camping facilities is the cheaper option (Although lodging will be much more expensive than camping). Vehicles that do have the camping equipment attached are also dependent on the number of individuals. Some have equipment for two (one tent affixed on top of the vehicle) whilst other come with equipment for four (also affixed on top of the vehicle). It’s safer they are on top of the car and not on the ground.
Plan accordingly. Plan your route, get advice and assistance for people who might have travelled the route or area before. Know what to expect but prepare for what you do not expect. It is better to be over prepared than to be under prepared. Also ensure you have all the supplies you need, some are provided by the rental company, like an extra mobile device, a gas stove, torch, shovel, pick axe, and usually, two spare tires. Get lots and lots of water, and snacks along the way. Namibia just has to be the place where you get the best dried meat. Others call it beef jerky, we call it biltong.
Your driver’s license is important, as well as the license of every other individual who might drive on your trip. Keep your passport on you, which has your visa, in case it is required at the roadblock. Every rental place usually gives you documentation on the vehicle for when you drive to present to the relevant authorities, when required.
Hitting the road
Start out as early as possible if it’s a long drive so you drive whilst it’s cooler. Do not drive at night or whilst it is still dark unless extremely necessary, and when you do, be extremely cautious… Namibia has many animals that bounce, gallop, scatter, roll, creep or walk freely.