The ultimate 8-day wildlife itinerary to take Namibia by storm

Sure South Africa's got the same animals as Namibia - but you won't see a desert elephant roaming the dunes in Mzansi. 

Our African neighbour is a premier wildlife destination, pairing their wild animals with dramatic, unfenced landscapes.

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Besides the Big Five, its dune ecosystem is also home to littler creatures, only spotted by those with keen eyes. 

This 8-day land and sea safari drive can either be done with a rental car starting from Walvis Bay International Airport, or you can drive with your own from South Africa and make a stopover in the capital - Windhoek.

Budget

In terms of park fees, budget for R540 per person. 

When it comes to accommodation, if you opt for the cheapest option (camping) you should budget around R2 250 per person, but if you opt for the luxury options you should budget R12 855 per person. 

Return flights to Walvis Bay with Namibian Air from Cape Town and Johannesburg are around R4 500 per person, but it can be cheaper depending on the season.

Rental car fees will vary and depend on how much you drive - but for this itinerary it might be worth looking for an unlimited mileage package - also opt for a car that's high off the ground. One plus is that petrol is cheaper in Namibia than in South Africa, depending on how far you are from Walvis Bay. 

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Here's your ultimate wildlife itinerary:

Day 1&2: Etosha National Park

Travel: Landing at Walvis Bay International Airport (try to get an early flight), pick up your rental car and take the 7-hour drive to Etosha National Park - Namibia's premier wildlife destination.

Stay: For the first two nights opt for one of three accommodation options in Namutoni Camp - a double room, bush chalet or camping. Namutoni is the hub of the park, with various shops and restaurants inside its old German fort. 

Do: Also known as the Etosha Panne, the park covers one of Africa's biggest salt pans where it's very easy to get up close to its impressive wildlife. You can either go driving through the park's eastern section or camp out at one of the many watering holes near Namutoni, like Chudob, Groot Okevi and Okerfontein.

Day 3: Halali

Travel: Just over an hour away, drive to the central part of the park at Halali - but make it a slow drive so you can see all the animals on the way. 

Stay: The Halali campsite is shaded by mopane trees at the foot of a dolomite hill right next to a watering hole - a favourite with elephants, black rhino and lions. The accommodation options are similar to Namutoni. 

Do: Rietfontein is this area's most popular watering hole, frequented by almost all the species in the park. 

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Day 4: Okaukuejo

Travel: Drive another slow hour to the western side of the park

Stay: Okaukuejo is the oldest camp in the park with luxurious waterhole chalets - the perfect spot to see animals roaming at night. Beyond that the accommodation options are similar to the other two camps. 

Do: Its floodlit watering hole is very popular with photographers and if you feel like you've done enough driving you can opt for one of the many guided game drives in the morning or late afternoon. Another great watering hole is Ombika well worth checking out.

Day 5: Cape Cross

Travel: Get up early for an almost six-hour drive to Dorob National Park on the coast.

Stay: There's only one accommodation option here - Cape Cross Lodge. Situated almost on the beach, you can opt for luxury in the rooms, their self-catering unit the Whalers Cottage or camping under the desert skies. 

Do: The biggest draw to this spot is one of the world's largest seal colonies. The noise and smell will probably hit you before see them, but it's a fascinating cacophony of nature that should not be missed. Breeding season is from November to December, although it would be advised to try and see them outside this time as they tend to breed more pups than they can feed. 

Through the lodge you can also book eco-friendly tours to the Namib Desert, shipwrecks and the Messum Volcanic Crater. It's easy to get lost in this area so triple check you know where you're going if you're self-driving. 

Day 6: Walvis Bay

Travel: A short hour-and-a-half drive to Walvis Bay will take you to the infamous Flamingo Lagoon - remember to stop in Swakopmund at the Ministry of Environment and Tourism office to buy a permit for Namib-Naukluft National Park.

Stay: Along the lagoon's shores there are many accommodation options - from guest houses to self-catering units - and probably the best spot to opt for something budget.

Do: The lagoon is home to a plethora of birds - from the pinkest flamingos to great white pelicans - and a canoe ride on its waters will get up close. 

If you're keen to see the wildlife of the deep, book a marine safari at one of the many operators in the area - most will be stationed at Walvis Bay's waterfront. The Namibian coast is home to dolphins, humpback and southern right whales and the occasional orca. 

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Day 7: Namib-Naukluft National Park

Travel: Take a detour into the unknown on a drive past dunes and historic settlements to the lands of Namib-Naukluft National Park.

Stay: Try something different by staying at the Gobabeb Namib Research Institute right in the middle of the park. They offer camping, villa and room accommodation to visitors, but must be booked far in advance.

Do: Take a drive around the area, starting in Gobabeb, following the D2186 road all the way to the C14/M36, head towards Walvis Bay then turn down D2186 again back to Gobabeb. There are beautiful landscapes to see on these roads along with typical plains animals grazing in the distance. 

The research centre also offers a guided nature and night walk - you can get a first-hand look at the Namib Desert ecosystem and at night try to find all the nightly creepy crawlies - from geckos to scorpions! And remember to look up at the stars. 

Day 8: Airport

Travel: Drive back to Walvis Bay International Airport to catch your flight back home along with all your memories. 

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