I admittedly treated Namibia as a country to kill a couple days during my Girl Takes Mundo trip as I didn’t want to rush getting to the places I wanted to visit and figured seeing another part of Africa wouldn’t hurt since I had the spare days. Apparently adding days to those already desired destinations wasn’t an option in my eyes even though it could have been the more logical thing to do but here we are and no one said I’m loAny who, I discovered a couple of things very early on in Namibia. Firstly, and more importantly, traveling without a car is far more difficult as their public transportation is taxis’ and buses. (Tip: Taxis within Windhoek are $10-$20 Namibia dollars ($.84-$1.69 USD) per person and you share the taxi with other riders.) Keep in mind that buses only travel to the major cities in Namibia which won’t give you the “I’m in Africa” feel which I know people come for. Renting a car is recommended to get you to the game reserves, national parks and lodges (aka why people come to Africa). This will come at a hefty cost and if you don’t have a group to split the cost then this isn’t the most cost efficient option.
Secondly, and to my point of having a group. Traveling solo in Namibia can be more difficult than in South Africa. For example, even in their capital of Windhoek which is a pretty metropolitan city for Africa due to many Germans calling this home, you cannot simply get up and start walking the city as I’m so use to doing in western countries. Without a group and as a woman you will be warned about walking by yourself and speaking to strangers. It is what I was told no more than 10 minutes after stepping foot in Windhoek. As days passed and I felt more comfortable in Windhoek I certainly thought this warning was a bit extreme but given my experiences in Cape Town I didn’t take my chances and preferred walking with someone when I was strolling in the city. The feelings of Cape Town were still fresh after all. (Read what I’m talking about in my post about Cape Town here.)
I will say that one does have options with resolving the 2 points above.
- Book a tour that goes to the national parks, game reserves etc. if you are traveling solo but want to see the “Africa” people come for. Keep in mind that this is expensive with a 3 day tours around $530 USD.
- Search on Facebook for Namibia groups and find people looking to travel together. I met a group of travelers who found themselves using one of these Facebook groups and said many solo travelers in Africa are finding people to travel with through this medium. (I don’t have Facebook so this wasn’t an option for me.)
Regardless, knowing all of the above helped ease my expectations of how my time in Namibia would shape out. (even if I don’t have much to report regarding travel recommendations, places to visit, tips, etc.) I made the decision that I wasn’t going to move to another big city in Namibia as this wasn’t the “Africa” I envisioned seeing nor was I going to book an expensive game drive just in case I proceeded with going to Madagascar as I knew I would have to drop a good amount for a guide/driver to do my dream destination correctly. (Sigh! The reality of being a traveling nomad financing your trip/life using your savings calls for prioritizing what you want to spend your money on while traveling.)
Any who, I made the decision that I would stay in Windhoek until I decided where I would go next. (More on this in the “How I spent my time in Windhoek” below.) While here I seriously just relaxed and made the most out of my time by trying out new things, doing things I like do to and just enjoying the simple pleasures in life. I will admit that I may not have done Namibia “right” in my eyes as I would have wanted to explore the lodges, dunes, animals and national parks but thankfully for myself I also didn’t give myself a hard time about it as I figure I can always return with a group and do it “correctly”. I am still very content with how I spent my days in Windhoek and shocked that in a blink of an eye I managed to stay here for 7 days.
Check out how I spent my time in Windhoek and see where I would like to see in Namibia when I make my return below. Figure this can help as a rough guide for someone considering a visit to Namibia.
How I Spent My Time In Windhoek:
- Grabbed drinks at “Loft” a bar in a popular bar quarter in the downtown area of Windhoek. Try “amarula” which is a local liquor of Namibia.
- Checked out “Single Quarters Market” to see locals shopping for meats, spices and eating a Sunday braai or what western countries call a BBQ. I sampled a “Vetkoek” or in English terms, a “fat cake” which is a savory donut-like ball with a side of tomato, onion and vinegar salsa.
- Went to see the movie “Black Panther” because what better place to see it than in Africa. (It was actually an amazing experience to see it with Africans and get their reactions to the movie while watching it. Specifically how they reacted to the only caucasian character in the movie.)
- Caught the sunset in some of the best viewing points in the city.
- Did the free walking tour of Windhoek. And yes, it’s what you can expect from a walking tour of a small city but it’s one way to spend some hours in Windhoek and learn more about the city.
- Visited the National Museum. It’s free and the 4th floor has a restaurant with 360 views of the city. (Tip: You can see the 360 views for free but if you want to take pictures you will have to purchase something in the restaurant.)
- Took my first capoeira class as Pulse Perfect Fit studio thanks to Jonathan who invited me.
- Worked out in the backpacker which included sessions in my room and the pool. (Yes, I was that person.)
- Played rubbish pool in a rubbish pool table.
- Cooked for the first time my mom’s “Caldo” or stew after picking up the ingredients from the local market and asking her for the recipe. Not only was it delicious but I had plenty of leftovers for more than just one meal.
- Spent endless afternoons at “Slow Town” coffee shop enjoying their coffee and their WiFi as the WiFi at the backpackers I stayed at was pretty rubbish.
- Enjoyed delicious handmade ice cream from cramers cafe. It’s right next door to the coffee shop. I tried the passion fruit and chai tea flavors which I highly recommend.
- Had drinks in the Hilton hotel’s rooftop bar, “Sky Bar” and watched the sunset.
- Ate at Joes Beer House, a restaurant that offers game meat like zebra, crocodile, kuda, etc. They offer a game sampler that every non-vegetarian would enjoy. Being a vegetarian I didn’t sample said dishes but was able to try their vegetarian local options. It’s also a really cool spot to hang out at.
- Watched Spanish soap operas that were dubbed into English. (Definitely entertaining to see coming from someone who grew up watching the same soap operas but in Spanish.)
- Had my first emotional/mental breakdown during this Girl Takes Mundo trip when I actually decided to drop Madagascar, AKA the only reason I came to this part of Africa and my dream travel destination. People got to my head by continuing to say I shouldn’t talk to strangers, walk alone etc. and since my solo female traveler skills had been tested in Cape Town I finally cracked in Namibia. Thankfully, I had a great support system from afar who came to the rescue to make me feel better about this decision including saying they would visit with me in the future and ensuring I returned to a more stable headspace after said breakdown. The good news is that I came around a couple days later and decided to woman up and make my dream destination happen with a couple add on elements to ensure my worries wouldn’t be an issue during my trip such as hiring a driver who could act as a travel companion, security and country navigator.
- After said breakdown and then coming back strong days later I spent a good amount of time planning my trip to Madagascar.
Places I Want To Check Out:
- Skeleton Coast Park – National Park
- Swakopmund – Small metropolitan city near the coast if you want to enjoy the beach and beach activities.
- Walvis Bay – Desert colony of seals and flamingos.
- Estosha National Park – Most known national park in Namibia.
- Dune 7 – Near Swakopmund. Activities to considers here; ride a camel, motor bike or board the dunes.
- Sossusvlei – Natural wetlands.
- Harnas Wildlife Foundation – Great place to camp and see the cats of prey. The afternoon lion roar apparently is something not to be missed.
- Erindi Game Reserve – Only 2 hours away and a locals favorite for all things game.
As one can see there is quite a bit to see in Namibia despite how small it is and keep in mind this is only some of the places that caught my eye for when I return and things one can do in Windhoek.
A BIG BIG thank you goes out to “Know it all” (in a good way) Jonathan. A nickname I gave him after he nicknamed me “Smiling Chris”. Jonathan was a local I met on my first day here who showed me around Windhoek while I was here. He helped me learn more about Namibia and Windhoek (I mean seriously, he knows it all.) and thanks to him I stayed busy as he took me out after he got out of work. Because of Jonathan I was able to stay sane in a small city but also appreciate Windhoek for the city that it is and what it has to offer since many people treat Windhoek as a stop-over city when traveling in Namibia. Jonathan, you’re simply amazing and proof that speaking to strangers isn’t always a bad thing.