Hiking and camping at the Namib National Park is one of the more off the beaten track things to do during your Namibia trip. The Namib park is located between the coast town of Swakopmund and the much-visited Sossusvlei. As both are popular Namibia tourist attractions, you’ll probably pass the Namib National Park on your itinerary. It offers great opportunies for hiking and camping at the most beautiful desolated spots. The rugged landscape of the Namib park is home to rare African plants, wild life, impressive canyons and camping spots in the most desolate places. So why not spend a day or two and explore this national park? We will tell you all you need to know about hiking and camping in the Namib National Park.
How to prepare your visit to the Namib National Park
As said: the park is located between Swakopmund and the Sossusvlei. Both are usually visited by travelers on their travel itinerary, so it will be easy problem to squeeze in a visit to the park during your trip!
Make sure you purchase your park permit at the NWR in Swakopmund or Windhoek in advance. A number of main and smaller roads run through the Namib National Park. The main roads are freely accessible and take you from Swakopmund to Windhoek for example. These are the C14, C28, D1982 and D198. But do you want to leave the main roads and see more of the park? Then you need a permit. There are no big entrance gates at the park where you can buy a permit, so make sure to do so in advance at the NWR. Your permit will also not be checked in the park of course, but we would not choose to use the minor roads and picnic / camping spots in the park without having a permit because of this.
The NWR office in Swakopmund can be found in the yellow building at the intersection of Bismarck Str and Sam Nujoma Avenue. There is also an NWR office in Windhoek and we heard that the NWR in Sesriem can also help you with your Namib permit. The permit will cost you – as in all the national parks – 80 Namibian dollars per person and 10 Namibian dollars for your vehicle. With your permit, you’ll also get a map of the park and an explanation about the Welwitscha Drive, about which I will tell you more later in this blog. Very handy!
A 4X4 is not required for most roads in Namib. Certainly not for the main roads, and neither for most side roads. Only a few roads around Groot Tinkas – where you can also camp! – and Gemsbokwater are best driven with a 4WD. But even with a good 2WD you can probably get here. You might prefer not to run the risk of getting stuck here though, as there is virtually no other traffic.
There are no facilities in the park. Make sure you have a full tank, enough food and especially water and other supplies.
Highlights of the Namib park
The biggest highlight of the Namib park is the possibility to camp here on one of the beautiful camp sites throughout the park, but more about that later in this blog. But there’s more to see!
The Welwitschia Drive
This round trip of about 4 hours is close to Swakopmund and is therefore a popular day trip from this coastal town. Along this drive you see an impressive ‘moonscape’ and learn about Namibia’s two most unique plants: the lichen and the Welwitschia Mirabilis. In our Welwitschia Drive blog we tell you everything about this tour, the rare plants and environment and where you can find the best camping spots along this route. But there is more to see in Namib, so don’t limit your visit to the Welwitschia Drive!
The Bloedkopje mountain – or Blutkuppe, Bloedkoppie or Blutkopje – got its name because of the mountain’s red color during sunset. The granite mountain is hard to miss in the vast desert plain in the north of the park. Despite the heat, the mountain top lured us up. It is not very far up and the mountain is easy to climb. But the midday heat makes a climb pretty tough. However, the view is definitely worth it!
Hiking at Groot Tinkas
If you have a 4WD with you or if you arewilling to brave the roads with your 2WD, you can get to the Tinkas plain. The road to the plain is indicated by signs, including signs leading you to the Natura Walk trail. The trail leads along the dry riverbed of the Tinkas River and past the graves of two German soldiers and the ruins of their small house. Can you imagine what it must have been like to live here? The Nature Walk takes about 4 to 5 hours and is marked with gemsbok signs on rocks. Other hikes are possible here as well; off road through the rugged landscape or along the 4WD roads that are clearly signposted. It can get very hot here, so don’t forget to bring a lot of water. At least 2 liters per person is recommended on the Nature Walk board.
The Kuiseb canyon
In the east of the park lies the Kuiseb canyon. The riverbed of the Kuiseb in the canyon is dry most of the year. Drive to the viewpoint that we have marked on our map for you. There you’ll find a picnic spot with a beautiful view and a even better viewpoint from where you can best see the canyon. The route over the C14 towards the east – so towards or from Sesriem and the Sossusvlei – leads along the impressive rocky landscape around this canyon. A great place to drive through!
Camping at the Namib National Park
You can of course drive through the Namib Park and just visit the beautiful sights, but you will only really experience the vast desert landscape if you add a camping trip to that. If you have bought a permit for the park, you are also allowed to sleep in the park for one night. Do you want to spend two nights in the park? Just indicate this when you buy the permit, then you pay a double price and you get a permit for 48 hours.
Camping in the Namib Park is ‘free’. There are no campsite with facilities, no reception and no reservations (first come, first serve). You just drive to one of the camping spots and build your camp there. Please make sure to only camp on the official campsites; they are indicated on our map above and on the map you will get with your park permit. Almost all camping spots are provided with garbage cans, a stone seat and a braai spot. Some camping spots have basic ‘drop toilets’ and sometimes a sheltered place where you can shower by pouring a bucket over you. The camping spots are scattered throughout the park and therefore all offer a totally different view.
The camping sites are at Blutkoppe, Tinkas, Ganab, Vogelfederberg, Homeb, Mirabib, Kiress-se-Rus and – along the Welwitschia Drive – the Swakop River Valley. A camping spot at the Kuiseb Bridge is often mentioned, but when we were in the park (January 2019) it was no longer there. We highlight some of the camping spots for you!
#1 Camping at Blutkoppe
Blutkoppe has most camping spots. They are scattered around the mountain. The camping spots that you will first pass from the C28 are the easiest to reach. The road to the spots north and east of the mountain is a bit trickier, as you can easily get stuck in the sand there. You won’t need a 4WD though. But do you prefer not to take any risks in this deserted landscape without other traffic? Then choose the first camping spots.
#2 Camping at Tinkas
A little further are the camping spots at Tinkas, here you will also find several places to pitch your (rooftop) tent. This is perhaps one of the most popular camping spots, as you’ll find the beautiful rock arch campsite here. The camping spots are Tinkas are also a perfect base for hikes through the area, such as the Nature Walk.
#3 Camping at Swakop River Valley
You will come across the camping spots along the Swakop River Valley during your tour on the Welwitschia Drive. The river is isn’t much outside the rainy season; it is usually a dry river bed. Right next to the river bed you will find picnic areas and camping spots for those who would like to spend the night here.
#4 Camping at Ganab
The camping sites at Ganab are also recommended. There are three of them, so here you will really experience the tranquility of the desert. The camping pitches all have a large tree for shade and below it a seat and braai place. They are located in the middle of a vast landscape where we also spot zebras, ostriches and springboks. A beautiful location!
#5 Camping at Homeb
The Homeb campsite also has a great location. Perhaps the most beautiful of them all! Homeb is located at the riverbed of the Kuiseb. As the Kuiseb flows during the rainy season, there are many trees at this location offering shelter from the sun. The riverbed also marks the sharp border between the sandy desert in the south and the rocky desert of Namib. From here you will be able to see the first sand dunes leading all the way to the Sossusvlei National Park. It is a beautiful place to spend one or more nights. You can climb the nearby sand dunes and make some great hikes.
Tips for your Namib trip
#1 Prepare for the heat in the summer. We visited the Namib Park in the hot January month. It was hotter than hot in the afternoon; almost to hot to just get out of our airconditioned car. So don’t schedule a hike for the afternoon and bring enough water.
#2 Buy your park permit in advance. Only with a permit you are allowed to leave the main roads in the park, but you cannot buy it at the park itself. You need to arrange this in advance.
#3 Ensure a full tank. There is no gas station in the park. You can only refuel again in Swakopmund or at gas station-with-camping-and-hotel Solitaire.
#4 Bring everything with you. There are no shops or villages in the park either. So bring all your water and supplies yourself.
#5 Be prepared for some wind. Especially at the end of the afternoon and on the higher viewpoints it can be very windy! So don’t plan a picnic on a high picnic area at that time of the day.
#6 Read about the unique plants in advance. Are you going to visit the rare Welwitschia in the west of the Namib Park? Then read about them in advance so that you know why the plant is so unique and why you have to be so careful with it.
#7 Do not underestimate the distances. You would think that distances in one park are perfectly manageable, but make no mistake. For example, it is approximately a 3-hour drive from the Welwitschia Drive near Swakopmund to the Homeb campsite in the south. And Blutkoppe and the Kuiseb pass seem to be close together, but you also need at least 1.5 hours to get from one to another.