Your Namibia Travel Bucket List: 20 Adventure Things to Do
Updated: May 13
Namibia is a true bucket list destination! With its sparse population, desert landscapes, and interesting flora and fauna, it is one of our favorite places in the world. However, with so much variety of landscapes and things to do, it can be overwhelming to plan a trip to this unique destination.
In this blog, we narrowed down our favorite (adventure!) things to do in Namibia. Even though we know that it is impossible to fit all of these bucket list items into your trip, it will definitely help you make some tough decisions!
1. Go Camping: feel close to nature and wildlife
While there are a bunch of luxury lodges in idyllic locations, there is nothing as unique and adventurous as going camping in Namibia! Being really out there in the middle of nature, you will feel truly close to nature and wildlife.
Look for the more remote campsites rather than the busy ones right near the tourist attractions. Our favorite campsites were in Twyfelfontein, Waterberg Plateau National Park, and Spitzkoppe; as we had most of the space to ourselves. In Waterberg Plateau National Park, we literally heard the monkeys screech at night. Find here a map with all the campsites across Namibia.
Unlike what most people think, our camping experience was pleasant and comfortable. We rented a 4x4 jeep with roof tent, which came with the necessary camping equipment as well as actual foam mattresses with sheets, duvets, and pillows. Learn here how to explore Namibia by 4x4 jeep with roof tent.
2. Have a braai
Going hand in hand with your camping experience is having a 'braai' or barbecue as we call it! Just like in South Africa, a braai is a popular thing to do in Namibia. Buy your meat in the local supermarket along the way and keep it refrigerated. Most common meats include beef and spiced sausages or 'boerewors'. But don't worry if you are vegetarian, the supermarkets (especially SPAR) are quite similar to the Western world in their offerings!
Most campsites have a barbecue at each individual camping spot. However, your jeep camper typically includes a barbecue set, gas cooker, and complete kitchen set as well.
3. Meet the local people
With an estimated 2.5 million inhabitants, Namibia is the second most sparsely populated country in the world. Most of these live in the main cities such as Windhoek, Walvis Bay, and Swakopmund.
While you will most likely meet locals when taking a tour or checking into your campsite or lodge, it is not the same as meeting the locals in their small village.
Get out of your comfort zone and don't be afraid! We met local children in a school in Spitzkoppe. It was an intense experience as they were very excited and wanted to touch our hair and ask for money. However, it was also interesting to see how they were all playing together in this small desert town.
4. Watch the stars at night
Known as one of the prime stargazing destinations in the world, Namibia's sky at night will blow your mind. Thanks to the absence of light pollution, a low population density, and almost no air pollution, you are able to see thousands of stars at night. Especially if you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, like in Twyfelfontein or Spitzkoppe, you will enjoy this nature's spectacle.
5. Try one of the local delicacies: oryx, zebra, and/or kudu
It may sound a bit cruel to eat one of these cute safari animals, but it is definitely an experience! Not only does the meat taste different than your average hamburger, but it also is something you can't find in the Western World. Local meats include oryx, kudu, and zebra, and can be found in many restaurants. We ate at Joe's Beerhouse in Windhoek, a vibrant restaurant with outdoor seating and many authentic dishes.
6. Climb the Big Daddy Dune: the highest dune in Sossusvlei!
Climbing the Big Daddy dune in Sossusvlei is challenging but rewarding! At about 325 meters, this dune is the highest one in the area. Even though this doesn't sound very high, the deep sand and boiling heat will do! The hike up takes approximately 2.5 hours, while the way down only 5 takes about 5 minutes!
Nonetheless, the views from the summit are absolutely stunning. The panorama of the surrounding red and golden dunes will take your breath away.
After breathing in the fresh desert air, the most fun part is yet to come! Run the steep slope down to nearby Deadvlei, another unique sight. Walk around its famous dead camel thorn trees and take some pictures!
7. Watch the sunrise from Dune 45
Dune 45 is another highlight in the Sossusvlei area and an absolute must-do in Nambia! In addition to being the most scenic and picture-perfect, it is the best dune to watch the sunrise from. As the dune is 'only' 80 meters high, the hike up takes around 30 minutes. Watch how the rising sun turns the sand warm red and find yourself in a photographer's paradise.
Unfortunately, Dune 45 is very popular and crowded at times. We went there during the low season, and even then there were many people there. We heard that the high season gets a lot worse... Therefore, we recommend going as early as possible (the Sesriem gate opens at 5:30 AM). In this way, you may be one of the first ones to reach the summit and pick out the best (and more secluded!) spot on the dune.
Dune 45 is named after its location... it lies 45 km past Sesriem on the road to Sossusvlei!
8. Watch the sunset from Elim Dune
There is little found on the internet and other travel blogs about Elim Dune. However, this hidden gem is absolutely worth it. The Elim Dune is a high and relatively isolated dune near the Sesriem entrance gate. The sand seems thicker than the other dunes, which makes it easier to hike up. Nonetheless, it takes a full hour to reach the summit. It is the perfect dune to watch the sunset from, so make sure to bring some beers and snacks!
9. Go on a safari in Etosha National Park
Visiting Namibia (or Africa in general) isn't complete without a safari! And what better place to go than one of the largest parks and the biggest salt pans in Africa? Etosha National Park is by far the most popular game reserve in Namibia. With its immense size and a vast variety of wildlife, you can easily spend a few days here. The park is home to over 100 large and small animals, including giraffes, elephants, lions, cheetahs, rhinos, hyenas, and many more. Stay close to the wildlife by sleeping at one of the campsites or lodges in the park!
10. Spot free-roaming cheetahs
Namibia is home to the largest population of free-roaming cheetahs in the world. Free-roaming means that they can be found in the ACTUAL WILD in addition to finding them between the borders of the national parks. However, with roughly 2,500 to 3,000 cheetahs, don't expect to easily spot them! Although we were out of luck, Damaraland is said to be home to many of them...
11. Observe the petroglyphs in Twyfelfontein
Twyfelfontein, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is known for its many rock paintings and engravings of the ancient Bushmen. Dating back thousands of years, these relatively intact petroglyphs tell an interesting history of these hunters. You will see engravings of both hunters with bow and arrow, as well as animals, such as antelopes, zebras, giraffes, etc. It is required to take a guided tour (approximately 1.5 hours) as the engravings would be hard to find otherwise! We really enjoyed this tour as the petroglyphs are way more intact than those at Brandberg, Spitzkoppe, and other locations.
12. Drive through Damaraland
Located in the northcentral part of Namibia, Damaraland is one of the most scenic regions of the country. Driving through these brown desert landscapes shaped by bouldered mountains and parched valleys is a pleasure to the eye! Stretching from Twyfelfontein to Brandberg and as far as Spitzkoppe, the roads of Damaraland have several fascinating stops along the way. Breathe in these unique landscapes!
13. Spot the desert lions
The wild desert-adapted lions in Namibia are another rare but exciting sight! With only about 150 left in the dry 52.000 km² rangeland of north-western Namibia, this goes on everyone's Namibia travel bucket list!
Most of them roam around the Namib Desert in the Kunene region, which is between the boundaries of Etosha National Park and the Skeleton Coast. Over time, these creatures have developed survival tactics for coping with the harsh desert conditions. In addition to gemsbok and ostriches, they also feed on seals and cormorants. Especially the seals at the Cape Cross Seal Reserve often fall victim to these savages!
Even though we saw several warnings along the Skeleton Coast, particularly Torra Bay, we didn't spot them. While camping along the coast, we were especially warned about going to the toilets at night. Would you dare?
14. Spot the desert elephants
As you might have learned from the fascinating documentary "Our Planet" narrated by David Attenborough, Namibia is home to one of the few desert elephants in the world! Found along the dry riverbeds of Damaraland and Kaokoland, these mammals have adapted to the harsh desert climate and scarcity of water. They traverse long distances in brutal conditions with only seasonal rivers and limited vegetation to feed on.
We were searching hard for these gigantic creatures but with no luck this time! However, there are many people who have spotted them before and residents of the area usually know where to find them. Little birds told us that the desert elephants are currently roaming around the area of Twyfelfontein. Years ago, the majority of these herds were found along Brandberg, which also is nicknamed "the home of the desert elephant".
15. Watch the sunset in Spitzkoppe
Spitzkoppe is a unique location and was one of our highlights of Namibia! Located in the scenic Damaraland region, this impressive rock formation towers above the surrounding desert landscape. Hence, it is the perfect place for watching the sunset! Climb onto one of the granite rocks and enjoy a truly magical spectacle. The Rock Arch or the top of the 'Rock Pool' rock were our favorite sunset viewing spots.
16. See the stinky seals at the Cape Cross Seal Reserve
Enjoy a smelly encounter with the Cape Fur seals aka the stinky seals at the Cape Cross Seal Reserve. The Reserve has over 100,000 seals, making it the largest breeding colony of Cape Fur seals in the world. The reason why they are so "stinky" is that many pups don't make it through their first year. They literally die from getting trampled, drowning, or hitting the rocks on the shore due to large crashing waves. As a funeral is not one of the seal traditions, they start rotting on the shore. The smell can definitely be overwhelming, but don't let that take away from your close encounter with these cute animals!
17. Sleep right next to the ocean along the Skeleton Coast
There is no better thing than sleeping right next to the ocean! The noise of the waves crashing onto the beach and the flustering wind at night brings true peace and serenity.
In Namibia, this is possible!
In Torra Bay, situated in the Skeleton Coast Park, you will find a campsite right on the beach, far away from any other life or town. Especially popular by locals and South Africans who come here for fishing, this is a great spot to practice your Afrikaans! Note that the Torra Bay Campsite is only open from the beginning of December until the end of February.
Besides the stinky seals at Cape Cross, there are tons of whales, sharks, and dolphins roaming the waters of the Atlantic Ocean near Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. It is possible to spot these beautiful creatures on a boat tour. You will see dolphins frolic around the boat and get really close to wildlife as the seals and sea birds sometimes hop on your boat. A unique experience!
Our favorite adventure activity in Namibia was riding a quad bike deep in the sand dunes near Swakopmund! The desert dunes seemed endless and a true wilderness. This was a unique feeling of freedom as we had the dunes all to ourselves. As anyone could (and probably would) get lost on their own, it is required to book a guided tour. An experienced guide will take you for a few hours deep through the dunes, where no one else can reach.
20. Hike in the Fish River Canyon: the second largest canyon in the world!
Even though quite far away from most tourist sights, the Fish River Canyon belongs on everyone's Namibia Travel Bucket List. However, hiking into the canyon is not for everyone. It is only possible if you walk the Fish River Canyon Trail, an 85 km (52.8 mi) path in length that takes 4 to 5 days to complete. There is an actual day-limit of how many people can start the hike, so try to register beforehand! Also, the trail is only open from April through September. Good luck!