Are we there yet? How far? I’m hungry!
If you’re parent who travels with children, you’ve no doubt have heard this a million times.
Hitting the road with kids presents challenges. Especially in a sparsely populated country such as Namibia, where the distance between destinations is vast and lots of time is spent inside a vehicle.
Which is why it’s important to choose a lodge which offers a range of activities, and is more than just a stopover. This can help to ease road trip tension, and ensure everyone has a great holiday.
Namibia offers many such places. Here is a selection of the best lodges for families or multi-generational travel groups.
Norotshama River Resort is just 50km from the Vioolsdrift border post, on a huge table grape farm on the banks of the Orange River. If you’re driving from South Africa and crossing the border at the Orange River, you might want to break your journey at Norotshama. Accommodation options range from grassy camping sites under acacia trees, to thatch roof chalets overlooking the river. Family units have a basic kitchenette and either single beds or a sleeper couch for small people. BBQ packs can be ordered.
There is a pool overlooking the river and children’s play area with trampoline as well as a range of activities such as a canoe trips, 4×4 trails and hiking. The river is also the ideal spot to take the kids fishing – fishing rods are available.
Tip: Choose one of the four river-facing tented chalets. It has a double bed only, but there is space for a cot or small mattress. Spend time at the organic shaped pool. It has a beach-type shallow area and small kid section.
Bagatelle Kalahari Game Ranch is 50km from Mariental on a gravel road leading into the red dunes of the Kalahari Desert. You arrive at a farmhouse where welcome drinks and friendly animals are waiting; enter Skunky, a tame springbok hanging around in the lounge…
Bagatelle has rooms in the main farm house, wooden chalets on stilts on top of a dune and four cottages built from straw bales. There is a treatment room for massages, a huge pool and a telescope for star gazing on moonless nights. Guests can go for game drives in the reserve, walks with the resident San people, go horse riding or feed orphaned cheetahs.
Tip: Stay at least two nights, to allow a full day for activities. Add another day just to appreciate the silence of the Kalahari. Go horse riding!
Swakopmund has a range of guesthouses, some better than others, but it is the town itself that offers much for children of all ages. Swakopmund is a good destination to spend at least three nights allowing for day trips to the Spitzkoppe, Cape Cross and into the desert. The Atlantic Ocean is rather refreshing, but a long sandy beach, some good restaurants and the jetty make the seaside area an option to spend with the kids. Older children will enjoy dune boarding, quad biking and even ski-diving. An absolute must is a dolphin cruise with Mola Mola Safaris in Walvis Bay.
Two guesthouses I recommend:
- The central-located Cornerstone Guesthouse has just seven rooms, with two family units (room 5 has a bathtub). Their breakfasts are superior, and service is outstanding.
- Brigadoon Boutique B&B is slightly more expensive, but is walking distance from the beach. There are two family room options: one has a sleeper couch and the other is a triple bedroom.
Tip: On Sundays, almost all shops in Swakop are closed from noon onward. Spend the day on the beach instead.
Near Etosha National Park
This huge government-run park in the north of Namibia has four gates, of which Anderson Gate in the south is most used. Having recently visited Etosha and experienced the slow and tired service of NWR staff, I would suggest staying outside Etosha and doing day trips into the park.
The quirky Etosha Safari Camp, just 10km south of Anderson Gate, offers no-nonsense accommodation and excellent food. Its more upmarket sister, Etosha Safari Lodge, is located nearby. The camp has a central courtyard enclosed by the reception, elevated pool area and a restaurant decorated in an informal shebeen style, with fun and colourful artifacts. Guests relax on chairs made from car tyres and musicians entertain with live music. Excellent suppers and breakfast buffets are served.
Accommodation is in small chalets set amongst the mopani trees. Chalets are simple with single beds, mosquito nets, large bathrooms (showers only) and a small veranda. Apart from live entertainment, guests can also enjoy the pool and guided game drives into Etosha.
Tip: The curios in the shop are well-priced, and the pool has an excellent view of the sunset.
Mushara Bush Camp is the children-friendly option in the Mushara collection. Set 10km from the northwestern Von Lindequist gate in Etosha, this tented camp is heaven on earth for parents. Within easy reach of the Etosha National Park, parents can visit the park while children will be kept busy. The nannies at Mushara will have them playing, baking cookies and more; activities are arranged with each family on arrival. There is a play area with games, art equipment, an outside jungle gym, lawn and kids’ pool. Guests stay in permanent tents set in the bush. There are four family units with excellent beds, mosquito nets, tea/coffee trays, large showers and a sleeper couch for two kids.
Tips: The cell phone and internet connection is intermittent. Switch if off and enjoy the silence. Ask the chef to prepare lunch packs and have lunch in the car while watching animals at one of the in the national park waterholes.If you’re interested in exploring Namibia on a self-drive journey, speak to the friendly people at Elefant-Tours.com. They can help you put together a customised itinerary to include these lodges.