Improve Your Self-Drive Namibia Safari With Under $100 in Gear
You don’t need to spend a lot on gear for a drive-in safari in Namibia. Supplement your regular travel gear with these little items for a more enjoyable driving safari.
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Namibia was a black box when I started planning (as I talked a bit about in another post). I knew it’d be dry, and I knew it’d be a lot of desert, but beyond that it was difficult to pin down what exactly I’d need. On the one hand, I didn’t want to have to drag a huge bag in and out of hotel rooms every night or two. On the other, if we forgot something important it might be tough to find driving around the second least densely populated country in the world.
It’s also tempting to be armed to the teeth with brand new gear when travelling. Don’t bother. Little things can make a big impact, and you won’t have to screw around with a bunch of stuff you aren’t used to. When you buy too much new stuff, it easy to get it packed but then forget all about it.
Below are nine little things that I packed and got good use out of on our drive-in Safari. I hope it helps you prepare for your adventure!
Insect Repellent in Namibia
Like the sun, I don’t do well with insect bites. The last time I was bitten by mosquitos the bites swelled, oozed, and gave me a low-grade fever. Not great when you’re travelling. At the same time, too much DEET reeks and melts synthetic fabrics. I wanted something heavy duty but also less horrible smelling than pure DEET. By random chance, Sawyer Products popped up as an Amazon Deal of the Day at some point before my trip. They had tons of good reviews, so picked a few up with free Prime shipping.
This stuff isn’t 100% odor free, but the scent is very mild and doesn’t stick around. It’s 20% DEET, and purports to be slow release (for long-lasting). The lotion formula is seriously convenient, and makes for easy reapplication on exposed skin throughout the day. And I made it through three weeks with zero insect bites, which isn’t bad for a trip where most places we stayed had bug repellent lotion included with the rest of the hotel minis in the room.
This probably just goes to show how deep my insect-bite paranoia ran, but hey, it worked! If you aren’t familiar with permethrin, basically you use it to treat clothing prior to wearing. You spray it all over the clothes until they’re damp, let it dry, and that’s basically it! It lasts up to six washings. We used it for my UNIQLO Airism Hoodie, a pair of jeans, another pair of pants, and two of my husband’s shirts.
Pocket Guides for the Birds and Stars of Namibia
Namibia is one of the darkest accessible places on earth. The Namib is also extraordinarily dry, and combined those two traits make for excellent star gazing. A planisphere is an easy way to orient yourself to the night sky (especially in a different hemisphere!) and help you direct your binoculars to particular points of interest. This one is also flat and extremely light, making it a no-brainer for travel. Sure, you can find apps with similar information. But using screens, even on very low brightness, hurts your night vision. Use a planisphere with a red flashlight instead, and be prepared to have your mind blown by the incredible night skies.
There are a lot of birds in Southern Africa. I’m not very interested in birds, but this slim little guide had good reviews and seemed appropriate for beginners. Much to our mutual surprise, my husband and I really got into identifying the birds around us. That’s another thing about a self-drive safari in Namibia (or anywhere else, I’d guess)–you have a lot of down time to just watch the nature around you. Sometimes the most interesting thing to look at is a bird. It definitely gets more interesting if you can tell the difference between one bird and other. There are bigger and more complete guides you can get, but I think I would have been overwhelmed with anything much bigger than this one.
Red Light Flashlight – $8.99
We brought two little flashlights with us, a red light flashlight and a regular white light one. The red light one we used while stargazing, and we used both for moving around the hotels or camps we were in. Every place we stayed was a bit different, but there were many boardwalks, pathways, etc., to navigate and it gets dark really early. These are pocket sized, pretty light, and seem sturdy enough to handle getting banged around in my checked luggage. We’ve started packing one on every trip just because they ended up being so handy.
Personal Care in Namibia
Being from Arizona, I assumed I knew what it was like to be in an arid climate. Wrong. A few days in, and my hair was so brittle I was thinking of myself as a witch and worrying about it all breaking off. Unsurprisingly, there aren’t that many choices at Namibian grocery stores (although I did find one that worked out well). Next time I’ll pack my own!
My skin was SO. DRY. The Body Shop’s body butters are moisturizing and last a long time–and a little goes a long way, so they’re pretty packing friendly. I had two of their travel minis and that got us through all three weeks.
Three weeks is a long time to pack for, so plan on doing some laundry in the sink. We’ve used both Tide Liquid Detergent Single Loads and Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap. For places where I’m not sure where grey water ends up, I prefer Dr. Bronner’s.
Entertainment for a Self-Drive Namibia Safari
Audiobook – free or $14.95 from Audible (or Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks)
Get an audiobook and bring an audio cable. Seriously! Self-drive Namibia safaris entail (spoiler alert) lots of driving. We listened to Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders, all 26.5 hours of it. I also listened to the African lectures of Great Mythologies of the World on our trip. You can borrow downloadable audiobooks from your library, or you can subscribe to Audible.
With Audible, your first month (1 credit) is free, and after that it’s $14.95/month (1 credit). One credit = one audiobook, regardless of list price. You also get discounted audiobooks if you want to purchase some above your monthly credit. I do both–mostly I check things out from my library, but I use Audible for items that aren’t otherwise available or are so long I’m unlikely to be able to listen to the whole thing before my checkout expires.
Everything on this list is exactly what I brought with me, and I hope it helps you in your planning. What do you think? Anything I’ve left off the list? Let me know in the comments!