Jackalberry Self Drive
Budget Friendly Self Drive to Etosha & Okavango Panhandle - Namibia & Botswana
This 10 day self-drive trip incorporates a rich diversity of both landscapes and game-viewing. Travelling from the central highlands of Namibia to the arid savannah and scrub of Etosha National Park, to the lush and verdant waterways of the Okavango Panhandle,and finally through the Kalahari Desert to loop back to Windhoek. It is designed for people who do not have a great deal of time and are mainly focusing on animals and birdwatching. Etosha is one of Namibia's premier game reserves and offers a good selection of plains animals such as zebra, wildebeest and numerous antelope species, as well as elephant, giraffe, rhino and lion. The Okavango Panhandle, on the other hand, is based around the waterways of the Okavango River before it spreads out into the Delta and has abundant birdlife as well as semi-aquatic animals such as hippo and crocodile.
After recovering from your travels to Namibia, you head for Etosha National Park which during the drier months is teaming with wildlife. You will be spending 3 nights in this area, the first two within the park itself and the last night at a private lodge on the Eastern edge of the park. Okaukuejo's waterhole is well known for its extensive game viewing and offers great opportunities both day and night. Game-viewing is generally conducted in your own vehicle but guided tours can also be arranged.
Your next day sees you travelling north-east and to the banks of the Kavango River. Ngepi Camp is a rustic camp situated south of Popa Falls and sandwiched between Mahango Game Park and Bwabwata National Park. This is the start of the Okavango panhandle and contrasts greatly to the arid terrain you have previously encountered on this trip, characterised by open flood plains, swampy backwaters, lush vegetation and riverine forest.
On day 7 you drive into Botswana and south to the small village of Etsha 13. Although this region is well known for its excellent tiger fishing, the meandering waterways that feed the Okavango Delta, fringed with papyrus, reeds, palms and forest, also provide the perfect home for an array of birdlife (350 of 500 species found in Botswana can be seen here). A full day excursion in a tradition dugout canoe, locally known as a mokoro, makes you appreciate the tranquility and natural beauty of these surroundings.
In contrast to the lush and verdant landscape typified by the Okavango Panhandle, the final part of your journey is once again to a more arid environment, that of the Central Kalahari. Thakadu is situated just south of Ghanzi amongst shady trees and looking on to a waterhole that attracts a surprising amount of game.
The final day of your trip is heading back to Windhoek where you can either catch an evening flight or stay once again in Namibia's capital city, a chance to pick up a few last souvenirs before heading home.
- Day 1: Windhoek
- Situated in a quiet area of Windhoek and close to the city center, Villa Vista is the perfect place to unwind from a long flight and to acclimatise to your surroundings.
Accommodation: Villa Vista
- Day 2: Windhoek - Etosha Park
- Your first day's drive is 435kms (about 5 hours) so it is advisable to make a fairly early start in order to have some time within Etosha Park before sunset. Okaukuejo's floodlit waterhole attracts a large amount of game during the drier months and you are likely to see an abundance of antelope as well as zebra, giraffe, elephant, rhino and possibly lion.
Accommodation: Okaukuejo or similar
- Day 3: Etosha Park
- There are a network of roads that link the numerous waterholes around Etosha pan and you can explore these at your own leisure throughout the day. In case you have not seen enough game while out driving during the evening can be spent at the spotlit waterhole.
Accommodation: Okaukuejo or similar
- Day 4: Etosha Park - Eastern Etosha
- Another day of game-viewing. From Okaukuejo it takes at least a couple of hours to get to your accommodation on the eastern side of the park, particularly if you spot anything interesting along the way. You can either decide to continue driving yourselves around for the day and use the lodge as just an overnight stop or you can arrange an afternoon guided game drive.
Accommodation: Mokuti Lodge
- Day 5: Eastern Etosha - Grootfontein area
- It is about 225km drive from eastern Etosha to Roy's Camp, driving through the towns of Tsumeb and Grootfontein. Roy's Camp is a rustic accommodation establishment with a quirky and artistic twist. There is a small waterhole that attracts game as well as the option of joining a game drive around the farm.
Accommodation: Roy's Camp
- Day 6: Grootfontein area - Divundu
- On your way to Rundu and the Kavango region you will notice that as you pass through the veterinary check-point, the landscape changes quite dramatically and suddenly there are small, traditionally built huts along the side of the road and the comings-and-goings of village life. Ngepi is situated on island under shady trees with a permanent river frontage and surrounded by seasonally flooded swamps. The 'tree house' accommodation is basic but has lovely views over the river and the perfect stop-over before you head further along the river towards the Okavango Delta.
Accommodation: Ngepi Camp
- Day 7: Divundu - Etsha 13, Okavango Panhandle
- Today can be taken at a very leisurely pace as it is only around 100kms to your next destination - Guma Lagoon Camp, close to the settlement of Etsha 13. Having said this, when the water level has dropped, it can take quite a long time to negotiate the last section between Etsha 13 and the camp so allow at least 30-45 minutes for this part. The camp is set on the edge of Guma Lagoon and surrounded by a thick canopy of trees. There is a lovely wooden deck that has views over the water and is the perfect place to soak up the tranquility of this area. no activities have been arranged for your initial day at Guma.
Accommodation: Guma Lagoon Camp
- Day 8: Etsha 13, Okavango Panhandle
- Today is set aside for a mokoro trip. This is one of the best ways for really appreciating the beauty of this area, gently being poled amongst Water lily beds, palm islands and papyrus stands, rich with birdlife including kingfishers, herons, storks and other waterfowl, with the possibility of also seeing hippo, crocodile and otter.
Accommodation: Guma Lagoon Camp
- Day 9: Etsha 13 - Ghanzi, Central Kalahari
- After a leisurely breakfast, you head back to your vehicle and drive south to a lodge located just south of Ghanzi, some 350kms away. Thakadu Camp's comfortable Meru-style tents are built on wooden decks and are set amongst ancient leadwood trees, providing much needed shady in the hotter months. The main area overlooks a calcrete pan and floodlit waterhole which attracts game such as eland, kudu, impala, wildebeest and other animals suited to this area of the Kalahari. Game drives can be arranged or you may prefer to learn about the traditional skills of the Bushmen who in the past have lived so effectively in this harsh environment.
If you are interested in local arts and crafts then it is worth stopping at the Kuru Museum and Cultural Centre in D'Kar which showcases a number of contemporary local San artists.
Accommodation: Thakadu Camp
- Day 10: Ghanzi - Windhoek
- It is around 550kms back to Windhoek and therefore one of the longest drives you will have to undertake. However, the road along this stretch is normally in good condition and after leaving Botswana, livestock wandering the roads should no longer be an issue. There is not much of interest along this route and not many places to stop for lunch (Gobabis is probably the only real option).
Accommodation: Villa Vista
- All your meals and activities as specified.
A welcome pack including maps and vouchers for the places that you'll be visiting.
See the individual lodges for precise inclusions & exclusions
A 24 hour emergency assistance phone number
- Vehicle & Fuel
Park entrance fees (these need to be paid on arrival).
Tips and gratuities (which are optional).
Any meals or activities not specified.
See the individual lodges for detailed inclusions & exclusions.
- Although we have excluded the cost of renting a vehicle from the quoted rate we are happy to advise you on the best possible vehicle and arrange a rental for you. For an idea of what is available have a look at our car hire in Namibia section
3 Days - A short visit to the sand dunes at Sossusvlei
3 Days - Get away to Swakopmund on the coast - includes sandboarding on the Namib Dunes as well as a dolphin cruise
4 Days - A game viewing trip to the famous Etosha National Park
8 Days - Combines a visit to Etosha National Park, with some time at Swakopmund and then the dunes at Sossusvlei
9 Days - Southern Namibia: Fish River, Luderitz, Sossusvlei with some self catering accommodation.
10 Days - The classic northern and central Namibia trip. Includes Waterberg Plateau, Etosha National Park, rock art in Damaraland, Cape Cross & Swakopmund and ends with two night near the dunes at Sossusvlei.
10 Days - A combination of Namibia & Botswana. Highlights include game viewing in the Etosha Park & a trip in a traditional dug out canoe in the Okavango Delta Panhandle.
14 Days - Two weeks worth of travel allow you to visit everything that is included in the Camelthorn Self Drive and add the vast expanses of southern Namibia. Additional stops include Luderitz, the Fish River Canyon and a night in the Kalahari Desert
20 Days - This includes Waterberg, Etosha, a visit to the densely populated Owamboland region on the Angolan border, Kaokoland and the nomadic Himba People, rock art and desert elephants in Damaraland, Swakopmund, Sossusvlei, Luderitz, the Fish River and Kalahari.
20 Days - A circular route that includes Sossusvlei, the highlights of Northern Namibia, the Zambezi region and Chobe, Vic Falls and the Okavango Delta in Botswana