Armed with an Indian driving licence and a booking with a tour operator in Namibia, photographer Dhritiman Mukherjee landed in the Namibian capital of Windhoek to find a rental car with a pre-programmed GPS. From Windhoek, he sets off on an amazing road trip and camping expedition through the open bush of Etosha National Park in central Namibia to the dunes of the Namib Desert and then to the west coast, where bright orange sand meets the Atlantic Ocean.
Namibia lies on the western coast of southern Africa, northwest of the Republic of South Africa and west of Botswana. Etosha National Park is part of the Kalahari Basin in the northern part of the country and is about 420 km north of the capital Windhoek. Sossusvlei with its high dunes is located near the Atlantic coast, 365 km southwest of Windhoek.
To get to Namibia you need to transit through South Africa and at least one other gateway in the Middle East (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or Doha) or east Africa (Addis Ababa, Nairobi). From India, Ethiopian Airlines currently offers one of the best deals to Namibia via Addis Ababa and Johannesburg, which includes a connection on Air Namibia for the final flight from South Africa to Windhoek.Visa Indians travelling to Namibia require a visa. The visa form can be downloaded online but must be submitted at the consular office in New Delhi (E-86, Paschimi Marg, Vasant Vihar; 011-2614 0389; www.nhcdelhi.com). Those who do not live in Delhi can enlist the help of a travel agent. Tourist visa applicants must have a return ticket, proof of hotel reservations, photo, and other documents. A 90-day, single-entry visa costs ₹2,300. Yellow fever vaccination (and certificate) needs to be obtained approximately one month before departure if you are passing through any yellow fever countries in Africa—such as Kenya or Angola—before arrival in Namibia.
Bookings Planning a self-drive journey through Nambia is quite simple, if you use a local operator. They book the car (with insurance), make all hotel and campsite bookings, and pre-programme the vehicle’s GPS with your route. Doing the logistical legwork yourself might work out to be relatively cheaper, but using an operator is recommended. They are well-informed and can help tweak your itinerary according to your interests. The Cardboard Box (www.namibian.org) and Suricate Tours and Safaris (www.suricate-safaris.com) are good options.
Duration Trips can be anywhere between 3-20 days long and generally include a mix of cities and national parks, hotels and camps. Research the locations well and speak to your operator before you make a decision.
Cost A 10-day, budget, self-drive trip for two costs about ₹26,500 per head. Midrange trips of the same length would be around ₹2,10,000 while a luxury trip for two will set you back by ₹8,89,000. In some cases, the price includes car rental and accommodation, but not food. In others, it includes food and accommodation, but not the rental fees. Read the fine print.
Car Choose your vehicle according to your route. A sedan is cheaper and works for most urban and rural areas, but places like Damaraland and Etosha require four-wheel drives.
Driving license Indians do not need an international driver’s license to drive in Namibia, as long as their license is in English.
Cheaper still To cut corners, book a trip that doesn’t include meals, and get a car that’s equipped with a cooking stove.
Stock up Most campsites have grocery stores that sell basics like rice, spices, and meat. Note: Sites in Etosha National Park do not allow meat from outside, but sell chicken, antelope, and beef at most camping grounds.
Hire a plane Hiring a Cessna airplane for an aerial safari of the Namib Desert is highly recommended. It is pricey (₹1,00,000 for 3 hours for 4 people) but the views are surreal and well worth the price, especially for amateur photographers.
Appeared in the May 2015 issue as “Where Desert Meets Sea”.
Dhritiman Mukherjee is as elusive as the animals he photographs. His photographs have appeared in National Geographic Traveller, The New York Times, Lonely Planet, WWF, UNESCO, Birdlife. He is a RBS Earth Hero award winner for inspiring people for conservation.