Booking camps and getting the right permits for Namibia’s National Parks is not that complicated, but there are a few things that I wish someone had told me before I set off. With that in mind I put together a few tips – the main things you need to know about booking National Park accommodation and obtaining National Park permits in Namibia. I hope it makes your trip planning a little easier.
Download: The BFGoodrich Getaway Guide to Namibia
Namibian Wildlife Resorts and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism
- Namibian Wildlife Resorts (NWR) is the state-owned body that manages accommodation bookings for all public rest camps in Namibia’s National Parks.
- The Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) manages National Park conservation and administration, and issues permits to enter all Namibia’s state-run parks and reserves.
To spend a night in any of Namibian Wildlife Resorts’ camps or lodges, you’ll need to make a booking with NWR first and then, separately, obtain a permit to enter the park from the MET. (Note: If you are planning to stay at a private lodge and not an NWR camp, check with them before arrival to see whether MET permit fees are included in your booking).
Namibian Wildlife Resorts bookings
Namibian Wildlife Resorts will take bookings by phone/email or bookings can be made at camps on arrival, if there is space available. At camps where there are no permanent staff (see the Kuiseb and Tinkas regions below) bookings can only be made in advance, either through the NWR central reservations office or, preferably, at an NWR office within the country. (This is because you’ll still need to get a MET permit for these areas, and these can only be obtained inside Namibia. You might as well get them together when you’re there).
NWR Central Reservations
Tel: +264 61 2857200
Fax: +264 61 224900
Address: Erkraht Building, 189 Independence Avenue, Windhoek, Namibia
NWR Cape Town Office
Tel: +27 21 4223761
Fax: +27 21 4225148
Address: Pinnacle Building, Ground Floor, Burg Street, Cape Town
Ministry of Environment and Tourism permits
Ministry of Environment and Tourism permits can only be obtained ‘on the ground’ in Namibia – you can’t buy them over the phone prior to arrival. Sesriem camp at Sossusvlei does accept cards (if their connection is up), but it’s cash-only at most of the smaller camps.
MET offices, or at least the MET employees who issue the permits, can be found at park gates, with staff often sitting alongside their NWR colleagues, or in an adjacent office. You get your camp booking with one person and then shuffle along the desk, or walk next door, and get your MET permit separately. It’s a smoother process than I’ve made it sound. There are also MET offices in Windhoek and Swakopmund where you can get permits as well as brochures and information on all of Namibia’s National Parks.
MET Office Windhoek
Address: Levinson Arcade, Capital Centre Building, 4th floor, Windhoek
MET/NWR Office Swakopmund
MET permit costs (all prices SADC)
Permits cost N$60 a person plus N$10 a vehicle a day for the |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, the Skeleton Coast National Park, the Sossusvlei region of the Namib-Naukluft National Park and Etosha National Park.
Permits for the northern Namib-Naukluft’s Kuiseb and Tinkas regions are cheaper at N$30 a person plus N$10 a vehicle a day, but as there are no gates or camp staff in these areas, they must be purchased at a MET office before arrival. You can book camping and get permits for any of the Kuiseb and Tinkas campsites at the NWR/MET office at Sesriem/Sossusvlei, in Swakopmund or from the Koedoesrus campsite in the Naukluft Mountain Zebra Park.
The Dorob National Park permit is free and valid for three months, allowing drivers to use the 4×4 routes connecting the coast and the interior between Swakopmund and the Ugab River, as well as designated areas along the dune belt between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. You can pick these up at the MET office in Swakopmund. No permit is required along the C34 between Swakop and the Skeleton Coast National Park.
In the north of Namibia, many areas are wilderness and don’t require permits. Mahango, Susuwe Triangle, Nkasa Rupara, Khaudum and Waterberg cost N$30 a person a day and N$10 a vehicle a day.
Note that if you want to explore the Namib Desert itself, or head up beyond Terrace Bay into the Skeleton Coast proper, you will need to join a guided tour. These private operators have the sole access to these highly sensitive and strictly regulated areas, and run single or multi-day, self drive 4×4 tours into the desert. These tours must be booked in advance and often a minimum number of people are required to secure the booking.
- Contact Live The Journey for guided 4×4 tours and day trips to Sandwich Harbour, south of Walvis Bay, and into the northern Namib Desert. They also run multi-day trips up the Skeleton Coast to the Kunene River, Lüderitz to Walvis Bay trips, as well as a number of other tour options.
- Try Coastways Tours for day trips south of Lüderitz or for multi-day trips from Lüderitz to Walvis Bay. Day trips into the diamond fields south of Lüderitz are available from N$1 450 a person, and tours to Walvis Bay cost from N$7750 a person for five nights.
Other useful information on travelling to Namibia
The two main border posts from South Africa, Vioolsdrift/Noordoewer and Nakop/Ariamsvlei, are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from date of entry and pay your Namibian Road Fund Administration (R220 a car and R140 a trailer) at the border. If the vehicle is yours, take your registration paper as proof of ownership, although this is not always asked for. If you don’t own the vehicle, make sure you have a certified letter from the owner giving permission for you to take the vehicle across the border. This letter should include your full name and your ID or passport number, as well as some form of photo identification. Make sure you have a valid driver’s licence with you at all times.
Carry cash. Credit cards are not universally accepted in Namibia and you should be prepared to pay cash for fuel, park entrance fees and campsites, even in some of the larger towns. One Namibian dollar is equivalent to one rand and rands are accepted for cash transactions throughout Namibia. You can draw cash from Namibian ATMs using your South African and international bank cards, but your bank will probably charge you a forex handling fee, even though the rand/Namibian dollar is the same rate of exchange.
Paying for fuel
Most service stations in Namibia don’t accept debit or credit cards and will take cash only.
To prevent the spread of infectious animal diseases such as foot and mouth, a veterinary control fence stops unrestricted movement of animals from the north to the south of Namibia. You may take meat in a south-to-north direction, but you can’t take any uncooked meat products from north to south, including frozen meat of all cloven-hoof animals. Chicken is okay.
Driving with the correct pressure prolongs a tyre’s life, reduces the risk of punctures and can mean the difference between getting stuck in thick sand or gliding easily over the top. Experts differ on the exact pressure for different situations, but it’s crucial to change pressure to suit the terrain: low pressure for sand and mud (to get as much of the tread in contact with the surface as possible), higher pressures for rocks and dirt (including Namibia’s coastal ‘salt roads’), and the highest certified pressures for tar. In general, softer tyres (around 2 bar) cope better with sharp rocks and loose surfaces, but also provide less protection to your wheel rim. If you turn too aggressively at pressures below 1 bar, tyres may come off the rim completely. With Namibia’s rapidly changing conditions, it’s essential to have a compressor – you may have to inflate and deflate tyres a few times a day. If possible, take pressures when tyres are cold. Hot tyres can increase relative pressure by half a bar.