Touring Namibia in a BMW X3

Posted on 24 April 2019

‘Ease onto the brake… slingshot, aaaaand …. give it horns!’ our tour guide’s voice crackles over the radio, barely audible over the deafening beat of my heart. I’m grateful for my co-driver Bernie Hellberg’s outward calm as I grip the steering wheel and push my foot slowly but firmly down onto the accelerator, swinging the car past the side of the dune and sending a fan of sand past the passenger window. It’s my first time driving in dunes, and I’m proud to have completed three laps of the course set for us, without getting stuck. Then I remember that the rule of dune driving is if you don’t get stuck, you haven’t had enough fun.

Dune driving in Namib Naukluft. Image credit: Rob Till

I’m driving a BMW X3, which isn’t typically found on the dunes of the Namib-Naukluft Park. It’s surprisingly well-suited to this type of off-road experience. Built in South Africa, the BMW X3 xDrive30d’s overall ride height has been raised by almost 50mm to improve ground clearance. With full aluminium underbody protection, larger tyres and added pre-air filter with protective mesh grille to prevent desert sand from getting into the engine, it’s been especially modified to suit the more adventurous off-road driver.

Also read: Stay on a luxurious shipwreck in Namibia

After a day of driving it was pleasant srtolling along the water’s edge in Swakopmund. Image credit: Louise Topping

Our nine-car convoy looked slickly confident as we sped along the beach on our way back to Swakopmund after the day’s cavorting in the dunes. This was the 3rd day of a four-day BMW off-road, multi-day tour of Nambia. Our route took us from Windhoek north to Erindi Private Game Reserve, then south and west following the Kahn River towards Swakopmund, and eventually looping back via the Tsaobis Nature Park to Windhoek on the last day.

Evening game drive in Erindi Private Nature Reserve. Image credit: Louise Topping

Flying in to Windhoek on the first day, I looked down with growing awe at the vast landscape scored with straight lines, the patches of gray and cracked earth like the close-up view of an elephant’s skin and the parched knobbled scrub, stretching as far as the eye can see. It was surprising to be greeted by greenery and curtains of rain in the blue-grey sky of Windhoek. The unseasonal rainfall had caused the roads to flood as we head towards Erindi on the first leg of the tour. However, the cars forged through the bonnet-deep water without so much as a sputter.

Flooded road in Erindi Private Game Reserve. Image credit: Rob Till

Although I felt a bit like a fish out of water, being the only woman in a tour of 18 people, the car evidently did not. After some warm-up driving on the dirt roads from Omaruru to Karibib, my confidence had risen and I decided to try the the second day’s highlight drive – the dry Khan riverbed on the way to Swakopmund.

Abandoned copper mine, Khan Riverbed. Image credit: Rob Till

We meandered through an abandoned copper mine, stopping to inspect the buildings deserted in 1975 when the mineral reserves were depleted and the mine closed. Driving along the dry river bed, I hardly felt the bumps and turns, and I was relaxed enough to marvel at the view of bulbous rock formations, camelthorn trees wrapped in the raffia of flood debris, and vultures circling overhead. ‘Rock,’Bernie’s calm voice warned me. I swerved as gently as I could. The car’s effortless response made up for my lack of experience and I began to feel like a pro.

In a world of overstimulation, being in a landscape with so much visual space was a privilege. I began to understand the allure of this vast, ancient landscape. It’s constantly changing, but the feeling of space and of peace remain. I found my mettle in Namibia, and I like to think the car did too.

More about the BMW Namibia Multiday Tour

BMW offers an eight-day tour of Namibia covering the route that we drove in four days, to a maximum of 12 participants per group. The package includes a 1,300km route covering some of the magnificent countryside, spectacular wildlife from Windhoek to the Atlantic Ocean, unique driving experience on exclusive tracks, active driving exploration of the dunes of the Namib desert, a visit to an indigenous village and historic cave paintings as well as a variety of culinary delights.

Visit for more information or to book the tour.

Driving across the Khan Riverbed Image credit: Louise Topping

About the BMW X3 xDrive30d

The 3.0-litre straight-six diesel under the bonnet of the BMW X3 xDrive30d delivers maximum output of 195 kW (predecessor 190 kW). Peak torque is 620Nm between 2,000 and 2,500 rpm. As a result, the new BMW X3 xDrive30d storms from 0 to 100 km/h in 5.8 seconds and goes on to reach a top speed of 240 km/h. Fuel consumption combined: 6.1 l/100 km.

The BMW X3 provides partially autonomous driving and the intelligent all-wheel drive system.


Text: Louise Topping

Also read: Sleep under the starts at Namib Dune Star Camp


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