Imagine the squeal of delight as your baby sees a Zebra for the first time on safari, or plays in the bright orange sand of the dunes of Sossusvlei. That’s what motivated me to take our 14 month old on an adventure to Namibia. Plus, it’s where his mom and dad met by chance at a campfire outside of Etosha National Park.
Ever since we had our little one, I dreamed of taking him back to Namibia. Once we were on the ground, the reality sunk in that we were in a remote place and the adventure was going to be, well, the most adventurous one we’d embarked on yet. But with some planning and safety tips in mind, it was a fantastic trip, and it can be for you, too. Here’s everything to know about traveling in Namibia with a baby:
For a post on Namibia with Kids check out this post from Karen at Mini Travellers too.
Getting to Namibia
First things first, getting to Namibia is an adventure in itself. If you’re coming from the United States, like I did, be prepared for some long flights and layovers. Windhoek Hosea Kutako International Airport is Namibia’s main international gateway. Depending on where you’re starting from, you might find flights with layovers in major European cities like Frankfurt or London, or the Middle East like Qatar or Dubai.
For those beginning in Europe, you’ll have more or less the same time zone on your side. Plus, you’ll have a shorter (9-10 hour) journey.
Getting our baby his own seat on the plane was so helpful for this trip. With 24 hours of flying altogether, plus the time on the ground and in the airports, it allowed him some room to move, and gave us extra legroom. Even if your baby could still fly as a lap infant, getting their own seat and bringing along lots of snacks and travel toys is my top tip for such a long journey.
Safely Traveling in Namibia with Your Baby
Now, you might be wondering, is it safe to travel to Namibia with a baby? Well, like any journey, there are risks, but Namibia is generally considered safe for tourists with a low crime rate. The biggest consideration is the roads, which can be gravel and dirt and sometimes are quite corrugated. Take these slow, and be sure to stick to the C, D, and M roads. If it’s an F road, it’s best avoided.
If you’re self driving, I highly recommend renting a vehicle with four-wheel-drive. Even though we didn’t veer off the main roads, it was helpful to have when there were detours into the sand or on the particularly washboarded areas. You’re bound to come across them at some point!
Namibia is mostly remote wilderness, and it’s a desert country. Be prepared with water, an extra tire, and a way to communicate.
Although I usually get a travel SIM card when I’m abroad, the e-sims you can buy ahead of time are not good in Namibia. We brought an older iPhone that could take a SIM card and purchased an MTC card in the airport. Additionally, I rented a satellite phone from Sat4Rent Namibia, which she delivered to our hotel in Windhoek and allowed us to leave at the airport car rental counter when we left. It was great for our peace of mind.
Be sure to ask your doctor before you go about any necessary immunizations or prophylactics, and ensure you have comprehensive travel insurance to cover any unexpected situations.
Planning Your Itinerary in Namibia
Namibia is huge and diverse, offering everything from desert landscapes to Etosha. It’s essential to plan your itinerary carefully, taking your baby’s comfort into account.
Start in Windhoek, the capital city, where you can stock up on essentials like baby food, formula, and diapers. Then, head to the iconic red dunes of Sossusvlei, followed by a trip to Swakopmund for some coastal relaxation. Don’t miss the wildlife haven of Etosha National Park and finish your journey in the otherworldly landscapes of Damaraland and Kaokoland. This drive can be reversed as well.
I tried never to have a driving day that was longer than four hours, but you know your baby and what they can handle best.
Taking a Tour vs. Independent Travel
Namibia is an enchanting country with gorgeous natural wonders from the oldest desert in the world to some of the best safari you can find. You can choose to explore it through organized tour companies or independently. Each option has its perks, and it largely depends on your preferences.
Tours can offer convenience and the expertise of local guides. They handle logistics, which is a blessing when you have a little one to look after. Local guides are often better at spotting wildlife, can be very helpful if anything goes wrong, and take the work of planning off your plate. Keep in mind that with a baby, you’ll most likely have to opt for a tailored tour with a private guide rather than joining a group, as safari with a baby comes with its own considerations (that we’ll discuss in the next section).
Independent travel, on the other hand, allows for more flexibility. You can set your own pace and tailor your itinerary to your baby’s needs. Personally, I opted for independent travel because I craved the freedom to explore on my own terms. That said, it was my fourth time in Namibia and I know my way around. If it had been my first time, I may have preferred a tour company.
Karen from Mini Travellers recommends Tim at Speke Travel for Namibia – you can contact him for a quote below.
Etosha National Park with Your Baby
A visit to Etosha National Park is a must in Namibia. Witnessing elephants, lions, giraffes, and zebras in their natural habitat is an unforgettable experience. So, is it possible to take a baby on safari in Etosha? Absolutely, but it requires careful planning.
Etosha is a rare national park in Africa that you can realistically self drive. Most open-air safari vehicles will not be willing to take a baby along for safety’s sake, and for the enjoyment of the others on the vehicle. Babies have needs, might cry, and are going to require being on your own schedule.
You can book a guided safari with a reputable tour operator. These guides know the park like the back of their hand, and in an enclosed vehicle, you can change diapers, feed, and ensure your baby’s safety and comfort. Plus, they have air conditioning, which can be very helpful in a place where temperatures regularly reach the 40s C/100s F.
Bring plenty of snacks, water, and diapers. We opted to bring a car seat as well, but would take him out when the car was parked so that he could look out the window.
Safe Sleep Suggestions
You’re going to be on the move quite a bit, so ensuring your baby has a safe and comfortable place to sleep is crucial. I found that most accommodations did not provide cribs, though some did, and you can request one in advance.
I found it best to travel with our portable Guava Lotus crib, which we bring on almost every trip we take. It’s a familiar sleeping space that he sleeps through the night in, and making sure we are well rested is key to everyone’s enjoyment. Make sure the accommodations you choose are baby-friendly and don’t have raised decks or dangerous overhangs that could present a problem for a mobile baby.
Feeding in Namibia
When it comes to feeding your baby in Namibia, you’ve got options. You can bring your baby’s favorite snacks and food from home, which we always do, but you’ll also find a wide range of baby food options in larger towns like Windhoek and Swakopmund.
Namibia has a mix of international and local cuisine, so you can introduce your baby to different flavors while still keeping some familiarity in their diet. Most lodges have a buffet-style dinner, and we’d ask about any allergens before grabbing game meat, roasted veggies, and fish for him. Thankfully, feeding and food was easy in Namibia, and most restaurants and lodges had high chairs.
If you’re breastfeeding, although I never saw anyone do it, I didn’t get the sense it would be an issue. Some indigenous women in Namibia live their lives topless, and it’s not a place where modesty is important or necessary for safety.
Where to Buy Baby Essentials in Namibia
Finding baby essentials in Namibia can be relatively easy, but it’s best to stock up in Windhoek before you head out into the wild. Supermarkets and pharmacies in the capital city are well-equipped to meet your baby’s needs. We also found a nice variety in Walvis Bay and Swakopmund.
You can find a variety of diapers, formula, and baby food options. It’s always better to have more than you need, as you might not find the same range of products in smaller towns.That said, diapers, pouches, jars of puree, and toddler snacks were also easy to find in any Spar or Checkers, which we found almost every other day of the drive.
What to Pack for Namibia
Packing for a trip to Namibia with a baby means bringing a lot with you, but it’s manageable. Here’s a checklist to get you started:
– Baby Essentials: Diapers, wipes, formula, baby food, bottles, sippy cups, pacifiers, and baby toiletries.
– Baby Gear: Portable crib or bassinet, a stroller suitable for rough terrain, a soft baby carrier, and a car seat for safety during road trips.
– Clothing: Namibia’s climate can vary, so pack a mix of lightweight and warm clothing. Don’t forget hats and sunscreen.
– Healthcare: A basic first-aid kit for your baby, including any prescription medications they might need.
– Entertainment: Toys and books to keep your little one engaged during downtime.
-Documentation: Passports, visas, travel insurance, and any necessary medical records for your baby. We were also asked for a copy of his birth certificate at the airport before we flew home.
– Hygiene: Baby-friendly insect repellent, hand sanitizer, and baby-safe sunscreen.
– Camera: Don’t forget to capture those precious moments with your little one against the breathtaking Namibian backdrop.
Remember, less is often more when traveling with a baby. You can always pick up essentials along the way. Prioritize your baby’s needs, but don’t forget to pack some adventure for yourself, too!
Traveling in Namibia with a baby is undoubtedly a unique and unforgettable journey. It comes with its challenges, but it’s a thrilling way to introduce your baby to the world’s wonders and create lifelong memories. I’m so glad that we went as a family. Although he may not remember everything about the trip, it’s something I’ll hold dear forever.
As you embrace the beauty of Namibia and savor the magic of the road, you’ll discover that the love for travel knows no age limits. Happy travels!