Many of our guests opt for self-driving adventures through our beautiful country, Namibia. In addition to handling accommodation bookings, which now demand extra care and time due to multiple confirmations, we also take care of route planning and provide suitable vehicles for the journey.
Even guests from well-known companies, as it seems nowadays ‘everyone’s into self-driving,’ often approach me in desperation to find out the correct directions. These things can happen, but safety starts with emotions! Confused individuals tend to be less focused and can easily find themselves in unpleasant situations. I could probably write a book about subpar vehicles, bad drivers, lost and frustrated tourists along the way.
When I commute between the farm and Swakopmund, I always take the C14. Only God knows why this connecting road, although repeatedly slated for asphalt, still keeps travelers guessing about its current condition. They wonder how bad the road might be and how many road scrapers are currently at work, and precisely where. You see, it helps decide whether to head directly or take the longer route via Windhoek when traveling south.
People already tease me about how many self-drivers I’ve counted this time and how many of them might be mine. After all, my self-drivers are not supposed to stop in Solitaire. In Solitaire, the real South West, our South West, was stolen. Old Moose McGregor has been gone for a while, and the apple pie didn’t taste as good in his later years. The small round baking tin was replaced by several flat, large ones. Nevertheless, they still stand there, in line, nodding in agreement after the first bite of this mass-produced pastry… all because it’s mentioned in the travel guide, possibly the one whose author is hardly greeted by South Westerners anymore, thanks to his big mouth – ‘it’s a long story to be told on a stoep in a backyard.’
My ‘uncle’ Hartmut (not a blood relative, but here, older individuals are often referred to as uncles and aunts by children) once proposed to my father that we should buy Solitaire together. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out, but then we would still have had the old South West in Solitaire, where we too used to stop. Another long story.
Solitaire reflects a trend, that of the Platonic visual tourism, where the ‘real thing’ no longer seems to exist, making it increasingly challenging to convey to our customers.
Mentally, as I accelerate a bit just before Solitaire, hoping not to have to stop there, I constantly try to reinvent what I can do better to provide my guests with a piece of authentic Namibia…
It’s a shame that my grandma no longer lives in the mountains of the Naukluft because there was a crumble cake that truly hit the spot. Man, if I could go back in time…
My father always teased: ‘Ama (thats what we called our Grandma) ran the cheapest guest farm in Blässkranz because everyone came to visit, and she was offended if visitors wanted to pay.’ I can still see her waving today…”
On my June trip to Uganda, I wanted to experience what it’s like to be a tourist in Africa. Of course, on this test journey, we were primarily focused on the Shoebill, the Broadbill, various Turaco species, lions in candelabra euphorbias, and, of course, different species of monkeys.
As a white African, I felt almost at home in Uganda… at least the locals quickly noticed that you’re ‘not from over there,’ and people treat each other with more humility.
We wanted to see what our future guests can expect and how to ensure their safety and a smoothly organized safari with optimal experiences.
How do the countries compare, and what did we notice?
- Uganda is teeming with biodiversity, making it a never-ending story of various impressions for nature photographers, observers, and birders. Without a national guide, it’s an entirely unimaginable undertaking, and even here, local guides are used to optimize discoveries.
- Namibia, in addition to good biodiversity, offers an immense sense of space (‘the vastness, fantastic’… how often have I heard that phrase). Even without a national guide, one can have quite enjoyable experiences here, as long as you allow local guides to show and explain nature to you while doing some research beforehand.
- In Uganda, the roads are often in very poor condition, and the traffic is ruthless. Countless motorbike riders and heavily overloaded small trucks want to reach their destinations as quickly as possible, and their safety doesn’t seem to be a top priority. I’m a very skilled driver, and I was grateful not to have to be behind the wheel here… maybe I’d prefer driving on the right side on the A7 in Germany with no speed limit, but not in Uganda. Navigation in Uganda is possible but challenging, and self-drivers waste a lot of time trying to reach their destination.
- Namibia has a highly navigable and well-developed road network, even though the gravel roads can often be bumpy. Here, the driver is often their own worst enemy, as many tourists hopelessly overestimate their ability to drive on gravel roads. I almost want to post a copy of my ‘Gravel Road Etiquette’ in every rental car. We assist our self-drivers with a written route description, free GPS devices, and a pre-programmed route. This ensures efficient travel in Namibia, without wasting vacation time.
- Uganda has fantastic local guides, all experts in their fields. I was simply amazed… terrific! However, it’s important to note that many birders come here, and the knowledge is primarily focused on finding and identifying birds. They could only provide limited assistance with botany, butterflies, in-depth subspecies knowledge in mammals, and history, which was okay.
- Namibia has quite good local guides from whom self-drivers can learn a lot. Indeed, national guides are still an asset for general information and specialized knowledge, especially if you have a particular interest in the country’s history, botany, wildlife, or birdlife.
- Uganda presents some of the most challenging situations for all nature photographers. Dark, tall forests, harsh, diffuse backlighting, small subjects high up in the treetops, and more. Clouds often block the sun, requiring a shift in perspective, or your camera might even get wet… not easy. But in national parks like Kidepo, Queen Elizabeth, and Murchison Falls, wildlife photography becomes a delight.
- Namibia? Well, please! If you can’t capture stunning images here, you may need to look for the issue within yourself…
- For Uganda, it’s always necessary to have a layover during the flight. Unfortunately, Entebbe Airport itself can be an African experience, and the logistics can be annoying if you’re not tolerant.
- For Namibia, there are direct flights to Windhoek. The airport logistics are more straightforward, cleaner, and less stressful. Some of our guests now fly to Walvis Bay to avoid the hustle and bustle entirely. Unfortunately, when landing in Walvis Bay, you have to make a stop in Cape Town or Johannesburg… we’re still working on solutions for this.
Since we often offer self-driving trips to our guests in Namibia alongside guided safaris, the question arose whether we should do the same in Uganda… definitely not!
The established arrangement with a local provider for guided nature safaris is safe and reliable. It will be repeated as a small group trip once a year, so please get in touch if you’re interested, or keep an eye on our ‘Join us’ trips.
We continue to offer our beautiful Namibia in both formats, with informative guidance and as self-driving adventures.
The farm is calling, travel logistics are beckoning, bookings need to be made. I bid you farewell for today,
Yours sincerely, Albert
Last Updated on 11. October 2023 by Albert Voigts von Schütz