120 Hours in the Namib Desert – What to See, Eat & Do

Africa

The first rays of dawn peeked over the horizon, colouring the sand in a deep ochre. The panting sound of tenacious dune climbers was distinct in the whistling wind that swerved through the shapeshifting sand dunes in the Namib-Naukluft National Park. They were determined to reach the top of the dune for the sunrise. Minutes flew by and they pressed on, determined to be a spectator of one of nature’s great spectacle. And it was sublime – a mix of red and orange spilling across the immeasurable desert. For a breathless moment, everyone stood in awe of the sight. Orange star dunes partially hidden in the black shadow. The shimmering heat waves danced on the pan. Miles away, a lone oryx grazed on the scarce vegetation dispersed in the parched sand. 

For decades, the Namib Desert has been a subject of intrigue, an arid region covering most of Namibia and parts of South Africa and Angola. A small number of roads cut into the world’s oldest desert where desert-adapted species such as lions, elephants and oryxes roam free. With striking landscapes, exclusive lodges, soaring dunes and 55 million years of history, Namibia is finally ready to come out of her shell. 

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THE DESERT

For the spectacle described above, head to Sossusvlei for the orange hued dunes that seem to touch the sky, with Big Daddy dominating the scene at more than 300 meters high. The climb up the dune is onerous but the view is breathtakingly worthwhile. After ascending the top, slide down Big Daddy to Deadvlei, a clay pan where startling bare trees stand on a barren white clay pan. Other noteworthy dunes include Dune 45 just 40 minutes from the gate. For the most accessible dune, Elim Dune is just 10 minutes from the gate and best seen at sunset for views of the Naukluft Mountains bathed in burnt orange tones. The lush vegetation of its surroundings also beckons herds of wildebeests and oryxes. 

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THE COAST

In western Namibia, the coast of the Namib Desert is a world of difference from Sossusvlei. Here, the temperature drops and a dense fog lies thickly upon this coastal stretch of increasingly vibrant civilisation. A short drive away from Swakopmund, the hostile climate makes the Skeleton Coast in the northern reaches of the desert an eerie setting for shipwrecks and beached whale bones. Just an hour away from the south of the Skeleton Coast, hundreds if not thousands of seals congregate at Cape Cross. This unprimed tourist spot is nature at its best.

Move further south and you will end up at the Sandwich Harbour where off-road adventures are the norm. Take a 4×4 ride with Turnstone Tours for an all-day drive on the roaring dunes. In the afternoons, dig into a homemade picnic of oryx lasagne, tuna salad and pumpkin cakes while watching the ocean waves glide against the desert sand. 

While Sossusvlei’s dunes are a larger than life spectacle, Dune 7 near Walvis Bay holds the title as Namibia’s tallest dune at more than 380 metres. Park your car under the palm trees and opt to go quad biking or sand boarding. A short drive away from Swakopmund will take you to the Moon Landscape. At this outlandish panorama, you can see miles and miles of cracked bedrock washed out in leaden shades. 

THE FOOD

The coastal town of Swakopmund is the heart of the food scene in the Namib. Farmhouse Deli On The Mole does a morning pick-me-up with yogurt and granola power bowls and egg white omelettes. For local fare, Village Café is a familiar haunt amongst the locals for its no frills Village breakfast of boerewors, eggs and toast. You will be kept entertained by the upbeat atmosphere and an amusing café menu that knows a joke or two. For candlelit dinner dates, The Wreck does sea view dining without the chilly temperature. Go for the seafood – squid stuffed with spinach or grilled fish on mushroom risotto. It will not disappoint. And of course, steaks are a must in Namibia and the Namib Restaurant does a mean steak fillet.

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THE ROOMS

Stay inside the Namib-Naukluft National Park for the dramatic sunrise from the top of the Sossusvlei dunes. andBeyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodges does blissful desert living to a tee with impeccable rooms, 4×4 safari drives, star gazing and dinners in the dune. Also located within the national park, Sossus Dune Lodge is an austere abode with eco-friendly thatched rooms in the middle of the desert. A stay at the smartly dressed Sossusvlei Lodge just outside the gate to the national park is worthwhile for the sundowner drives in the private reserve, dinners at the open-air braais and dips in the pool with desert views. Just 10 minutes away from the gate, Desert Quiver Camp and Desert Camp have contemporary rooms with a tinge of camping vibes. All rooms are outfitted with a kitchen, and fresh food can be ordered for a meat grilling fest overlooking the savannah.

Near Walvis Bay, Bay View Resort Namibia is fast to catch up to the hotel game with sizeable rooms and a penthouse that is dressed to kill. Take your breakfast al fresco and watch the kids frolic on the beach. Evenings are best spent in the balcony hearing the rhythmic crashing of the waves as the fog rolls in from the sea to rest upon the darkened shore. 

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Utah Travel Tips from Kait Miller, Blogger of Real Food Gypsy

Conversations with Locals

Kait Miller is the blogger of Real Food Gypsy. Originally from North Carolina, she now calls Salt Lake City home. Kait reveals the hiking trails to go for, where to head for lunch, and why you should steer clear of the Great Salt Lake. 

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Photo: Real Food Gypsy

What should travellers know about Utah before heading there? 

In the summer, bring a jacket! It’s hot during the day, but it’s dry heat. At night it cools down a lot and there’s no humidity. It’s like the desert, so definitely bring the jacket.

What do you feel defines the cuisine in Utah? 

Utah is unique. Since it’s in the West and close to California, Arizona, and New Mexico, you may think that the cuisine is Southwestern. At least that’s what we thought when we found out we were moving here three years ago. We were so wrong! Utah is a lot like the South, where I’m originally from (North Carolina). It’s traditional American-inspired food and you can find diners and burger joints all over. What’s also unique is that there are a ton of Italian and pizza restaurants.

What is the one local dish you feel travellers can’t leave Utah without trying? 

This is easy! Hands down the beef stroganoff from The Copper Onion. The noodles are handmade, the beef is from Snake River Farms in Wyoming, and the sauce is incredible. Everything is locally sourced and it shines in every dish, especially this one.

I’ll also say fry sauce. It’s not a dish, but a condiment. Utah is known for it, and it just tastes better here. 

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The Copper Onion. Photo: Real Food Gypsy

What about your favourite restaurants?

I have several favourite spots, most happen to be in Park City or Salt Lake. The Copper Onion for their burger and stroganoff, HSL for their pork shank and general tso’s cauliflower, Publik for their delicious coffee and thick toast, Fletcher’s for their salmon, Alamexo for their chicken enchiladas, Harvest for a delicious breakfast, and Pizza Nono for the best wood-fired pizza in the city. 

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Photo: Real Food Gypsy

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HSL. Photo: Real Food Gypsy

Name some tourist traps travellers should avoid in Utah

Yes – the Great Salt Lake! It is the most underwhelming thing you could do. It stinks and it’s just really sad to look at. A complete waste of time.

Describe the perfect way to explore Utah

I would start in Salt Lake City and adventure through the canyons and mountains. There are beautiful hikes in Cottonwood and Millcreek Canyons. A few of the prettiest places to hike are Lake Blanche, Bell Canyon’s Waterfall, Cecret Lake, White Pine Lake, and Albion Basin to see the wildflowers. You may even see a moose or two! Then escape to Park City to experience Main Street or some world-class skiing. On your way to Southern Utah, stop by Fifth Water Hot Springs in Provo. After you’ve exhausted Northern Utah, head down and explore the National Parks. Moab, Zion, and Bryce Canyon will take your breath away. There is nothing like it.

Name one best kept secret of Utah

Fifth Water Hot Springs in Provo. It is absolutely stunning in rain, snow, or shine, sunrise or sunset. It’s a fun experience.

What about your favourite spot for a weekend getaway in Utah? 

Park City! We love escaping there. It doesn’t matter if it’s during ski-season or summer time, there’s always a ton of outdoor activities going on. They have amazing restaurants on Main Street and all the resorts have farm-to-table dining. It feels like a vacation and it’s only a 30 minute drive from Salt Lake. 

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Photo: Real Food Gypsy

What should travellers bring home with them from Utah? 

Honey! We are known as the Bee State and there is local honey everywhere. Creamed cinnamon, raspberry, blueberry, you name it. It’s incredible.

 

WHERE TO EAT IN UTAH


The Copper Onion

Where: 111 East Broadway #170, Salt Lake City, UT 84111, USA
For: Beef stroganoff

HSL Restaurant
Where: 418 E 200 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84111, USA
For: Viewspork shank and general tso’s cauliflower

Publik Coffee Roasters
Where: 975 S W Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84101, USA
For: Coffee and thick toast 

Fletcher’s Park City
Where: 562 Main St, Park City, UT 84060, USA
For: Salmon 

Alamexo
Where: 268 State St #110, Salt Lake City, UT 84111, USA
For: Chicken enchiladas

Great Harvest Bread Bakery
Where: 140 N 400 W, St George, UT 84770, USA (and more) 
For: Breakfast 

Pizza Nono
Where: 925 East 900 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84105, USA
For: Pizza 
 

WHERE TO GO IN UTAH 


Cottonwood Canyon
Where: Cottonwood Heights, Utah, USA
For: Hiking

Millcreek Canyon
Where: 3800 Millcreek Canyon Rd, Salt Lake City, UT 84124, USA
For: Hiking

Lake Blanche
Where: Lake Blanche Trail, Salt Lake City, UT 84121, USA
For: Hiking

Moab National Park
Where: Moab National Park, Utah, USA
For: National parks

Zion National Park
Where: Zion National Park, Utah, USA
For: National parks

Bryce Canyon National Park
Where: Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, USA
For: National parks

Fifth Water Hot Springs
Where: Diamond Fork Rd, Springville, UT 84663, USA
For: Hiking

Park City
Where: Park City, Utah, USA
For: Skiing

Oahu Travel Tips from Katherine Lou, Blogger of Wander Hour

Conversations with Locals

Cali girl Katherine Lou is the blogger of Wander Hour, and has called Hawaii home since five years ago. Katherine divulges where to go for poke, Oahu’s snorkelling spots, and why you should not miss out on Oahu’s Chinatown. 

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Photo: Wander Hour

What do you feel defines Hawaiian cuisine? 

Native Hawaiian cuisine differs from local cuisine in Hawaii. Therefore, I feel there are many things that define the cuisine of Hawaii. When I think of native Hawaiian food, I think of kalua (pig) and poi (taro) amongst many other things. The type of food that you find in a traditional luau is more in tune with Hawaiian cuisine. Even better, family parties here serve some of the best native Hawaiian food and they put so much love in their dishes!

When I think of local food, which is entirely different from the native cuisine, I think of the melting pot of different cultures that contribute to it. There are strong Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, etc. influences in the local cuisine here. Overall, both native and local food are delicious. Most places are big in using local ingredients, so very often, the food is fresh – especially the fish!

What is the one local dish you feel travellers can’t leave Oahu without trying? 

You cannot leave Hawaii without eating fresh poke, shave ice, and haupia (coconut pudding)! 

What about your favourite restaurants?

My current favourites would be Maguro for their spicy ahi poke, Marukame for their fresh udon, ARVO for their cute coffee and aesthetics, and Helena’s for the Hawaiian food. At Helena’s, I love their pipikaula which is a type of dried beef and their haupia. For shave ice, I love Waiola.

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Waiola Shave Ice. Photo: Wander Hour

Name some tourist traps travellers should avoid in Oahu

There aren’t many to speak of, but don’t spend your entire week in Waikiki. It has its charms but venture out! There’s so much more to see! 

What is the one activity travellers should do in Oahu? 

When you go to Honolulu (in Oahu), put aside some time to hike the many trails! 

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Photo: Wander Hour

What about the best spot to catch the sunset? 

The best place to catch the sunset in Hawaii would be from the North Shore, which is about an hour’s drive from Honolulu. If you’re in Honolulu though, Ala Moana Beach Park might be a good place!

Where are some of your favourite snorkelling spots? 

When the water is calm during the summers, Shark’s Cove in North Shore is a good place to snorkel! Hanauma Bay is also good! Always be aware of your safety even if it’s summer. A lot of visitors and locals underestimate the power of Mother Nature! That said, I wouldn’t recommend snorkelling at North Shore around winter time. During winter, the North Shore gets some of the biggest waves and lots of surfing competitions happen around this time. 

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Photo: Wander Hour

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Photo: Wander Hour

Name one best kept secret of Oahu

The best kept secret would be Chinatown! Tourists normally don’t head to Chinatown in Honolulu but you can find some of the best restaurants there like Maguro which is my favourite place for poke, The Pig & The Lady, Livestock Tavern, and Lucky Belly. There are also cute boutiques, bars, and coffee shops in Chinatown! 

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Lobster roll at Livestock Tavern. Photo: Wander Hour
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Lucky Belly. Photo: Wander Hour

Describe the perfect day trip 

If you’re staying on the island, a perfect day trip would be driving east from Honolulu and around the island, and stopping at one of the many beaches. Continue towards North Shore and stop by the shrimp trucks such as Giovanni’s, then head back down to Honolulu.

If you’re feeling real adventurous, hop on a plane to Maui! Just a short 40 minute flight to Kahului from Honolulu, you can rent a car and drive around the island. My favourite stops would be Ululani’s for their shave ice. Drive up to Haleakala which is out of this world – it literally looks like Mars! If you leave early enough, check out the waterfalls on the Road to Hana. The whole drive can take about 6 hours back and forth depending on how many stops you make! 

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Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck. Photo: Wander Hour

 

 

WHERE TO EAT IN HONOLULU


Maguro Brothers Hawaii
Where: 421 Lewers St, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA
For: Poke bowls

Waiola Shave Ice
Where:2135 Waiola St, Honolulu, HI 96826, USA
For: Shave ice

Helena’s Hawaiian Food
Where: 1240 N School St, Honolulu, HI 96817, USA
For: Hawaiian food

Marukame Udon
Where: 2310 Kuhio Ave #124, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA
For: Udon

ARVO
Where: 675 Auahi St, Honolulu, HI 96825, USA
For: Coffee

The Pig & The Lady
Where: 83 N King St, Honolulu, HI 96817, USA
For: Vietnamese food

Livestock Tavern
Where: 49 N Hotel St, Honolulu, HI 96817, USA
For: Lobster rolls and burgers

Lucky Belly
Where: 50 N Hotel St, Honolulu, HI 96817, USA
For: Ramen and dumplings

Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck
Where: 66-472 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712, USA
For: Shrimps
 

WHERE TO GO IN HONOLULU


North Shore
Where: North Shore, Waialua, Honolulu, HI, USA
For: Sunsets
Ala Moana Beach Park
Where: 1201 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96814, USA
For: Sunsets
Shark’s Cove
Where: Pupukea, Oahu, Honolulu, HI 96712, USA
For: Snorkelling
Hanauma Bay
Where: 100 Hanauma Bay Drive, ueber Kalanianaole Highway, Oahu, Honolulu, HI 96825-2005, USA
For: Snorkelling