A Guide to Off-Grid Camping at Namibia’s Spitzkoppe
A trip to Namibia just isn’t complete without visiting the awe-inspiring Spitzkoppe. Off-grid camping at the foot of the famous granite outcrops is by no means your only accommodation choice, what with glamping and other options available nearby. However, “roughing it” a bit to see the sun hit the mountains at sunset is definitely advised for a truly magical Spitzkoppe experience. And night skies to die for! Also, it’s the budget-friendly choice. Here’s our guide to the off-grid camping accommodation at Spitzkoppe, along with some must-do activities.
1. Off-Grid Camping
This is about as off-grid as you can get, while still having a toilet available. Don’t be fooled, though. This is a long-drop, sometimes referred to as an eco-toilet or vault toilet. The campsites are extremely varied. Some are right up against the outcrops, and even offer shade via the boulders at certain times of day. Some are out in the open and might offer a little bit of shade from a small tree. Others are remote and very secluded. It’s a complete toss-up what you’ll find as you cannot prebook a particular site. It’s a case of arriving and driving around until you find one unoccupied.
Each campsite offers a bin, and usually some form of a braai. There are no taps, and definitely no electricity. And shade may be hard to come by, depending where you settle down. Though you don’t have to give up on all your favourite pleasures. Head back to the reception area from your campsite (this may require you to drive there depending on where you’ve settled) and there you’ll have the option of solar-heated showers, and an area to do basic wash up and collect water for your campsite. So even if you didn’t think to bring all your own water, you’ll still be okay.
Depending on your interests, there’s quite a bit to keep you entertained during your stay at Spitzkoppe, all in the form of nature and the great outdoors. If you head out on foot to explore the vast area of the community restcamp and the Spitzkoppe, you can easily be occupied for days. But let’s get specific.
You can arrange a tour of the local cave paintings. This has to be organised with reception, as you’re not free to access these areas on your own.
You can visit the iconic “Bridge” site, a must for your photography collection. Near the Bridge is a rock pool. This is not always guaranteed to have water, though. That’s up to Mother Nature, and this is the desert.
You can scramble over the rocks wherever practical, and watch the sunset over the plains from an elevated position. For the more adventurous (and qualified!) you can do some official rock-climbing up the “Matterhorn of Namibia”.
Bird-watching, a little bit of animal spotting, star gazing, hiking and walking, and general exploration can keep you busy for very many hours.
The best thing to do at Spitzkoppe though, is nothing at all. Spend some time sitting in a chair just staring at the amazing views around you, and enjoy a kind of solitude and quiet very few places in the world still offer.
3. Need to Know Before You Go
It’s important to be aware of a number of vital pieces of information before heading out to Spitzkoppe. We’ve put together a breakdown of the most important of these. You simply cannot arrive there, especially as a novice camper, without this knowledge.
- CREEPY CRAWLIES. Desert conditions mean you’re likely to come across some potentially dangerous creatures. Scorpions and snakes are a reality. While there, we spotted a number of scorpions, even while using the the long drop toilet, so always be vigilant and wear closed shoes at night. These creatures will always try to escape from you, and the old adage that “they’re more afraid of you…” remains true. Make sure they have room to escape because a cornered animal is a dangerous one. Keep your torch handy at night and make sure your tent remains sealed at all times. You’re unlikely to come across a snake as they usually make tracks well before you reach them. When decamping, be very careful with the last bit of folding of your tent, as you might discover a few creatures have found that cosy spot under your tent to be the perfect hiding location.
- WATER. Water, water, water. If you’re visiting in the summer months, even more so. Ensure you are drinking more than you normally would, and keep some Rehidrat or rehydrating salts handy for sudden dehydration. Signs of dehydration are things like an intensifying headache that doesn’t dissipate, struggling to move around freely, and feeling excessively tired. If you haven’t been to the loo all day, consider that another warning sign.
- SELF-SUFFICIENCY. Though Spitzkoppe offers a restaurant at reception, it’s not always well-stocked. Ice will be the hardest to find. This is true in most of of Namibia’s arid areas. It’s important to be as self-sufficient as possible upon arriving there. This includes having food and the equipment to prepare your food. It also means fuelling up as much as possible at the closest towns. Shopping and fuel is at a minimum 65km away.
- ARRIVE EARLY. As you can’t prebook a particular campsite, it’s a good idea to aim to get there on the early side. This will at least allow you to scout a few sites and not just have to take whatever remains.
- GOOD KIT. Though the honest truth is you’ll get by with just about anything, it’s always nice to be comfortable and have a good night’s rest. Camping in these kinds of conditions will probably require a bit more than a poly pop-up tent. Whether in colder months or the hottest time, you’re better off with a serious tent made from canvas or ripstop canvas. This will also stand up to the crazy desert winds that often comes up in the afternoon, sandstorms that might head your way, and the occasional (rare) rain shower. Yes, it actually rained during our stay, though it was hardly enough to wet the tent. Rooftop tents can be tricky in the desert, due to the wind, though it does offer an added element of safety from the creepy crawlies.
4. How To Book
The booking process is fairly straightforward, via the Spitzkoppe Community Restcamp website and some back and forth emailing. They’re of the more organised community-run campgrounds around. It’s definitely a good idea to send a booking request well in advance, especially if planning to go through during high season or the during the Southern African summer holidays. Spitzkoppe is a well-known and popular destination, and for good reason.
5. How To Get There
The chances are high that you’ll be travelling to Spitzkoppe from Windhoek. It’s a nice, simple route for the most part. Head north from Windhoek on the B1, turn west (left) on the B2. The total journey is about 280km, and will take you about 3 to 4 hours, vehicle dependent. The last stretch of road to Spitzkoppe is about 40km of gravel, and quite corrugated, unless recently graded. For regular vehicles, this will be slow-going, but if you’re in a 4WD or a 4×4, you should manage it fine. It’s recommended to let your tyres down a bit while on the gravel, but make sure you’re able to reinflate them before you hit the tar again on your onward journey. Once you turn onto the last bit of road, it’s basically impossible to get lost. The Spitzkoppe jut out of the surrounding plains quite obviously, and are visible from some distance away. Remember to stop at Reception and go through check-in. Our advice is to drive as far as possible and then scout campsites from the furthest point back along the road to reception. Some of the best sites and the best solitude is at the end of the road.
6. When to Go
This is an excellent (and important) consideration. December is a popular time for travel in this region, as most Southern African schools are closed and people in the area are on extended summer holidays. However, it will be seriously hot at this time as well. You are in the desert after all. So it depends how you handle the heat. The most popular time for international visitors to the region is between May and September, when temperatures are more moderate, and foliage is more sparse, which makes game viewing more rewarding. However, it will be absolutely freezing at Spitzkoppe during the southern hemisphere winter months, and is not advised for novice or occasional campers. During these times, consider booking into the lodges in the area instead. If you have freedom to choose your holiday for any period, I would recommend October, when the heat is not at its height, and the cold has moved on.
7. In Short
Spitzkoppe should be a bucket-list item for serious campers and nature enthusiasts alike. Definitely include it in any epic road trip you might be planning for Namibia and/or Southern Africa.
Just remember that the camping is as basic and off-grid as it gets, that you need to be self-sufficient, and that being savvy about desert conditions and the dangers it holds is an absolute necessity.
Like your information in video format? Check out Travel Gigolo‘s episode on our trip to Spitzkoppe: