The Namib Naukluft Mountain Zebra Park – The Perfect Stop-Over Between Sossusvlei & Windhoek
I knew this day had been coming for some time. But knowing what’s going to happen doesn’t make it any easier. I stood beside my 4×4, the wind gently blowing the desert sand in my face. In the distance the red sand dunes of Sossusvlei stood silhouetted against the blue sky. We’d just finished packing up the last of our stuff and were now unplugging our broken fridge from its charging point. I wished our food good luck for the journey ahead, hoping it would warm too much during our 3 hour drive today.
Today we were starting our journey back towards Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. There were only 3 more nights left of our 14-day road-trip round Namibia and I was really feeling a weight in my heart. I was not ready to leave. There was still so much to see of this beautiful country. If we continued the road south we’d reach Aus and the desert horses as well as the abandoned mining town of Kolmanskop. Alas, it was not to be for this trip. We’d tactfully cut-out southern Namibia when we realised we’d severely mis-calculated our entire trip and would be driving for 5 hours each day if we really wanted to fit those stops in.
So, today we began our leisurely drive back to where we began. Tonight we were booked to stay at the Namib-Naukluft Mountain Zebra National Park. Honestly, I hadn’t heard anything about this place so was curious to see what it was like. Due to its name, I was expecting to see a lot of zebras and a lot of mountains. But, who knows?
I suppose this park is rarely talked about as I was not taking the usual Namibia road-trip route. Normally people would continue south to Aus (perhaps they had longer to explore Namibia). As a result, I felt a slight sense of ‘going off the beaten track’.
I waved goodbye to the Sesriem campsite within Sossusvlei, feeling an aching tug that Deadvlei was still out there close by and I still hadn’t found it yet. I guess conquering Deadvlei is an adventure for another time.
Read More: My Ultimate Guide to A Namibia Road-Trip. Did the Namib Naukluft Mountain ZebraPark make the Top 5?
A Mountainous Oasis In a Vast Desert
Our journey commenced. We didn’t talk much along the drive; I could tell we were both feeling rather deflated. I didn’t whip my camera up to take photos of our surroundings anywhere near as much as I had been doing. My sad mood didn’t dull the environment around us, however. The mountains shifted once again and instead of being pebbly or sandy they became patterned, carved by lines upon lines of different rock. Lol, are you digging my description? I’m no geologist so sadly couldn’t tell you the exact differences, all I know is they looked different, okay. I’ve never been to America outside of Florida, but these mountains reminded me of those I’d seen in pictures of the Grand Canyon. They had the same patterns along the rocks.
Suddenly, the road got really bad and I mean really bad! We were bouncing along sharp gravel, desperately trying to avoid any rocks that looked like they’d do any damage to our tyres. Alas, this was in vein. Sharp, threatening rocks were everywhere and I had to slow the car right down to try and avoid getting a puncture. We were so near the end of our trip – I was crossing my fingers that we wouldn’t get a puncture now.
Then I saw the gates to the National Park and heaved a sigh of relief. Beyond the gates I saw looming mountains, standing elegantly and dotted with small green shrubs. The desert was certainly far behind us now.
Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Hiring a Car in Namibia
The Roads are Incredibly Fun and Scenic
As we entered the national park, my spirits started to lift. Flat scrublands stretched out for as far as the eye could see in either direction of the car. Then straight ahead of us were the tall mountains, in the centre of our vision. They were deep brown in colour and tantalisingly beautiful. They stood contrasting with the crisp cyan sky which encased the land around us.
The bumpy gravel road stretched on ahead of us, rising up and down over many hillocks. It then turned, winding between the middle of two mountains. A steep drop appeared on one side as the road hugged the side of on of the mountains.
Park Entrance Fees are Extortionate!
The campsite was right in the heart of the mountains, nestled in a deep valley. We stopped off at reception only to find that this campsite had no WiFi and no plug sockets. Eek – if our food wasn’t warm and mushy now, it certainly would be tomorrow after a night in the warm as well. Poor milk and cheese.
When staying within National Parks, you have to pay a park fee as well as your general rates for camping. Surprisingly, this national park had the biggest fee of all (compared to Sossusvlei and Etosha) which I wasn’t impressed with. This was the smallest national park we’d stayed at and probably the least visited so I had expected it to be a little cheaper. They also could only take cash which wasn’t ideal as I was scarily low on cash.
A Hiker’s Paradise
They gave us a map of the national park which had a couple of walks you can take. As exciting as the walks sounded, some of them were 7 hours long and that’s at fast-person walking speed. It would probably take me a lot longer and man, 7 hours! You have to train for these walks. There was another walk you could take called the ‘Olive Trail’ which had a part where you had to enter a cave within one of the mountains. Within this cave, the ground suddenly drops away into a massive chasm and the path is literally some ropes along the side of one of the walls. You have to hold on to the ropes, your feet practically dangling in mid-air and try to walk to the other side. One wrong move could mean death. I mean, this sounded fun but probably not the best activity for someone like me who does no exercise and has never rock-climbed with ropes. let alone without ropes.
There were also some natural pools which we could visit which weren’t super far away, only about 12km. I was very interested in visiting these but based on my low energy levels, I wasn’t sure I’d quite fit it in for today.
It was time to drive to the campsite. The drive from reception took us deep into the valley. Greenery started to appear around us, something which I hadn’t seen since I’d arrived in Namibia. We were soon surrounded by lush vegetation with a giant rock-face craning up on one side of us. Ahead the road dipped and my face lit-up with excitement. Our first river crossing! Well, it was more like a puddle-crossing but still, crossing water! Maybe our snorkel would finally come in handy.
A Lush, Green National Park – Very Different to the Rest of Namibia
Okay, we didn’t quite need the snorkel, but it was good fun all the same trying to create as big a splash as we could. After splashing through the puddle the ground rose slightly again, the river staying on our left and running parallel to the gravel track. Suddenly, the road sloped abruptly downwards at about a 45% gradient. My heart skipped a beat in excitement. We put the car into 4×4 mode and took it slowly down the slope. The car descended beautifully and we reached lower ground which was now on the same level as the river, flowing smoothly beside us.
We had now reached the campsite and were the first ones here. Deciding which campsite to stay at proved tricky. We could pick a spot down by the river but it felt strangely dark and cut-off down here. Plus it was a massive mooch to the toilet. The other option was to camp at a higher level (back to the level we literally just came from at a 45% gradient) which was nearer the toiler block. In the end we opted to camp by the toilet block because, girl gotta pee in the night.
It was good fun taking the car back up the rise, although it proved challenging at points when we tried to take up up in low-range-gear mode. The car was roaring away but nothing was happening. It seemed to work best in 4×4 mode. We had so much fun we actually went up and down the slope a good four times before finally settling down at a camping spot.
The Campsite is Incredibly Beautiful!
The campsite was beautiful and incredibly peaceful. Green trees dotted the site, their long leaves draping down. The campsite was alive with bird song, bright yellow weavers and red-eyed bull bulls perched in the trees above. They took a particular liking to our lunch and cleaned off our bowls after we’d eaten.
The midday sun filtered down through the leaves, warming me as I bathed in the heat, wary that my days in the sun were numbered.
The ablution block was beautiful. As default it was locked up almost like a cage with a sign on it saying ‘don’t feed the baboons’. I guess there must have been issues with the baboons in the ablution block and they were forced to fence it up. You can quite easily open the latch to get in the block. The floor was beautifully tiled and the block was incredibly spacious. It looked like something you’d find in a high end hotel. I forgot to take pictures, but trust me it felt like luxury!
We spend the afternoon relaxing, feeling rather nostalgic as we reflected back on our time in Namibia. We knew we only had 2 more nights after this left in Namibia and 1 of those nights was in a campsite we’d already been to. That meant we only had 1 last adventure ahead of us.
That evening we ventured to the park’s restaurant and enjoyed a delicious steak. I’m a meat-eater so it was heavenly for me. However, it was not vegetarian-friendly. When we arrived they gave us 2 options. I was anticipating 1 vegetarian and 1 meat. Nope. It was rump or rib-eye. I went for the rib-eye.
Hike at Your Own Risk!
By the time we arrived back at the campsite, it was quite busy. Most visitors here were French which was unusual as we had generally encountered Germans throughout the trip. I met a French woman in the bathroom as I got ready for bed. She began telling me about her experience on the ‘Olive Trail’ that day. Her description of the chasm which is known as the ‘chain’ was very traumatic. She told me that she didn’t actually cross it as she didn’t think it was physically possible of a woman of her build. She told me that because she was short and her arms weren’t strong, she wouldn’t have been able to support herself by grabbing the ropes and was convinced she would have fallen.
“I thought of my children back home.” She spoke frantically. “I thought that they needed a mother so I didn’t go across. I couldn’t do it!”
I didn’t blame her really. It sounded traumatic. Even as she recited the story, I could see the panic in her eyes. I hoped she didn’t feel annoyed at herself for not completing the walk and tried to sooth her. She also told me that a young girl crossed it with ease, like it was second nature. Maybe she was part monkey. Who knows?
That night as we lay in our tent trying to sleep, some shrill cries sounded from very nearby. I cannot tell you for sure what was making the noise but it sounded at least 3 times. Perhaps it was a black-backed jackal. I felt a little worried as I clambered down from my roof-top tent to head to the bathroom but I’m telling this story know so can tell you I did make it back alive.
Do I Think The Namib Naukluft National Park is Worth Visiting?
So, what are my thoughts on the Namib-Naukluft Mountain Zebra park? I think it’s a lovely place that yields some very scenic views. I’d only recommend it if you were an avid hiker. There wasn’t really much else to do. It was not a safari location. For the high price, I was expecting slightly more. All in all, it was a beautiful place but I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit.
15 thoughts on “Is The Namib-Naukluft Mountain Zebra Park Worth Visiting?”
wow! What an adventure! It’s s shame there were no Zebras but it still sounds like a beautiful place! I’m so jealous you went to Namibia! It’s been on my list for a while!
Yes, it was shame about the zebras but at least I saw plenty of Mountain Zebras dotted throughout the Namib desert 🙂
Thanks for reading my post and taking the time to comment!
This is such a lovely and descriptive post. I like blog posts that have a more personal and story element to tjem and this was fabulous. Your photos are also stunning! X
Aww thank you so much! Your kind words mean a lot to me 🙂
Those landscapes are so impressive and your photos really capture them well! Shame there were no zebras, but still sounds like an awesome experience! I love hiking so might still be a good destination choice for me 🙂
Thanks so much! Yes, if you love hiking then this definitely sounds like the place for you. There were so many hikes and they looked pretty scenic.
It’s my dream to go to a place like this! It looks so beautiful and sleeping in rooftop tent sounds really cool. I get that it probably wasn’t the highlight of your trip but I’d consider it if I was nearby like you said!
Yes, it was definitely a cool place to visit as it was so different to everywhere else in Namibia. Perhaps I was also feeling deflated as it was on the way home as well.
I love the photos from your post here – they are so much more impressive than the ones I managed to get on our visit to the Mountain Zebra Park a few months after you’d been there.
We dropped in, rather like you, on our way back from Sossusvlei but didn’t stay the night.
What we DID do though was the Olive Garden Walk. Or I should say we INTENDED to do that walk but we got lost!
My wife and I set off at 10am – night falls around 6.30 and we were due at the next lodge before nightfall so plenty of time up our sleeves. We must have headed out the wrong end of the car park and our hand drawn and photocopied map provided by the park showed a ring of numbered highlights on the walk. We found number one and followed a really well defined track (more on that later) but no more numbers for quite some time. We walked past four skeletal remains of zebra which was a bit of an eye opener as it strongly hinted that leopard find themselves a feast here quite often. A long, hot walk followed and we failed to spot various landmarks but we kept going as we headed uphill towards a distant plateau as we saw some incredible birdlife and the view was incredible on such a clear day. (July) – For a 4-5 hour walk though we were getting to the four hour mark and slightly concerned about the accuracy of the map. Then we came across a u-bend in the track/road and found a number 8. As there were only 8 spots on the map we decided to keep going as the car park should be next. It was uphill to the top of the plateau though – that’s a puzzle? We got the the top and found a tree and a bench where we sat and drew breath. The tree also smelled very much like cat. Guessing there wouldn’t be that many pet cats knocking about this also raised the odd hair on the neck. We’d had plenty of water but were running low now – should we be concerned? Hmm – maybe over this next bit we would see the downhill track to the car park. It was now 3pm so slightly worried but we should be back at the car soon – we were just tossing up whether to re-trace our steps or not when a large herd of zebra surged up the slope opposite us – backlit by the sun. Stunning sight. So we decided to walk a bit further. Then, not long afterwards a second herd appears on the same plateau as us but about 150m downwind. They could obviously smell us and formed a protective ring around the young zebra in the herd (around 50 adults and calves) – incredible sight. So, dimwits that we are, we forged on – convinced that the car ark still lay ahead and we kept walking until around 5pm. We also crossed a second track next to a rusted windmill and realised we are definitely NOT on the Olive Garden Walk!
So – time to turn back. PROBLEM – we now only have a. half litre of water and, even if we re-trace our steps and move as quickly as possible, the sun will set at least two and a half hours before we get back to the car. That’s IF we can re-trace our steps because, as you no doubt found out, Namibia has no ambient street lighting and when it gets dark, it gets really dark! Plus the moon wouldn’t rise until much, much later.
Fortunately we had head torches and hand torches in our bag and I also found a little spray bottle of Evian water which we’d had on the plane with us. Food-wise we had protein bars but these were spurned as they were so dry.
So, with the light failing and feet hurting (new-is boots – rookie error among many other errors) we turned too re-trace our steps.
Coming back across the plateau we noticed that we got a lot closer to the zebra as, this the, we were downwind of them and they couldn’t smell us. Fabulous wildlife viewing obv. but we were rather concentrating on getting back in one piece and the thought of those zebra skeletons kept tapping me on the shoulder.
The way back was relatively easy to follow, although it took a long while and night truly had fallen, until it got to that last section. The track was indistinct at that point but the sky was cloudless so, using the outline of the Vally we were in as a guide was stumbled onward. Knowing too, that allegedly leopards are scared of humans, we kept a steady diet of yelling and occasionally singing to ‘keep them at bay’ and maybe alert someone if the park had noticed missing visitors had not signed out yet.
No such luck but, after a number of false leads we came to a sign in the road. Surely this must point to the car park? Relief washed over us until we got to the sign which said ‘4×4 Track Only – 75kms’
And then it dawned on us – we’d followed the wrong number and we’d been heading up the four wheel drive track all this time! God knows where the Olive Garden Trail is but more importantly, where is the car park!?!?
At this point my wife, who is brilliant n a crisis and a tower of strength, decided that we were probably going to die out here but the final squirt from the Evian got her to calm down as we decided the car park must be right here somewhere. Sure enough – five minutes later and there it was.
My last sudden panic was “did I leave the lights on and will the battery opener thingy actually unlock the car’?!? But there were no more disasters planned for us and we dived into the safety of the car and the giant icebox filled with iced water and cold oranges – relief!
We still had to drive two and a half hours through the night – another adventure for a different day – before we gt to the Rostock Ritz where they, rather delightfully, upgraded us to the honeymoon suite (it’s actually a kind of stone built igloo – 10/10 recommend).
Lost of blisters and the odd toenail in distress but we managed to get out alive and with a truly epic adventure behind us. And I cannot wait to go ack to Namibia – what and incredible place to go on a drive yourself holiday. Hope you enjoyed it as much as we did and hope too, after all this time, you sometimes visit your old blog and will read this!!
All the very best
Robert and Rachel
Thanks so much for taking the time to leave your story. My goodness, what an experience! I was on edge just reading about it. Sounds like you saw some wonderful sightings of the zebras. I would also have been nervous of the leopards, especially when darkness started to fall. They’re shy and elusive during the day but the night time is their hunting ground so who knows how bold they could get? You must have some great stamina to be walking for so long! I suppose we can all learn from this to take PLENTY of water on a hike, more than we think is necessary, just in case one gets lost. It sounds like the suites at Rockstock Ritz are more relaxing than the campsite. I got attacked by bees there! ? I did indeed love journeying through Namibia too and am keen to return to go on a road-trip round the south. Take care!
I’ve just gone back to read your Namibian adventures from the beginning – please forgive me for find your account of the bees funny! (along with many others – I like your writing style).
I remember going on a drive at Rostock Ritz to go and visit some rock art and thinking the campsite looked wildly romantic and really nicely laid out. We’d considered getting ourselves a rooftop tent too but I’m a terrible sleeper at the best of times and the thought of creeping out for a pee in the middle of the night in the bush was a bit too daunting.
Fingers crossed we can go back to Namibia soon – we were supposed to go last year but obviously that got cancelled. We are planning for around a three week trip with long 5-6 hour drives but staying for two or three nights in each place. Can’t wait to go to Etosha, which looks great, and your Damaraland photos have me really keen to get there (on our first trip we flew into Swakopmund and went South for 7 nights before heading to S Africa for a friends birthday so I feel like I have a lot of exploring left to do)
Cheers to you from down here in NZ and I hope you get to hit the road again soon
I’m so glad you enjoyed my blog posts! Hah, I like to make my unfortunate encounters come to life as entertaining, as, in hindsight, they are quite funny! Yes, peeing in the night is not for the faint-hearted. I wild camped in Zambia once and had a couple of really hairy encounters with wildlife whilst looking for an appropriate spot to pee (such as being chased by a hippo). Best of luck with returning to Namibia. I had hoped to visit Namibia again this year but then the UK locked down so I had to put that on hold. I’d love to make it to Kolmanskop, see the wild horses of Aus and actually find Deadvlei in Sossusvlei National Park. I’d love to hear how your trip goes. If you experience any more crazy tales, feel free to leave them here as they are so fun to read about. All the best!
Reading your account of not finding Deadvlei I can see how you missed it. We actually took two trips into the park and, on the second trip, we got up super early and got to the car park you found. From THERE you have to take a shuttle to a SECOND car park by driving over some very super soft sand for a ways (maybe 2kms) – the only way you can do it in your own car is if you have a guide with some kind of permission.
In our case however, not knowing any of this, we got to the car park at the same time as many, many (and I mean many) tours were arriving and getting on shuttles. So, unaware that we weren’t allowed, we followed the shuttle in front and parked in the second car park which (despite be bogging once and stilling) didn’t raise any eyebrows. We then followed a giant gaggle of tourists as they had a guide. At this point I felt very much like a sheep and began ‘Baa-ing’ out loud and wanted to turn back but a sharp elbow in the ribs from my loving wife made me shut up as she was determined to get here photo opportunity. It WAS about a 15-20 min walk but, brilliantly, when we got there, all the other tourist took a couple of photos and then left, leaving us alone in Deadvlei which was the experience I’d been hoping for!
It was a special place for sure so fingers crossed you find it next time. I guess we were super lucky that through a combination of ignorance and determination (on my wife’s part) we actually found it. Well worth it when and if you get there!
Thank you for that. Yes, I think we found our way to the second carpark. It was very fun driving so deep into the park. I always thought you could drive there if you had a 4×4? I know 2x4s are not permitted. The paper map I had was no use – everything on it was so unclear. In hindsight I should have pre-downloaded a satellite view of the area to my phone as the view on google maps is quite clear (it’s even marked!). It’s frustrating as I was so close to finding it. If I’d have walked a little further, I would have made it. Hah, you live and learn! I’ve certainly learnt that preparation is key.
I think I found the bit about “only with a guide” after we got back from Africa. I can totally see how you missed finding Deadvlei though – if we hadn’t followed the giant horde of folk that day we would’ve got lost too – I was convinced all those people were heading in the wrong direction but, then, what do I know about directions? (This is why we managed to get ourselves lost in the Zebra park!)