Some notes on international travel (including on maps!) from what we've learned so far...
Maps: Maps.me is a fantastic maps app - super lightweight to download (you download maps by country), works great offline, and based on Open Street Maps so you can edit the map if you find things you want to add
Finding/Buying Flights: Skyscanner is the best for searching for international flights, especially for potentially complicated connections across multiple airlines. When you book, if you choose a US agent (like Expedia) you usually (always?) get 24 hour free cancellation. Google flights can help too, but misses some connections if not on the same ticket. You can also look up an airports arrivals/departures to figure out where you can fly from to get there.
Mobile phone: Get a local sim card, if you have an unlocked phone. It’s usually super easy to get in the airport and pretty cheap. Very helpful for both data and if you need to make calls in country.
Parking your phone number: If you’re going to be gone for many months, you can park your phone number with Google Voice. And, then you can make calls over Google Hangouts (if you have good wifi or data connection) and even receive US voice mail/calls (again - if you have data).
I'll write more later, but a few notes on our trip for posterity, and for others who might be going there.
Namibia Travel Report
1. Windhoek, stayed at Tamboti Guest House (satisfactory). Picked up 4x4 truck with 2 tents from Hertz (truck was great, service was not great) at airport, booked through Wild Dog Safaris (not great).
2. Bought food at Pick ’n Pay (good) in Windhoek, propane at Cymot (great, also has free internet cafe). Drove north to Erindi Elephant Camp (ok).
3. Early morning game drive (good - 4x4 offroading was fun), afternoon self drive (ok), another night at Elephant Camp.
4. Early morning game drive (ok), then we drove north to Etosha (fantastic). Stayed at Halali Campsite (great) in Etosha.
5. Another night in Halali, driving around looking at animals all day (great).
6. Morning game drive with guide (great), then drive (looking at animals) to Oke… campsite (fantastic). Night game drive w/ guide (good).
7. Amazing elephants at the water hole. As late as possible, drove to Numatoni - stayed at the hotel.
8. Slept in, visited the waterholes nearby, drove to Waterberg Plateu after stopping in town to restock.
9. Morning hike + scramble to the top of the Plateu. Enjoyed the swimming pool and cafe.
10. Morning game drive with guide up on top of Plateau, then drive to Windhoek (with a stop at crafts markets in O town), stay at M campsite 10.6km south of Windhoek.
11. Drive to Sesriem via Klein Alb route (interesting terrain). Visit Dune 45 (fantastic), sunset at Elim Dune (ok). Stay at Sesriem.
12. Early morning balloon ride (ok, would skip - mostly a balloon elevator as we just went up and down and didn’t go over the dunes). Drive to Sousselvlei. For last 5km, be ready for sandy 4x4-ing, or hire a shuttle. Walked to Deadvlei (great). Back to Dune 45 (fantastic, again) for sunset. Stay at Sesriem.
13. Early, early morning at Dune 45 (still fantastic). Drive back to Windhoek via Gems? pass (interesting terrain!). Skip prospect guest farm and decide to go back to M campsite near Windhoek.
14. Pack up, swing by the Namibia crafts market in Windhoek, and head to the airport
Things we heard about that sounded awesome, but we didn’t do (no time)
1. Khardoom. Far north east. Many elephants. Very “true” safari experience, including 3-5 hour drive on very sandy 4x4 road. Recommendation, stay on the road to the north the night before, early morning drive the sandy road while the sand is harder to Khardoom, once there drive a bit further to some waterholes, spend the night at North Khardoom. Next night drive south and enjoy the wildlife at the waterholes and along the way.
2. Waterberg Plateau backpacking: 4 nights, 42km, stay at simple structures along the way (bring food, don’t need tent). Must arrange ahead of time.
3. Hebos Guest Farm & Gems? pass area looked like interesting terrain to explore
Things we loved
Things we liked
If you are in Windhoek, check out the Namibia Crafts Center (40 shops in one area - both traditional and modern crafts)
Things we could have skipped
* staying at Numotoni (although it was nice to have one night in a hotel somewhere)
* hot air balloon ride in desert, as it just went up & down (no wind) and didn’t go over the dunes at all
* crafts markets in O…, prefer the one in central Windhoek as they are less aggressive there
* Erindi - not as good as Etosha, and seems weird that so many animals have collars.
Need to book ahead of time
* campsites in Etosha & probably Sesriem — and if the camps themselves don’t respond to your emails or say they are booked, try going through an agency instead. It’s worth being in the parks (Etosha because the animals will visit the waterholes at the campsites and you can watch them at night, and Sesriem because you can go out to the dunes at 5:30 instead of 6:30am). But if you can’t get the campsites there are a number of private campgrounds right outside both parks.
* 4x4 camper - there are a limited number of these
For agencies, we used Wild Dog Safaris: they got the job done (found us a 4x4 and bookings in Etosha), but were frustratingly bad at communication. Heard Cardboard Box is quite good, and their website was very informative. Agencies can often book reservations that individuals don't have access to (we were told that no camping in Etosha was available).
Cymot was an outdoors store in Windhoek that was fantastic, and had a free internet cafe with fast internet (a rarity)