The elephant flapped her ears, pawed the ground and looked very annoyed. The eyes of all the occupants of the six vehicles present swept from the elephant at the waterhole to the newly arrived (and apparently offending) Land Rover. We waved our arms trying to get the driver’s (not the elephant’s) attention, drew fingers across our necks and mimed turning a large key in the air. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, he clued in and turned off his engine. Satisfied, the elephant went back to enjoying the little oasis in the vast desert.

An annoyed herd of desert elephants charging a Land Rover was not a risk I had imagined taking before I left for my trip to Namibia. Luckily there are only a few dangers to worry about there, but here are a couple of tips to ensure your visit is a safe and enjoyable one.

How to stay safe and comfortable in Namibia - Johanna Read

Bring your shoes to Deadvlei

Deadvlei is a must-see in Namibia. The 900-year-old dead camel thorn trees surrounded by red sand dunes and bright blue skies are a photographer’s dream and just one of the sites that makes Namibia unique from other countries where you can take a safari.

Walking in the sand can be a bit tricky. Namibia has the highest sand dunes in the world and you quickly realize that climbing them to watch the sun rise is much easier in bare feet than in shoes (dig your feet in a little to find the warm sand underneath the cold top layer).

The same holds true for walking to Deadvlei, a walk of about one kilometer (more if you don’t have an all-terrain vehicle or decline the shuttle). When you arrive at Deadvlei after your sunrise dune climb, it is lovely to have the sand between your toes and feel the flat sun-baked clay pans against your soles. Just don’t leave your shoes in your vehicle. Every guide will tell you the story of the one person who did and had to walk back mid-morning across the now burning sand with two t-shirts wrapped around his feet.

How to stay safe and comfortable in Namibia - Johanna Read

Let sleeping lions lie

Lions are lazy – especially the males. On safari you will most likely encounter lions lying in the road, resting after a big meal. At first you’ll be thrilled — lions staying still! What a photo opp! But after a while you will have taken every conceivable shot of the lions, the light will start to fade, you will want to drink your sundowner, and the damn lions will still be in the road. If you are with a guide, he or she may attempt to coax the lions to shift or drive around them.  Leave this to the experts. If you are on a self-drive, just let sleeping lions lie. Should it get to late/dark to wait them out, drive backwards the way you approached them.

How to stay safe and comfortable in Namibia - Johanna Read

Speaking of lions…

Don’t walk at night without an armed guard

Most Namibians are lovely people and the crime rate outside of the Caprivi Strip and the capital, Windhoek, is low. Still be careful at ATMs in Windhoek and avoid walking there at night. Most important though: do not walk without an armed guard in lion country.

All lodges in lion territory have a trained marksman who will escort you back to your tent or chalet after dinner. If you forget something at the restaurant or want to go back for a nightcap, follow the rules. It is NOT too much trouble for the guard to come back and get you. It IS too much trouble to have to deal with a lion-attacking-guest incident. And if you think that walking at night in lion country is really not that big of a deal, try being the caboose in your walking-train of guests. Walking in the dark when your back is protected by another tourist is pretty easy. Walking in the dark with your back exposed to all the perfect lion-hiding spots on your route… well, you will then understand the trepidation of the springbok desperately wanting a sip of water but having no idea what is hiding within the waterhole waiting for him to immerse his tasty snout.

How to stay safe and comfortable in Namibia - Johanna Read

Don’t tell a Himba woman that you don’t have children

Try to visit a Himba community while you’re in Namibia, but please do it respectfully — people are not tourist attractions. A tour operator like Ultimate Safaris will help you do it the right way. Most Himba people are semi-nomadic, still wear traditional dress and the women cover their skin in a beautiful balm made of ochre and goat fat which acts as soap, perfume, makeup, sunscreen, insect repellent, and moisturizer. Visiting a community for an afternoon is a fascinating peek into a very distinctive culture that may not stay such for much longer. Listening to one woman tell me about her life, I wished that I hadn’t revealed that, unlike every other woman she knows, I don’t have children. Not only would I have avoided the look of pure sorrow for me in her eyes, I also would have got around the whole conversation about how one can have sex but not have babies… awkward!

6HimbaC

Enjoy your trip to Namibia – it is an incredible (and pretty safe) place to visit. And you probably didn’t need me to tell you this, but no matter how fluffy, don’t rub a cheetah’s belly.

How to stay safe and comfortable in Namibia - Johanna Read

*guest post by Johanna Read. Find more of her stories on her website TravelEater.net.