Nissan NP 300 Hardbody, South Africa

NOVEMBER 2011 – A white Nissan NP 300 Hardybody has been parked on the greens of a house in South Africa. Photo © Mark Zanzig/

The story behind the image

We had been visiting southern Africa twice before – to South Africa in 2004 and to Namibia in 2006. Especially the 2006 had resulted in one key learning: Whatever it takes, go rent a 4×4. Here’s why.

Prior to our trip to Namibia, we had purchased two travel guidebooks from respected German authors. We also received a lot of information from the Namibian Tourist office. We did some research on the Internet. And we talked to people who had been to Namibia already. But nobody told us to get a 4×4. And honestly, I don’t know why? The only reason I can think of is – they all used a 4×4 when they were there. And they might be interested in selling the trip to you (especially tour operators and travel agents).

Quote from one of the guidebooks covering Namibia: “Tarred roads are almost always in a good condition. (…) On gravel highways you usually also get along quite fast (but this can change quickly after some rain). The condition of the ‘D’ roads varies. Sometimes there are lane grooves, but in most cases these roads are still good for driving.”, or another quote, from the other guidebook: “The whole infrastructure of Namibia is a perfect match for individual trips with rental cars. Depending on the itinerary, a sedan type car is fully sufficient. 4×4 vehicles are just required for trips to the Kaokoveld, into the Kaudom Game Park, and into the National Parks on the Caprivi Strip.” (translation for both snippets by me).

Sorry, but this is complete nonsense!

Based on this information, we selected a sedan type car (a Volkswagen Polo Classic 1.6, to be precise) from our preferred rental company, Avis. The car was great and extremely reliable, but we soon found out that it was not suitable for our trip at all. Most gravel roads are in a good condition, yes, but even then the gravel puts a lot of stress on the tyres, and potholes certainly test the workmanship of the car’s body. We were lucky, because we got away with just one flat tyre…

December 2006 – Mark Zanzig changes a tyre in the Skeleton Coast National Park in Nambia. © Petra Zanzig/

The next town was still 45 kilometers away, there were almost no cars we could have stopped, it was late already, and the petrol station did not have a tyre shop to replace the damaged tyre. Our booked accommodation in Swakopmund was another 70 kilometers away. It would have been a really bad situation if we had just another flat tyre on this way. Sure, such problems can be solved, but you can and should avoid them, because it prevents you from enjoying your trip. Also, you may not be able to access all sites and attractions as you would like.

A 4×4 is admittedly more expensive than a sedan, but you should make this investment. I’ve seen offers for older 4×4’s that were not much more than our rate for the Volkswagen. So, please, please, please do yourself, and your family, a favour and…

Tip # 1
Do rent a 4×4. Do not listen to others who say it can be done easily with a standard car. Yes, it can be done, but it’s not a fun way to spend your time in southern Africa.
Tip # 2
If money is an issue, please still go for a 4×4. You can stay at cheaper lodges or guestfarms, or you can reduce the duration of the trip (e.g. two weeks instead of three).

Whatever. When we returned to South Africa in 2011, we had learned our lesson and rented a Nissan NP300 Hardbody. It’s the 4×4 of your dreams and a real workhorse. We even crossed the Limpopo River at Pontdrift with this vehicle!

Admittedly it was a bit too big for us, but we were looking for a safe trip at remote places. And the Nissan supported us during our entire trip.

It’s an awesome car.

The high resolution image

Capture Date & Time22-NOV-2011, 09:25
LocationHoedspruit, South Africa
CameraCanon EOS-1D Mark III
LensCanon EF 24-70 mm f/2.8L USM
Exposure1/50 sec at f/8
Digital Image Source FormatCanon Camera RAW (CR2)
Edited Image FormatJPEG, 24 bits/pixel, sRGB
Edited Image Dimensions3888 x 2592 Pixels
Copyright© by Mark Zanzig/

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