Fetch you from the airport and take you to an excellent guest house cum hotel, The Olive Exclusive, in Windhoek, www.bigsky-namibia.com, where you will be staying in the Junior Suites (let me know if you want to upgrade to the Premier Suites). The rest of the day is yours to relax and catch up on some sleep, especially if you have been on the long flight, or if you are up to it, go on a sight seeing tour of Windhoek. Go out to dinner in the evening to one of the many good restaurants in town. Do any of you have any particular dietary requirements because Namibia is a seriously carnivorous country, but vegetarians will not starve?
This morning we will leave quite early for the Bagatelle Kalahari Game Ranch, SE of Kalkrand, www.bagatelle-kalahari-gameranch.com , so as to be there in time for lunch. During the afternoon the guests will go on a Sundowner Game drive to look at the Kalahari dune scenery and the game that occurs there.
You will go on an early morning guided walk with some of the San (Bushman) guides, to be followed by breakfast, before leaving for the Fish River Lodge, www.fishriverlodge-namibia.com. We will have a quick lunch in Keetmanshoop before continuing to the Fish River Lodge. This is fairly long day, but with enough stops to stretch your legs.
Fish River Lodge in southern Namibia is the only lodge perched directly on the rim of the Fish River Canyon offering guests breathtaking views of the canyon from sunrise to sunset. Experience first hand the geological forces that unfolded 300 million years ago, when the Fish River began to etch its way through hard quartzite forming a Canyon 90 kilometres long, 549 metres deep and 28 kilometres wide in some places, making it the world's second largest Canyon.
Today you will go on a most interesting and exciting day-long drive into the canyon where you will eexperience an amazing variety of geological features as you journey into the depths of the second largest canyon in the world. See rough limestone, shiny quartzite, fine shale and dramatic fault lines as the 510 million year old story unfolds. Catch your breath as you take in the dramatic views of the river before descending into the base of the canyon to lunch by the permanent rock pools. Kudu, Oryx, Klipspringer and the elusive mountain Zebra are often seen and your experienced guide will identify the resilient flora in this harsh environment.
Winter (April to October) leave at 8am back by 3/4pm
We leave the Fish River Lodge and travel west towards Rosh Pinah, on the northern side of the rugged Huns mountains, before turning north toward to the little village of Aus, where we will be spending the night in the unusual Eagles’ Nest bungalows at Klein Aus Vista, www.klein-aus-vista.com.
This morning we will be travelling northwards, between the eastern edge of the Namib Desert and the escarpment, on a particularly interesting road, to the exclusive Boulders Camp (only four luxury tents), which is located on the southern part of the NamibRand Nature Reserve, the largest private nature reserve in Namibia, where you will be spending the next three days. We should arrive there during mid- afternoon, in time to go on an excellent sundowner drive.
The Reserve has recently been enlarged when two more farms were bought and the Boulders guests have exclusive access to the southern section. This area has a variety of landscapes, which vary between huge open grass plains, granite and dolerite hills and stunning dune scenery and nobody can be bored in the magnificent area.
This farm fell within the conservation area that was controlled from Keetmanshoop when I was stationed there with the Ministry of Nature Conservation from 1980-82, and I always said that if I ever had had the money to buy only one farm in the country, it would have been Wolwedans, and not even Bill Gates would have been able to buy it off me.
This Lodge is expensive, but one of the benefits is that it is situated in a spectacularly beautiful desert environment and it includes several sightseeing trips.
Today we have an early departure for Sossusvlei, on the eastern edge of the Namib Desert, with its monumental sand dunes - the top tourist destination in the southern region of the country. Here you will see some of the highest and most spectacular dune scenery in the world – a photographer’s paradise, especially in the early morning or late afternoon. Visit the fascinating Sesriem Canyon on the way back to get some idea of how much of the desert and surrounding area has been shaped by water, strange as it might seem. We will take breakfast, lunch and refreshments with us (as is done every day of the trip), to be enjoyed in a desert environment.
After spending as much time here as you wish, we will leave for another lodge north of Sossusvlei, Namib Desert Lodge, www.gondwana-collection.com (look at the high resolution pictures) where we will spend the evening. The lodge is situated at the base of some very interesting fossilised sand dunes, which you will visit on a truly stunning sundowner/scenic drive during the late afternoon.
Today will involve a fairly long day’s travelling as we will travel up to Cape Cross via Karibib, Usakos, Spitskoppe and Henties Bay. At Cape Cross you will be taken to have a look at the huge seal colony and then we will spend the next two nights at the Cape Cross Hotel, www.capecross.com.na.
Today you will go on an interesting 4x4 outing to look at the desert area in and around the Messum Crater, where you will see some of the biggest Welwitschias in Namibia. The Damaraland area is rich with geological treasures, two being the Doros and Messum craters. Classified as an igneous intrusion, the Doros Crater sprawls south of Twyfelfontein and northwest of the Brandberg Mountain. Evidence of early human habitation has been found in and around the crater which further adds to its wealth. The Messum Crater to the south west of the Brandberg resembles the shape of an amphitheatre and extends over 22km in length. In 1846, Captain W Messum traversed the lands beyond the coastline to explore the vastness of the area. He happened upon the craters and named one after himself. There are two theories for the creation of the Messum crater, one being an ancient volcano and the other that of a huge object that struck the earth.
Before returning to the lodge for the night you will be taken to have a look at the remains of one of many boats/ships, the Winston, which got stranded along the Skeleton Coast.
From Cape Cross we will travel via the little mining village of Uis and the Brandberg (the highest mountain in Namibia) to Camp Kipwe, www.kipwe.com/camp-kipwe-home.html, close to the Twyfelfontein Rock Art site, where we will spend the next two nights.
This morning you will go on an early morning 4x4 excursion into the Haub River to look for the famous desert-adapted elephants that occur here as well as many other game species i.e. kudu, oryx, springbok, steenbok, giraffe, mountain zebra etc.
Return to the camp for lunch and then spend the afternoon relaxing.
Days 14, 15 & 16
This morning you choose to go on an early morning balloon flight, to be followed by a champagne breakfast (optional extra) before leaving for Palmwag Lodge.
From Palmwag you will be driven to the Okahirongo Elephant Lodge, http://www.okahirongolodge.com/Lodge-activities.html, situated on the Huaruseb River close to the little Herero settlement, Purros, where you will spend the next three days. There are many different very interesting activities and areas to explore from Okahirongo, and although most are included in the package there are some extra options to choose from, i.e. fly down to the Skeleton Coast or up to the Kunene River etc. but these can be discussed with the lodge manager when you get there.
Days 17 & 18
On the morning of the 17th day you will be flown back to Palmwag Lodge airstrip and from there we will drive to Huab Lodge, www.huab.com/, via the Grootberg Pass and the little village of Kamanjab. Jan and Suzi are wonderful hosts and Jan is one of the nicest and most laidback of my friends and I am sure you will all like him very much. He introduces all the guests to each other and everybody sits at a long table so that nobody is left on their own.
At Huab you can enjoy going for a bath in the natural hot spring on the property or going for a massage or aroma therapy (one activity included) during the first afternoon and then on the second day you will participate in several of the activities on offer i.e. early morning walk, scenic and sun downer drives etc. with your host, Jan, as your driver/guide.
Leave after a relaxed breakfast for Windhoek, where you will once more spend the night at The Olive Exclusive Hotel. Since your guests are keen birders, we can possibly stop on the way back to look at the REST (Rare and Endangered Species Trust), www.restafrica.org aviary, which is located approx. 50 km south of Otjiwaringo where Maria Diekman looks after injured vultures. This is a most interesting and worthwhile project as the guests can learn about the work she does as well as see some of the vultures up close.
REST is a non- profit organization founded in September of 2000. Its founder has no formal conservation training but saw a desperate need for a species on the brink of local extinction. She was advised from the beginning to get the support of the trained experts and learn from them which she did. Many of the world’s top vulture experts are now on her scientific board and give advice on major environmental decisions. REST began by helping only the plight of the Cape Griffon vulture, but after a few years it became apparent that there were a few species that needed specific support in Namibia. Thus the start of the “Forgotten Five” began which has developed into the Forgotten 5 +1. These animals represent biodiversity within the entire land ecosystem of Namibia.
REST has recently developed new headquarters on a small farm 47 km south of Otjiwarongo. We were officially opened in August 2010 when we were almost 10 years old. We still have many plans but we have developed a beautiful centre with a variety of conservation and research structures with emphasis on fun interactive education facilities for visitors from the community and abroad.
Our new centre consists of a number of building and activities for the visitor. Upon entering the driveway you will drive a short way through the nature bush to the student and staff housing. There is public parking here or you can continue up the hill to the visitors centre. All guests are greeted by our daily host. You may visit the lab, hospital and office building and receive a map for a self guided tour of our new sensory trail. This trail is for all visitors but with sponsorship from Natural Encounters it is specifically designed as a ‘touch and feel” experience that can cater to the needs of the physically challenged. We are still developing the trail with the help of PAWS volunteers at our neighbour’s organization – the Africat Foundation. The first part of the trail is wheel chair friendly.
When they are finished the visitor is guided up to the educational centre. Once inside you realize that you are actually inside the Nedbank aviary housing all of our non releasable raptors. They live amongst the natural cliffs facing the education centre. This is a perfect opportunity to photograph the birds.
Most visitors then walk with us a short way to our wildlife hides. Once a week we feed hundreds of wild raptors here. Most visitors are white backed vultures, up to 40 lappet faced vultures, 1-3 Cape Vultures and usually some marabou storks and tawny eagles. The warthog and jackal often visit at the same time. We have a brown hyena and wild leopard who feed there at night and we hope to set up a night viewing light as funds become available. A special private feed can be booked in advance if you would like.
Our new centre is all solar powered. Our systems are very basic lights at the moment but we hope to upgrade as funds are donated. Our water is solar pumped to a tank on the mountain and then runs naturally to all of our outlets below. Luckily we have excellent cell phone coverage for phones and internet.
After spending a relaxing morning in Windhoek, I will take you folk to the Hosea Kutako International Airport in time for your afternoon flight back home.