Head off on a fantastic small group safari with your own professional and experienced safari guide who will enhance your enjoyment of this unique country by making it a fascinating and stress-free journey of discovery amidst very dramatic scenery. The knowledge, experience and attitude of our guides in Namibia are critical to a successful safari which is why we ensure that they are both personable and very professional.
Your guide will have an intimate knowledge of each area and camp/lodge that you visit, allowing them to share the local highlights whilst adding continuity and depth to your safari. It goes without saying that they know exactly what a 'true African safari' is all about. Not only are our Namibian guides highly qualified, each has a specific area of expertise. Together they possess the breadth and depth of knowledge to allow them to answer questions and satisfy the particular interests of each of our guests.
Day 1 Windhoek to Sossusvlei area
This morning, you will be collected from your accommodation (note this pre night and post night accommodation is not included as it may not be required depending on your flight arrangements). and head off in your safari vehicle with your personal guide and drive southwest and down the Great Escarpment into the Namib Desert. Enroute you'll stop for a picnic lunch. Arrive at Hoodia Desert Lodge in the late afternoon where you will stay for two nights whilst you explore the remarkable sights of the Namib Desert with your guide. If there is still time today, your guide will take you to visit Sesriem Canyon, a nearby geological attraction, or you can relax and soak in the scenic and tranquil surroundings at Hoodia Desert Lodge.
Sesriem Canyon: Sesriem Canyon has evolved through centuries of erosion by the Tsauchab River which has incised a narrow gorge about 1.5 kilometres long and 30 metres deep into the surrounding conglomerates, exposing the varying layers of sedimentation deposited over millions of years. The shaded cool depths of the canyon allow pools of water to gather during the rainy season and remain for much of the year round. These pools were a vital source of water for early settlers who drew water for their livestock by knotting six (ses) lengths of rawhide thongs (riems) together, hence the canyon and surrounding area became known as Sesriem.
Hoodia Desert Lodge: lies nestled on the banks of the Tsauchab River, overlooked by the impressive Naukluft Mountains. The lodge offers comfortable accommodation in thatched and tented bungalows equipped with a private open-air bathroom, air-conditioning, minibar, tea and coffee station and a shaded balcony. The lodge restaurant serves excellent traditional and international cuisine accompanied by a wide selection of South African wines from the underground wine cellar. A wooden walkway leads you to a refreshing swimming pool sculpted into natural rock. This wonderful lodge is a welcomed oasis from which to enjoy your memorable desert experience.
Day 2 Sossusvlei / Namib Desert
This morning rise early for a magical excursion with your guide into the Namib Naukluft National Park, entering the Park gates at sunrise to capture the dunes whilst the light is soft and shadows accentuate their towering shapes and curves. This area boasts some of the highest free-standing sand dunes in the world. Your guide will give you an insight on the formation of the Namib Desert and its myriad of fascinating creatures and plants that have adapted to survive these harsh environs. Once you have explored Sossusvlei, Deadvlei and surrounding dune fields to your heart’s content you can enjoy a relaxed picnic breakfast in the shade of a camel thorn tree. Return to Hoodia Desert Lodge in the early afternoon for a late lunch, stopping off to view Sesriem Canyon if you haven’t already done so the day before. The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure (from experience, this is usually welcomed after an exhilarating morning in the dunes).
Sossusvlei: This most frequently visited section of the massive 50,000 km² Namib Naukluft National Park has become known as Sossusvlei, famous for its towering apricot coloured sand dunes which can be reached by following the Tsauchab River valley. Sossusvlei itself is actually a clay pan set amidst these star shaped dunes which stand up to 300 metres above the surrounding plains, ranking them among the tallest dunes on earth. The deathly white clay pan contrasts against the orange sands and forms the endpoint of the ephemeral Tsauchab River, within the interior of the Great Sand Sea. The river course rises south of the Naukluft Mountains in the Great Escarpment. It penetrates the sand sea for some 55 kilometres before it finally peters out at Sossusvlei, about the same distance from the Atlantic Ocean. Until the encroaching dunes blocked its course around 60,000 years ago, the Tsauchab River once reached the sea; as ephemeral rivers still do in the northern half of the Namib. Sand-locked pans to the west show where the river previously flowed to before dunes shifted its endpoint to where it currently gathers at Sossusvlei. Roughly once a decade rainfall over the catchment area is sufficient to bring the river down in flood and fill the pan. On such occasions the mirror images of dunes and camel thorn trees around the pan are reflected in the water. Sossusvlei is the biggest of four pans in the vicinity. Another, famous for its gnarled and ghostly camel thorn trees, is Deadvlei which can be reached on foot over 1 km of sand. Deadvlei’s striking camel thorn trees, dead for want of water, still stand erect as they once grew. They survived until about 900 years ago when the sand sea finally blocked the river from occasionally flooding the pan.
Day 3 Sossusvlei to Swakopmund
NOTE: Option to include a sunrise balloon flight or scenic light aircraft flight over the Namib Naukluft National Park before you depart for Swakopmund (optional extra at additional cost).
The fascinating drive today takes you northwest through awesome and ever changing desert landscapes of the Namib Naukluft National Park, including the impressive Gaub and Kuiseb canyons. You will meet the coast at the port town of Walvis Bay and then continue north to Swakopmund where you can enjoy the pleasant seaside location and cooler coastal air for your next two nights. There will be time this afternoon to wander around town and along the waterfront on foot, before heading off for dinner at the popular Tug Restaurant by the jetty which specialises in fresh seafood.
NOTE: As an alternative to the drive from Hoodia Desert Lodge to Swakopmund you may like to take a scenic light aircraft flight over Sossusvlei and along the Diamond Coast (optional extra at additional cost), allowing you a bird’s eye view over the dune sea, abandoned mining camps, shipwrecks, Sandwich Harbour and salt pans before you land at Swakopmund Airport. Your guide will drive to meet up with you in Swakopmund later in the day.
Swakopmund: Swakopmund resembles a small, German coastal resort nestled between the desert and the sea. It boasts a charming combination of German colonial architecture blended with good hotels, shops, restaurants, museums, craft centres, galleries and cafés. Swakopmund had its beginnings as a landing station in 1892 when the Imperial Navy erected beacons on the site. Settlers followed and attempts to create a harbour town by constructing a concrete Mole and then iron jetty failed. The advent of World War 1 halted developments and the town sank into decline until half a century later when infrastructures improved and an asphalt road opened between Windhoek and Swakopmund. This made reaching the previously isolated town quicker and easier and it prospered once again to become Namibia’s premier resort town. Although the sea is normally cold for swimming there are pleasant beaches and the cooler climate is refreshing after the time spent in the desert.
Central Guesthouse: This elegant building situated in the heart of old Swakopmund offers luxury accommodation within easy walking distance of all amenities, shops, restaurants, museums, craft markets, banks and beaches. The comfortable lounge is attractively furnished and has an open fire place. Six double en-suite rooms are available each exquisitely furnished with dark mahogany furniture, extra length beds, top quality white linen, flat screen TV and internet access.
Day 4 Swakopmund
After an early breakfast your guide will drive you along the scenic coastal road back to Walvis Bay for a memorable seal and dolphin cruise within the outer lagoon and harbour. This is an ideal way of seeing Cape fur seals, heaviside and bottlenose dolphins, pelicans, flamingos and a wide variety of other sea birds. If you are lucky, there is also a chance of seeing whales, leatherback turtles and sunfish. During the course of the cruise snacks will be served along with local sparkling wine and fresh oysters. You will return to the jetty at roughly 12h30 after which you may like to explore Walvis Bay further before returning to Swakopmund for an afternoon at leisure at your guesthouse or in town. You may also like to partake in some of the many activities that Swakopmund has to offer, these include camel rides, scenic flights, quad-biking in the dunes, sky diving and more (all at extra cost).
Day 5 Swakopmund to Damaraland
Continuing on your safari today, the road takes you north and east into the wonderful and diverse region of Damaraland. You pass Namibia’s highest mountain, the Brandberg which peaks at 2,573 metres above sea level, and take time to view game and absorb the vastness of the scenery along the way. Damaraland is typified by displays of colour, magnificent table topped mountains, rock formations and bizarre-looking vegetation. The present day landscape has been formed by the erosion of wind, water and geological forces which have formed rolling hills, dunes, gravel plains and ancient river terraces. It is the variety and loneliness of the area as well as the scenic splendour which will reward and astound you, giving one an authentic understanding of the word 'wilderness'.
If time allows this afternoon your guide will take you to visit the nearby attractions and geological sites of Twyfelfontein rock engravings (recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site), Burnt Mountain and the Organ Pipes - if not there is plenty of time to do so tomorrow.
Twyfelfontein: Strewn over a hillside amongst flat-topped mountains of red sandstone, Twyfelfontein’s boulders and slabs of red sandstone hold some 2,500 prehistoric engravings that depict wildlife, animal spoor and abstract motifs. It is perhaps the largest and finest collection of petroglyphs in Africa. The engravings show animals such as elephant, giraffe, kudu, lion, rhinoceros, springbok, zebra and ostrich that once used to drink from a fountain at the bottom of the hill. In some cases footprints were engraved instead of hooves or paws. The abstract motifs feature mainly circles. Stone tools and other artifacts found at Twyfelfontein suggest that hunter-gatherers occupied the site over a period of perhaps 7,000 years. These days a local guide accompanies visitors to showcase the rock art. The engravings lie along two circular routes, one an hour’s climb and the other 40 minutes longer. Twyfelfontein is one of Namibia’s key National Monuments and has recently become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Burnt Mountain: A rounded hill located a few kilometres from Twyfelfontein and the Organ Pipes, known as the Burnt Mountain, seems to catch fire again at sunrise and sunset. Its fantastic range of colours at dawn and dusk are due to a chemical reaction that took place roughly 125 million years ago when molten lava penetrated organic shale and limestone deposits, resulting in contact metamorphism. In ordinary sunlight it is a dull black. Blackened rubble lies to one side like cinders from the original fire.
Organ Pipes: The Organ Pipes are another geological curiosity in the area consisting of a mass of perpendicular dolerite columns that intruded the surrounding rocks also about 125 million years ago and have since been exposed in a ravine due to river erosion.
Camp Kipwe: lies in the heart of Damaraland, ideally located a short drive from the local attractions in the area. The Camp is nestled amongst an outcrop of giant granite boulders, a stone’s throw away from the ephemeral Aba Huab riverbed where desert adapted elephants often traverse. Each comfortable thatched bungalow is simply but tastefully furnished with en-suite open-air bathroom. In the centre of the camp lies a large alfresco dining area, bar, lounge and reception with an inviting fireplace nearby to relax beside in the evenings. A refreshing swimming pool and sunset lookout with lovely views also complement the Camp.
Day 6 Damaraland
After an early breakfast you will be treated to an exciting 4x4 excursion along the ephemeral Aba Huab River valley to explore this remarkable region and to search for game, including the elusive desert adapted elephants if they are in the area. Damaraland is home to a variety of desert adapted wildlife and hidden desert treasures. You will normally take a picnic lunch and stop to take that in the shade of a large Ana tree, ideally while watching a herd of elephant browsing nearby, but you also have the option to return to Camp for lunch if you prefer. Your guide will arrange to fit in a visit to Twyfelfontein and other nearby attractions at a suitable time if you haven’t already done so the previous day. On return to Camp there should be time to take a walk into the local area with your guide, or simply relax and enjoy some well-deserved leisure time.
Desert Adapted Elephant: In habitats with sufficient vegetation and water an adult elephant consumes as much as 300kg of roughage and 230 litres of water every day of its life. Consider what a herd of them would eat and drink in a week or a month or a year. Finding an African elephant in a desert? Well, yes and not only elephant, but other large mammals as well, such as black rhinoceros and giraffe. Their ranges extend from river catchments in northern Kaokoveld as far south as the northern Namib. Apart from the Kunene River, seven river courses northwards from the Ugab provide them with possible routes across the desert, right to the Skeleton Coast. The biggest are the Hoarusib, the Hoanib, the Huab and the Ugab Rivers. Desert adapted elephant in Kaokoland and the Namib walk further for water and fodder than any other elephant in Africa. The distances between waterholes and feeding grounds can be as great as 68 km. The typical home range of a family herd is larger than 2,000 km², or eight times as big as ranges in central Africa where rainfall is much higher. They walk and feed at night and rest during the day. To meet their nutritional and bulk requirements they browse on no fewer than 74 of the 103 plant species that grow in their range. Not a separate species or even a subspecies, they are an ecotype unique to Namibia in Africa south of the equator, behaviourally adapted to hyper-arid conditions. Elephant in Mali on the southwestern fringe of the Sahara Desert are the only others known to survive in similar conditions.
Day 7 Damaraland to Western Etosha National Park
Today after breakfast you set off on your journey to the Etosha National Park, travelling via the Grootberg Pass. Along the way your guide will take you to visit a local Himba settlement – you may have to search for a while as the semi-nomadic Himba people sometimes move location with no notice. They are one of the last most traditional peoples of Namibia and have little time for conventional practices. Here you will learn about the customs and traditions of this very proud nation, and will be given insight into their beliefs, way of life and everyday routine.
You enter the Etosha National Park through the Galton Gate on the western boundary and game drive your way on to the recently opened Dolomite Camp, arriving in the early afternoon. This previously restricted western section of Etosha was kept for research and rehabilitation of game and therefore boasts some of the highest numbers of wildlife throughout the Park. The vegetation is mainly Karstveldt and Mopane shrubland with the geology dominated by dolomite formations – fittingly giving the new Camp its name. The rest of the afternoon can be spent game viewing at the camp’s waterhole, or possibly heading out on another game drive with your guide.
The Himba: The Himba, Tjimba and other Herero people who inhabit Namibia’s remote north-western Kunene Region are loosely referred to as the Kaokovelders. Basically Herero in terms of origin, language and culture, they are semi-nomadic pastoralists who tend to tend from one watering place to another. They seldom leave their home areas and maintain, even in their own, on which other cultures have made little impression. For many centuries they have lived a relatively isolated existence and were not involved to any noteworthy extent in the long struggle for pasturelands between the Nama and the Herero. The largest group of Kaokovelders is the Himba, semi-nomads who live in scattered settlements throughout the Kunene Region. They are a tall, slender and statuesque people, characterised especially by their proud yet friendly bearing. The women especially are noted for their unusual sculptural beauty, enhanced by intricate hairstyles and traditional adornments. They rub their bodies with red ochre and fat, a treatment that protects their skins against the harsh desert climate. The homes of the Himba of Kaokoland are simple, cone-shaped structures of saplings, bound together with palm leaves and plastered with mud and dung. The men build the structures, while the women mix the clay and do the plastering. A fire burns in the headman’s hut day and night, to keep away insects and provide light and heating. A family may move from one home to another several times a year to seek grazing for their goats and cattle. A Himba woman spends as much as three hours a day on her toilette. First she bathes, then she anoints herself with her own individually prepared mixture which not only protects her skin from the harsh desert sun, but also keeps insects away and prevents her body hair from falling out. She uses another mixture of butter fat, fresh herbs and black coals to rub on her hair, and ‘steams’ her clothes regularly over the permanent fire. Men, women and children adorn themselves with necklaces, bracelets, anklets and belts made from iron and shell beads. With their unusual and striking designs, these items have gained a commercial value and are being produced on a small scale for the urban market. Sculptural headrests in particular are sought-after items.
Dolomite Camp: Nestled in the dolomite outcrops of this vast area of western Etosha National Park, Dolomite Camp offers guests an intimate experience of one of the most scenic areas of the Park, an area where previously endangered species like the Black Rhinocerous and Black-Faced Impala have been successfully bred. The Camp consists of a spacious reception, lounge, bar and restaurant area – offering crimson sunrise and sunset views over the surrounding savannah. From this point, a walkway leads to thatched, en-suite chalets nestled amongst the rocky outcrops, providing privacy and dramatic and panoramic landscape views. The Camp’s interiors are designed to harmonize with the natural surroundings, characterized by weathered dolomite rock formations, Mopane, Moringa and savannah woodland. It is here beneath the rugged shoulders of the dolomite outcrops and boulders that tranquility is truly found. Dolomite Camp offers a profound and world-class, first of its kind experience inside the biodiversity-rich western section of Etosha National Park and moreover presents guests with a wilderness experience that is unmatched in terms of privacy and landscape viewing.
Day 8 Western to Central Etosha National Park
Today is spent game viewing in the Etosha National Park from your private safari vehicle as you make your way through the western section of the Park, stopping off at waterholes and for game sightings on your way to Okaukuejo. This afternoon can be spent game viewing at the excellent floodlit waterhole where game comes and goes throughout the day and night, or possibly heading out again on another game drive with your guide.
Etosha National Park: Etosha National Park covers 22,270 km², of which approximately 5,000 km² is made up of saline depressions or ‘pans’. The largest of these pans, the Etosha Pan, can be classified as a saline desert in its own right. The Etosha Pan lies in the Owambo Basin, on the north-western edge of the Namibian Kalahari Desert. Until three million years ago it formed part of huge, shallow lake that was reduced to a complex of salt pans when the major river that fed it, the Kunene, changed course and began to flow to the Atlantic instead. If the lake existed today, it would be the third largest in the world. Etosha is the largest of the pans at 4,760 km² in extent. It is nowadays filled with water only when sufficient rain falls to the north in Angola, inducing floods to flow southward along the Cuvelai drainage system. The Park consists of grassland, woodland and savannah. Game-viewing centers around the numerous springs and waterholes where several different species can often be seen at one time. The Park boasts some 114 mammal and over 340 bird species. Wildlife that one might see includes elephant, lion, giraffe, blue wildebeest, eland, kudu, gemsbok (oryx), zebra, rhino, cheetah, leopard, hyena, honey badger and warthog, as well as the endemic black faced impala.
Okaukuejo Camp: Okaukuejo was the first tourist camp to open in Etosha. It is famous for its floodlit waterhole where visitors can observe, at close quarters, a spectacle of wildlife congregating and interacting 24/7. Facilities include accommodation in comfortable ensuite chalets located a short walk from the waterhole, a buffet restaurant, bar, swimming pool, curio shop, post office and viewing tower.
Day 9 Etosha National Park
Today is available for a full day of exciting game viewing within the central section of Etosha National Park. After discussion with your guide you can either opt to go out in the morning and the afternoon and return to Okaukuejo for lunch and an early afternoon rest; or you can head east across the Park to spend more time in the area around Halali. Either way, you will return to the comforts of Okaukuejo by sunset and an evening watching game come and go from Okaukuejo’s busy floodlit waterhole.
Day 10 Etosha National Park to AfriCat Foundation (Okonjima)
Today you game drive your way from Okaukuejo Camp to exit Etosha National Park through the Andersson Gate. Your journey then takes you south and onto Okonjima Bush Camp, located at the base of the Omboroko Mountains near Waterberg. This is a wonderful highlight with which to conclude your safari. Here you can enjoy the welcoming atmosphere, superb accommodation and fantastic activities; starting with a guided afternoon excursion and a visit to the night hide after dinner. Okonjima is home to the AfriCat Foundation, a wildlife sanctuary which focuses on the research and rehabilitation of Africa's big cats, especially injured or captured leopard and cheetah. Close encounters with leopard and cheetah are an unforgettable highlight. Activities include leopard tracking by vehicle, a visit to the cheetah welfare project and a visit to the night hide where nocturnal animals such as porcupine, caracal, honey badger and even leopard may be seen.
Okonjima Bush Camp: The delightful accommodation at Okonjima Bush Camp consists of thatched African style chalets, well-spaced out for privacy in the tranquil bush surroundings, plus a central main Lapa area in the form of a camel thorn pod where meals are taken and activities commence. Each exclusive en-suite chalet is completely private and the green canvas ‘walls’ can be rolled up to give you an 180 degree view so you can lie in bed and watch life in the bush going on around you whilst you relax in total comfort.
Day 11 AfriCat Foundation (Okonjima) to Windhoek
You rise early this morning for another memorable guided activity before you return to Bush Camp for a sumptuous breakfast. After freshening up you will depart for Windhoek in the late morning via the town of Okahandja, to arrive back at roughly 14h00. Upon your arrival in Windhoek you will be transferred to your accommodation establishment of choice, or out to the Windhoek International Airport to check-in for your ongoing flight (departure flights must be no earlier than 16h00 or a final night in Windhoek can be arranged at additional cost if required).
Listed below are hotels/lodges/resorts that the safari tour operator can accomodate for you.