Namibia: Untouched Wilderness11 days & 10 nights, Escorted Discovery Group
Escorted Discovery Group
Windhoek, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, Damaraland, Etosha National Park & Okonjima Game Reserve
Namibia is one of the world's last great wilderness countries. This tour visits the magnificent sand dunes of the Namib desert and the German colonial town of Swakopmund. Travelling inland, experience the wildlife of Damaraland and Etosha National Park, before ending your journey at Okonjima, home of the AfriCat Foundation.
Day 1Arrive Windhoek
On arrival, you will be met and taken to your hotel in Windhoek.Villa Vista Guesthouse
Day 2To Sossusvlei
You will be driven from Windhoek to Desert Homestead, near Sossusvlei. This is a drive of 198 miles, and a journey time of approximately 5.5 hours, excluding stops.Desert Homestead Lodge - 2 Nights (B, D)
About 3 miles south of the town of Rehoboth, the gravel road adventure begins! Weather permitting, this journey will go via the Spreetshoogte Pass. This pass is not the highest or the most difficult pass in Namibia, but it is certainly one of the most scenic and allows for a perfect photo and/or lunch stop. The whole of the central portion of Namibia is on a central plateau which falls away dramatically as you travel to the south-west of the country. The majority of the pass has been cobbled to prevent erosion during the rainy season.
At Solitaire, time allowing, there will be a stop for an apple pie at the Moose McGregor Desert Bakery. Moose McGregor (real name Percy Cross) was the original baker of apple pie in the area. His legacy is still strong and his pie is as good as ever.
About 2 hours south of Solitaire, and approximately 30 minutes on from the Seisrem Gate into the Namib Naukluft National Park, is Desert Homestead.
Lunch will be a packed lunch from 'The Taste Academy' in Windhoek (payable locally).
This morning, proceed on a dunes and Sesriem excursion. A very early start enables you to enter the Namib Naukluft National Park as the gates open. The gate opening times change throughout the year to coincide with the sunrise, usually around 6:30 am in winter and slightly earlier in the summer.Desert Homestead Lodge (B, D)
Drive along a 37 miles stretch of tar road and stop at Dune 45, one of the most photographed dunes in Namibia. Continue to the end of the tar road, and past the parking area (where there is a bathroom stop) and continue on up the sand road.
The first stop after the sand road is dead vlei. The Tsauchab river, which feeds Sossusvlei, used to terminate in dead vlei. However, over the years clay and silt deposit built up which diverted the river onto its present course. This has left a stark white clay pan and there are a number of dead camelthorn trees that protrude from the vlei which are believed to have died five centuries ago. It rains so infrequently in this area that it is estimated that once a decade this area transforms into a lush flowing river. The rest of the time it is a cracked, dry clay bed.
Above the 'vlei' towers Big Daddy, (the tallest dune in the Sand Sea) which you may like to climb (optional).
Enjoy a packed breakfast before continuing to Sesriem Canyon, a narrow fissure in the sandstone which is 98 feet deep in places and also carved by the Tsauchab river. It was used by early settlers to draw water from the river by knotting together six lengths of thongs (called riems) hence the name sesriems. The riverbed is now accessible via steps cut into the rock.
Return to the lodge for a late lunch (payable locally).
Day 4To Swakopmund
Optional Excursion: Early morning balloon flight.Pension Rapmund - 2 Nights (B)
Early this morning, you will take off on an unforgettable experience as the sun rises over the world's oldest desert. Enjoy the tranquillity and seemingly endless views as your balloon soars over the windswept red sand dunes of the Namib. After your flight, a champagne breakfast awaits you where you land.
You will be driven from Sossusvlei to Swakopmund via Solitaire and Walvis, a journey time of approximately 6 hours (excluding stops).
The stretch north of Solitaire goes over two passes, the Kuiseb and the Gaub. These passes, especially the Kuiseb Pass was made famous by Henno Martin's 'Sheltering Desert'.
Once Walvis Bay is reached, there may be time to stop off at the Walvis Bay Lagoon which is considered to be one of the richest and most important wetland areas in the world. This lagoon is home to hundreds of thousands of water birds. See both greater and lesser flamingos here during the summer season. It has been declared a Ramsar site for its importance as a wetland area and is the feeding ground for many bird species on migratory routes between Africa and the Arctic Circle.
A stop will be made at Solitaire for lunch (payable locally).
Day at leisure orPension Rapmund (B)
Optional Excursion: Catamaran Cruise (shared, 3-hour excursion)
Departing from Walvis Bay Yacht Club at 9am, set sail for Pelican Point, home to a large seal colony as well as pods of heavyside and bottlenose dolphins. Other points of interest on the tour are the oyster farms and Bird Island, where you may possibly sight white-chinned petrels, Cape gannets, black oystercatchers and even endemic Damara terns. The trip is rounded off with fresh oysters, snacks and cold sparkling wine as you sail back to Walvis Bay.
Optional Excursion: Half-day Living Desert tour (shared excursion)
This half day tour departs from Swakopmund at 8:00 am and lasts for 4 to 5 hours. It concentrates on exploring the local dune belt between Walvis Bay and Swakopmund. Throughout the tour special care is taken not to damage the gravel plains and cause unnecessary damage to the dune ecosystem. Your guide will continuously look for tracks (known locally as reading the bushman newspaper), to determine which animals are active in the area. If you are lucky enough, you may even catch a glimpse of some of these animals. Your guide will also share their knowledge with you of each desert animal and plant, including how each species has adapted to survive in these desert conditions.
Day 6To Damaraland
You will be driven from Swakopmund to Damaraland, a distance of approximately 267 miles and journey time of about 6 hours, excluding stops. En route, visit the prehistoric rock art at Twyfelfontein.Grootberg Lodge - 2 Nights (B, D)
Depart Swakopmund in a northerly direction, first along the C34, the only salt road in Namibia. Salt roads look like tar roads and behave like gravel roads, so this will be slower going than a tar road. Just north of Henties bay, head inland. After passing Branberg (Namibia's highest mountain) you will enter Damaraland, one of the most scenically diverse areas in Namibia.
Continue to Twyfelfontein, home to the largest concentration of Bushman paintings and rock engravings anywhere in southern Africa, declared Namibia's first Unesco world heritage site back in 2007.
Travel north to Grootberg Lodge via Palmwag.
Enjoy a packed lunch (payable locally) en route.
Set out in the early morning (7:30 am) with a guide and tracker to the surrounding farms in search of elusive desert-adapted elephant. Since the elephants roam free in the conservancy, sightings cannot always be guaranteed, but the experience also provides an opportunity to learn and appreciate more about the lifestyle of the local people. Lunch is provided in the shade of a tree in the remote wilderness of Damaraland. Return to the lodge during the early afternoon.
Optional Excursion: Afternoon Himba village excursion (Grootberg Lodge)Grootberg Lodge (B, L, D)
Damaraland and the Kaokoveld as well as southern parts of Angola are home to the Himba, one of the last truly traditional tribes on the planet. These friendly people are closely related to the Herero and lead a semi-nomadic life as herdsmen, breeding mainly cattle and goats. The community living among the majestic Makalani palms at Palmfontein offer visitors the chance to learn more about their proud and ancient lifestyle and traditions. You will be able to see their cone-shaped homestead made from palm leaves, mud and cattle dung and learn more about their unique customs and techniques. Due to the nomadic lifestyle of the Himba, the trip is not offered all year round.
Day 8To Etosha National Park
Drive from Grootberg Lodge in Damaraland to Okaukuejo in Etosha National Park, a journey of approximately 205 miles and 5.5 hours, excluding wildlife viewing stops, of which there may be many.Okaukuejo Rest Camp - 2 Nights (B, L, D)
The route today will continue in an easterly direction over the Grootberg Pass and on to the town of Kamanjab. Here the road turns northwards and enters Etosha National Park at the Galton Gate, traversing the National Park from the previously inaccessible western side. There are at least 15 waterholes on the western side and with the reduced traffic flow in this area, this can make for some spectacular wildlife viewing, where often you may be the only vehicle at the waterhole (season dependent).
The western part of Etosha was used for research and has only been opened to the public since 2014. Bear in mind that the speed limit in the national park is 35 miles per hour and you are not permitted to get out of the vehicle unless in a demarcated 'bathroom break' area.
Enjoy an afternoon game viewing activity. This activity will be in your touring vehicle and accompanied by your guide.
Wildlife Viewing at Okaukuejo waterhole. The floodlit waterhole at Okaukuejo Rest Camp is legendary. The waterhole is a hub of animal activity starting in the early hours of the morning, especially during winter when a huge diversity of wildlife congregate in close proximity to the camp to quench their thirst. After sunset, floodlights illuminate the waterhole. This is the best time and place to see the endangered black rhino. This archaic mammal can often be seen drinking alongside lions and elephants. The number and interaction of the animals is the major drawcard of Okaukuejo Rest Camp and they seem oblivious to both the floodlights and the tourists. Head down to the waterhole whenever you have a spare moment and check out the action!
Day 9Etosha National Park
Today, experience a full day game viewing in Etosha National Park. This activity will be in your touring vehicle and accompanied by your guide.Okaukuejo Rest Camp (B, D)
Lunch will be taken at one of the rest camps (payable locally).
Day 10To Okonjima Game Reserve
You will be driven from Okaukuejo Rest Camp in Etosha National Park to Okonjima Game Reserve, a distance of about 168 miles and a journey time of approximately 3.5 hours.Okonjima Plains Camp (B, D)
Time permitting, stops may be made at the towns of Outjo and Otjiwarongo where delicious baked German cakes or breads can be bought.
Lunch will be taken at Outjo, or, travel on to Okonjima and enjoy lunch at Plains Camp (paid locally).
Later in the afternoon, enjoy a leopard viewing activity. Leopards are frequently seen at Okonjima, giving you an opportunity to observe these magnificent predators from a hide, or 'radio-tracked' from the game-viewing vehicles. The leopards roam freely and catch their own prey within the 4,500 hectare rehabilitation area. These cats however, are notoriously people-shy and sightings are not guaranteed.
Day 11Depart Okonjima Game Reserve
Enjoy a morning game viewing activity including the tracking of cheetah. Join a morning game viewing activity arranged by your accommodation, on a shared basis. You will also get the opportunity to track cheetah on this drive.(B)
You will be driven from Okonjima Game Reserve to Windhoek, a distance of approximately 142 miles and a journey time of 3 hours, excluding stops.
If time allows, stops will be made at the wood carver's market in Okahandja or the Craft Centre in Windhoek and at Rivendell, the ATI Windhoek guesthouse, where you can enjoy a good cup of coffee, repack and refresh before you depart for your international flight.
You will be collected at your hotel and taken to the airport.