Luxury adventure covering the desert dunes of Sossusvlei, before driving across the gravel plains to the quirky coastal town of Swakopmund where you can enjoy optional activities and from here turn inland again. Continue to dramatic Damaraland with ancient San history and wandering desert elephant, then explore the magical Etosha National Park – Namibia’s premier game reserve. A final night is spent at Okonjima – home of the AfriCat Foundation and an opportunity to discover more about carnivore conservation.
Day 1-2: Namib Desert Lodge Gondwana Collection Namibia, Sossusvlei
You’ll be collected from your accommodation by your guide and depart from Windhoek at around 08h15-08h30am. Driving through the rugged Khomas Hochland mountain range we descend to the desert floor before continuing onto our lodge, perhaps climb a nearby view point for sunset. Pre-dawn departure from the lodge and drive to the Sesriem gate (approx 45mins) arriving at sunrise, it’s another 65km onto Sossusvlei witnessing the changing light and shadows on the sand dunes before arriving at the heart of the famous dune sea of Namibia. There is the chance to climb a dune close to Sossusvlei and walk into Dead Vlei famous for its large expanse of bleached cracked clay and skeletal camel thorn trees, contrasting with a backdrop of huge orange-red dunes. As we retrace our steps, there is time to stop at Dune 45 and Sesriem Canyon before returning to the lodge for the heat of the day and the rest of the day is free to unwind or perhaps take part in an optional activity. Enjoy another spectacular sunset surrounded by this colourful desert and sleep under the bright stars of the southern hemisphere. Lunch and dinner at own expense (B/B) Day 1: Approx 5hours; Day 2: Approx 45mins to gate and around 1hour to Sossusvlei once inside park
Sossusvlei is where you will find the iconic red sand dunes within the Namib Naukluft National Park. The clear blue skies contrast with the giant red sand dunes to make this one of the natural wonders of Africa and a photographers’ heaven. Perhaps the most iconic is the stunning Dead Vlei where the dazzling white clay pan is punctuated by skeletons of ancient camel-thorn trees, and set against the backdrop of the apricot dunes. Aside from the attractions at Sossusvlei – Dune 45, Hiddenvlei, Big Daddy and Elim’s Dune – other attractions in the area include the Sesriem Canyon and Namib-Naukluft National Park, where the mountains of the Namib meet its plains and a great hiking destination.
Overnight: Namib Desert Hills Lodge
The A vast swathe of arid earth. A stretch of the Tsauchub river and the ever moving, land changing Hebron vault. This was the stage for the ancient San people to dance their adventures to each other within the safe glow of their evening fires, surrounded by their yellow grass huts. These resilient nomads etched out a living on the plains and mountains where Desert Hills Lodge rests today. A mere 30km from the Naukluft gate on the C19, Desert Hills Lodge is perfectly positioned to discover the beauty of the Namib.
In the more recent epoch new commercially minded people settled on these very same plains, mountains and dunes and would come to call it home; this time as pastoral farmers. They named the piece of land Hebron meaning “the binding friendship place” and primarily farmed karakul sheep for their wool and skins. In 1981 the Porteus family acquired a portion of farm Hebron, and recently decided to open this incredibly beautiful piece of land to tourism.
Desert Hills Lodge opened its doors in June 2018. The lodge comprises of 18 individual on-suite luxury huts, inspired by the San peoples grass huts of old. Guests can relax around the bar, refresh themselves at the pool or take their meals in the breath-taking restaurant, overlooking the magnificent vastness.
Dune 45 is located 45kms from the Sesriem gate, (and entrance to dunes), it is renowned for its elegant shape, which – along with its position close to the road – has earned it the distinction of ‘most photographed dune in the world’.
Popular for sunrise, many people climb to gain a vantage point to watch the sun rise over the surrounding area and enjoy the changing colour of the dunes, at only 80 metres and featuring a much gentler gradient it is an easier climb than many of the other dunes found.
This ancient clay pan was once an oasis, studded with acacias and fed by a river that suddenly changed course, leaving the earth to dry up along with the trees it previously supported. So dry were the climatic conditions that the trees never decomposed – instead they were entirely leached of moisture so that today, 900 years later, they remain as desiccated, blackened sentinels dotting the pan’s cracked surface. Surrounded by the red-pink dunes of the Namib Desert, blue skies, a white-clay pan, they create a surreal spectacle that is a photographer’s dream.
Sesriem Canyon, a deep chasm carved through the rocks by water, is a striking natural feature of the area that is best explored on foot. Stony walls rise up sharply on both sides of the canyon, while birds roost in its crags and lizards dart along the ledges. The canyon’s name was coined when early settlers used it as a water source, using six lengths of leather (‘ses riem – six thongs) tied together to lower buckets into the water at the base of canyon.
Sossusvlei excursion and surrounds with Safari guide/vehicle.
Day 3-4: Swakopmund Sands Hotel, Swakopmund & Coastal Strip
Our drive today takes us across the gravel desert plains and over the Gaub and Kuiseb Passes (and the Tropic of Capricorn), to the port town of Walvis Bay. We visit the lagoon, a protected RAMSAR wetland site where we may see the many species of birds including greater and lesser flamingos, pelicans, avocets, plovers and the endemic Damara tern before a short stop at the salt farm. From here continue onto Swakopmund, full of historic buildings and where you can join optional (own expense) adventure activities such as sand boarding, quad biking, scenic flights, kayaking, marine cruises to name but a few, which you have time for this afternoon and tomorrow. Perhaps opt for a highly recommended day trip to Sandwich Harbour to appreciate this unique coastal and desert region and protected bird site. Overnight is in a comfortable twin/double rooms with en-suite bathroom, close to the town centre. lunch and dinner at own expense in the restaurants and cafes in town (B/B) Approx 4.5-5+hours
Founded in 1892 as the main harbour for German South West Africa, Swakopmund is often described as being more German than Germany. Now a seaside resort, Swakopmund is the capital of the Skeleton Coast tourism area and has plenty to keep visitors happy. The quirky mix of German and Namibian influences, colonial-era buildings and the cool sea breeze make it very popular and has a wide range of accommodation establishments, banks, restaurants/cafes and shops.
Along this stretch of coastline (Walvis Bay and Swakopmund) you can take part in a selection of activities sating the thirst of those seeking adrenaline adventures – sky diving, quad biking and sandboarding; or for the more leisurely a range of marine activities including kayaking and cruises. The coastal desert can also be explored with trips to Sandwich Harbour, or informative desert tours… There is a long list so just ask us!
Walvis Bay is Namibia’s major harbour town and the lagoon has prolific bird life including flamingos, pelicans as well as the breeding area for the endemic Damara tern – any bird enthusiast should make a stop here.
Further north along this coastline – part of the Skeleton Coast, you’ll find shipwrecks and the famous Cape Cross seal colony – one of the largest fur seal colonies in the area.
Overnight: Swakopmund Sands Hotel
The Swakopmund Sands is literary minutes’ walk away from the very popular Jetty and Tug restaurants as well as other tourist attractions and yet there is total privacy once on the premises. Each individually designed room is equipped with a flat screen TV, safe, under floor heating, fridge, as well as tea and coffee facilities. A laundry service is available for same day delivery. Each bathroom has a hairdryer and shaving facilities and all international power points can be used. Free wifi available. Note there is a breakfast room but additional meals are not available.
Located roughly 50 kilometres from Walvis Bay, Sandwich Harbour is a natural lagoon framed by sand dunes on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. It is a prime angling and bird-watching site, with countless sea birds coming to feed on the rich fish population, including rare white pelican and vivid flocks of pink flamingos.
Day 5: Twyfelfontein Country Lodge, Twyfelfontein
We leave after breakfast and head north along the Skeleton Coast past the gravel plains and desert opening up around us with the ocean crashing down onto the shore stopping south of Henties Bay to view a shipwreck close to shore before continuing onto Cape Cross. This is home of thousands of Cape fur seals and during breeding season over 100,000 are crammed onto the beach fighting for space. We retrace our steps to Henties Bay and turn inland driving past Brandberg, the highest point in Namibia and a huge massif rising up over the plains to Twyfelfontein. Later this afternoon visit to the rock etchings with a local guide who will explain the history and importance of these etchings is included. Overnight on a bed and breakfast basis with additional meals at own expense (B) Approx 5-6hours
Twyfelfontein is a site of ancient rock engravings in Damaraland, and Namibia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site (2007). It has one of the largest collections in Africa as well as one of the most note-worthy with around 2,000+, some thought to be around 6,000 years old! It is believed that the creators of the rock art were the medicine people or shamans who incised their engravings as ameans of entering the supernatural world and recording the experiences, the process could prepare the shaman for a state of trance by the repetitive chipping and concentration of energy. Etched into the rock are thus stories within stories, eternalised as a legacy
Overnight: Twyfelfontein Country Lodge
The lodge is situated in the heart of the Twyfelfontein Uibasen Conservancy and offers 56 en-suite twin rooms, 4 double rooms, 1 luxury suite, and 6 family rooms; the main lodge has the reception, lounge, curio shop, an open dining room, bar, curio shop, FOREX desk, waterhole for game viewing and swimming pool. In construction utmost care was taken to reduce the visual impact on the environment and to blend into the mountainside with the use of thatch roofs, natural stone and paint colours toning in with the surrounding rock formations. Credit cards are accepted and there is internet, but note there is no cell phone reception. Activities include afternoon nature drives with sundowners, star gazing, morning excursion to Twyfelfontein engravings, walking trails and visits to Damara Living Museum.
Cape Cross Seal Colony
Twyfelfontein Rock Art
Cape Cross Seal Colony
This colony of Cape Fur Seals is one of the largest in the world, home to approximately 80 000 to 100 000 of these so-called ‘seals’, which are in fact a species of sea lion. Day trips to the colony are offered and the seals can be viewed from a walkway at a distance of roughly 200 metres.
Twyfelfontein Rock Art
Twyfelfontein is a World Heritage Site boasting one of the richest rock art concentrations in Africa. Thousands of tourists come to this site each year to view some 2, 500 Stone Age rock engravings. The area is home to 17 rock art sites, which collectively encompass 212 engraved stone slabs. There are an additional 13 sites displaying rock paintings.
Cape Cross; Twyfelfontein rock etchings
Day 6: Dolomite Camp, Etosha West
This morning depart from southern Damaraland and drive north to Etosha – entering at the western gate and game driving through to Dolomite where we spend the first night, the western aspect of the park is quieter than the central section and attracts game such as mountain zebra along with the charismatic chacma baboon. (BD) Approx 4-5hours and game drives vary
The area and vegetation is very different to the south-eastern and eastern part of the park and the Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra can be found here. In this area and with a more undulating landscape, it makes for a very different wildlife experience. White dust and clay which makes up the Etosha Pan turns to a reddish brown soil during this time which may lead you to believe you have entered an entirely new park when you visit.
Overnight: Dolomite Camp
Dolomite Camp, is located in the western aspect of Etosha National Park and consists of a spacious reception, lounge, bar and restaurant area with a walkway leading to thatched, en suite chalets nestled amongst the rocky outcrops, which provide privacy with dramatic and panoramic landscape views. The camp’s interiors are designed to harmonize the natural surroundings, characterized by weathered dolomite rock formations, mopane, moringa trees and savannah woodland. With no fewer than 15 waterholes in the surrounding areas, there are great wildlife viewing opportunities. Specially arranged game drives, operated by knowledgeable guides, take you to parts of Etosha previously only known to conservationists, alternatively, you can self-drive in the area.
Game drives conducted with Safari guide/vehicle
Day 7-9: Okaukuejo Resort, Etosha South
Today we game drive through to Okaukuejo arriving in the afternoon. The next days are spent enjoying game drives and exploring the park visiting waterholes and searching for the many species of game. Etosha is recognised as one of the best game parks in Southern Africa for the numbers and various species of game as well as the interesting geology such as the seemingly endless Etosha Pan, so huge it can be seen from space and where shimmering mirages and swirling dust devils are often spotted. Overnight in twin bedded standard room with en-suite facilities, additional meals at own expense and we’ll be based either inside or outside the park subject to availability (B/B/B) Game drives vary
The national park can be accessed via the southern entrance at Andersson’s Gate and the central point is Okaukuejo Resort. Visitors can catch a glimpse of abundant wildlife including: lion, giraffe, elephant, white and black rhino, and a multitude of plains game. Popular activities include: game drives, tracking rhinos on foot, guided nature walks, or watch the sunset over this magnificent landscape. Just outside the national park is the upmarket Ongava Private Reserve, as well as a number of mid-level accommodation and camp sites.
Overnight: Okaukuejo Resort
Okaukuejo is located 17 km from the southern entrance of the park, and famous for its flood-lit waterhole, where visitors can observe at close quarters a spectacle of wildlife congregating and interacting – this is an incredible sight during the dry winter months and one of best places to see herds of elephant, black rhino and large herds of plains game. The spectacle starts at dawn, with animals coming in large numbers to quench their thirst and continues throughout the day until late at night. In the early evenings, it is not uncommon to have black rhino, elephant and lion all drinking at the same time. Wifi available (extra charge)
Day 10: Onguma Tree Top Camp, Onguma Game Reserve
Continuing our game driving we head to the east aspect of Etosha enabling us to enjoy the variety of habitats and the chance to spot a huge variety of species and game. We depart Etosha just after lunch and immediately turn into Onguma Private Reserve that borders Fischers Pan. Later this afternoon we enjoy either a sundowner drive or game walk offered by Onguma. Tonight is spent at the small and lovely Tree Tops Camp with views across to the waterhole where you may enjoy further sightings. (BD).
Situated east of Etosha, bordering Fisher’s Pan, Onguma Game Reserve is one of Namibia’s best-kept secrets. The reserve offers visitors the opportunity to experience Africa in all her beauty and diversity. Onguma Game Reserve features over 34000 hectares of protected land scattered with a variety of wildlife including plains game, black rhino, kudu, giraffe, zebra, lion, cheetah, leopard and more than 300 bird species. The seasonal rains attract thousands of migrating birds to the Fisher’s Pan wetland area. The neighbouring Etosha National Park is home to a rich array of wildlife, including four of the Big 5. Visitors can enjoy game drives, guided walks and rhino research drives within the private reserve as well as wildlife safaris into Etosha National Park to view abundant game in the largest national park in Namibia.
Overnight: Onguma Tree Top Camp
Onguma Treetop Camp is a small and intimate camp, especially designed for those travellers who like to truly experience the bush in all its raw splendour. The Camp is built on wooden stilts amongst the tree tops with full views over the watering hole and has 4 thatched rooms sleeping a maximum of 8 guests, with canvas walls, a dining room and a main complex. Each of the rooms are linked via an elevated walkway and offer an intimate experience, having a private deck, en-suite bathroom with shower and private toilet – the camp offers a traditional and classic experience and is a little more simple in style to both The Fort and Tented Camp wifi is available. Guests can enjoy game drives into Etosha, game drives on the reserve, night drives and nature walks and visits to the hide.
Game drives with Safari guide/vehicle; Game walk or sundowner drive with Onguma (shared activity)
Day 11: Okonjima Plains Camp, Okonjima Nature Reserve
We head south to Okonjima, home of the AfriCat Foundation and one of the most famous conservation programmes in Namibia. The AfriCat Foundation is devoted to the conservation of predators, specifically cheetah and leopard with the aim to ease the conflict that arises between humans and carnivores. Overnight in Plains Camp, in a twin bedded standard room with en-suite facilities on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis and 1 activity. (BD) Approx 4hours – note that 1 activity is included – you do not need to pre-book the exact activity – this is discussed and agreed with you on arrival
During your stay at Okonjima, note that a “fee” has been included and goes to the following projects – The Environmental Education Fund has been introduced now because Okonjima and AfriCat are committed to their ideal of contributing to long-term conservation through education. The Environmental Education Fund will contribute to the running and maintenance of the 3 main aspects of our “conservation through education” programme as follows:
– Perivoli Okonjima Country School (Kindergarten – Grade 4). This school aims to provide the best possible introductory schooling, with a strong environmental bias, for our resident children. This will facilitate their integration into a bigger main stream school after grade 4 with a sound foundation in environmental awareness.
– The Environmental Education Centre where visiting secondary school groups participate in an intensive environmental awareness programme
– The Adult Education programme which currently has two main aspects. Firstly, the continued work with both commercial and communal farms to co-exist with resident predators.
Secondly we are working towards using our 20 000ha / 200km² Nature Reserve as a classroom for tertiary students at all levels; especially future farmers, teachers and decision makers. Furthermore the Nature Reserve is used to gather a wide range of data for current and future research, which will ultimately contribute, to the conservation of Namibia’s predators
Halfway between Windhoek and Etosha lies the well-known Okonjima Nature Reserve. The 22 000 ha Nature Reserve is surrounded by 96 km of fence and was finally completed in 2010. Okonjima is home to AFRICAT, a Carnivore Conservation, which gives the captive carnivores a second chance to be released back into the wild and to take the time it needs, to become a completely independent hunter – in a protected area right in the middle of commercial farmland! Also in the Reserve is a 2000 ha ‘safe’ zone around Plains Camp, Bush Camp, Bush Suite, the Omboroko Campsite as well as the PAWS Environmental Education Centre.
Overnight: Okonjima Plains Camp
Not only is Okonjima a luxury lodge, but is also home to The AfriCat Foundation, a non-profit organisation, committed to long-term conservation of Namibia’s large carnivores, especially cheetahs and leopards and a visit will give you an opportunity to witness some of AfriCat’s work. Plains Camp design honours the Okonjima cattle-farming history – in the early 1920’s, Okonjima became a cattle farm and was bought by Val (VJ) & Rose Hanssen in 1970. They were well-established Brahman breeders and continued to farm cattle until the need for solutions to increasing livestock losses became pertinent and post-independence interest in Namibia as a tourist destination, escalated. In 1993, the herds of Brahman and Jersey cattle were sold, changing the face of Okonjima as well as that of Carnivore Conservation! Nowadays, clients enjoy a selection of activities that include tracking rehabilitated carnivores on foot; visiting the AfriCat Carnivore Care & Information Centre; and/or tracking leopards from a game–viewing vehicle. A guided Bushman Trail and birding/walking trails are also available. A superb first/last night destination and recommended. Facilities include swimming pool, curio shop, waterhole, free wifi.There is a choice of view rooms, standard rooms and the nearby garden rooms (these are a little further away from the lodge and part of old lodge – they are more traditional stone built). Note there is no air-conditioning.
Large Carnivore tracking on foot
The AfriCat Foundation
Okonjima – Large Carnivore tracking on foot
Guests staying at any of Okonjima’s camps can partake in a tracking, on-foot safari, alongside guides in search of AfriCat’s rehabilitated carnivores within our 22 000ha private nature reserve.
Okonjima – Leopard Viewing
Our guests travel continents and countries with the hopes of sighting the elusive leopard in its natural habitat. Leopards are the most adaptable of all the wild cats. These solitary, intelligent predators cover large distances across open plains, mountainous terrain and acacia thickets, which is why sightings are never guaranteed.
Okonjima – The AfriCat Foundation
Okonjima Nature Reserve in central Namibia is home to The AfriCat Foundation. It has grown significantly since it was established as a welfare organisation in the early 1990s and registered as a non-profit organisation in 1993. Today, AfriCat’s mission is the long-term conservation of some of Namibia’s large carnivores – such as brown hyaena, leopard and cheetah, all of which can be seen during an environmental education visit to Okonjima.
Okonjima Nocturnal Game Drives
After the sun has set and the temperatures have dropped, the African bush comes to life once again: bat-eared foxes roam about, aardwolves are on the hunt for insects, owls observe their surroundings from a height, while leopards and brown hyaena go out in search of unsuspecting prey. Guests are invited on a nocturnal game drive, led by our knowledgeable guides around the Okonjima Nature Reserve.
1 x activity
Day 12: End of Itinerary
Depending on your flight time, perhaps enjoy a further (optional) activity. From here we drive south to Windhoek where your safari ends – no flights prior to mid-afternoon (B) Approx 2.45-3hours to city and further 40-45mins to airport
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