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In November I set out to rediscover Namibia: to explore the landscape, wildlife and accommodation so I could better advise my clients. And so Adventurlogers…here is my advice:
Bottom line: If this is your first trip to Africa, then Namibia may not be for you. But if you have a sense of adventure and are looking for a different African experience then Namibia should be on the very top of your bucket list.
The word most frequently used to describe Namibia is “unique” and there is no doubt that this place is completely different to the traditional safari destinations in Southern and Eastern Africa.
One major difference is the wildlife, which is sparser than in more well-known safari destinations; after all, most of Namibia is desert. It is for this reason that I don’t recommend Namibia for your first African trip. But for those of us who have already ticked the “big five” off our list, there is something about spotting wildlife in this vast and barren landscape that makes your hair stand on end.
I went to Sossusvlei to watch the sunset over the enormous red sand dunes, for which this area is justifiably famous. I came to see the colours of the sand shift and change with the setting sun. And then above me, high up on a mountain of sand I saw a solitary oryx silhouetted against the darkening skies. I have seen enormous herds of antelope in other parts of Africa, but there was something about this lone animal that was breathtaking.
None of the above is to say that you won’t see big game. I spent a day driving along the Hoanib River. The riverbed was dry*, not having flowed in over six years, but there is water underneath which attracts the animals. We saw elephants, giraffe, oryx , springbok and incredibly we came across a pride of lions just after a kill. So the wildlife is here, just not in the numbers you would expect to find in the Serengeti or Botswana.
What is truly unique about Namibia is the landscape. Everything about the place seems vast – it’s enormous stretch of battered coastline, the sprawling Kalahari Desert, the endless rise and fall of the Namib mountains and valleys.
I drove for 5 hours inland to reach Okahirongo Elephant Camp in the vast wilderness of the Purros Conservancy. There was another couple on the road when I first set out, but I passed them when they stopped for a photograph. Thereafter I saw no other human being for mile upon mile of rolling hills and flat-topped mountains. It is not often in this day and age that one gets a chance to be so truly alone amidst the enormity of nature.
While vast, Namibia’s landscape is also varied. One experience I missed was the drive from Hoanib camp to the Skeleton Coast (note to self: you need at least 3 nights at Hoanib Skeleton Coast camp). However, I spoke to a couple that had made the trip and they described an ever-changing landscape, crossing the dry Hoanib river bed and plains, up over the shifting dunes and down to the rocks and hard sand of the Skeleton Coast. Unbelievably it would be possible on this drive to see elephants and penguins on the same day
You might have noticed the mention of “driving” above. This is perhaps the most exciting aspect of Namibia. Because the roads are good and the country is relatively safe, a self-drive holiday is a very real option. There is such a sense of adventure as you drive off into the African landscape. For me this is Namibia’s greatest appeal: the opportunity to set out on your own to explore and discover.
* By the way, the Hoanib flowed for the first time in six years just last week. Africa is always changing.
Little Kulala Camp: What’s great about this place is that it has a private entrance to Sossusvlei, making it so much quicker and easier to access these magnificent sandunes. Most people go to see the sunrise at Sossusvlei. My tip is to go for sunset instead. The light is just as magic but there are far fewer people.
Hoanib Skeleton Coast: You definitely need at least 3 nights and 2 full days here. Track for game along the dry Hoanib River, and the next day drive to the Skeleton Coast and return via scenic flight.
Etendeka Mountain Camp: This inland camp is mainly about walking. The guides are incredible and you will learn about everything: the climate, vegetation, animals, culture…. Come with questions because these guys really know their stuff.
Okahirongo Elephant Camp: This camp is on the Purros Conservancy in the north of Namibia. Yes, I did see elephants here, but the real reason to come is to meet the nomadic Himba people. There is a village right beside the camp and all of the guides are Himba. The owner also runs a camp on the Kunene River at the Angola border and can arrange for you to be transported between the two camps – something I will be recommending to many.
Doro Nawas: There’s no need to stay here more than one night. The reason you come is to visit Twyfelfontein, which has the largest collection of prehistoric rock art in Africa. It’s worth the trip!
Based on this trip and previous Namibian safaris I have put together a number of safari ideas for you to consider. But of course all of our itineraries are completely bespoke, so give me a call and we can start planning.
The Okahirongo River Camp is set in the far northwestern reaches of Namibia, near the Angolan border. Rough roads and lack of facilities have kept travelers away from the remote wilderness of the Marienfluxx region, so those who venture here discover a solitude and privacy lost to the rest of the world.
The camp offers surprising luxury considering the remote location. Set on a sweeping ridge, the camp offers breathtaking views of the Kunene River. Wooden cottages are cleverly built into the rocky terrain, each housing a luxury tent with private bathroom, king size bed, indoor-outdoor open-air shower, and private deck.
Scenic drives and walks exploring the rocky mountains and golden sand dunes can be combined with fishing in the Kunene River, or cruising to explore the region’s rich birdlife and spot the river’s many crocodiles. The turquoise waters of the swimming pool and shade of the comfortable lounge and library areas offer respite from the desert heart.
The area is the traditional home to the Himba people, one of the last semi-nomadic, desert-dwelling peoples. The Himba village near the camp remains unspoiled by tourism, thanks to the remoteness of the region, and a visit here is a unique opportunity to witness an ancient culture.
Okahirongo’s River Camp can be combined with its sister Elephant Camp in the Purros Conservancy, 200km south of the Kunene River.
The Purros Conservancy lies 55km from the Skeleton Coast and 200km south of the Kunene River in northern Namibia on the Kaokoveld, desert home to the nomadic Himba tribe, desert-adapted elephants and lions.
Here in this remote landscape you will find the 5-star luxury of the Okahirongo Elephant Lodge. Offering 7 indulgent terracotta double chalets and one presidential suite, Okahiringo is truly an unexpected oasis in an arid wilderness. It takes 2.5 hours in a small plane to reach the camp from Windhoek and much longer to drive in a 4×4 vehicle. But the isolation of the camp has not dinted the level of luxury, which includes King size beds, indoor-outdoor open-air showers and grand bathtubs overlooking the vast plains. Fine wines and sumptuous Italian/Namibian fusion food are served in the elegant and airy dining rooms.
Days can be spent exploring on foot and on game drives through the lushly vegetated riverbeds. Desert adapted elephant can be spotted, plus, antelope and giraffe. Those seeking a rest and an opportunity to drink in the desert landscape can relax in the open-air lounges, or enjoy a sundowner by the infinity pool
Guests are also encouraged to visit the local Himba village. The camp maintains a strong and mutually supportive relationship with the Himba people. The only operator in the area, Okahiringo is involved in a number of local school projects and provides hospitality training.
Okahirongo’s Elephant Camp can be combined with its sister River Camp on the Kunene River in the northern reaches of Namibia.
The small, rustic Etendeka Mountain Camp was one of the first “real” safari camps in Namibia, and has been operated by Dennis Liebenberg and his head guide Bonnie for over twenty years. Isolated, and relatively simple by the standards of modern safari camps, Etendeka still has plenty of charm and guests benefit from their hosts’ lifetime of knowledge.
The camp is set in a private concession area in the foothills of the Grootberg Massif. Each of the ten en-suite meru style tents looks out over the ancient lava flows of the northern Damaraland: boulder-strewn, flat-topped mountains and the gold and green of dry grasses and mopane trees.
Although simple the camp is comfortable with flush toilets, hot and cold running water, open-air “bucket” showers and a surprisingly good Wi-Fi connection in the common areas. Simple, but excellent, homemade meals are prepared on solar cooktops or an open fire and served under African skies.
Days are spent exploring on foot and in open game drive vehicles with Bonnie and Dennis, both exceptionally knowledgeable guides. The magic formula for this camp is the fact that Dennis and Bonnie have been here from the beginning but still retain their enthusiasm for this land and their guests.
Gisele had done her research before she came to Safari and Co. She knew she wanted to do a wildlife safari in Zambia and a photographic safari in Botswana’s Chobe National Park. Our role was to stitch everything together, because travelling solo in Africa you want to make sure all your i’s are dotted and t’s crossed. We talked to Gisele on her return about the joys of adventuring alone in the wilds of Africa. Continue reading …
“Once you have the soil of Africa under your fingernails you will be forever drawn back to the continent.” It’s an old saying, but I believe it is true. After 14 years in Canada I still feel the pull of the African bush. I have to go back. I need to reconnect with what I do. I need to establish relationships with the owners of resorts, safari camps and tour operators. But most of all I need to go for my soul.
My latest trip to Africa was short and business focused, but it was still a salve for my African soul. The primary purpose of the trip was to participate in a travel conference that brought together travel agents and designers with the best operators from throughout Africa. But I started my one-week trip in the African bush. Continue reading …
Tucked away on a 37,000 hectare private Kulala Wilderness Reserve, Little Kulala shows off the haunting beauty of the Namib desert. Inspired by its environment, the neutral colours, rich textures and natural light of the camp blend perfectly into the sprawling desert. You will truly experience the vastness of seemingly endless landscapes and vast starlit skies.
Kulala means “to sleep” and the camp is made up of 11 thatch roofed villas, or kulalas, each with climate control, ensuite with indoor/outdoor shower, a private deck and plunge pool. Each kulala has a rooftop skybed where you can lie back and drink in the African night skies.
The spectacular red dunes of Sossusvlei are what bring people to this area and Little Kulala is the only camp with direct access. Climb Big Daddy with its red sands reaching over 300m above the valley floor. Head out in the early morning and capture the deep reds and rich shadows of the sunrise over Sossusvlei. Or take a hot air balloon safari, floating across the dramatic dunes and returning for a champagne breakfast.
But there is more to explore than the dunes. Take a quad bike tour of the beautiful Kulala Wilderness Reserve. Wander the hills and dunes on one of the guided walking trails. Walk or drive in search of the smaller desert animals like the bat-eared fox, or take a night walk to look for the dancing lady spider.
Then return to camp to shop at the craft boutique, lounge in the library or enjoy a sundowner overlooking the magic desert landscape. Just drink in the serenity.
Each of the three thatched villas is meticulously appointed and includes a private plunge pool, ensuite bathroom, sala and an outdoor shower with views of the waterhole. The entertainment area is ideally set up for relaxation and stylish dining.
Guests share a dedicated guide to ensure an optimal nature experience. As well as the private Ongava Reserve, there is the incredible expanse of Etosha National Park, one of Africa’s largest game parks, to explore.
The wildlife here is plentiful year round. Game drives will view elephant, lion, black rhino, springbok, gemsbok, hartebeest, leopard, cheetah…and the list goes on. The birdlife is also spectacular; look out for the White-tailed Shrike, Short-toed Rock Thrush, Hartlaub’s Francolin and the abundant raptors roaming the endless skies. The more adventurous may choose to track the endangered black rhino on foot.
Return to Little Ongava to enjoy champagne in a warm bath as you stare out over the magnificent plains. Enjoy a sundowner looking out over the busy waterhole. Dine on your veranda and drink in the vast African skies. Do as you please – this is your own private piece of Africa.
Partly owned by the Save the Rhino Trust (SRT), this rustic camp is designed to offer guests unique insights into the ecology of this vulnerable area, as well as contributing directly to its conservation.
Namibia’s desert-adapted black rhino is a true desert survivor. Ancient rock art shows rhinos in the region centuries ago, but the late 20th century almost obliterated them. By 1982 less than 10 rhinoceros survived in Kaokoland and an estimated 30 to 40 survived in Damaraland. Thanks in part to the efforts of SRT; northwest Namibia now enjoys the largest truly free-ranging black rhino population left in the world.
The camp is remote and provides a personalised experience. Holding a maximum of only 12 guests, the setting is minimalist but still full of character and comfort. The eight raised Meru-style canvas tents each have a private verandah where guests can take in the sweeping valley that stretches to the Etendeka Mountains in the background.
The comfortable, tented dining and lounge areas are also elevated. Sit in the large lounge or one of the comfy chairs and read one of the many books on Namibia, or gaze through the partially opened sides of the tent to the panoramic views beyond.
Evening meals are taken around the fire pit. Here guests gather to recount tales of day’s adventures.
The rhino tracking starts early. Trackers from SRT are in contact with your guide, informing them where to find the rhino. Usually guides will drive to within a kilometer of the rhinos’ location and then approach on foot.
The rhino is not the only game to be found on the Concession. There is a healthy number of desert adapted elephants, a large population of Hartman’s mountain zebra, giraffe, oryx, springbok and kudu. The predator population is Namibia’s largest outside of Etosha, with lions, cheetah, leopard, brown and spotted hyenas.
Serian Serengeti South is a seasonal camp that operates only between December and late April. Because the camp is mobile it is more basic than some of the luxurious lodges. But what it lacks in luxury it more than makes up for in atmosphere and adventure. This is a place to feel the true heart of Africa.
The camp is open in the months when this area is inundated with a million or more wildebeest, and at the height of wildebeest calving season. With exclusive use of a 250,000-acre conservation area, guests experience the great migration in an intimate way, far from the hordes of tourists and jeeps.
Alex Walker has been guiding and outfitting safaris for over 30 year. He and his hand picked professional team of guides have created distinctive safaris, focused on walking and exploring.
This is a place to disconnect and be seduced by the rhythms of Africa. The eight tents are stylish, but basic. There is no telephone or Wi-Fi. Instead, guests enjoy exclusive use of a vehicle with a private guide and spotter to explore and the seemingly endless short grass plains and divorce themselves from the everyday world.
The truly adventurous have a unique opportunity to walk with experienced guides and Hadzabe bushmen into the wilderness for two or three days fly camping. This is an unadulterated bush experience, shared with those who know and understand the bush.
Photographs compliments of Alex Walker’s Serian Serengeti South