From the endless sand dunes in the world’s oldest desert, to the vast salt pan and teeming waterholes of Etosha, to the haunting Skeleton Coast, Namibia’s diversity is simply awe-inspiring
Selected departures from March to November 2018
You should arrive at the airport to take your overnight flight to Johannesburg.
After your morning arrival you will connect with your onward 1 hour 50 minute flight to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia and our hotel for the night, the centrally-located four-star Avani Hotel with breakfast. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure to relax after your flight.
We leave Windhoek this morning and soon we are in open country, without another building or road in sight. This is our first experience of driving on Namibia’s famed gravel roads, but with a smooth ride on our specially adapted coach. We stop to appreciate the scenery as we cross the Tropic of Capricorn. The low hills in the distance are interspersed with acacia trees and bushes – the soils here, as in most places in Namibia, are far too poor for agriculture, so this is cattle country, but you’ll wonder exactly what they find to eat! You’ll start spotting some game too: some tall Kudus or springbok perhaps and many trees with huge thatch-like structures which are the nests of sociable weaver birds. We arrive in Solitaire at around lunchtime – it’s no more than a filling station and lunch-stop surrounded by hundreds of square miles of emptiness. Our hotel for two nights is the 3-star superior Namib Desert Lodge, on dinner and breakfast basis.
An early start today as we enter the vast Namib Naukluft National Park. Look out for oryx, with their long straight horns, superbly adapted for this harsh climate. The further we drive, the redder and higher the dunes become, before finally reaching the point where the road ends and we transfer on to 4x4 vehicles for the final 3-mile drive through the sand to the Sossusvlei dunes. In the distance you’ll be able to discern the enormous bulk of ‘Big Daddy’, at 325 metres one of the highest dunes in Namibia. Our destination is Dead Vlei, located on a flat clay salt pan, the dramatic contrast between the white salt pan and the sun-blackened stumps of the trees against the red sand of the dunes is absolutely extraordinary. The more adventurous can climb of one of the nearby dunes, but remember you’ll need to tackle the rather steeper descent. Your afternoon is at leisure at our hotel – the sunsets here are simply amazing and at night you’ll see more stars than you could have thought possible.
Subject to availability, you may have the option to go on a hot-air balloon flight, to watch the sunrise from high above the vast sea of dunes of the Namib – an experience few superlatives can describe! After breakfast we head towards the Atlantic coast at Walvis Bay and Swakopmund. Walvis Bay is the main port of Namibia whilst Swakopmund retains the air of a sedate seaside resort, with its red and white lighthouse, its pier and lush gardens – a world away from the surrounding desert landscape. Our Swakopmund hotel for two nights is the 3-star superior Plaza Hotel with breakfast.
A day at leisure to enjoy the charms and sea air of Swakopmund, with its clean wide streets and German-inspired architecture. There are plenty of shops, restaurants, a long beach and numerous optional trips to try out. One of the most popular is a catamaran harbour cruise in search of dolphins, seals and seabirds; there’s also light aircraft flights along the stunning coastline to spot some of the famous shipwrecks of the Skeleton Coast; finally, there’s the opportunity for a desert drive in 4x4 vehicles on a ‘living desert’ tour to track and spot all the amazing geckos, lizards, beetles and chameleons that manage to survive this inhospitable environment.
This morning we follow the coast north towards the Skeleton Coast before arriving at Cape Cross, site of the largest Cape fur seal colony in world. Sustained by the nutrient-rich waters of the cold Benguela current the sheer size of the colony is a sight to behold – but be prepared for the smell! Turning inland we cross into Damaraland, an area of desert, including Namibia’s highest mountain, which is rich in ancient remains. Our hotel for two nights is the 3-star Damara Mopane Lodge with dinner and breakfast.
Our destination today is Twyfelfontein, Namibia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, with numerous 6,000-year old rock engravings. As you would expect, there are depictions of animals to be found locally such zebras, lions and giraffes, but intriguingly a seal and penguin are also shown, which live hundreds of miles away. The whole area is surrounded by fractured red sandstone cliffs and escarpments – with few signs of human settlement. Nearby we’ll also visit the organ pipe rock formation before an included lunch. Your afternoon is at leisure to relax in the spacious gardens and pool at your hotel.
Today we gain a fascinating insight into the culture of the local tribe, the Himba. Following a semi-nomadic lifestyle, they have retained much of their unique customs, dress and very distinctive hairstyles! We visit them at one of the local villages, guided by members of the tribe, to see their way of life at first hand. We stay for one night at the 3-star superior Taleni Etosha Village, with dinner and breakfast.
This morning we enter Etosha, Namibia’s most famous national park. Slightly larger than Wales, Etosha is home to over 100 mammal species, including elephants, giraffe, rhino, lions and elusive leopards. Our first stop is the Okaukuelo waterhole where you are usually guaranteed to see a large variety of game. Continuing our drive through the park, we stop at other waterholes and the Etosha Outlook viewpoint which is located in the salt pan itself. Our home for the next two nights is the excellent four-star Mokuti Lodge on dinner and breakfast basis, the closest lodge to the park’s eastern gate. With its numerous thatched buildings, lush gardens and pools, this cool, green oasis of calm is an ideal spot for some ‘down-time’.
A day at leisure to enjoy the beautiful gardens and facilities of your lodge. Alternatively, the lodge also has its own spa and half-day safaris are also available into Etosha
Saying goodbye to Etosha we head south, finally back on tarmac roads, towards Windhoek. On the way we stop for a visit to the popular Okahandja craft market, full of interesting wood carvings and curios. Our destination is the Midgard Country Estate, set in its own 29,600 acres of beautiful countryside. With two swimming pools, large stables, hiking trails, a vintage car collection and even a skittle alley, this is a fascinating last night in Namibia. Dinner is included tonight.
A morning at leisure until our afternoon departure for our return overnight flight to the UK, via Johannesburg.
You arrive home this morning after a truly extraordinary tour.
Namibia is one of our most extraordinary destinations – its amazing, remote and extreme landscapes have created an utterly unique country of exceptional and surprising beauty. The statistics are incredible – as one of the world’s emptiest countries, Namibia has the third lowest population density in the world. The vast Namib Desert, the oldest in the world, covers the whole coastal region, 1,243 mi from north to south and extending 93 mi into the interior. The rest of the land is either mountainous or semi-arid, and includes a large part of the Kalahari. Only 1% of the land is arable. The country itself is more than three times the size of the UK, but with a population barely over two million.
Back in the 1880s, during the ‘scramble for Africa’, what is now Namibia became one of a number of German colonies across West Africa. At first, the settlers were few and co-operated with the various indigenous tribes. However, after an uprising in 1904 was brutally crushed by the German authorities many thousands perished from thirst and starvation. After the end of WWI the local tribes were initially more welcoming to South Africa, which was entrusted to administer the country. After a prolonged guerrilla war during the last few years of apartheid, Namibia finally gained its independence in 1990.
Whilst many people are surprised to hear that Namibia is such a young country, it is remarkably stable and efficient. The infrastructure in Windhoek and other major towns is much better than many other African countries, however much of the road network is made up of gravel roads – the very low rainfall means that they remain in good condition throughout the year and our coaches are specially adapted for these conditions.
The country’s small capital, Windhoek, is our first port of call – you’ll notice some German street names and a few older buildings here and there, but generally this is a low-rise modern city of wide clean avenues, rows of palm and jacaranda trees interspersed with a few 19th-century church steeples. Within just a 10-minute drive of the centre you’ll find yourself in open countryside and within another 10 minutes you’ve lost sight of the city altogether. That’s the beauty of Namibia – you are always a short distance away from the wide-open vistas and unspoilt horizons of the real Africa.
The Namib Desert is undoubtedly a major highlight – this vast sea of shifting dunes is 55 million years old, the world’s oldest desert. The seemingly endless panorama of shadow and light, with an astounding palette of colours ranging from orange, terracotta to deep reds is at its best early in the morning or at sunset. The dunes at Sossusvlei are some of the highest in the world and you’ll have the opportunity to climb one of the dunes overlooking the remarkable Dead Vlei salt pan. Amazingly, specially-adapted animals do manage to live here – look out for oryx and ostriches in amongst the camel thorn trees along the dry river beds.
As a complete contrast, the seaside resort of Swakopmund with its fine Lutheran church, lush gardens and red and white Lighthouse looks a world away from the harsh arid landscape that surrounds it. Founded in 1892 as the country’s main harbour, nowadays the port facilities are down the coast at Walvis Bay and Swakomund is a pleasant, though somewhat sleepy, holiday spot with a nice beach, interesting colonial buildings and a number of good fish restaurants. It’s also the starting point for a number of fascinating trips: take a light aircraft flight over the Namib; visit the nearby dunes with a specialist naturalist guide or take a catamaran cruise in the bay to spot dolphins and seals.
Towards the north of the country the region of Damaraland is a remote and ruggedly beautiful region with Namibia’s highest mountain, cliffs and arid valleys with numerous fascinating examples of ancient rock art. We visit the most famous of these, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, dating back 6,000 years. We’ll also visit a village of the local Himba tribe, with time for you to ask questions about their daily lives and see their remarkable hairstyles and jewellery.
Etosha National Park, despite being one of the emptiest places in Namibia – nothing grows on its enormous salt pan – is nevertheless the best place to see the huge variety of wildlife that has adapted to this difficult environment. Etosha’s famous waterholes attract everything from rhino, to elephants, zebras, giraffes and lions, all in close proximity to one another. Not all of Etosha is made up of the barren salt pan, so there’s also plenty of exciting opportunities to track game in the bush too.
After so many years of South African influence, almost everyone in Namibia speaks English, as well as ‘Namlish’ – a fascinating mixture of German, Africaans, local dialects and English. Namibian cuisine has also been strongly influenced by German culture – you’ll find dishes like wiener schnitzel, tasty sausages and excellent locally-brewed lagers in restaurants. The South African predilection for a good ‘braai’ (BBQ) can be experienced in the wide range of freshly grilled game meats at most hotels and of course there’s also a varied selection of well-priced Cape wines to choose from.
It is no exaggeration that Namibia is a unique destination – you’ll be amazed at its diversity, its wildlife, its colours and its people, all within a vast landscape that will capture your imagination and your heart.
The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a twin room. Limited numbers of single rooms are subject to availability at the relevant supplement above. Scheduled return flights to Johannesburg with return connections to Windhoek; all transfers; eleven nights' accommodation on bed and breakfast basis, plus eleven meals; visit to Sossusvlei dunes, visit to Cape Cross, Twyfeldontein rock art site, Hambi village and full day Etosha safari; hotel porterage of one item of luggage per person; the services of a Riviera Travel tour manager.
Mike and Madeline Furse
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