Windhoek – Kalahari (270 km)
You start your journey south on the main highway, travelling through the thin strip of Kalahari Desert that protrudes onto the eastern side of Namibia. Stopping at small towns along the way including Rehoboth, traditional home of the Baster people and on to Kalkrand where you bid the main road farewell and head off into the Kalahari.
The Kalahari Desert often surprises people when they first see it. It is very different from the Namib. First of all, remember that the Kalahari is not a desert. It receives more rain than a true desert should. The Kalahari is a fossil desert. Don’t expect to find tall Sossusvlei-style dunes devoid of greenery here. The Kalahari’s dunes are very different. They are often equally beautiful, but usually greener and less stark – and with this vegetation comes its ability to support more flora and fauna than a true desert.
Kalahari – Fish River Canyon area (400 km)
An early morning nature drive into Kalahari (included) before leaving for the town of Mariental and south to Keetmanshoop where you have the opportunity of visiting the Messosaurus Fossil Site and Quivertree Forest (although these trees are also found in the Gondwana Canon Park). Quiver trees are not in fact trees; they are a type of aloe, (Aloe Dichotoma), so called because the branches fork “dictomously”. These weird looking plants dot the landscape in this part of the world and are locally common; however they are one of the world’s rarest flora species. Overnight in the vicinity of the Fish River Canyon.
Fish River Canyon – Aus (310 km)
Early this morning head towards the main viewpoint of the Fish River Canyon National Park from where you can see how impressive this canyon actually is. This is an ideal opportunity for photos and to spend some time experiencing this amazing sight. Viewing from the top you can see the river sparkling in the sunlight far below us, and can barely imagine how many millennia it took for the forces of erosion to carve such a magnificent vista.
From the Canyon you head towards Aus for overnight camping at Klein Aus Vista.
Aus – Luderitz – Aus (125 km)
Travel to the coastal town of Luderitz. On route keep a sharp look out for the unique Namib wild horses. These horses are the only feral horses in Namibia and have, very unusually, become adapted to an existence with very limited water. Where they originated from is un-clear, some people think they are the descendants of the horses used by the German cavalry during the First World War. Another theory is that they originally came from a horse farm that used to be run by a German Barron, (von Wolff), in the very early colonial days.). Visit Kolmanskop, a desert ghost town about 20 km out of Luderitz. It was built in the 1920’s during the diamond rush and was abandoned when bigger and better diamonds were found further along the coast. The area is still abandoned and the desert has encroached over the entire town, giving an eerie feeling and real meaning to the word “ghost” (optional extra).
Return to Aus and Klein Aus Vista during mid-afternoon, this road takes you back through the “forbidden Zone” so named because in years gone by, the alluvial diamonds found in Namibia were simply scattered across the desert and we again have time to enjoy sunset over the mountains.
Klein Aus Vista – Namib Desert Camp, outside of the Namib Naukluft Park (315km)
Turning north, you once again head deep into the ancient southern Namib, travelling on small gravel roads and passing some tiny rural communities along the way. The scenery is harsh, and sometimes forbidding. The process of erosion in these areas is well advanced and we pass time rounded “koppies” arid terrain and outcrops of tortured rock. Take a lunch stop near to Maltahohe at a Namib cultural centre, so you can learn a little of the culture and lives of the people of this region. Traversing this bleak yet beautiful landscape, the terrain begins to change and you cross some open grass savannah and farmlands before the terrain begins to give way to the immense red sand dune desert of the Namib. Your arrival should be during the late afternoon, watch the colours glow and change on distant mountains to the east.
Namib Desert– Sossusvlei – Namib Desert (120 km)
A pre- dawn start is essential this morning as you want to catch the soft light of the sunrise on the desert. After passing through Sesriem, the gateway to the dunes and driving into the heart of the dune field, you reach Sossusvlei itself by walking the last 5 km through the dunes. The walk is like nothing else, in the cool of the morning, with soft sunlight just beginning to play over the dunes creating a sharp light and shadow contrast across the whole desert. Ancient mineral pans, stunted camel thorn trees and the chance of seeing a gemsbok or maybe an ostrich make the photo opportunities perfect. Spend the morning in and around Sossusvlei, also visiting dune 45, and as the day wears on return to your overnight establishment for lunch to escape the heat of the afternoon. As the day cools off in the late afternoon take a short excursion to the Sesriem Canyon.
Namib Desert Camp – Swakopmund (350 km)
An early start today, you are heading north-west to the seaside town of Swakopmund located on the Skeleton Coast. Leaving the dune fields far behind you are soon back into the mountain desert. You cross the Tropic of Capricorn and traverse both the Gaub and the Kuiseb pass, driving down to the dry river bed at the bottom of the canyon before climbing up the other side, watching the spectacular desert landscape unfold before you.
From the mountains you cross the desolate “Namib gravel plains” before reaching the coastal sand dunes at the port town of Walvis Bay. You can stop for a picnic lunch (not included) beside the ocean and there will be time to see the flamingos and other bird life in the Walvis Bay lagoon before continuing the now short drive into Swakopmund.
Today the day is free. Swakopmund is a very pleasant seaside town with lots of shops, a good stretch of beach (although the Atlantic here is quite cold) and an open-air curio market. There is also a very good museum and the Namibian National Marine Aquarium is located in Swakopmund.
Alternatively, there are various optional activities that can be arranged. These include aeroplane and microlight flights over the desert, scenic drives, fishing trips (both from the beach or in a boat), four-wheel motorcycle (quad bike) trips into the desert and over the sand dunes around Swakopmund, sand boarding trips (also in the dunes), skydiving, surfing, bird-watching and many other activities are available.
Swakopmund – Twyfelfontein (420 km)
Leaving early and heading north along the coast, you can first visit the seal colony at Cape Cross where it is possible to see thousands of Cape Fur Seals in the water and on the surrounding rocks and beaches. (Entrance Fees included) From here you return east, inland and back into the desert, travelling on to the small town of Uis, an old mining town, located more or less in the middle of no-where. Uis is one of the best places to buy semi-precious stones for which Namibia is famous. Here, rough Amethyst, Tourmaline etc. can be found at bargain prices.
From Uis it is now only a short drive to Namibia’s highest mountain, The Brandberg, (2573 m). Brandberg Mountain is an ancient Bushman spiritual site. Continue driving via the Organ Pipes and Burnt Mountain to drive to Twyfelfontein Area.
Twyfelfontein – Grootberg (190 km)
Starting early so as to enjoy the cool of the morning, visit the ancient Bushman rock engravings at Twyfelfontien. At this location you will have a local guide to conduct us on a short guided tour. (Entrance Fees not included, to be paid direct). Travel through one of the most beautiful desert regions in Namibia, Damaraland as you drive north-east to the Grootberg Pass and on to Grootberg Lodge for overnight in an en-suite room.
Full day at Grootberg Lodge – we have quoted on the rhino tracking today. Even those who prefer to avoid the morning rush by catching a few more hours of sleep will agree that there are things worth getting up early for.
Rhino tracking is one such an activity and those wishing to accompany our guide and game trackers down the flow of the Klip River will have to be ready by 06:00. The experience is a mixture of 4×4 game drive and setting off on foot, with the possibility of up to three hours” walking. Refreshments are served near springs over the lunch hour. Rhino tracking takes place over bumpy and rocky terrain and a reasonable amount of fitness is required. Damaraland is one of the last few places where wildlife can roam freely and as with the elephant tracking, sightings cannot be guaranteed.
Day 12 + Day 13
Grootberg – Etosha National Park Okaukuejo Resort (310 km)
Leaving Grootberg it is a short drive to Kamanjab, within this area you can visit a Himba Village – the only traditionally functioning Himba community outside the far north Kaokoland region of Namibia These tribes-people have migrated here, lifestyle and customs intact, and are following their traditional way-of-life in their village on a farm, the exact location of the site varies as the Himba occasionally roam to a new location. You will learn about marriage customs, traditional food and the mysteries of the “Holy Fire” religion. (Himba Visit Not Included)
Drive to Etosha National Park – Today’s Etosha National Park was proclaimed as Namibia’s first conservation area in 1907 by the then German government and is one of the largest game reserves in Africa. Consisting of saline desert, savannah and woodlands, its definitive feature is the Etosha Pan, a vast shallow depression. Of the 114 mammal species found in the park, several are rare and endangered, such as black rhino, cheetah and black-faced impala. Etosha’s current population of more than 700 black rhino represents one of the few growing populations of black rhino in the world.
Okaukuejo is the main administrative camp of the Etosha National Park, and was officially opened for visitors in 1957. A variety of accommodation is available from self-catering chalet units to twin bedded bungalows.
Facilities at the rest camp include a restaurant, shop, post office, swimming pool and filling station. Okaukuejo is also home to the Ecological Institute, which is responsible for the research and management of the park. The Okaukuejo waterhole is probably one of the most renowned waterholes in the park. The presence of game is seasonal but winter offers game enthusiasts a unique experience as the illuminated waterhole is situated next to the camp. Common sightings include large herds of elephant, black rhino, lion, cheetah, brown hyena, Burchells and Hartman’s Mountain Zebra, Gnu and numerous antelope species.
Overnight at the Okaukuejo Resort.
Day 14 + Day 15
Etosha National Park – Namutoni (game drive)
For the greater part of the year the pan is a bleak expanse of white, cracked mud which, on most days shimmers with mirages. Seeing vast herds of game against this eerie backdrop, referred to in the local vernacular as the ‘great white place of dry water’, makes the Etosha game-viewing a unique experience.
About 340 bird species occur in Etosha, about one third being migratory. For the greater part of the year (the dry season) Etosha’s animals and birds are dependent on about 30 springs and waterholes. These provide excellent game viewing and photographic opportunities. During the rainy season, especially the bird life at the main pan and Fischer’s Pan is worth viewing.
Located in the eastern region of the Etosha National Park, the Namutoni Rest Camp was first constructed as a fort by the Germans. The first fort, a six roomed building was erected during 1902. In 1904, however it was totally destroyed by Owambo raiders. In 1906 it was rebuilt and considerably enlarged and the fort never again came under attack. From 1910 onwards it served periodically as a police post but eventually fell into disuse. It was however rebuilt in 1956 according to its original design and opened in 1958 as a tourist camp. A variety of accommodation is available from self-catering chalet units to twin bedded bungalows. Facilities at the rest camp include a restaurant, shop, post office, swimming pool and filling station.
Namutoni Resort – Okonjima (300 km)
A last morning game drive within Etosha National Park as you exit at the Von Lindquist Gate and travel to the mining town of Tsumeb and down to Otavi. After Otjiwarongo you head off the main road and to Okonjima where you should arrive mid-afternoon in time for an afternoon activity.
Okonjima is the home of the Africat Foundation, a specialist conservation concern that centres its operations on the African Big Cats, particularly cheetah. This afternoon you will be taken on a tour during which you will view some of the cheetah that are part of the Africat rehabilitation programme.
Most of the animals currently living at Okonjima have been rescued from various desperate situations, being orphaned or caught in a trap and the aim of the rehabilitation process is to re-introduce them into the wild.
Okonjima – Windhoek (300 km)
After a leisurely breakfast and possible morning excursion (optional extra) leave Okonjima stopping at Okahandja, where you will have time to visit Namibia’s largest wood carving market. The market is operated on a local co-operative basis and is one of the best places to shop for truly Namibian souvenirs.
Arrival in Windhoek will be mid, to late afternoon.