Tailored from £5,000 per person excl. flights
19 days Windhoek, Kalahari, Fish River Canyon, Lüderitz and Aus, Namib-Naukluft, Damaraland, Etosha, Central Highlands
19 days Windhoek, Kalahari, Fish River Canyon, Lüderitz and Aus, Namib-Naukluft, Damaraland, Etosha, Central Highlands
This trip is for those who want to get under the skin of Namibia and experience an authentic part of the country, further from the path more commonly travelled. It visits some of the country’s most pristine and exclusive areas and explores the landscape in a number of different ways, such as hiking and camping in the Fish River Canyon to accompanying rangers from Save the Rhino Trust monitoring rare black rhino in Damaraland.
This trip visits most of what would be considered the highlights of Namibia, however it focuses on experiences and camps in these areas which are set apart by something unique or off the beaten track.
Upon arrival into Windhoek International Airport you will be met by our friendly team and transferred to a boutique guest house in the quiet suburbs of the city. It is around a 45 minute to 1 hour drive from the airport into the city, so sit back and take in your first exposure to Namibia.
Enjoy the afternoon at leisure in the suite of the Olive Exclusive Guesthouse in Windhoek, relaxing after your international flight and perhaps take a dip in your private plunge pool, gearing up for the start of your self-drive trip tomorrow. This afternoon your hire car will be delivered, and you will be given a full briefing on your trip from a member of our local team.
This morning begin your self-drive adventure in earnest! It is a drive of just over 2 hours south of Windhoek to your first destination of Kalahari Red Dunes Lodge.
This luxury lodge is situated on it’s own private reserve on the edge of the vegetated Kalahari Desert. Each of the 12 spacious guesthouses is individual and named after an animal that you might see in this area, such as springbok, giraffe, zebra or kudu. They are spread out on either side from the main building along sandy trails and some board walks. Enjoy an afternoon exploring the private reserve, heading out on a game drive will be your best chance of spotting wildlife or enjoy a gentle walk or a guided mountain bike trail.
A longer drive today takes you into the deep south of Namibia and nearly to the border with South Africa, so it is worth leaving relatively early from Kalahari Red Dunes to give you a chance to stop and enjoy the views along the way.
Fish River Lodge occupies one of the most stunning positions of any lodge in Namibia as it is perched right on the rim of Fish River Canyon, with each of the 20 chalets seemingly clinging to the edge. It offers fantastic views of the crater and even better sunsets. Relax after your arrival and enjoy a night at the lodge ahead of your hiking adventure tomorrow.
After a hearty breakfast, depart from the lodge with your guide for a day of hiking, where you will get to know the Fish River Canyon, thought to be the second largest canyon in the world, in more intimate detail. Very few people make it down to the canyon floor and even less take the time to hike through some of it. Today you will cover roughly 14km, initially descending into the canyon to a series of natural rock pools, perfect for a refreshing dip and to enjoy your packed lunch.
Your camp will be set up by the lodge team and consist of comfortable stretcher beds and mattress and even a bucket shower and chemical toilet. Your dedicated chef will cook for you over an open fire as you enjoy the bright night sky.
You will leave your temporary camp at around 07:30 for your hike back to Fish River Lodge, arriving just in time for lunch. When you are ready, hop back into your rental car and start making your way north to the town of Aus and to Eagle’s Nest Chalets. It is a drive of around 3.5 hours, initially north and then directly west.
Stay in one of the 9 individual chalets built around the rocky landscape and choose whether to cook for yourself in the kitchen, over the fire, or head to the lodge restaurant for dinner. We recommend picking up a braai pack from the lodge and cooking it up yourself as you watch the sun go down.
You have a full day today to enjoy activities on the private Klein Aus Vista Reserve, within which your lodge is located. There are some fantastic self-guided hiking and mountain biking trails or you can head out on a nature drive with an experienced guide from the lodge. Keep a look out for feral horses and the abandoned 1934 hudson terraplane car, punctured by bullet holes and thought to be the climax of a fight between diamond thieves and the police force.
Nearby is the coastal town of Lüderitz, drive yourself around the peninsula or take boat trip to see African penguins on Halifax Island. Also, worth visiting, just outside of Lüderitz, is Kolmanskop, once a thriving diamond mining town now it is abandoned and slowly being reclaimed by the desert.
A journey of around 6 hours north, takes you to the town of Sesriem, which is the entrance to one of the highlights of any trip around Namibia- the Namib-Naukluft National Park. This is home to Namibia’s famous apricot-coloured sand dunes and pans of Sossusvlei and Deadvlei.
Kulala Desert Lodge is within the private Kulala Wilderness Reserve and it is about as close to dunes as any lodge outside of the National Park. Each of the comfortable 23 cabins have incredible views towards the stunning Namib Sand Sea that stretches for many miles west before falling into the Atlantic Ocean . Relax this afternoon before a full day tomorrow or enjoy a laid-back sundowner drive.
With an early start today make use of Kulala’s private gate to the National Park and get a head start on the other lodges which are bring guests to visit the dunes and who have to use the main entrance to the park at Sesriem.
Kulala’s expert guides really bring the area to life. From discussing the formation of the dunes and the pans to the smaller nuances of life in the desert, such as ‘reading the morning paper’ as they interpret the tracks and trails of animals from the night before. You are welcome to be as active as you like, whether this is climbing ‘Big Daddy’ or walking the relatively flat but sandy path from the car park to Deadvlei, the choose is yours. The trip is completed with snacks and drinks under the shade a majestic camelthorn tree before heading back to the lodge
It is quite a long drive of around 5-6 hours today across the Namib Desert to the coast of Namibia and to the town of Swakopmund. It is a beautiful drive and there are lots of places to stop on the way to enjoy the scenery and stretch your legs. Just down the coast from Swakopmund, is the town of Walvis Bay, it might feel a little more industrial than Swakopmund, however it is worth stopping off at the lagoon as you drive through. This can be home to over a hundred thousand flamingos and many other wading birds.
Your destination is Villa Margherita, which is in the heart of Swakopmund town and a convenient base from which to explore the many restaurants, café or markets. The welcoming coastal breeze makes for a nice break from the heat of the interior.
We recommend driving via Cape Cross Seal Colony, around 130km north of the town, on your way to Damaraland. Spend some time experiencing the sight, sound and smell of the world’s largest breeding colony of Cape fur seals with up to 210,000 seals present during the breeding season in November and December.
Continue into Namibia’s diverse interior and to Doro Nawas, situated on a prominent hill that affords incredible views across the stark landscape. You might like to just soak up the atmosphere of the lodge this afternoon or perhaps head straight out on a nature drive or walk with the lodge.
One of the highlights of staying in Damaraland is searching for the desert elephants which manage to eke out a living in this arid landscape and Doro Nawas run some of the best activities in the area to do this.
Morning nature drives normally depart around first light and you might be out for 4-6 hours searching for these desert giants. You are also likely to encounter other wildlife such as zebra, kudu, oryx, springbok, ostrich and giraffe. A welcome cup of coffee and snacks are provided during the morning, with a welcome chance to stretch your legs. You are back in time for lunch at the lodge and the choice of activities this afternoon is yours. It is easy to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Twyfelfontein, which is just a short distance away, independently or you can take a guided trip with the lodge.
Drive even deeper into Damaraland today as you head north towards the small outpost of Palmwag. There is a small, secure parking area here, where you will leave your vehicle and meet your guide who will drive you into Desert Rhino Camp. This takes the form of a nature drive through the Palmwag Concession and can take up to 3 hours to get to camp, depending on what you see.
Settle into the remote camp this afternoon, which is deep within the private Palmwag concession. The camp has just 8 luxury tents scattered among the euphorbia on the gravel plain, a traditional style main area and pleasant swimming pool. Depending on your arrival time you could enjoy a gentle walk or drive this afternoon.
As well as Desert Rhino Camp occupying a remote and little-visited corner of Damaraland the speciality of this camp is tracking black rhino. The Palmwag Concession is home to the largest free-ranging population of black rhino anywhere on the planet. The camp works closely with rangers from Save The Rhino Trust who are responsible for helping to protect the rhino in the region. After a briefing with the trackers, guests head out with a guide, following the Save The Rhino Trust trackers in a separate vehicle. Days can be long tracking black rhino, bouncing around through the uneven landscape, however this is one of the few places you are able to track black rhino on foot and the experience is exhilarating and well worth it.
A picnic lunch will be set up and during this time the trackers normally also give a presentation on the area, the wildlife and of course the rhinos, perhaps focusing on the history of the individual(s) you have seen that morning.
Depending on when, where and if you have found a black rhino this afternoon you might continue tracking these rare animals or you might enjoy a gentler nature drive or walk from camp.
Say goodbye to Desert Rhino Camp as you are transferred back to your hire car on a final nature drive through the concession, perhaps you will have a final unexpected desert wildlife sighting.
Your next stop on this detailed exploration of Namibia is Etosha National Park. It is around a 5-hour drive to your next camp which is Anderssons at Ongava, this is located in the private Ongava Nature Reserve, which is adjacent to Etosha National Park and shares a rather porous fence. This is the newest camp in the reserve having been completely refurbished and reopened in April 2019. It is a modern take on a traditional safari tent style, the eight suites have a host of mod-cons such as air-conditioning and even a smart TV connected to cameras that overlook the camps productive waterhole!
Arrive in time for an afternoon activity or relax at the lodge keeping an eye on the waterhole either with your eyes or through the proxy of the television.
There are a variety of activities available within the private nature reserve, so enjoy game drives or bush walks on the private or drives into Etosha National Park itself. The benefit of staying inside a private reserve is that you have more choice over activities, such as guided nature walks and going off-road to track down animals, which are not possible in the National Park. Night drives in the dry season can also be productive for those more elusive nocturnal species.
The Ongava reserve is over 125 square miles in size and contains just four lodges, so it is also a much more exclusive safari experience than inside the National Park. Good populations of lion can be found in the reserve, as well as white and black rhino, elephants, giraffe and several species of antelope including the rare black faced impala.
Drive out from the Ongava Game Reserve, across Etosha National Park to the eastern side and to Onguma Bush Camp. The drive today is worth treating as a gentle safari drive as you visit the waterholes along the way and take time for the wildlife that you will pass on the journey.
Onguma Bush Camp is situated in the private Onguma Reserve, it has a number of different room types but our favourite are the deluxe waterhole rooms which are on the edge of camp and have a more wild feeling, as well as a view of well-frequented waterhole.
This is your final full day in Etosha so start early and choose to drive out of the Onguma Reserve and into the National Park yourselves or enjoy a guided activity with lodge.
The Onguma Reserve is adjacent to Etosha National Park, it is 34,000 hectares of private wilderness and contains five lodges to suit all styles and budgets. One of the highlights of staying on a private reserve is to get out of the vehicle and explore the smaller details of the environment and it’s sights, smells and sounds that you might miss on a game drive. The experienced guides at Onguma bring the landscape to life as they discuss the tracks, spoor, insects and the flora you encounter. The focus of the walk is not to get close to big game but in the wild you never know what you might see on your walk.
Start heading south, back towards Windhoek and break your journey with a night at Ai Aiba Lodge. This luxury camp is built in a secluded valley in the Erongo Mountains of the Central Highlands. The lodge and it’s 20 thatched rooms have been built against the dramatic granite boulders that litter the hillsides. Testament to the low-impact nature of the lodge are the families of rock hyrax which you almost immediately notice when you arrive and the almost constant cacophony of birdsong that echoes around the valley.
It is the perfect destination for your final night in Namibia as you soak up the last rays of sunshine and try to appreciate the amazing sights from your journey so far. Relax at the lodge and tick some more bird species off your bird list or head out on a gentle sundowner walk or nature drive with one of the knowledgeable, local guides, perhaps discovering some of 204 or so identified examples of rock paintings in the area.
Depart from Ai Aiba in plenty of time for the roughly 3.5 hour drive back to the airport, in time to return your hire car and check-in for your international flights.