Day 1: Windhoek, Namibia
After landing at Windhoek International Airport, you are welcomed by our representative and transferred into the city. En route to your hotel, enjoy a short city tour. Windhoek, Namibia’s capital, nestles among rolling hills, bounded by the Eros Mountains in the east, the Auas Mountains to the south and the Khomas Hochland in the west. It is a blend of Africa and Europe, the modern and the old. The capital’s main street is a mix of well-preserved German colonial buildings and modern architectural styles. Herero women in their traditional Victorian dresses mingle with executives dressed in the latest fashions. Check in to the hotel and relax.
Hotel Heinitzburg began as a gift from Count von Schwerin to his fiancé in 1914. Each room has a four-poster bed, Italian ceramic floor tiles, custom fittings and specially created, hand-made wood furnishings; and is fully equipped with air-conditioning and heating units, direct telephone lines, electronic safe, mini-bar, television and music facilities. There is also a sparkling swimming pool, excellent hotel restaurant and inviting sundowner terrace and bar with fantastic views over the city. Dinner tonight is at your leisure. You might want to try the famous “Leo’s at Castle” restaurant. Hotel Heinitzburg
Day 2: Windhoek / East Etosha National Park
You board a private charter flight that takes you north over Namibia’s central highlands and commercial farmland to the Mokuti Airstrip on the eastern boundary of Etosha National Park. On arrival, you are met by a representative of Mushara who will transfer you to the beautiful Villa Mushara. You check into one of only two exclusive villas that have been designed to create an ideal retreat from the stress of modern day life, where an aura of tranquility prevails. Arrive in time for lunch, and then relax and enjoy your villa before heading out for an exciting game drive inside the park. Days on safari have their own rhythm with morning and evening game drives in search of lion, giraffe, blue wildebeest, eland, kudu, gemsbok, zebra, rhino, cheetah, leopard, hyena, honey badger and warthog, as well as the endemic black- faced impala dominate the predator food chain. Savor the timeless appeal of Etosha’s enduring mystique. Villa Mushara (B,L,D)
Day 3: Eastern Etosha National Park
Today is spent game viewing within the Etosha National Park, returning to the villa for lunch. Later in the afternoon, venture out for more game viewing in the park. The park covers 22,270km², of which approximately 5,000km² is made up of saline depressions or ‘pans’. The largest of these pans, the Etosha Pan, can be classified as a saline desert in its own right. The Etosha Pan lies in the Owambo Basin, on the northwestern edge of the Namibian Kalahari Desert. Until three million years ago it formed part of huge, shallow lake that was reduced to a complex of salt pans when the major river that fed it, the Kunene, changed course and began to flow to the Atlantic. If the lake existed today, it would be the third largest in the world. The park consists of grassland, woodland and savannah. Game-viewing centers around the numerous springs and waterholes where several different species can often be seen at one time. The park boasts some 114 mammal and over 340 bird species. Villa Mushara (B,L,D)
Day 4: Eastern Boundary of Etosha / Serra Cafema
After a leisurely breakfast, you board your private light aircraft flight to travel further north and west into the Kaokoland Region and the Kunene River, Namibia’s northernmost border. On arrival, you are welcomed by your guide transferred by road through stunning scenery to your camp. You arrive in time for lunch. Serra Cafema is an exclusive, remote retreat on the banks of the Kunene River in the Hartmann’s Valley of the northwestern Kaokoland. Combining breathtaking desert landscapes with river views, the magnificent thatched and canvas en suite tents are elevated and shaded by ancient Albida trees. The main area includes a bar, lounge, pool and curio shop. The area surrounding Serra Cafema is inhabited only by the nomadic Ova-Himba people. When the villages are in the area, then you have the opportunity to learn about this culture with its relatively untouched lifestyle and traditions. Activities include quad biking (ATV’s) and 4x4 nature drives to explore the surrounding area of dunes and rugged mountains; boat trips; fishing; bird watching and guided walks. Serra Cafema (B,L,D)
Day 5: Serra Cafema / Hartmann Valley
Today, you savor exciting and informative guided activities that revolve around the exploration of surrounding Namib Desert sands and the lush oasis along the river. Enlightening nature drives and carefully guided quad bike excursions through the fragile dunes allow guests to experience the true Namib. The utmost care is taken to tread lightly on the dunes and preserve the unique and delicate habitats of this fascinating landscape. Boating (seasonal) on the Kunene River gives you the opportunity to venture through the lush riverside oasis. Crocodiles and water birds seem out of place in this surreal, lunar-like landscape. Also, in the Hartmann's Valley, you see examples of the remarkable fairy circle phenomenon. These circles are thought to be associated with sand termites, and only occur in a narrow belt of African desert with very specific environmental conditions. Walking in the remote mountain and river valleys is also a highlight, as is a visit to a Himba settlement - one of the last true nomadic people in Africa. The Himba, Tjimba and other Herero people who inhabit Namibia’s remote northwestern Kunene Region are loosely referred to as the Kaokovelders. They are semi-nomadic pastoralists who migrate from one watering place to another. They seldom leave their home areas and, for many centuries, they have lived a relatively isolated existence. The largest group of Kaokovelders is the Himba, semi-nomads who live in scattered settlements throughout the Kunene Region. They are a tall, slender and statuesque people, characterized especially by their proud yet friendly bearing. The women especially are noted for their unusual sculptural beauty, enhanced by intricate hairstyles and traditional adornments. They rub their bodies with red ochre and fat, a treatment that protects their skins against the harsh desert climate. The homes are simple, cone-shaped structures of saplings, bound together with palm leaves and plastered with mud and dung. The men build the structures, while the women mix the clay and do the plastering. A fire burns in the headman’s hut day and night, to keep away insects and provide light and heating. A family may move from one home to another several times a year to seek grazing for their goats and cattle. A Himba woman spends as much as three hours a day on her appearance. First she bathes, then she anoints herself with her own individually prepared mixture which not only protects her skin from the harsh desert sun, but also keeps insects away and prevents her hair from falling out. She uses another mixture of butter fat, fresh herbs and black coals to rub on her hair, and ‘steams’ her clothes regularly over the permanent fire. Men, women and children adorn themselves with necklaces, bracelets, anklets and belts made from iron and shell beads. With their unusual and striking designs, these items have gained a commercial value and are being produced on a small scale for the urban market. Sculptural headrests in particular are sought-after items. Serra Cafema (B,L,D)
Day 6: Serra Cafema / Damaraland
After breakfast, you return to the airstrip for your private light aircraft flight south into Damaraland. During the transfer to the camp, keep an eye out for some of the exceptional species of flora and fauna that can be found here. You arrive with time to freshen up and settle in before lunch. This afternoon you can either enjoy a guided walk in the local area or a guided excursion to the ancient Twyfelfontein rock engravings and the interesting geological sites of Burnt Mountain and the Organ Pipes (or there is plenty of time to do this tomorrow if preferred). At Twyfelfontein, some 2,500 prehistoric engravings that depict wildlife, animal spoor and abstract motifs are scattered on boulders over a hillside amongst flat-topped mountains of red sandstone. These boulders and slabs of red sandstone hold perhaps the largest and finest collection of petroglyphs in Africa. The engravings show animals such as elephant, giraffe, kudu, lion, rhinoceros, springbok, zebra and ostrich that once used to drink from a fountain at the bottom of the hill. In some cases, footprints were engraved instead of hooves or paws. The abstract motifs feature mainly circles. Stone tools and other artifacts found at Twyfelfontein suggest that hunter-gatherers occupied the site over a period of perhaps 7,000 years. A local guide accompanies you to showcase the rock art. The engravings lie along two circular routes, one an hour’s climb and the other 40 minutes longer. Twyfelfontein is one of Namibia’s key National Monuments and has recently become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A rounded hill a few kilometers from Twyfelfontein and the Organ Pipes, known as the Burnt Mountain, seems to catch fire again at sunrise and sunset. Its fantastic range of colors is due to a chemical reaction that took place roughly 125 million years ago when molten lava penetrated organic shale and limestone deposits, resulting in contact metamorphism. In ordinary sunlight it is a dull black. Blackened rubble lies to one side like cinders.
The Organ Pipes are another geological curiosity in the area consisting of a mass of perpendicular dolerite columns that intruded the surrounding rocks also about 125 million years ago and have since been exposed in a ravine due to river erosion. Your camp is situated in the rugged beauty of the northern slopes of the Huab River. This private paradise offers stunning silence, beauty and tranquility with nine large, luxury walk-in canvas tents, each with en suite bathroom. The dining room, pub and curio shop are combined under canvas with an open fire nearby. Activities here include nature walks and nature drives. The expert and experienced guides will give you new insight into this unique desert environment. Damaraland Camp (B,L,D)
Day 7: Damaraland
After an early breakfast, set out on a 4x4 excursion along the ephemeral Huab and Aba Huab River Valleys to explore this remarkable region and to search for game, including the elusive desert-adapted elephants if they are in the area. Damaraland is home to a variety of desert-adapted wildlife and hidden desert treasures. In habitats with sufficient vegetation and water, an adult elephant consumes as much as 300kg/661 lbs of roughage and 230 liters/61 gallons of water every day of its life. Consider what a herd of them would eat and drink in a week or a month or a year. An African elephant in a desert? Yes, and other large mammals as well, such as black rhinoceros and giraffe. Their ranges extend from river catchments in northern Kaokoveld as far south as the northern Namib. Apart from the Kunene River, seven rivers run from the Ugab, with the largest being are the Hoarusib, the Hoanib, the Huab and the Ugab Rivers. Desert adapted elephant in Kaokoland and the Namib walk further for water and fodder than any other elephant in Africa. The distances between waterholes and feeding grounds can be as great as 68 km/42 mi. The typical home range of a family herd is eight times as big as ranges in central Africa where rainfall is much higher. They walk and feed at night and rest during the day. To meet their nutritional and bulk requirements they browse on no fewer than 74 of the 103 plant species that grow in their range. Not a separate species or even a subspecies, they are an ecotype unique to Namibia in Africa south of the equator, behaviorally adapted to hyper-arid conditions. Elephant in Mali on the southwestern fringe of the Sahara Desert are the only others known to survive in similar conditions. You return to camp for lunch and the rest of the afternoon can be spent in leisure at the lodge or take a walk with your local lodge guide into the local area around camp. Damaraland Camp (B,L,D)
Day 8: Damaraland / Sossusvlei / NamibRand Nature Reserve
After an early breakfast, you are transferred to the airstrip for your private light aircraft flight south to Wolwedans Dune Lodge. The flight takes you along the Skeleton Coast, flying over ship wrecks, seal colonies and old diamond mining camps. You will also fly over the great sand sea and stopover in Swakopmund to refuel before passing by Sossusvlei and landing at Sossusvlei Lodge airstrip. Here you will be met by a local guide who will take you on a magical excursion into the Namib Naukluft National Park, entering the park gates in the late morning. Sossusvlei itself is actually a clay pan set amidst these star shaped dunes, which stand up to 300 meters/984 feet above the surrounding plains, ranking them among the tallest dunes on earth. This area boasts some of the highest free-standing sand dunes in the world. Your guide will give you an insight on the formation of the Namib Desert and its myriad of fascinating creatures and plants that have adapted to survive these harsh environs. Once you have explored the dune fields to your heart’s content, you will be transferred to Sossusvlei lodge in time for delectable lunch before returning to the airstrip and continue on your short flight to the Wolwedans airstrip. You are met by your local guide, who drives you to the lodge.
This afternoon if time allows, you are treated to an inspiring sundowner nature drive within the NamibRand Nature Reserve. This area around what has become known as “Chateau Plains” is a landscape photographer’s paradise – especially in the late afternoon light. This is one of the largest private nature reserves in Southern Africa, begun as a conservation initiative in 1984. It encompasses more than 180,000 hectares/444,790 acres of pristine Namib Desert, restoring land that was once used for Karakul sheep farming. The reserve shares a common border with the Namib-Naukluft National Park to the west, while the imposing Nubib mountain range forms a natural border to the east. The particular attraction of NamibRand is its diversity of desert landscapes, representing virtually all facets of the Namib Desert. Expansive sand and gravel plains and endless stretches of grass savannah alternate with majestic mountain ranges and vegetated dune belts of deep red sand. Your lodge is perched on top of a dune plateau. The building style is a combination of wooden poles and large canvas blinds/windows that open up to the desert beyond. Each of the spacious en-suite chalets leads onto a private veranda and stretches of untouched sand. The main complex consists of two lounges, two dining rooms, and a number of sundowner decks, a fireplace, library, wine cellar, and a swimming pool. Wolwedans Dunes Lodge (B,L,D)
Days 9/10: NamibRand Nature Reserve
Explore the Namib Rand Nature Reserve in-depth over the next two days. Whether you discover nature’s miracles on foot, by land rover or from the air, you will be astounded by the multi-faceted desert habitat, home to the most intriguing desert-adapted flora and fauna. Scenic drives and/or flights and nature walks with resident field guides reveal the fascinating wonders of the NamibRand Nature Reserve. Go on a picnic in the wild, savor sundowners on the dunes and dinners by candlelight. For active travelers who want a really close-up experience with this amazing landscape, you can arrange to go on a two-day guided walk on the TokTokkie Trails, a separate concession on the reserve. Hot-air ballooning over the dune belts and never-ending plains provides unforgettable, breathtaking vistas. From the best viewpoint imaginable, you admire the stark beauty of the Namib for about an hour, before celebrating this once-in-a-lifetime experience with a champagne breakfast at the landing spot. Wolwedans Dunes Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 11: NamibRand Nature Reserve / Windhoek / Depart
This morning after breakfast, you return to the local airstrip in time for your private charter light aircraft flight to the Windhoek International Airport. When you land at the airport, you are met by a representative who will help you connect with your onward flight. (B)
Land price, per person, double occupancy: From US$1450 per person per day