President’s Pick Namibia Desert Quest

"I fell in love with Namibia long before I even understood why. What was the connection? Was it the dramatic dunes, the remoteness and remarkable desert animals? Was it the community-based conservancies? Was it that they were the first country in the world to have a sustainability amendment in their constitution? Today, I can tell you that it was and remains all of that. But you need to move beyond the dunes of Sossusvlei."

Country Information

Namibia

President's Pick Namibia Desert Quest President’s Picks

(Countries Visited)

Namibia


(Interest Type(s))

Safari Tours

,

Adventure Travel


(Tour Length)

11 Days


Tour Highlights

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  • Explore the private Neuhof Nature Reserve, where you can take a dip in magical desert pools and savor incredible star gazing at your camp’s pioneering Stellar Escape, a remarkable sleep out
  • Travel into Namib Naukluft National Park at sunrise to take in the dramatic dunes in the spectacular early morning light
  • Embark on an extraordinary sunrise balloon flight over the Namib Desert, the world’s oldest desert with landscapes of the sea of sand, gravel plains and breathtaking mountains
  • Discover the amazing Skeleton Coast, with its relics of shipwrecks that dot this part of Namibia’s coast and go beachcombing for whale bones and pieces of old ships wrecked here or marvel at the geologically-remarkable Clay Castles
  • Deep in the northwestern corner of Namibia, you find Kaokoland, one of the most remote, wild and marvelously unique areas characterized by rolling dunes, rocky mountains and desert plains and track desert-adapted lion, elephant and giraffe; nature walks; rhino tracking; and cultural experiences with local Herero people

Day 1: Windhoek, Namibia
After landing at Windhoek’s International Hosea Kutako Airport, about 40 km /25 mi. outside of Windhoek, you are welcomed by your representative, who will brief you on your Namibian safari and assist you in the terminal and to your hotel. Olive Grove is a small upmarket accommodation establishment situated close to Windhoek city center in a quiet, peaceful area. Recently completely refurbished, each room features color schemes and décor while retaining the elegant feel. The open-plan kitchen allows guests to watch meals prepared, while they enjoy a drink in the lounge. Home-style food is rounded off with great presentation. The upper deck has been revamped into a private dining corner, with two Moroccan-style sections for guests to get comfy on the large pillows and enjoy the ambience and view from the top. The on-site Wellness Room offers a selection of professional services. Each of the ten rooms and one suite cater to the most discerning traveler, the emphasis remains one of simplicity and elegance. Olive Grove Guest House (B)

Day 2: Windhoek / Sossusvlei

Please note the luggage limit is 50lbs in soft bags including hand luggage for your safari. If you have additional luggage for other travels, it can be stored and returned to you when you come back to Windhoek International Airport at the end of your safari.

This morning, you will be transferred to the airport where you board a scheduled charter flight (seat in plane) that will fly over the central highlands of Namibia, the escarpment and over the Namib Desert to land at the local camp airstrip. Upon arrival, you are met by your private camp guide, who takes you to the lodge. This afternoon, relax or enjoy some of the activities offered by the camp. Sossusvlei Desert Lodge (D)

Day 3: Sossusvlei
Located on the private 24,000 ha/59,305 acres of Neuhof Nature Reserve, the camp is nestled between two mountain ranges - Nubib and Zaris, and is just a 30-minute drive from the Sossusvlei gate. This is the gateway to the Great Namib Sand Sea, which has recently been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The camp offers eight tents, two of which are family units. It is a seasonal camp open between April and November. It offers a fantastic alternative to any traditional lodge in the Sossusvlei area as it also offers exclusivity. Activities include visits to Sossusvlei with your private guide and general exploration of the private reserve, including nature walks and drives. Take a dip in magical desert pools and do incredible star gazing at their pioneering Stellar Escape, a remarkable sleep out.

Visit the plateau for some of the best views over the Namib Desert. This is a good base for hot-air balloon flights as well as scenic helicopter and fixed wing aircraft flights. Photographers of all levels will love the dramatic landscapes, the iconic quiver trees, and the opportunity for night photography. Sossusvlei Desert Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 4: Sossusvlei
This morning, you will rise early for a enchanted excursion into the Namib Naukluft National Park. Enter the park at sunrise to capture the spectacular dunes and the soft light and shadows that accentuate their towering shapes and curves. This area boasts some of the highest free-standing sand dunes in the world. Your local 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 areas around Sossusvlei and Deadvlei to your hearts content you can enjoy a relaxing picnic breakfast in the shade of a camel thorn tree. Return to the camp in the early afternoon for a late lunch, stopping off to view Sesriem Canyon along the way.

The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure, or you set out on another guided scheduled activity. Sossusvlei is the most frequently visited section of the massive national park because of the towering apricot colored sand dunes, which can be reached by following the Tsauchab River Valley. Sossusvlei itself is actually a clay pan set amidst these star shaped dunes which stand up to 300 m/984 ft. above the surrounding plains, ranking them among the tallest dunes on earth. The deathly white clay pan contrasts against the orange sands and forms the endpoint of the ephemeral Tsauchab River, within the interior of the Great Sand Sea. The river course rises south of the Naukluft Mountains in the Great Escarpment. It penetrates the sand sea for some 55 km/34 mi. before it finally peters out at Sossusvlei, about the same distance from the Atlantic Ocean. Until the encroaching dunes blocked its course around 60,000 years ago, the Tsauchab River once reached the sea; as ephemeral rivers still do in the northern half of the Namib. Sand-locked pans to the west show where the river previously flowed before dunes shifted its endpoint to where it currently gathers at Sossusvlei. Roughly once a decade rainfall over the catchment area is sufficient to bring the river down in flood and fill the pan. On such rare occasions, the mirror images of dunes and camel thorn trees around the pan reflecting in the water are stunning. Sossusvlei is the biggest of four pans in the vicinity. Another, famous for its gnarled and ghostly camel thorn trees, is Deadvlei, which can be reached on foot over 1 km/0.62 mi. of sand. Deadvlei’s striking camel thorn trees; dead for want of water, still stand erect as they once grew. They survived until about 900 years ago when the sand sea finally blocked the river from occasionally flooding the pan.Sesriem Canyon has evolved through centuries of erosion by the Tsauchab River, which incised a narrow gorge about 1.5 km/0.93 mi. long and 30 m/0.98 ft. deep into the surrounding conglomerates, exposing the varying layers of sedimentation deposited over millions of years. The shaded cool depths of the canyon allow pools of water to gather during the rainy season and remain for much of the year round. These pools were a vital source of water for early settlers who drew water for their livestock by knotting six (ses) lengths of rawhide thongs (riems) together, hence the canyon and surrounding area became known as Sesriem. Sossusvlei Desert Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 5: Sossusvlei / Swakopmund
Early this morning, you embark on a memorable balloon flight over the Namib Desert (weather permitting, reconfirmed the day prior). You will be transferred to the launch site, which is about 45 minutes’ drive from the lodge (depending on the launch site for that day). After a spectacular launch and take-off as the sun rises over the world’s oldest desert, your flight (depending on the wind) takes you over desert landscapes with views of the vast sea of sand, gravel plains and breathtaking mountain scenery. After an unforgettable hour soaring over the desert, a delicious continental brunch awaits, complete with sparkling wine or other beverage, before you continue on to your next destination. Your local camp guide will transfer you to the local airstrip for you to board your scheduled charter flight (seat in plane) to Swakopmund.

This scenic route to Swakopmund, takes you north over the dunes and the Namib Sea Sand, a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site, to the coast, where (weather dependent) you will see deserted mines, shipwrecks and seal colonies on the way up towards Sandwich Harbor and the port of Walvis Bay. A highlight is the flight over the Eduard Bohlen, a German cargo ship that ran aground in 1909 while it was on its way to Table Bay from Swakopmund. It is believed that thick fog caused the ship to founder close to Conception Bay. Years after the ship ran aground the desert began to encroach on the ocean and the ship that was once stranded in the ocean slowly became stranded in the desert. The wreck currently sits about 500 m/1,640 ft. from the ocean, making it one of the best-preserved shipwrecks along Namibia’s Skeleton Coast. On arrival at Swakopmund airport, you will be met by a local representative and transferred to Strand Hotel. Uniquely located on the iconic and historic Swakopmund Mole and surrounded on three sides by the Southern Atlantic Ocean. It promises to be an integral part of the town’s historical center. You have the afternoon at leisure to relax or you can opt to make arrangements to go skydiving in this striking environment. Strand Hotel Swakopmund (B)

Day 6: Sossusvlei / Skeleton Coast
Today you will be transferred to Swakopmund Airport, boarding your scheduled charter (seat in plane) to Shipwreck Lodge. On arrival you will be welcomed by the local lodge guide and transferred to the lodge. Uniquely designed around the relics of shipwrecks that dot Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, there’s nowhere on the continent quite like Shipwreck Lodge. In fact, there’s nowhere on earth quite like the Skeleton Coast. It’s a raw, rugged and impossibly remote slice of African wilderness, where towering dunes and wind-swept plains roll as far as the eye can see, buffeted by the icy Atlantic seas.

But there’s much more to the area than simple isolation. Stay at Shipwreck Lodge and track desert dwelling elephant and elusive desert lion. Discover the enchanting desert flora (succulents and lichens) then sit atop the dunes as the sun sinks below the horizon. Spend the day beachcombing for whale bones and debris from centuries of shipwrecks or marvel at the geologically-remarkable Clay Castles. Shipwreck Lodge is a joint venture partnership with Namibian businesses, local communities and Natural Selection. Shipwreck Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 7: Skeleton Coast
Today you can participate in activities of the lodge that include game drives within the Skeleton Coast National Park, sundowners and walks on the beach, fishing along the coastline (equipment provided), 4×4 excursions to the Clay Castles, the Hoanib River Delta and the Mowe Bay seal colony. You can also explore the Suiderkus and Karimona shipwrecks or take a drive along the Hoarusib River to track desert-adapted wildlife. Shipwreck Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 8: Skeleton Coast / Hoanib Valley
Today, you transfer to the local airstrip to board your scheduled charter (seat in plane) to Hoanib Valley Camp. Deep in the northwestern corner of Namibia, Kaokoland is one of the most remote, wild and marvelously unique areas of the country. It’s a land characterized by rolling dunes, rocky mountains and desert plains all crisscrossed by ancient, dry riverbeds, the roads of the area. Temporary Himba settlements dot the landscape, and scattered herds of desert-adapted elephant and giraffe are a common sight. On arrival, you are welcomed by the local camp guide and transferred to the camp. Hoanib Valley Camp itself is located in the Sesfontein Community Conservancy, joint partners in the area. The camp sits on the banks of the Obias River, just outside the private Palmwag Concession, and overlooks the ephemeral Hoanib River that teems with resident elephant, giraffe, Oryx and springbok. Although parts of the land have been designated ‘concession areas’ tourism is still limited, making a visit to this unspoiled corner even more memorable. Hoanib Valley Camp (B,L,D)

Day 9: Hoanib Valley
The Skeleton Coast at first glance looks like another planet where surely none of earth’s species could survive. Actually, an incredible variety of highly specialized and endemic desert species inhabit this ecosystem. The Namib Desert is the second driest desert in the world and considered to be the oldest, so species have had a long time to evolve into the incredible creatures they are today. Out of this lunar-like landscape emerges an elephant or kudu onto the beach, having followed one of the ephemeral rivers that seasonally spill into the Atlantic along the coastline. Hoanib Valley Camp (B,L,D)

Day 10: Hoanib Valley
Today you take part in the scheduled lodge activities as offered by the local lodge guide that includes game drives to track desert-adapted lion, elephant and giraffe; nature walks; rhino tracking; cultural experiences with local Herero people; and star gazing. You can also learn about the giraffe research happening in the area. On game drives, learn how these animals thrive in this harsh environment. Zebra, klipspringer and kudu move freely through the mountains. Herds of springbok and oryx as well as steenbok are here too. The region is home to the largest population of free-ranging black rhino, and a day (or even a morning or an afternoon) tracking the magnificent beasts is an absolute must. Bird watchers, look out for Monteiro’s hornbills or Ruppell’s korhaans in the valleys, and the imperious Verreaux’s eagle in the mountains. Hoanib Valley Camp (B,L,D)

Day 11: Hoanib / Windhoek / Depart
Today you transfer to the local airstrip to board your private scheduled charter flight (seat in plane) to Windhoek’s International Hosea Kutako Airport. On arrival, you will be welcomed by a representative, who will assist with your check in for your onward flight home. (B)

Land price, per person, double occupancy: Price starts from US$1,500 per person per day.

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