President’s Picks Namibia Damaraland to the Dunes

“When it comes to conservation of endangered species such as the rhino, you can’t help but feel like you aren’t doing enough. This Namibian safari works with local endeavors to place that power back in your hands. Through tourism, you can make a key difference supporting the Save the Rhino Trust as you track one of the only clusters of free roaming black rhino still left in Africa. You also assist desert-adapted giraffe of the Hoanib Valley Cam with a joint venture between the local communities and the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, the world’s only Africa-wide giraffe conservation organization. This safari is what purpose driven means.”

Country Information

Namibia

President’s Picks Namibia Damaraland to the Dunes President’s Picks

(Countries Visited)

Namibia


(Interest Type(s))

Sustainable Travel

,

Adventure Travel


(Tour Length)

13 Days


Tour Highlights

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  • Delve into Namibia’s exciting emerging art scene as you meet artists and look at the country through their  eyes and explore the vibrant visual arts scene in Windhoek
  • Travel to a semi-mobile camp in the magical landscapes of Damaraland, the core, the heart of the desert, where you can privately track the endangered desert-adapted black rhino and experience the wide-open, crystal-clear skies with nothing between you and the brilliant stars of the Namibian night sky
  • Beachcomb for whale bones and debris from centuries of shipwrecks and marvel at the geologically-remarkable Clay Castles of the Skeleton Coast, spanning about a third of the country’s coastline
  • Discover the great Namib Sea Sand, a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site of deserted mines, shipwrecks and seal colonies
  • Trudge the renowned, towering Sossusvlei sand dunes and go on nature drives and walks in the Namib Rand Nature Reserve

Day 1: Windhoek, Namibia
After arriving at Windhoek International Airport, you will be welcomed by a representative who will transfer you to your hotel. The Olive Exclusive is a lovely boutique hotel close to city center in the quiet, peaceful suburb of Eros. Nestled in an olive tree plantation, this new, luxurious hotel provides exclusive suite accommodation with beautiful views over the olive trees towards the Windhoek Mountains. Accommodation is offered in premier suites or junior suites. Premier suites boast an expansive balcony and plunge pool. All guests have access to a sparkling communal pool in the olive grove. All suites have their own lounge area and dining room, giving guests the option of enjoying meals in their own room, or of joining the other guests for meals at the main restaurant. The en-suite rooms offer all the added luxuries of satellite TV, iPod music system, fully-stocked mini-bar, premier wine selection, direct-dial telephone, air conditioner, hair-dryer, wall mounted safe, personal computer for internet access, complimentary wireless internet access, goose-down duvets, 100% cotton linen and style in abundance. Enjoy a drink on the extensive outdoor patio or in the Himba lounge before settling in to the innovatively furnished dining room which offers a first class dining experience to guests. The overall feel is one of indulgent luxury, while still retaining a feel of simplicity and elegance. The Olive Exclusive All-Suite Hotel – Premier Suite (B)

Day 2: Windhoek
Today explore Windhoek redefined, an art tour that provides a look at the country through the eyes of artists. Namibian Independence came in 1990 and brought about an expanded and exciting visual arts scene. The introduction of various local and international workshops offering training opportunities that most Namibian artists previously did not have access to, helping to accelerate the development of artists. A generation of young talent has emerged as a result and they are imaginative and daring, working with important social and cultural issues as subject matter. It is therefore widely believed that Namibian art has entered a golden era. The tour will not only highlight a different aspect of life in Namibia, but it will also showcase quality Namibian art and artists, giving them much needed exposure to international travelers. It offers the ideal way to explore and experience Windhoek for both art enthusiasts and others who have a genuine interest in experiencing life in Windhoek in a way that goes beyond the superficial.

You have the opportunity not only to purchase original and indigenous Namibian art works directly from the artists, but also to talk to them about their process, inspiration and stories behind the works. Namibian artists do not have access to many galleries where they can show their work so they depend heavily on being able to sell directly to the public and part of our objective is to facilitate the process, which benefits everyone. Helping to expose artists and their work directly to guests provides an opportunity to improve the visibility and marketability of talented Namibian artists, impacting both promising artists and their communities. The Olive Exclusive All-Suite Hotel – Premier Suite (B)

Day 3: Damaraland
Today you are transferred to Eros Airport to meet your pilot and board the scheduled shared flight to Damaraland. On arrival you will be met by your private guide and make your way to your camp, enjoying a picnic lunch along the way.

Please note luggage limit is 20kg in soft bags, which includes hand luggage, for your safari. If you have additional luggage for other travels, it can be stored at the rep’s office and returned to you when you come back to Windhoek International Airport at the end of your safari.

Arrive at your camp and settle in to your home for the next three nights. The camp is designed to offer a “back to nature” experience and comfort with the emphasis on the experience. Like other camps in the area, this one is seasonal so a degree of compromise is required concerning the frills you might expect in a permanent tented camp or lodge, but comfort still counts! Rectangular Meru tents have flush toilets and bucket showers. There is no running water, mainly for water conservation. You are assured of wholesome and tasty meals, with good wine and a reasonable selection of other drinks included. You are hosted during the stay by your personal safari guide. It is important that you have the right expectations set to get the most out of the adventure. The luxury here is the found in the privacy and exclusivity of this location.

The camp rests in a core desert, where endangered desert-adapted black rhino live in the Huab Conservancy. It sits in a grove of Mopane trees on the banks of a tributary of the Huab River. Protected from the prevailing winds and sun, the semi-mobile camp is virtually invisible from anywhere around and it carries arguably the lowest environmental footprint of any camp in Namibia. The camp is non-participatory and is serviced and equipped to ensure that your stay is comfortable while allowing you to relax and revel in the feeling of space and solitude that makes Namibia so special. Good food and wine are an important part of the overall experience, so the camp catering is of a suitably high standard - even in dry, desolate areas where this can be hard to maintain. The camp chefs have their own unique specialties so delicious, wholesome meals and local delicacies are prepared for each meal using fresh local produce wherever possible.

Tents are raised on mobile platforms and have basic infrastructure that allows for important comforts such as en suite flush toilets, but the essence of the camp remains under canvas, mobile and experiential. With provision for up to eight tents, this camp is booked on an exclusive basis for each group. Large rectangular Meru tents with built in groundsheets and mosquito screens on all doors and windows. Each spacious tent is equipped with standard height camp beds, solar lighting, and storage for clothing and other belongings that need to be accessible. Each also has a bathroom which has its own toilet, bucket shower and washbasin. A small table, mirror, towels and toiletries as well as solar lighting are also provided in the bathroom, and chairs on the patio allow guests to relax and enjoy the surrounding views.

Activities include tracking the rhino, which is a private activity and done in an area that has the highest tracking success rate in north western Namibia. You can explore the upper and less crowded Huab River in search of the desert-adapted elephants. Nature walks and scenic game drives as well as the possibility of visiting some nearby prehistoric rock engravings, depending on the season. Please note that Huab Under Canvas is only open from April – November. Huab Under Canvas (B,L,D)

Day 4: Damaraland
Spend an exciting and memorable morning out rhino tracking with local trackers. It is worth noting that these black rhino form part of one of the only free-roaming black rhino populations in Africa. You will track animals in an unfenced and uninhibited environment. This is an absolute privilege. Return to camp for a freshly prepared lunch with time to relax at camp during the heat of the day.

Later in the afternoon, set out again for a scenic nature drive or walk to explore this vast and astounding ecosystem. The camp works with the Save the Rhino Trust (SRT), an NGO that has been has been instrumental in the preservation of this rare, endangered rhino subspecies.

Having barely survived the slaughter in many parts of Africa during the '80s and '90s, the black rhino population of Namibia increased substantially since the formation of SRT. Namibia is home to the larger of two subspecies of the black rhinoceros found in southern Africa. The only population that remains in the wild, unfenced and outside reserves occupies an arid range in the western Kaokoveld. Their preferred habitat is the mountainous escarpment, but they follow ephemeral rivers into the northern Namib as well, especially when conditions are favorable after rains. They are the only black rhinoceros in Africa that are internationally recognized as a desert group. Like desert-adapted elephant, they cover great distances. 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. One of the few animals to eat fibrous Welwitschia leaves; they even feed heavily on the milkbush (Euphorbia virosa) with its sharp spines and toxic latex, presumably because of the high water and fat content. They are physical defenses of dryland plants without apparent harm. Once widespread in the subcontinent, black rhinoceros are an endangered species. Huab Under Canvas (B,L,D)

Day 5: Damaraland
Today you continue your adventures enjoying the freedom to discover the fascinating landscapes with your private naturalist guide, both by vehicle and on foot. Damaraland is a surprising refuge for desert-adapted wildlife that may include elephant, giraffe, oryx, springbok and even some predators such as lion. As with any wildlife sightings in Namibia, much depends on factors, including seasons and regions so specific sightings cannot be guaranteed. The wildlife roams large tracks of unfenced desert landscapes and finding game can be challenging, but this is all part of the adventure of exploring this wild untouched gem. Today’s focus will be largely on tracking the elusive desert adapted elephants, an activity which take most of the day out. Your guide will take along a delicious picnic lunch and you will return to camp to get ready for your stellar escape. Known in other parts of Africa as a sleep out or sky bed, this Stellar Escape is set in an ancient dry riverbed on a private concession in the Huab Conservancy. Experience crystal-clear skies with nothing between you and the brilliant stars of the Namibian night sky, where satellites, galaxies, shooting stars and the occasional meteor can be seen with the naked eye. You are escorted on your Stellar Escape by a guide, normally starting with a leisurely late afternoon walk, arriving in time for a cocktail or two while enjoying the sunset. A sumptuous bush dinner is prepared on an open fire and enjoyed while the night sky comes into full splendor. After an astronomy tutorial by your guide, and once you are ready to retire for the night, your crew will provide you with a radio (for communication in case of an emergency) and leave you to spend an enchanting night under a billion stars, in complete privacy - although your guide can spend the night a discreet distance away if so desired. You will be woken in the morning by a spectacular sunrise and your favorite hot beverage, before returning to camp to freshen up and have breakfast. Stellar Escape - Huab Under Canvas (B,L,D)

Day 6: Damaraland / Hoanib Valley Camp
This morning you will rise early for the fascinating drive with your private guide to Hoanib Valley Camp. Enjoy a picnic lunch en route, arriving in very late afternoon or early evening. The camp is in the Sesfontein Community Conservancy and sits on the banks of the Obias River just outside the large, private Palmwag Concession. It overlooks the 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’s six guest tents blend almost perfectly into the rugged environment. The furniture was shaped by the local Rundu carpenters and Himba carvers, and baskets weaved by the people of the Omba Project in Windhoek. Six rooms, including one family tent, blend seamlessly with the environment, offering a simple aesthetic in tune with the rugged landscape. It’s entirely solar powered to ensure carbon emissions are kept to a minimum, and the tents sit on decks made of a wood, bamboo and 70% recycled-material composite. The camp is a clean and green, leaving virtually no footprint on this fragile eco-system. Activities focus around scenic nature drives and walks and cultural experiences with local Himba and Herero people. Hoanib Valley Camp – Standard Tent (B,L,D)

Day 7: Hoanib Valley Camp
Explore this unique environment with other guests in camp on game drives to track desert-adapted lion, rhino, elephant and giraffe. Hoanib Valley Camp. A joint venture between the local communities and the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, the world’s only Africa-wide giraffe conservation organization. GCF is the longest running giraffe conservation program in Africa and is on the cutting edge of giraffe research. In Hoanib, their research focuses on the desert-adapted giraffe as well as helping to monitor elephant and general game populations. Hoanib Valley Camp – Standard Tent (B,L,D)

Day 8: Hoanib Valley Camp / Skeleton Coast
Today you transfer by road to the fabled Skeleton Coast with a picnic lunch en-route. There are few other places 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 on as far as the eye can see, buffeted by the icy Atlantic seas. But there’s much more to the area than simple isolation.

The lodge is uniquely designed around the relics of shipwrecks that dot Namibia’s Skeleton Coast. You also 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 -- Standard Room (B,L,D)

Day 9: Skeleton Coast
Today is filled with exciting guided activities arranged by the camp that include scenic nature drives within the northern Skeleton Coast National Park as well as a drive along the Hoarusib River and a sundowner drive to the dune fields. Learn about the astonishing wildlife, plants and birdlife of the area. One of the main highlights here is Möwe Bay seal colony.

Covering about a third of Namibia’s coastline, the legendary Skeleton Coast National Park stretches some 500 km311 miles from the Ugab River in the south, to the Kunene River in the north. The attraction of the remote park encompasses the wrecked ships from years past, the dramatic changing moods and colors of this largely untouched landscape, the atmospheric dense coastal fogs and cold sea breeze of the cold Benguela Current, and the inevitable mysteries of these lost ships. The landscape in the park ranges from extensive vistas of windswept dunes, to rugged canyons with walls of richly colored volcanic rock, to the extensive mountain ranges. On the dune slopes grow a surprising variety of xerophytic plants that survive through ingenious adaptations. Over a hundred species of lichen grow on the plains and west facing mountain slopes, which change color and become soft and leathery to the touch when the coastal fog pushes inland. The cold current sweeps along Namibia’s coast and supports some of the highest concentrations of marine life found anywhere in the world. It also played a crucial role in the formation of the world’s oldest desert, the Namib.

Excursions take you into Möwe Bay to encounter the seal colony; see the remnants of the Suiderkus Shipwreck along the beach past the remains of the Karimona shipwreck, an abandoned Westies diamond mine and remains of a WWII Ventura bomber aircraft. You view the beautiful natural wind shelter created by the reeds at the flamingo pools. Savor a sundowner drive to the roaring dunes to the Oasis water point. You can also enjoy a full-day Huarusib River excursion and a 4x4 trip to the Clay castles, a natural geological formation. Shipwreck Lodge -- Standard Room (B,L,D)

Day 10: Skeleton Coast / Sossusvlei
Today you transfer to Möwe Bay airstrip and board your private charter to Sossusvlei, arriving at Geluk airstrip. The flight from Swakopmund takes you south all along the coast and over the great Namib Sea Sand, a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site, where (weather dependent) you will see deserted mines, shipwrecks and seal colonies on the way towards the famous Sossusvlei dunes and then south east to the Namib Rand Nature Reserve. 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 meters/1,640 feet from the ocean, ensuring that it’s the best preserved shipwreck along Namibia’s Skeleton Coast. Visibility and low-level flying is subject to weather conditions as well as national park and conservation area regulations.

Arrive at Little Kulala, with luxurious, air-conditioned thatched units, each with en suite bathroom and outdoor shower, wrap around veranda, private plunge pool and rooftop ‘sky bed’ for gazing at and sleeping under the stars. The extensive use of neutral colors, gorgeous textures and natural light reproduce the soothing pastel tones of the desert. Pure linens, cottons and mohair dyed with natural vegetable dyes all make for a very organic camp that takes its inspiration from its surroundings, notably from the magnificent Deadvlei. The overall mood and feel is cool, serene, organic and sheltering. The welcoming main area has a lounge, library, dining room, extensive outside dining deck, bar, wine cellar and curio shop, all under thatch; with an inviting communal pool area and sundeck for relaxing afternoons. Activities include excursions to Sossusvlei via the camp’s private gate with nature drives and walks providing awe-inspiring views of desert wildlife and plants. Scenic afternoon sundowner drives in this large private Kulala Wilderness Reserve. Little Kulala – Standard Tent (B,L,D) 

Days 11/12: Sossusvlei
Spend the next two days discovering this amazing area during morning and afternoon activities on shared basis with other guests in camp. The range of nature drives into the desert in closed Land Cruiser with pop-up roof, to quad biking, to walking the Black Mountain Trail (seasonal and subject to a qualified walking guide being available. Private activities are available on request (subject to availability and at an additional cost). Enjoy excursions into Sossusvlei and Sesriem (with the advantage of entry into the park through this exclusive gate entrance) as well as stunning stargazing with a laser pointer and guided nocturnal “scorpion walks,” weather permitting. Savor an in-room massage at no additional cost. There is also the option for a sunrise balloon flight over the Namib Desert (at an additional cost). It is, however, completely weather dependent. So weather permitting, 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 sand sea, gravel plains and breath-taking mountain scenery. After an unforgettable hour soaring over the desert, a delicious continental brunch awaits, complete with Champagne, before you head back to your accommodation. The balloon flight normally takes approximately one hour.

This area is the most frequently visited section of the massive Namib Naukluft National Park has become known as Sossusvlei, famous for its towering apricot-colored sand dunes which can be penetrated by following the Tsauchab River Valley. Sossusvlei itself is actually a clay pan set amid the star-shaped dunes standing up to 300 meters/984 feet 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 miles 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. Roughly once a decade rainfall over the catchment area is sufficient to bring the river down in flood and fill the pan. On such occasions the mirror images of dunes and camel thorn trees around the pan are reflected in the water. 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 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 has incised a narrow gorge about 1.5 km long and 30 meters 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. The pools were a vital water source for settlers who drew water for livestock by knotting six (ses) lengths of rawhide thongs (riems) together, hence the canyon and surrounding area became known as Sesriem. Little Kulala – Standard Tent (B,L,D)

Day 13: Sossusvlei / Windoek / Depart
Today you are transferred to Geluk airstrip to board the scheduled shared flight to Windhoek International Airport. Here you will be met by a representative who will assist you with your check-in for your departure flight. (B)

Land price, per person, double occupancy: Price from US$2,200 per person per day.

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