This quintessential journey encompasses Namibia's attractions as a whole: stunning landscapes, endless skies, barren deserts, rugged mountains and spectacular wildlife. Explore the dunes of Sossusvlei and the awesome space of the Namib Desert. Encounter marine life around Swakopmund, the volcanic rock-strewn landscape of Damaraland and the game-filled savannahs of Etosha. Such experiences are enhanced by a range of camps and lodges, including diverse activities such as a scenic flight to Swakopmund, a dolphin cruise with private beach lunch at Walvis Bay, hiking in Damaraland, interacting with the Damara peoples (dependent on their movements) and tracking black rhino on foot.
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U.S. En-Route to Windhoek, Namibia
Arrive on Day 2, transfer and overnight Hansa Hotel.
Kulala Desert Lodge, Sossusvlei
From Windhoek, travel by vehicle approximately (330km) 205 miles to Kulala Desert Lodge in the 37 000-hectare (91,430 acres) private Kulala Wilderness Reserve, enjoying awe-inspiring views of the mountains and the desert floor. En route, we enjoy a lunch close to the Khomas Hochland escarpment, reaching onto sweeping vistas below.
One of the most enduring impressions of the Sossusvlei area is the early morning light on the sea of vivid orange dunes, some as high as 300 metres (984 feet). Nearby world-famous Sossusvlei is an enormous clay pan, flanked by the famous red sand dunes that stand out starkly against the blue sky. These dunes - the most well-known being Big Daddy or Dune 45 - have developed over millions of years, the wind continuously refashioning the contours of this red sand sea. The 'vlei' itself only fills after rare heavy rainfall when, in a complete turn-around, it transforms into a spectacular turquoise lake. Afternoon activities include nature walks, drives to scenic viewpoints and marveling at the unique Namib fauna and flora in the private Kulala Wilderness Reserve.
Here we enjoy access to the Sossusvlei dunes through a private access gate, for walks in the immense moving sands of the Namib-Naukluft National Park, game drives (by day and night) on our concession and stargazing. Photography of the dunes in the early morning and late afternoon is particularly stunning with rich reds and dark shadows completing the extraordinary vista that is the enormity of the Namib Desert.
Kulala Desert Lodge is situated within the arid Namib Desert on the private Kulala Wilderness Reserve, and is closest to the iconic red dunes of the Sossusvlei. The lodge comprises 23 thatched and canvas "kulalas" ("to sleep" in Oshiwambo) with en-suite bathrooms and verandas. Each unit is built on a wooden platform to catch the cooling breezes and has a deck on the flat rooftop where bedrolls are placed for guests to sleep under the myriad stars that Namibia's clear skies portray.
The main area, with décor inspired by northern Africa, has a lounge, bar, dining area, plunge pool and wrap-around veranda overlooking the waterhole - a perfect location to view and photograph the desert vista. The overall setting is a true delight to the senses, bringing together the rhythm of Namibia, wholesome meals and intimacy. A waterhole in front of camp attracts a number of local wildlife (such as gemsbok, springbok, ostrich and jackal) and provides a perfect location to view and photograph the desert scenery.
Hansa Hotel, Swakopmund
Today we fly by light aircraft transfer to Swakopmund Airport; this will be a scenic flight (weather permitting). We arrive at the grand Hansa Hotel in Swakopmund in the early afternoon in time for lunch. The afternoon is at leisure to enjoy the town’s quaint mix of European and African culture, as well as a little shopping in the vibrant markets.
On our second day we explore the ice-blue Atlantic coast, from the port towns of Walvis Bay and Swakopmund to its incredible marine mammals. A private boat cruise at Walvis Bay and down the coast to Sandwich Harbour (weather permitting) provides a unique chance to see the diverse pelagic (ocean-going) birdlife, Cape fur seals and rare Heaviside's dolphins up close. This activity is rounded off with a private seafood lunch, before returning to the hotel in the late afternoon. The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure before meeting for dinner.
The grand three-star Hansa Hotel forms part of Swakopmund's architectural culture and dates back to 1905; it is said to be one of the oldest buildings in the town. It is ideally situated in the centre of Swakopmund within easy walking distance of town and the beach. The luxury of the hotel, its excellent cuisine and friendly service are well known and appreciated countrywide and overseas.
Damaraland Camp, Damaraland
Travel approximately 280km (174 miles), partly up the legendary Skeleton Coast (named for the numerous shipwrecks the treacherous shores have claimed over the years). From here we drive the back roads through the game productive Ugab riverbed, travelling north past the Brandberg Mountain - the second largest monolith on earth - to Damaraland. This all-day excursion with lunch en route ends with our arrival at Damaraland Camp.
Damaraland is a land of stark desert beauty. Early morning mists, generated by the clash between the icy Atlantic Ocean and the warm desert air of the Skeleton Coast, drift inland along the canyons, providing sustenance to the flora and fauna of the region. Rare succulent plants abound in this harsh countryside. Our activities include explorations on foot or 4x4 vehicles, viewing springbok, gemsbok and ostrich, and tracking the unique desert-adapted elephant.
Damaraland Camp accommodates guests in 10 comfortable tented rooms, with en-suite facilities including flush toilets and showers with hot and cold running water. (Laundry facilities are limited due to the low rainfall in the area). The stone living area combines the dining room and pub and an open fire is enjoyed on calm evenings. There is a swimming pool next to the bar.
Desert Rhino Camp, Damaraland
We depart Damaraland Camp and drive into the Huab riverbed to search for desert-adapted elephants, before heading north to the mountainous and rocky paradise of the massive Palmwag Concession.
Desert Rhino Camp is situated in the enormous private Palmwag Reserve in north-west Namibia, between Etosha and the Skeleton Coast - few places on the planet can offer this level of privacy and wilderness experience.
This reserve has a number of freshwater springs that support healthy populations of animals including desert-adapted back rhino and elephant as well as large populations of the rare Hartmann's mountain zebra, giraffe, gemsbok, springbok and greater kudu. On rare occasions, predators such as lion, cheetah, leopard, and hyaena may also be seen in the area. Bird life is prolific and diverse featuring most of Namibia's endemics. Welwitschia plants (ancient and highly unusual succulents) dot the plain in front of the camp. The specialty of the area is its growing population of the rare desert-adapted black rhino (the largest concentration in the world outside a national park), which are monitored and protected by the Save the Rhino Trust.
Desert Rhino Camp has eight comfortable canvas walled tents slightly elevated on wooden decking, each with an en-suite bathroom comprising dual hand basins, toilet and a spacious walk-in shower. The tented dining and lounge area offers uninterrupted views of the desert and mountains. Welwitschia (ancient desert adapted plants) plants dot the plain in front of the camp. On the second day, the highlight is rhino tracking on foot or by vehicle; other activities include day and night nature drives.
Ongava Tented Camp, Etosha National Park
We depart Palmwag eastward on an extended combination wildlife viewing (first part of the drive) and transfer drive of approximately 350km (218 miles) to Etosha National Park, where we experience the pinnacle of game viewing - but accommodated in the privacy of an exclusive bush camp situated on an extensive private game reserve, Ongava, just on the outside of Etosha National Park.
Activities include day and night drives (in Etosha National Park and on the private Ongava concession), walks and hides (on the Ongava concession). Etosha National Park is a renowned park, boasting the most wildlife prolific game experience on a salt pan in the world. A healthy mix of wildlife, ranging from savannah-based species, like impala and then desert species like springbok abound. Elephant roam the pan fringes and large herds of zebra are often highlighted against a mirage background of the white expansive salt pans. Within Etosha we visit numerous perennial springs and pans, encountering a myriad of differing species. Ongava houses healthy populations of the species within the park (except elephant) with rhino and predators often sighted.
While at Ongava we will do a day trip to Halali, located halfway between Okaukuejo and Namutoni. Situated at the base of a dolomite hill, amongst shady mopane trees Halali provides an ambiance of tranquility and space. It is surrounded by some of the most popular waterholes in the park.
Ongava Tented Camp comprises 8 large comfortable walk-in tents, each with en-suite facilities, including flush toilet and a hot shower. All meals are enjoyed in the thatched dining area that overlooks an active waterhole. There is a small pool in which to cool off as well.
Charter flight to Windhoek
Say farewell to the adventure as we return by light aircraft to Windhoek, arriving at approximately 4pm in the afternoon and overnight at Hansa Hotel.
International flight departing Windhoek