Take the journey across Namibia's contrasting landscapes, including dramatic canyons, towering sand dunes and magnificent national parks in search of wildlife, and by night enjoy a sundowner in lodges located perfectly for exploring. Sossusvlei - The world's highest sand dunes in the world's oldest desert Damaraland - See ancient Bushmen rock art and meet the Himba people National Parks - Home to the Big Five and the largest population of cheetahs in Africa.
Arrive Windhoek and check into hotel. There is some free time today for sightseeing in the Namibian capital, with an opportunity to visit the National Museum or perhaps a half day Katatura Township tour.
Departing Windhoek we spend the day driving south-west into the Namib Desert, to the edge of the Namib-Naukluft National Park and our lodge near Sesriem. The Namib is the oldest desert on earth, distinguished as being home to some of the strangest flora and fauna on the continent.
Today we drive into the Namib-Naukluft National Park and travel down the Tsauchab Valley to Sossusvlei to watch the sun cast its shadows over the red dunes. Sossusvlei has some of the world's most spectacular sand dunes. The area itself is a vast depression or clay pan, towered over by sand dunes up to 300m high. In the early morning, the first rays of the sun light up the dunes with a deep orange glow - a photographer's delight. It is a wild, beautiful and romantic spot, with sparse vegetation edging a few water courses which flow in from the Tsauchab river. Here springbok and ostrich are often seen. We'll also explore the cool passageways of the Sesriem Canyon on foot. The canyon is small but very picturesque - many plants grow in the shade and shelter offered by the canyon, and water pools attract several species of birds and animals. Sesriem means 'six thongs'; which refers to the six lengths of rawhide rope (from a wagon) needed to make a line long enough to lower from the rim of the gorge to the stream below, in order to haul up a bucket of water.
Travelling via Solitaire and through the Kuiseb Canyon, we then pass awe-inspiring landscapes as we head across the Namib gravel flats to Walvis Bay. Here a large spit forms a natural deep-sea harbour that attracted the first navigators in the late 1400's. The shallows, located where the spit joins the mainland, are home to a diverse collection of birds, the most spectacular being flamingos and pelicans that feed here seasonally. It's a short drive from here to the coastal town of Swakopmund.
Swakopmund is one of the world's best examples of German colonial architecture, and served as the German's port into what was then, German South West Africa. Like any port town has a colourful past. Today, there may be time to visit the town's excellent museum, or visit a local township, participate in one of the numerous activities on offer, or just relax! This evening you have the chance to watch the sunset at the nearby coastal dune belt. Please note: The running order of days 5, 6 and 7 is subject to change depending on accommodation locations. All listed highlights and activities will still be included and your Tour Leader will provide a detailed briefing to the group about the running order, driving distances and any necessary changes to what's described in the trip notes.
Travelling north towards the Atlantic coast we visit the memorable Cape Cross Seal Colony where between 80,000 and 100,000 Cape fur seals bask in the sun or swim playfully in the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The seals are natural indicators of fish stocks in the ocean. If the fish stocks are healthy, then the seal numbers are high. If the fish stocks are poor, then the seal numbers will be low. The seals are quite big, an average male weighing in at anything up to 187kg (501 lbs.). The females give birth to a single pup around late November to early December. After our visit we head inland, towards the majestic Brandberg Mountain (2,573m and the highest point in Namibia) and stopping at the Brandberg White Lady Paintings. These famous San Bushman paintings can be found throughout the Brandberg Mountain area and are a spectacle to behold. To reach the rock paintings we will walk via mostly flat terrain between rock formations and it will take us approximately 1 hour to reach. Do remember to wear comfortable walking footwear and have a hat, suntan lotion and plenty of water with you today. Please note: Depending on your accommodation location, the rock art seen will either be the Brandberg White Lady or Twyfelfontein rock art. Both of these sites are of important, cultural significance in Namibia and are examples of ancient Bushmen rock art. Your Trip Leader will advise on arrival about the running order and which rock art site will be visited.
This morning we have the privilege to meet the Himba people and learn about their traditions and way of life. The Himba are the last semi-nomadic herders in Namibia and their simple lifestyle has remained unchanged for generations as these people have preferred their traditional life style to modernization. They have become iconic for using a characteristic red paste made of butter, fat and red ochre that they apply to their body and which serves an aesthetic purpose in beautifying their body as well as protecting them from the scorching sun. We interact with these friendly and proud people before continuing our journey to the edge of Etosha National Park, arguably one of the finest national parks in Africa.
This morning we enter Etosha National park for an early morning game drive. Etosha is an immense, saline desert, covering over 12,400 square miles, and the habitat for 114 species of animals and 340 species of birds. It has been described as the best game reserve on the African continent. Our programme of game drives will depend entirely on the interests of the group, and is left as flexible as possible. We should see elephant, rhino and hopefully lion. The terrain ranges from dense bush to large open plains where animals roam freely. We drive along the network of gravel roads that criss-cross the Park, visiting the various viewpoints and the permanent waterholes around which animals congregate. There is something enigmatic in the vast silent greywhite pan that covers the reserve.
We continue with game drives today. Numerous waterholes and underground springs attract large herds of animals including springbok, zebra, wildebeest and giraffe. At its very heart is the Etosha Pan, which geologists believe was formed some 12 million years ago from an inland lake about the size of Holland. Shrunk to its present dried-up size, it is now a gigantic depression in the ground - flat, saline and silvery, a mysterious place of mirages and dust-laden images.
We leave Etosha and travel via the Cheetah Conservation Foundation at Otjiwarongo to the Waterberg Plateau Park. The CCF is an internationally recognised centre of excellence in research and education on cheetahs and their eco-systems with an extensive visitor's centre which encourages visitors to learn more about these beautiful cats and the efforts being made to save them. Later we will continue to the Waterberg Plateau. The Waterberg is a sandstone mountain which rises over 200m from the surrounding plains and is Namibia's only mountain game park. There are various trails to walk along searching for the elusive Damara Dik-Dik and a good variety of birds.
This morning you could choose to explore some of the walking trails on offer or take an optional game drive in the national park. We will then head south and return to Windhoek. We have the chance to stop off en route in Okhandja and visit the local craft market.
Our tour ends this morning after breakfast.
11 Break Fast(s) 9 Lunch(es) 4 Dinner(s)
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