Namibia Encompassed


Namibia Encompassed

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 14 days
Type: GroupTravel with a small group of other travellers

Dossier

A perfect tour for first time visitors to Namibia, taking in many of the country’s highlights. Staying at comfortable lodges and hotels, we will experience dramatic scenery and varied wildlife as we explore the Kalahari Desert including the incredible Fish River Canyon, the towering blazing red dunes of Sossusvlei, laid back Swakopmund, the tribal heart of Damaraland and the world famous Etosha National Park.

Tour Rating

Fitness ●●○○○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●●○○ | Culture ●●●○○ | History ●●●○○ | Wildlife ●●●●○

Tour Pace

Moderate

Tour Highlights                                                                                           

  • Sossusvlei - The world's highest sand dunes
  • Swakopmund - A charming coastal town with German colonial architecture
  • Damaraland - Ancient Bushmen rock art
  • Etosha - Abundant wildlife from comfortable lodges within the park

Tour Essentials

Accommodation:         Mix of comfortable mid-range (NOT LUXURY) lodges and hotels
Included Meals:           Daily breakfast (B), plus lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary
Group Size:                 Maximum 10 clients – you may be joined by other travellers coming from other travel companies and different nationalities. Unless otherwise specified, all tours will be conducted in English.
Start Point:                  Windhoek – you can arrive any time on Day 1
End Point:                    Windhoek – you can depart any time as from 17:00 on Day 14
Transport:                    Minibus/Quantum or Land Cruiser or modified vehicle (depending on group size)
Country Visited:           Namibia

Tour Itinerary Notes
While our intention is to adhere to the day-by-day itinerary as printed below, a degree of flexibility is built in. Overnight stops may vary from those suggested and on occasions alternative accommodation, of a similar standard to that named below, will be used.

Tour Guide
Our guides are a key strength, chosen for their knowledge of and passion for the areas in which they work. All of our guides are carefully hand-picked, and are not just passing through these countries, but are usually locally born. Unlike some companies it should be noted we do not send a guide or tour leader from Undiscovered Destinations in the UK as we have every confidence in our locally appointed representative who is responsible for operating the tour on our behalf. Where possible you will have the same guide throughout your trip but on occasions it may be necessary to change the guide at one or more points during the tour. Please note that in Namibia, the guide drives the tour vehicle.

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Windhoek
Arrive in Windhoek and transfer to your hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure with no guided activities. Overnight at Safari Court Hotel or similar. No meals are included today.

Windhoek
As any traveller to Namibia will attest, water is at a premium is this driest of southern African states and the origins of Windhoek, typically, are to be found it the presence of springs in the vicinity. In 1849, Jan Jonker Afrikaner founded a settlement here at the ‘Fire Water’ spring which can still be seen today.  Standing at 5250 feet, the city was once dominated by the pristine white-washed 130-year-old fortress of Alte Feste, now a museum. The city took centuries to establish itself successfully and its finest buildings generally date from its flowering in the early 1900s – Christus Kirche is perhaps the finest of the religious architecture and its three German ‘castles’, the Heinitzburg, today a hotel and restaurant, the Schwerinsburg and the Sanderburg. This make for a city which is modern, clean and yet fiercely proud of its development. The North Korean (yes!) built ‘Heroes Memorial Acre’ is a tribute to those who fought for Namibia’s 1990 independence from South Africa and is worth a visit simply for its uniqueness. The modern culture of Windhoek is now very much to the fore: tours of the Namibia Craft Centre in the old breweries building offers fascinating examples of Namib local skills, Katutura township is a bustling 1950s suburb which has museums and cultural centres devoted to explaining why this place (literally ‘place we do not want to live’) is so symbolic of the struggle against apartheid, and Joe’s Beerhouse has become an iconic restaurant and alehouse with vibrant local music and delicious food such as its legendary alligator steak.

Day 2: Windhoek - Mariental (driving time approx. 2 hours 45 min)
This morning you will be collected at your Windhoek accommodation between 9:00 and 9:30. We start our journey south on the main highway, traveling through the thin strip of Kalahari Desert that protrudes onto the eastern side of Namibia. Stopping at small towns along the way including Rehoboth, traditional home of the Baster people and on to Kalkrand where you bid the main road farewell and head off into the Kalahari.   The Kalahari Desert often surprises people when they first see it. It is very different from the Namib. First of all, remember that the Kalahari is not a desert. It receives more rain than a true desert should. The Kalahari is a fossil desert. Don’t expect to find tall Sossusvlei-style dunes devoid of greenery here. The Kalahari’s dunes are very different. They are often equally beautiful, but usually greener and less stark – and with this vegetation comes its ability to support more flora and fauna than a true desert. Overnight at Kalahari Anib Lodge or similar. (BLD)

Mariental
Named by local Rhenish (German Lutheran) missionaries after Maria the wife of the first colonial settler of the area Herman Brandt, Mariental was founded in 1912 as a simple railway stop between Windhoek and Keetmanshoop. It became a town in 1920 and was a municipality within another 26 years and is now home to some 10,000 people.  The hot, arid region means that the life-blood of the town is the Hardap Dam which controls the former seasonal flooding of the Fish River.  The dam now irrigates huge swathes of otherwise unproductive land and so grape, cotton and dairy farming become possible.  The locals also manage cattle, sheep and ostriches, all of which are worth sampling locally for their fine meats. However, the main draw for visitors is the abundance of game – springbok, blesbuck, giraffe, ostrich, leopard, zebra, kudu, gemsbuck, hartebeest, eland, blue- and black wildebeest all can be seen here on safari.

Day 3: Mariental - Mesosaurus Fossil Site - Fish River Canyon (driving time approx. 4.5 hours)
An early morning departure to the town of Mariental and south to Keetmanshoop. Just outside the town you have the opportunity of visiting the Mesosaurus Fossil Site. We travel via the town of Keetmanshoop for overnight on the Fish River area. Here you have the opportunity of seeing the Quivertree. Quiver trees are not in fact trees, they are a type of aloe, (Aloe Dichotoma), so called because the branches fork “dictomously”. These weird looking plants dot the landscape in this part of the world and are locally common, however they are one of the world’s rarest flora species. Overnight at Canyon Roadhouse or similar (BLD)

Mesosaurus Fossil Site
When looking out over this harsh and unforgiving landscape, it is hard to imagine oneself standing at the bottom of an ancient lake.  True to Namibia, this is a place of contrast and diversity, with earth’s history written clearly in the beautiful rock formations. The Mesosaurus is probably one of the most convincing examples to prove the drifting of continents. The same genus in the same rock formations is to be found in both southern Africa and South America.  In southern Africa the fossils can be found in the Whitehill formations, while in South America they are found in the Irats Formations.

Fish River Canyon
The jaw-dropping Fish-River Canyon rises in the centre of Namibia and flows south into the Orange River, being 100 miles in length and up to 20 miles wide in places. However, it is the dizzying depth (up to 1,800 feet) which creates the real drama. This all makes it the largest canyon in the southern hemisphere, and second only to Arizona’s Grand Canyon. Much of its length is now protected reserves: the hot springs at Ai-Ais oasis are part of the 1969 National Park, the Godwana Nature Park lies further north and at the extremities of Namibia, a ‘transfrontier park’ or ‘peace park’ has been established with South Africa. Wildlife and vegetation are sparse, but in evidence if you are keen to learn: herds of Hartmann’s mountain zebra, kudu, klipspringer antelope and baboons can be spotted and dassies or rock-rabbits are common. Birdlife is generally secretive but spectacular: the imposing black eagle sometimes passes over, rock kestrel, Karoo bustards and ostrich frequent the plains near the canyon and along its length you might watch out for herons, cormorants and kingfishers, martins and mountain wheatear.  The slopes of the canyon house euphorbias, deep red aloe and quiver tree. Your guide will prove invaluable in helping you learn these inhabitants of one of the driest environments on earth.

Day 4: Fish River Canyon – Aus Mountains - Lüderitz (driving time approx. 3.5 hours)
Depart the lodge early today at around 8am so we can get to the lookout point early over the Fish River Canyon lookout point for utterly jaw dropping panoramic views, before later travelling to the port town of Lüderitz. We will stop en route in the Aus Mountains for lunch (not included) and we may have a chance to see the wild horses which inhabit this area. Continue the scenic to Lüderitz where we hope to arrival around mid-afternoon and on arrival, we will take a short orientation of tour the town. Overnight Lüderitz Nest Hotel or similar (BL)

Luderitz
Sandwiched between the rugged and stark Atlantic Coast and the arid Namib Desert, the town of Luderitz is set in an incredibly unique geographical setting. This seaside town is something of an anomaly frozen in time – a piece of 19th-century Bavaria bordering the pinkish sand dunes of the Namib Desert. Lutheran churches, German bakeries, and colonial buildings boasting German art nouveau architecture are dotted about the settlement, while its windswept beaches are home to flamingos, ostriches, seals and penguins. The nearby ghost town of Kolmanskop, which has been taken over by the desert dunes, is one of the most fascinating area attractions, located approximately 10 kilometres from Luderitz central. Visitors can also take a trip to discover the wild desert-adapted horses located near the small town of Aus.                  

Day 5: Lüderitz and Kolmanskop
Today there is time to join an optional extra excursion - a marine trip. Take a cruise around Luderitz bay and, weather permitting, to Halifax Island to see the Jackass Penguins. Time at leisure to explore Luderitz Town with its traditional German architecture and later we will take a drive out to Diaz Point to see the bird life, hopefully a few seals and the stone cross replica, originally erected by the Portuguese mariner Bartholomew Diaz. Straight after the marine trip we drive out to Kolmanskop, a desert ghost town about 20 km out of Luderitz.  It was built in the 1920’s during the diamond rush and was abandoned when bigger and better diamonds were found further along the coast. The area is still abandoned and the desert has encroached over the entire town, giving an eerie feeling and real meaning to the word “ghost”. Overnight Lüderitz Nest Hotel or similar (B)

Note: The optional boat cruise is subject to availability and, if undertaken, is at your own risk and expenses.

Day 6: Lüderitz - Sesriem area – Sossusvlei (driving time approx. 6 hours)
Turning north, we once again head deep into the ancient southern Namib, travelling on small gravel roads and passing some tiny rural communities along the way.  The scenery is harsh, and sometimes forbidding.  The process of erosion in these areas is well advanced and we pass time rounded “koppies” arid terrain and outcrops of tortured rock. Traversing this bleak yet beautiful landscape, the terrain begins to change and we cross some open grass savannah and farmlands before the terrain begins to give way to the immense red sand dune desert of the Namib.  We aim to arrive at our lodge during the late afternoon and watch the colours glow and change on distant mountains to the east. We sleep tonight at Klein Aus Vista, a private reserve, beautifully located in the Aus Mountain Range, (Huib-Hoch-Plateau region). The road takes us through the “forbidden Zone” so named because in years gone by, the alluvial diamonds found in Namibia were simply scattered across the desert and we again have time to enjoy sunset over the mountains. Overnight at Sossusvlei Lodge or similar (BLD)

The Namib Desert
Arguably the oldest desert in the world (approximately 80 million years of arid climate), the Namib is a vast stretch of wilderness that stretches 2,000 miles from Angola to the Kalahari in the south. The lack of rainfall is stark: some places only receive less than a quarter of an inch a year; the wettest areas receive a dismal 8 inches a year. This hostile environment has thrown up an ocean of dunes from the cold Atlantic coast to the eastern mountains and has made it virtually uninhabitable for humans, excepting a few small pastoral tribes such as the Obatjimba Herero, the Topnaar Nama and the Ovahimba. However, despite its seemingly barren landscape, there is more to the Namib than simply a spectacular landscape of dry valleys, titanic sand dunes and the rocky magnificence of its mountains: the aridity has rendered the area a botanical island, with a high level of endemicity. Mountain zebras and Gemsbok are more visible examples, but many arthropods such as the Namib Desert beetle are also unique to the region as a much of the flora to be seen there.

Sesriem
As there is no accommodation at Sossusvlei, visitors to this desert wilderness are likely to end up staying at Sesriem, 65 kilometres away, where camps and lodges serve as a base from which to explore the dunes. Sesriem Canyon, a deep chasm carved through the rocks by water, is a striking natural feature of the area that is best explored on foot. Stony walls rise up sharply on both sides of the canyon, while birds roost in its crags and lizards dart along the ledges. The canyon’s name was coined when early settlers used it as a water source, using six lengths of leather (‘ses riem – six thongs) tied together to lower buckets into the water at the base of canyon.)

Day 7: Sesriem Canyon and Sossusvlei
A pre-dawn start is essential this morning as we want to catch the soft light of the sunrise on the desert. After passing through Sesriem, the gateway to the dunes, we head into the heart of the dune field, reaching Sossusvlei on foot, trekking the last 5 km through the dunes.  Landscape photo opportunities abound in the cool of the morning, with dawn’s soft light first illuminating the dunes from crest down the back slope, then blazing orange everywhere, creating a powerful contrasting vista across the whole desert.  We spend the morning in and around Sossusvlei and Deadvlei, also visiting dune 45.  Sossusvlei is where you will find the iconic red sand dunes of the Namib.  The clear blue skies contrast with the giant red sand dunes to make this one of the natural wonders of Africa and a photographer’s heaven. As the day wears on we return to Sesriem for lunch, escaping the heat of the afternoon.  As the day cools off in the late afternoon, we will take a short excursion to the Sesriem Canyon.  Sesriem Canyon, a deep chasm carved through the rocks by water, is a striking natural feature of the area that is best explored on foot. Stony walls rise up sharply on both sides of the canyon, while birds roost in its crags and lizards dart along the ledges. The canyon’s name was coined when early settlers used it as a water source, using six lengths of leather (‘ses riem – six thongs) tied together to lower buckets into the water at the base of canyon. Return to the lodge for the overnight. Overnight at Sossusvlei Lodge or similar (BLD)

Sossusvlei
Located in the scenic Namib-Naukluft National Park, Sossusvlei is where you will find the iconic red sand dunes of the Namib. The clear blue skies contrast with the giant red dunes to make this one of the most scenic natural wonders of Africa and a photographer's heaven. This awe-inspiring destination is possibly Namibia's premier attraction, with its unique dunes rising to almost 400 metres-some of the highest in the world. These iconic dunes come alive in morning and evening light and draw photography enthusiasts from around the globe. Sossusvlei is home to a variety desert wildlife including oryx, springbok, ostrich and a variety of reptiles. Visitors can climb 'Big Daddy', one of Sossusvlei’s tallest dunes; explore Deadvlei, a white, salt, claypan dotted with ancient trees; or for the more extravagant, scenic flights and hot air ballooning are on offer, followed by a once-in-a-lifetime champagne breakfast amidst these majestic dunes.

Dune 45
Named for its location 45 kilometres past the town of Sesriem, Dune 45 is renowned for its elegant shape, which – along with its position close to the road – have earned it the distinction of ‘most photographed dune in the world’. If you’re not keen for the strenuous hike to the top of Big Daddy, Dune 45 is a more forgiving alternative, standing at only 80 metres and featuring a much gentler gradient.

Dead Vlei
This ancient clay pan was once an oasis, studded with acacias and fed by a river that suddenly changed course, leaving the earth to dry up along with the trees it previously supported. So dry were the climatic conditions that the trees never decomposed – instead they were entirely leached of moisture so that today, 900 years later, they remain as desiccated, blackened sentinels dotting the pan’s cracked surface. Surrounded by the red-pink dunes of the Namibia Desert, they create a surreal spectacle that is a photographer's dream.

Day 8: Sesriem – Welwitschia Plains - Swakopmund (driving time approx. 5-6 hours)
Drive to the Solitaire, where you will be transferred to Swakopmund. Afternoon arriving at the coastal town of Swakopmund. Unwind and refresh at the end of the day in the warm and uplifting atmosphere of the Delight hotel, before savouring some of Swakopmund’s fine cuisine. Overnight The Delight Hotel or similar (B)

Swakopmund
Culturally and architecturally, Swakopmund (literally ‘mouth of the rhino river’) is particularly influenced by its having been a German colony, with many beautiful examples of German colonial architecture to be found. Swakopmund is surrounded by the Namib Desert on three sides, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The initial colonisation began with a military landing, favouring the site for its fresh water and potential for building a harbour along the hostile Namibian coastline. The soldiers spent the initial period dug into caves in the sand to shelter from the sun, but soon a port was created. However, by time of the seizure of German South West Africa by South Africa in 1915, the ‘Mole’ created to sustain the sea-trade had silted and the British moved the port to Walvis Bay.  It was only when Uranium was discovered and mined inland that Swakopmund began to thrive again, breathing wealth and modernity into its character. Visitors today can easily explore the town on foot and attractions include the Swakopmund Museum, the National Marine Aquarium and the Crystal Gallery.

Day 9: Swakopmund
Today is a day at leisure for you to relax or explore the town independently which can be done on foot. Alternatively, an optional marine cruise can be arranged and paid for locally on the Walvis Bay Lagoon where sightings of dolphins, seals and many species of sea bird are common. There are many other optional (not included) activities that can be done from Swakopmund including a Skeleton Coast scenic flight. Overnight The Delight Hotel or similar (B)

Note – Your guide will be available today as well to escort you to any optional activities.

Day 10: Swakopmund - Damaraland (driving time approx. 4 hours)
Today our journey continues to the ruggedly beautiful Damaraland. We will stop to view the prehistoric rock engravings at Twyfelfontein, which boasts the largest known concentration of Stone Age petro-glyphs in Namibia with approximately 2,500 engravings. Also, in the area is the geological curiosity of the perpendicular slabs of basalt known as the “Organ Pipes”. Located in the southern Kunene Region, in the centre of Damaraland’s rough terrain, Khorixas was previously the capital of Damaraland prior to Namibia's independence. Most of the inhabitants are from the Damara ethnic group. The town is located close to an accumulation of enormous fossilized tree trunks, about 280 million years old called The Petrified Forest, as well as Twyfelfontein, the site of approximately 2000 rock carvings which were, in 2007, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Overnight at Damara Mopane Lodge or similar (BD)

Damaraland
45 miles inland from the Skeleton Coast, Damaraland is a dramatic and mountainous setting which is home to an impressive array of key species: the largest elephants in Africa, lions, rhino and zebra have all adapted to the driest of dry landscapes. The dominant peak here is the delightful Brandberg, Namibia’s highest mountain, which boasts countless ancient rock paintings. The region has only recently taken up its name, linked as it is to the ancient and ethnically unique Damara people, who were forcibly relocated here in 1960 by the South African government. A traditionally pastoral and hunter-gatherer people, their way of life was seriously damaged by this move to poor quality soils and many of the tribe moved in time to the Windhoek region. However, much of their cultural integrity remains intact and traditional hide clothing; green, white and blue dress and rituals such as elaborate hunting performances required for a boy to come of age are still prized.

Twyfelfontein
Set in the Kunene Region of northwestern Namibia, Twylfelfontein is a spectacularly scenic area, featuring one of the largest and most important concentrations of rock art in Africa. The name ‘Twyfelfontein’ translates to ‘Fountain of Doubt’, which refers to the perennial spring situated in the impressive Huab valley flanked by the slopes of a sandstone table mountain. It was this spring that attracted Stone Age hunters over six thousand years ago, and it was during this time that the extensive group of rock engravings and paintings were produced. Visitors can look forward to basing themselves at some wonderfully shady campsites along the Aba-Huab riverbed, while exploring over thirty different sites of these sacred records of ritual practices relating to traditional hunter-gatherer communities.

Day 11: Damaraland
Today is a day at leisure to relax and enjoy the tranquil surroundings of Damaraland, this vast desert landscape is known as one of the most beautiful regions in Namibia. Huge, untamed and ruggedly beautiful, Damaraland is an exceptionally scenic landscape featuring open plains, ancient valleys and spectacular rock formations. Optional excursions can be arranged locally with the lodge - please contact us prior to the departure for details. Overnight at Damara Mopane Lodge or similar (BD)

Day 12: Damaraland - Etosha National Park (driving time approx. 5 hours)
We depart early at 8am for our journey to Etosha National Park, 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. We will arrive in time for an afternoon game drive in the park in our tour vehicle and stay in the park until around sunset. In the park we hope to see elephant, rhino and hopefully lion. The terrain ranges from dense bush to large open plains where animals roam freely. This afternoon in our transport we drive along the network of gravel roads that crisscross the Park, visiting the various viewpoints and the permanent waterholes around which animals congregate. There is something enigmatic in the vast silent grey-white pan that covers the reserve. Overnight at Etosha Safari Camp or similar (BD)

Etosha National Park
Covering over 12,400 square miles, and the habitat for 114 species of animals and 340 species of birds, Etosha National Park has its focal point as a vast salt pan.  However, it is the water holes which make it’s such a wonderful place to view wildlife: thousands of animals come to drink here and sightings of many of the game species can be virtually guaranteed.  The broad grasslands which provide endless grazing for the wildlife are a dramatic contrast to the aridity of elsewhere. Elephants grow to unusually large proportions on the nutrient rich trees, giraffes, lions and even leopards are relatively often seen and this is one of the best places on earth to view the endangered black rhino.  Birds are abundant – around 340 species have been recorded here. Favourite species such as Flamingos, Bateleurs, Ostrich and African openbill are simpler spots, but keen birders also come for the rarer Carp’s tit, Bare-cheeked babbler, Monterio’s hornbill, and the Rockrunner.

Day 13: Etosha National Park (at leisure)
A full day exploring Etosha National Park at leisure, visiting the many waterholes throughout the park. After experiencing the incredible and renowned wildlife sightings Etosha has to offer, return home to the easy-going warmth and friendliness of your camp for the night. Overnight at Etosha Safari Camp or similar (BD)

Day 14: Etosha National Park - Windhoek (driving time approx. 5 hours)
After breakfast we depart around 8am travel back to Windhoek, arriving mid-afternoon. A picnic lunch will be provided. On the way we will make a short stop to visit the Okahandja Woodcarvers market for souvenirs. Upon arrival in Windhoek, transfer to the airport for departure. Please do not book flights departing before 17:00 today. (B)

 

Tour inclusions/exclusions

Inclusions:
Arrival and departure transfers
All accommodation as per the itinerary
Transport throughout the tour
Services of English-speaking tour leader/guide
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary

Excluded:
International flights
Items of a personal nature
Any airport taxes
Travel Insurance
Visas
Drinks
Tips (discretionary)


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