Namibia - Desert Dreams


Namibia - Desert Dreams

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 11 days
Type: GroupTravel with a small group of other travellers

Dossier

Discover Namibia on this great value tour of the country as we visit many of the ‘must-see’ sites . On this tour there are many activities included, but we also allow a degree of flexibility and for you to either spend time relaxing at the lodges or taking the optional activities. Join the weekly departure from Windhoek as we travel through the Kalahari Desert and take a photo at the famous red dunes of Sossusvlei. The tour finishes at Etosha National Park, where the watering holes make it a wonderful place to view the wildlife

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 and the Himba people
  • Etosha - Abundant wildlife from comfortable lodges outside 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
Start Point: Windhoek – you can arrive any time on Day 1
End Point: Windhoek – you can depart any time from 17:00 on Day 11
Transport: Minibuses or similar - some safari vehicles on game drives
Countries: 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. For small group sizes a driver/guide may be used.

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 Olive Grove or similar

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)

Departure will be between 9 and 10am. Today we head for Mariental, a small, flourishing market town in the heart of Southern Namibia, and the administrative capital of the Hardap Region. 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 railway stop between Windhoek and Keetmanshoop. It was proclaimed a town in 1920 and a municipality in 1946. Our lodge for the night is a relaxed and down-to-earth stopover which offers a taste of the Kalahari, the desert which lies over the vast areas of southern Botswana, eastern Namibia and northern South Africa. The terrain consists mainly of large arid and semi–arid areas, brown sands and red dune scenery. In the evening approximately 4 – 5pm we will enjoy a 3-hour sundowner drive to explore the local area. Overnight at Kalahari Anib Lodge or similar  (BD)

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 – Kalahari – Namib Desert (Sossusvlei) 

After a leisurely breakfast depart for a beautifully scenic drive through to and area just north of Sossusvlei where you overlook the striking fossilised dunes.  Tomorrow we’ll visit Sossusvlei, the oldest desert on earth, distinguished as being home to some of the strangest flora and fauna on the continent. During our journey dramatic scenery unfolds around each corner and there are many opportunities for photographic stops. This afternoon will give be at your own leisure after the drive to relax or you can take an optional activity from the accommodation such as an afternoon dune drive. Overnight at Namib Desert Lodge or similar (BD)

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 ae 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.

Day 4 – Dead Vlei and Sesriem Canyon

Today we have an early start around 6am as we drive to some of the highest sand dunes in the world and watch the sun rise over the red dunes, some standing up to 300m high. The first rays of the sun light up the dunes with a deep orange glow making for 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 it offers, 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. Later this afternoon you will have some time at leisure before an afternoon sundowner dune drive in the Namib Desert. Overnight Namib Desert Lodge or similar (BD)

Day 5 – Namib Desert – Solitaire – Walvis Bay - Swakopmund (driving time approx. 4 hours)

Travelling via Solitaire, and through the Kuiseb Canyon, we pass awe-inspiring landscapes as we head across the Namib gravel flats towards the Atlantic Coast and Walvis Bay. Continue the short journey to Swakopmund, surrounded by the Namib Desert on three sides, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Culturally and architecturally, Swakopmund is particularly influenced by its having been a German colony, with many beautiful examples of German colonial architecture to be found. Visitors can easily explore the town on foot and attractions include the Swakopmund Museum, the National Marine Aquarium and the Crystal Gallery. On arrival we will have short orientation tour of the town. Overnight Delight Swakopmund 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 6 – Swakopmund – Leisure time or optional activities

Today is a day at leisure for you to relax or explore the town independently which can be done on foot. Alternatively, Swakopmund has a myriad of activities for those in search of adventure. Options include a Living Dunes experience to learn about the flora and fauna of the desert, scenic flights over the Namib Desert and the skeleton coast, or a Catamaran voyage to search for marine wildlife. For adrenaline junkies, skydiving or dune surfing is possible. Please contact us if you are interested in a list of optional excursions. Overnight at Delight Swakopmund or similar (B)

Day 7, 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.

Day 8, Damaraland at leisure of optional activities

A day at leisure to relax and enjoy the tranquil surroundings of Damaraland, a vast and hauntingly beautiful desert landscape. For those that wish to keep active, there are self-guided walking trails ranging from 1 – 3 hours from the lodge and also a look out point nearby, an ideal vantage point to catch a spectacular desert sunset. Overnight Damara Mopane Lodge or similar (BD)

Day 9, Damaraland – Outjo - Etosha National Park (driving time approx. 5 hours)

We depart early at 8am for our journey to Etosha National Park via Outjo, 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. Arrive in time for an afternoon game drive in the park in our tour vehicle and stay in the park until around sunset. Spend some time observing any visiting species at Okaukuejo waterhole or nearby waterholes if sightings are proving elusive.  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. 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 more rare Carp’s tit, Bare-cheeked babbler, Monterio’s hornbill, and the Rockrunner.

Day 10, Etosha National Park

We continue searching for game 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. Overnight at Etosha Safari Camp or similar (BD)

Day 11, Etosha National Park - Windhoek (driving time approx. 5 hours)

After breakfast we depart around 8am travel back to Windhoek, arriving mid-afternoon. On the way we will make a short stop to visit the Okahandja Woodcarvers market for souvenirs. Transfer to the airport for departure or perhaps you may wish to extend your stay in Namibia or travel onwards to South Africa to continue your holiday. Please contact us if you require further arrangements. (B)

Kindly note if  you are leaving Namibia today please do not book flights before 4pm.

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: Sossusvlei Excursion & Park Fees; Afternoon Dune Drive @ Gondwana Namib Park; Twyfelfontein & Burnt Mountain Excursion; Game Dives in Etosha as per itinerary
Tour Guide & Vehicle & Fuel
Water on vehicle

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


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