Namibia Encompassed


Namibia Encompassed

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 15 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, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, Damaraland and the world famous Etosha National Park. In addition we will meet the Himba people learning about their culture and way of life.

Tour Duration - 15 Days

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 within the park

Tour Essentials

Accommodation: Mix of comfortable mid-range lodges and hotels
Included Meals: Daily breakfast (B), plus lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary
Group Size: Maximum of 12
Start Point: Windhoek – you can arrive any time on Day 1
End Point: Windhoek – you can depart any time from 17:00 on Day 15
Transport: Minibuses or small coaches and safari vehicles
Countries: Namibia

Optional Extension - Okanjima Reserve - 3 Days 2 nights 

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.

Itinerary

Day 1 – Join the tour in Windhoek

Arrive in Windhoek, where you will be met and transferred to your centrally located hotel. After check-in at the hotel the remainder of the day will be free for you to relax, or to explore the city on your own, before meeting up with your guide the next day. Overnight at Windhoek Country Club or similar. (D)

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 - Mariental

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. The area is habited by many rare species such as the Sand Antelope, Black Desert Rhino and Cheetah. In the evening we will enjoy a 3 hour sundowner drive to explore the local area. Overnight at Anib Kalahari 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 – Fish River Canyon

Today our journey takes us into the deep south and the Fish River Canyon – famed for being the second largest on earth. At 700 kilometres long, the Fish River is the longest river in Namibia. It is mostly a dry river, only flowing intermittently, usually in late summer. When it ceases to flow, it becomes a chain of long narrow pools on the sandy rock-strewn floor of the chasm. Situated at the lower end of the canyon, is the hot springs resort of Ai-Ais, which provides an oasis to this arid area. The Fish River Canyon at up to 500 metres deep, and 27 kilometres wide, is the second largest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon in the USA. Overnight at Canyon Lodge, Canon Village or similar. (BD)

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 laong its length you might watch out for herons, cormorants and kingfishers, martins and mountain wheatear.  Th slopes of canyon house euphorbias, deep red aloe and quivertree. Your guide will prove invaluable in helping you learn these inhabitants of one of the driest environments on earth.

Day 4 – Fish River Canyon

Today visit the Canyon lookout point with your guide before travelling to the rocky Aus Mountains. Our accommodation for the next two nights is a lodge nestled in the mountains and famed for its extensive vistas. Overnight at Klein Aus Vista-Desert Horse Inn or similar. (BD)

Day 5 – Aus Mountains

Today we spend our time exploring the Aus Mountains. Situated in the centre of the Namib Desert, Aus is perched on the edge of the Huib-Plateau, one of the highest elevation points in Namibia at 1485 metres above sea level. When German troops surrendered at the end of the First World War, Aus was taken over by the South African Army, who promptly constructed a penitentiary for German prisoners of war. The area is well known for the wild horses at Gharub, the descendants of horses brought to Namibia with the German cavalry troops, and which have managed to adapt to the harsh, dry conditions of the area. Later we continue to the port town of Lüderitz from where we explore Kolmanskop, founded in 1908 (but now a ghost town), when a diamond was discovered by one of the workers while building the railway line to Lüderitz. This incident triggered a massive diamond boom. In those days Kolmanskop was considered Africa’s richest town but its decline began in 1915 when the diamond-field slowly exhausted itself. It was ultimately abandoned in 1954.Overnight at Klein Aus Vista-Desert Horse Inn or similar. (BD)

Aus Mountains

Situated in the centre of the Namib Desert, Aus is perched on the edge of the Huib-Plateau, one of the highest elevation points in Namibia at 1485 metres above sea level. When German troops surrendered at the end of the First World War, Aus was taken over by the South African Army, who promptly constructed a penitentiary for German prisoners of war. The area is well known for the wild horses at Gharub, the descendants of horses brought to Namibia with the German cavalry troops, and which have managed to adapt to the harsh, dry conditions of the area, numbering over 150 individuals and only requiring water every 5-7 days.

Day 6 - Sesriem

Depart Aus for a scenic drive through to the Sossusvlei area of the Namib, 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. Overnight at Namib Desert Lodge, Sesriem 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 7 – Sesriem

Today we have an early start as we drive to Sossusvlei to watch the sun rise over the red dunes, some of the most spectacular in the world, 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. Overnight at Namib Desert Lodge, Sesriem or similar. (BD)

Day 8 – Swakopmund

Travelling via Solitaire, and through the Kuiseb Canyon, we 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, notably flamingos and pelicans that feed here seasonally. It's a short drive to the coastal town of Swakopmund which was founded in 1892, and was intended to be the main harbor of the German colony, German South West Africa. Swakopmund is 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. Overnight at Beach 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 free day at leisure or to explore the town independently. Alternatively an optional marine cruise can be arranged and paid for locally on the Walvis Bay Lagoon. Overnight at Beach Hotel or similar. (B)

Day 10 – Damaraland

Today our journey continues to the ruggedly beautiful Damaraland and the town of Khorixas. We will stop en-route 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 11 – Sesfontein

Today our journey takes us north through the unusual scenery of Damaraland, with its variety of rock formations. We may be lucky and see we may see some of the wildlife species which have adapted to the desert, and are found in the area. Our accommodation for the next two nights will be on the banks of the Hoanib River in the magnificent Khowarib Gorge. Overnight at Khowarib Lodge. Sesfontein or similar. (BD)

Day 12 – Sesfontein

This morning we have the privilege of meeting the Himba people and learning 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 they have chosen their traditional life style over modernization. They have become iconic for using a characteristic red paste made of butter, fat and red ochre that they apply to their skin, and which serves an aesthetic purpose in beautifying their bodies, as well as protecting them from the scorching sun. Later we return to our lodge with the remainder of the day at leisure. Overnight at Khowarib Lodge. Sesfontein or similar. (BD)

Day 13 – Etosha National Park

Today we travel 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, which will be followed by further game viewing the next day. 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 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 its 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 14 – 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 15 – Windhoek

After breakfast we 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 reaching Windhoek, say farewell to your guide as he leaves you at the city’s airport. Alternatively if you have arranged to stay the night in Windhoek then you will be dropped off at your hotel.

Extension

Day 15 – Etosha National Park – Okonjima Reserve (driving time approx. 2.5 hours)

After breakfast we travel on your extension to Okonjima Reserve, the home of the Africat Foundation, https://okonjima.com/the-africat-foundation/ located approximately half way from Etosha to Windhoek. This evening you will be able to take an evening game drive in the reserve. Overnight Okonjima Bush Camp (BLD – Fully Inclusive)

Note – You will be transferred part of the way from Etosha National Park to Okonjima with the group and then closer to Okonjima you will then continue to the reserve for your accommodation.

Okonjima Reserve

The vital Africat project is centred on tis exceptional reserve, with 50,000 acres of protected land aiming to study and sustain the existence of Africa’s predatory cats. Established in 1991, the Foundations works with local schools and farmers in helping to educate and support a parallel existence between humanity and big cats.  The founders themselves are former cattle ranchers who use their understanding of needing to mitigate for losses to predators. Tourism plays a vital part in funding the Reserve and also in offering financial incentives to locals to work with the organisation.  Situated midway between Windhoek and Etosha, a diverse population of predators are being monitored and protected: several lions are to be seen, but it is the cheetah and leopard populations which are especially significant. Many are rehabilitated and released here, fitted with tracking collars and constantly monitored for their welfare and for a better grasp of these shy and complex creatures.  Beyond the cats, over 250 species of bird can be found here, from Orange River francolin to Ruppell’s parrot and Violet woodhoopoe to Crimson-breasted shrike, whilst a game drive or walk can also yield rich pickings: Eland, Kudu, Impala Springbok, Gemsbok and Kudu are regularly seen.

Day 16 – Okonjima Reserve

Enjoy morning and afternoon activities are available to you today at the reserve. You will be able to choose your activities on arrival and it is all included in your rate. Here is a link to the activities on offer - https://okonjima.com/activities/ . Overnight Okonjima Bush Camp (BLD – fully inclusive)

Day 17 – Okonjima Reserve – Windhoek (driving time approx. 2 hours)

Transfer back to the airport for your onward flight or alternatively if your flight is early you can book an extra night in Windhoek (B) 

Inclusions:
Arrival and departure transfers

All transport throughout
All accommodation
Services of English speaking guide / tour leader - not on the extension 

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)