Namibia is a land of open skies and endless horizons. A country of varying eco-systems, it is best known for its towering sand dunes, red canyons and ethnic groups who continue to practice their traditional way of life. Much of the population is centered around Windhoek- the capital giving you a sense of tranquil quietness as one travels into the rural areas. This trip will go through the north of the country visiting wild life conservancies and game reserves, tribal outposts and small towns all the while learning about the fascinating history of this former German colony and one of the world's largest diamond producer. It is a land that is full of surprises and contrasts and it is not uncommon to feel 'surreal' as you travel up the Skeleton Coast witnessing huge waves of the Atlantic Ocean crashing into the desert sand dunes that undulate for hundreds of miles. Or the sight of bright pink flamingoes as they swoop down into the multi-colored salt flats in search of food. One can get the opportunity to see the desert elephants as they travel for up to 70 kilometers a day in search of water or conservationists who have played an important role in re-introducing the Big Cats into the wild life areas.
Depart the US
Welcome to Windhoek, Namibia! You will be met upon arrival and transferred to your hotel. The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure to enjoy the area. You can go for a lovely nature walk but make sure you are at the pool deck area of the hotel by 5.15pm to watch the amazing sunset over the distant hills.
Welcome dinner at lodge hosted by the Faculty Leader.
After breakfast, depart with driver and guide to the Okonjima Nature Reserve. Lunch en route (own account). Arrive at Okonjima in the afternoon. Safari briefing and check-in. Okonjima is a 20,000 hectare private game reserve that was formerly a cattle ranch and now restored back to a wilderness area. (B, L, D)
Not only is Okonjima a luxury lodge, but it is also home to The AfriCat Foundation, a non-profit organisation, committed to long-term conservation of Namibia's large carnivores, especially cheetahs and leopards. A visit to Okonjima will give you an opportunity to witness some of AfriCat's work.
The NEW, Plains Camp design honours the Okonjima cattle-farming history. In the early 1920’s, Okonjima became a cattle farm and was bought by Val (VJ) & Rose Hanssen in 1970. They were well-established Brahman breeders and continued to farm cattle until the need for solutions to increasing livestock losses became pertinent and post-independence interest in Namibia as a tourist destination, escalated. In 1993, the herds of Brahman and Jersey cattle were sold, changing the face of Okonjima as well as that of Carnivore Conservation.
Morning guided walk and by vehicle: identify some of the more than 250 species in the area, including cheetah and Namibian endemics such as carp’s black tit, hartlaub’s francolin and the damara rock runner. Lunch at the lodge. After lunch visit the AfriCat 'Information & Carnivore Care Center', which offers valuable insight into the work of The AfriCat Foundation. Witness first-hand their mission which is to contribute to the long-term conservation of Namibia’s large carnivores. AfriCat was created as a result of information collected when Okonjima was still a cattle ranch and was losing calves to leopards. The leopards were a pest to many ranchers who preferred to kill them however AfriCat’s engagement and education resulted in trapped and rescuing them instead. Since 1993, 1060 of these predators have been rescued and over 85% were relocated and released back into the wild. (B, L, D)
The AfriCat Foundation
Guided Walk at Okonjima
The AfriCat Foundation
The AfriCat Foundation was founded in the early 90’s and formally registered as a non-profit organisation in August 1993. The Foundation has since grown significantly and what started out primarily as a welfare organisation, has over the years, identified the need to focus on education and research, as being essential to accomplishing our mission – the long-term conservation of Namibia’s large carnivores. The Foundation has since grown significantly and what started out primarily as a welfare organisation, has over the years, identified the need to focus on education and research, as being essential to accomplishing our mission – the long-term conservation of Namibia’s large carnivores.
Continue further north to a lodge situated on the outskirts of the Etosha Game Reserve. There will be a brief stop for lunch en route (paid directly by the guest).
Arrive in time for the late afternoon game drive on the 34,000 hectare Onguma Reserve. The Reserve incorporates ecological substrata such as savannah, bushveld, omuramba and dry pan. Age-old and well-worn migration routes, once used by elephant and buffalo snake through Onguma’s dry riverbeds. The reserve boasts over thirty different animal species. Plains game roam freely on the reserve and predators - although not easy to spot are nevertheless common residents of the area. Lions are frequently seen and often heard. There is a healthy black rhino and leopard population and hyenas are also often seen. (B, D)
Onguma Game Reserve
Situated on the eastern side of Etosha, bordering Fisher's Pan, Onguma Game Reserve is one of Namibia's best kept secrets! Here you will be afforded the opportunity of experiencing Africa in all her beauty and diversity. Onguma Game Reserve has more than 34,000 hectares of protected land and wildlife. This nature reserve boasts over thirty different animal species consisting of plains game including kudu, giraffe, eland, oryx, hartebeest, zebra, impala and many more roam freely as well as predators such as lion, cheetah, leopard, being common residents of the area. The latest addition to the already abundant wildlife at Onguma Game Reserve is a family of black rhinos! More than 300 bird species can also be viewed at Onguma Game Reserve. During the Namibian summer months the nature reserve becomes a bird-watcher's paradise with thousands of species migrating to the wetlands created by the seasonal rains and ephemeral river systems.
Early morning game-drive in the Etosha Game Reserve. This is the best time to see game before it gets too hot. Etosha, meaning ‘place of dry water’, encloses a huge, flat calcrete depression (or pan) of about 5,000 square-kilometers. The ‘Pan’ provides a great, parched, silver-white backdrop of shimmering mirages to an area of semi-arid savannah grassland and thorn scrub. The pan itself contains water only after very good rains and sometimes for only a few days each year, but is enough to stimulate the growth of blue-green algae that lures thousands of flamingos. Etosha attracts all the major predators as well as the endangered black rhino. It is a scene from “Noah’s Ark” as herds of animals take their turn at the watering holes. Return to the lodge for lunch. The remainder of the day is at your own leisure to enjoy the game that comes to the water hole close to the lodge or join some of the other activities offered by the lodge (paid directly by the guest).
Activities - Etosha Game Drive
Depart to Kunene (formerly known as Damaraland). This area is one of the most scenic areas in Namibia. A huge, untamed, ruggedly beautiful region that offers the traveler a more adventurous challenge. Here one can see prehistoric watercourses with open plains and grassland, massive granite koppies and deep gorges. Arrive at the lodge and check in. Meet in the lobby and depart for a scenic drive down to the Klip River Valley where permanent springs provide water for the local population of zebras, antelopes and occasionally elephants, lions and black rhinos. Springboks, kudu and oryx are a permanent fixture and even the nervous and shy klipspringers are sometimes seen leaping about on the steep cliffs of the mountain as if they are flying. (B, L D)
This morning you will depart for a rhino tracking experience this morning accompanied by a professional wild life guide and trackers. Part of the tracking will take place on foot. This activity is along bumpy roads and walking in rocky terrain with sweeping views of the horizons. If you are not comfortable walking, please advise our guide who will make arrangements for you to still enjoy the beauty and wilderness of the area. (B, L, D)
Activities - Rhino Tracking
TwyfelfonteinDepart for Himba village excursion. The Himba are semi-nomadic herders. Because of the harsh desert climate in the region where they live and their seclusion from outside influences, the Himba have managed to maintain much of their traditional lifestyle. Members live under a tribal structure based on bilateral descent that helps them survive in one of the most extreme environments on earth. After the village visit head to Twyfelfontein. The area has been inhabited for 6,000 years, first by hunter-gatherers and later by Khoikhoi herders. Both ethnic groups used it as a place of worship and a site to conduct shamanist rituals. In the process of these rituals at least 2,500 items of rock carvings were created, as well as a few rock paintings. Displaying one of the largest concentrations of rock petroglyphs in Africa, UNESCO approved Twyfelfontein as Namibia's first World Heritage Site in 2007. Here, you will have an opportunity to view some of these ancient engravings as well as secondary sites such as the Organ Pipes, Petrified Forest and Burnt Mountain.
Himba Cultural Excursions - Damaraland and the Kaokoveld, as well as southern parts or Angola, are home to the Himba, one of the last truly traditional tribes on the planet. These friendly people are closely related to the Herero and lead a semi-nomadic life as herdsmen, breeding mainly cattle and goats. The community living among the majestic Makalani palms at Palmfontein invites visitors to learn more about their proud and ancient lifestyle and traditions. Visitors will be able to see their cone-shaped homestead made from palm leaves, mud and cattle dung and learn more about their unique customs and techniques.
Petrified Forest - Situated approximately 50 kilometers west of the town of Khorixas, in an area of open veld, lies a large deposit of massive tree trunks that have "turned to stone" through a process of diagenesis. These petrified tree trunks are up to 34metres long, 6 metres in circumference and are approximately 260 million years old. Due to the lack of root or branch remains, it’s believed that the trees were washed down an ancient river to the site in a massive flood.
Depart south to Swakopmund- a beautiful coastal town on the Atlantic Ocean. Founded by the Germans in 1892 in an effort to establish a deep sea harbor, today it remains a thriving town with a strong European influences as seen by the architecture, language and food and also a place for locals to come during the hot summer season due to its proximity to the ocean. Your hotel is a short walk to the beach promenade. Rest of the day at your leisure to enjoy the town and explore some of the wonderful restaurants.
Swakopmund - Founded in 1892 as the main harbour for German South West Africa, Swakopmund is often described as being more German than Germany. Now a seaside resort, Swakopmund is the capital of the Skeleton Coast tourism area and has plenty to keep visitors happy. The quirky mix of German and Namibian influences, colonial-era buildings and the cool sea breeze make it very popular.
After breakfast depart to Walvis Bay. One of the most popular activities is driving amid the massive sand dunes at Sandwich Harbor. This excursion is an informative and exciting activity and a contrast in landscape with endless sand bordering the ocean. Sandwich Harbor, part of the Namib Naukluft Park, is a place many have heard of but very few have ever visited. Giant sand dunes run straight into the ocean, creating breathtaking sceneries and unique landscapes, just waiting to be discovered! Beautiful dunes have to be crossed to get to Sandwich Harbor. If weather and tides allow, we will drive right to the Sandwich Harbor Lagoon, one of Southern Africa’s richest and unique wetlands. Wedged between the sea and the Namib Dunes, potable water seeping from the underground aquifer sustains the freshwater vegetation at the base of the dunes. After a wonderful lunch on the dunes and more exploring, you will return to Swakopmund.
Sossusvlei - 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 photographers heaven. Aside from the attractions at Sossusvlei - Dune 45, Hiddenvlei, Big Daddy and Deadvlei - other attractions in the area include the Sesriem Canyon and Namib-Naukluft National Park, where the mountains of the Namib meet its plains.
Depart for the airport for your 1-hour scenic flight to Soussevlei.
The sand dunes of Sossusvlei in the Namib Desert are often referred to as the highest dunes in the world. Various arguments are laid out to support this claim, but all miss the point, which is that Sossusvlei is surely one of the most spectacular sights in Namibia and well worth the visit. Your lodge is located in the private 37,000 hectare conservancy surrounded by red hills. It is truly a spectacular location where one can “hear the silence” and mend your soul. Your guide will advise you and arrange several nature activities that take place in the reserve this afternoon. The evenings are tremendously important for stargazers and it’s worthwhile to make sure you take advantage of your patio at your chalet.
Early morning start! Meet in the lobby for a coffee and tea and a light snack. This is a beautiful time of the day as the sun rises over the desert horizon. This morning you depart on an early morning excursion to Soussevlei dunes and the Sesriem Canyon. The canyon derives its name from the fact that early Afrikaner trekkers had to use six ('ses') leather thongs (a thong is a 'riem') so that their buckets could reach the water far below. The canyon begins as an almost imperceptible but nevertheless deep cleft in level, stony ground, and then widens until it finally flattens out onto the plain. Because it is so deep and sheltered, it often holds water well into the dry season - an invigorating sight in such a barren and stark environment. You will also have an opportunity to climb one of the many dunes that makes Soussevlei so famous. If you don’t wish to climb, you will still be able to enjoy the spectre of the massive and iconic landscape.
After breakfast and check out, fly back to Windhoek. Met on arrival and assisted with airport check-in formalities for your onward flight back to the U.S.
Flights returning to the US are evening flights, arriving the next day - August 3.
Trip Cost - Per Person, based on Double Occupancy
Single Room Supplement: