This is an itinerary designed to introduce you to some of the most beautiful and extreme environments that Namibia has to offer. The trip can be arranged as a self drive or fully guided itinerary.
Visiting some of the country’s most notable locations, the route will take you far north to the arid salt pans of Etosha National Park, deep into the remote and rugged Kunene where desert elephant battle against the harsh conditions and sustain a remarkable existence along ephemeral rivers, then along the Skeleton Coast whose shores bare witness to the unforgiving ferocity of the South Atlantic ocean, before finally arriving deep in the Namib – one of the most ancient and hauntingly beautiful desert landscapes in the world.
The itinerary is best experienced as a self drive, allowing you the freedom to manage your own routine and drive from area to area (full detailed directions will be provided), whilst making use of the expertise of local guides for in-depth guided excursions in each location. A fully guided option is also possible, as are alterations to reduce or extend the duration of the itinerary.
Day1: Depart the UK
Days2-3: Arrive Windhoek, transfer to Okonjima
Upon arrival, you will be collect your 4x4 vehicle and, after a full briefing and an introduction to the vehicle and its equipment, you begin your journey to Okonjima, home of the Africat Foundation, where you will be able to unpack and relax in the beautiful private reserve. The following day, enjoy vehicle and walking safaris, and a visit to to the education centre.
Day6: Western Pan, Etosha National Park or Northern Damaraland
There are two options today: either continue exploring Etosha National Park and drive through its very remote and barren Western Pan to a highly luxurious small private lodge on the edge of the park’s western boundary, or drive into the stunningly beautiful northern reaches of Damaraland, an ancient and culturally important area of the country which is home to the Damara tribe.
Twyfelfontein is a rocky site situated in the Kunene Region of north western Namibia and contains one of the largest and most important concentrations of rock art in Africa. There are some 2,500 rock engravings on 212 slabs of rock, with an additional 13 panels embracing further examples of rock paintings.
Accommodation: Doro Norwas or Damaraland Camp, Western Pan Etosha or Twfelfontein, 1-night
Important Note: due to its exclusivity, to stay in the private lodge of Etosha’s western pan, we advise booking at least one year in advance, to avoid disappointment.
Day7: Into the Kunene & its Ephemeral Rivers
Whether you are waking up in Twfelfontein or the Western Pan of Etosha, it will only be a short (two hours) to the Palmwag or Etendekka concessions. Arriving by the late morning, you will leave your own vehicle at the lodge and rendezvous with your local guiding team, who will lead a 4x4 expedition into the heart of the Kunene. For the next four days you will be driven by your guide in search of desert adapted elephant, rhino and perhaps some of the more elusive predators that roam this painfully beautiful region.
This safari starts by heading into the breathtaking landscapes of a mountainous area teeming with game. Springbok, oryx, kudu, ostrich, jackal, zebra, giraffe, hyena, occasionally lion, leopard and cheetah provide excellent photographic opportunities for wildlife photography in this vast open wilderness area. With a bit of luck you will encounter the endangered black rhino and the famous desert elephant, which roam the area in absolute freedom.
The trail continues through game rich valleys and river beds, through gorges and past springs in search of fresh tracks and, if lucky, you will follow the guide for a few kilometres on foot and hopefully have the opportunity to enjoy the spellbinding experience of finding the rhino or the elephant in its natural habitat.
Accommodation: Mobile tented camp, 3-nights
Day8: Ephemeral Rivers of Kaokoland
After breakfast a short hike is usually taken, to briefly inspect the night’s wildlife activities around camp, before continuing into the upper Mudorib River where there is a good chance of encountering black rhino or desert elephant, despite the dry and harsh desert environment.
Later today you will arrive in the Hoanib River, a dry river bed densely overgrown with nutritious acacia trees providing the necessary fodder for the desert adapted elephant. Here, there are optimal chances to encounter one of the breeding herds of these giant creatures during the following game viewing drives through the valleys and side arms of this unique natural paradise.
Day9: Ephemeral Rivers of Kaokoland
It will be an early departure today, in a northerly direction, following the course of the Tsuxub river all along the eastern skeleton coast boundary into the Hoarusib river. Once again, you will have a good opportunity to encounter plains game and desert elephant.
This afternoon’s camp will be set up in the Purros community and you can have the afternoon visiting a Himba village in the area, and then enjoy a sundowner excursion into the scenic and beautiful Hoarusib river.
Day10: Ephemeral Rivers of Kaokoland
Your return journey will bring you back to the starting point of this mini expedition, and follow the wildlife-filled valley of the Gomatum River. Again, the experience of finding a breeding herd of desert elephant will be the highlight of today’s journey and a brief visit to the village of Sesfontein and its fort is well worth it; a previous Schutztruppe outpost of the former German colonial time and its six natural springs providing the village with fresh water.
A picnic lunch will be taken and you can enjoy a refreshing swim in the pools of warm water at Ongongo, before arriving back at a lodge in the Palmwag area in the late afternoon.
Day11: Swakopmund via Skeleton Coast National Park
Today you will head south and take what is arguably one of the most impressive roads in the country – perhaps even Southern Africa! Also known as the 'Highway to Hell', a graded gravel road heads due west, through the low lying dunes of the Skeleton Coast for almost 100 kilometres until it reaches the shores of the South Atlantic Ocean.
From a point near Torra Bay, the road then heads south and slowly edges its way ever closer to the shores of the ocean until finally, you find yourself driving on its beaches. Here, a safari is less about the wildlife (though seal colonies are major attractions along the coast), and more about witnessing the beautiful landscapes, shaped and eroded by the unrelenting elements of this brutal coastline.
The journey will take most of the day, and upon exiting the Skeleton Coast National Park, a tarred road will hug the coastline until you reach the colonial town of Swakopmund, where you will have two nights and a full day to rest, refuel and enjoy an array of wonderful seafood restaurants (and exquisite apple strudel!). There are various optional activities available from the town, including a sea-kayaking seal safari, or dolphin watching.
Accommodation: Guesthouse, Swakopmund 2-nights
Day13: Edge of the Namib
Leaving Swakopmund, your journey will continue along the coast until Walvis Bay were you will head into the awesome Namib Desert.
En route we suggest you pay a visit to the Desert Research Foundation, situated on the Kuiseb River and one of the most important natural sites of the entire country. Flowing only once every five to ten years, the Kuiseb River is one of the largest and rarest of all the ephemeral rivers in the country and forms a natural barrier preventing the ever ‘north-blown’ Namib Desert from pressing further up the country. Here, the desert falls from the sky like a curtain; towering dunes descending into the dried river bed in one enormous wall of orange Kalahari sand. Researchers and scientists travel from all over the world to study desert adapted species, desert climates, arid vegetation and many more subjects here, and a small selection of basic overnight accommodation allow visitors to be given a tour of the facilities, and understand more about the importance of this awesome location.
Accommodation: Hut accommodation, 1-night
Day14: Heart of the Namib
Leaving the Desert Research Foundation, you will rejoin the main road which leads into the Namib-Naukluft National Park, where the landscapes become a mass of hard rock and the geological scars of plate-technics, reveal vertical lines of strata cutting deep into the Tiras and Naukluft Mountains. Slowly the desert re-appears, first as a far and distant mirage of orange before becoming ever more present and impossible to ignore.
You will have the day to return to Windhoek, where your vehicle can either be collected from your accommodation, or you can deliver to the depot and be transferred back to your guesthouse.
There are plenty of good restaurants in the capital to enjoy an evening meal, and excursions out to the townships, where women’s collectives have formed themselves as local charities providing much needed employment and support to the local community are a great places to purchase authentic hand-made souvenirs including jewellery, cloths, and toys.
Accommodation: Villa Violet Guesthouse, 1-night
Day17: Depart Windhoek
Depending upon your flight time, you may have time to enjoy a morning tour of the township and do some souvenir shopping, before then being transferred to the airport for an overnight flight back to the UK.
Day18: Arrive UK
You should note: The following additional options can easily be incorporated into the itinerary:
Waterberg Plateau, Spitzkoppe, Kolmanskopp & Luderitz, trekking in the Naukluft Mountains or Fish River Canyon, 3 nights fly-in safari (Skeleton Coast private Concession),
Our trip ideas are offered to inspire you and can be tailored to suit your requirements.
Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 18 daysfrom £4,745 pp
Duration and price excluding international flights: 16 daysfrom £3,745 pp
When to go: Apr-Jan
The Africat Foundation is set high upon the edge of a rugged escarpment with beautiful panoramic views. The surrounding woodland is a birdwatcher’s paradise sustaining over 200 species and their cheetah project provides a fascinating insight to their welfare work and opportunities to track on foot or in vehicles.
Where: Otjozondjupa Region
Ideal for viewing: cheetah, Hartlaub’s francolin, leopard, Monteiro’s hornbill, rockrunner
Excellent for: Walking safaris, Vehicle safaris
Etosha is considered to be one of the finest sanctuaries in southern Africa. It is famous for its vast, dazzling saltpan with permanent waterholes, which attract a multitude of wildlife particularly during the dry winter. The neighbouring Ongava Private Game Reserve offers the attraction of tracking rhino on foot.
Where: Oshikoto & Oshana Region
Ideal for viewing: black rhino, black-faced impala, damara dik-dik, African elephant, lion
Excellent for: Walking safaris, Vehicle safaris, Just Conservation
Damaraland is an ancient area of arid plains, deep chasms and dramatic red, rocky peaks, dominated by the huge Brandberg Mountain. With the Atlantic coast nearby, sea mists drift inland providing sustenance to various desert life forms and natural laws of food and water dictate the movement of the desert elephant.
Where: Erongo Region
Ideal for viewing: black rhino, desert elephant, springbok, white-tailed shrike, augur buzzard
Excellent for: Walking safaris, Vehicle safaris
The Namib Desert is the oldest in the world and the wildlife to be found here is extremely interesting and often totally unique, having adapted itself to the harsh environment. However, the most remarkable sight is at Sossusvlei, where the world’s highest sand dunes tower more than 300 metres.
Where: Karas, Hardap & Erongo Regions
Ideal for viewing: aardwolf, cape fox, gemsbok, springbok, lanner falcon
Excellent for: Walking safaris, Vehicle safaris
Swakopmund is a charming Germanic seaside town, from where there are many excursions. In particular, Walvis Bay has huge colonies of Cape fur seals and is a world-renowned sanctuary for over 160,000 resident birds, as well as a feeding station for around 200,000 waders and terns on their migration routes.
The pleasant, relatively modern city of Windhoek is Namibia’s capital, and is the starting point of most wildlife safaris. A small city of contrasts, it combines modern Europe with modern Africa, together with a sprinkling of attractive old buildings of German architecture.
Excellent for: City stopover
The Skeleton Coast is one of the most beautiful places on earth, with soaring dunes and plains to deep canyons, mountains, saltpans and freshwater springs. Wildlife includes huge colonies of Cape fur seals, and travelling by light aircraft provides stunning views of the coastline and its remarkable natural features.
Where: Erongo & Kunene Regions
Ideal for viewing: brown hyena, cape fur seal, desert elephant, gemsbok, Hartmann’s mountain zebra
Suggested accommodation options are shown below.
for further recommendations.
Kulala Desert Lodge consists of 12 thatched and canvas chalets in the heart of the Namib Desert, in a large private reserve bordering the Namib-Naukluft Park. The main verandah overlooks a waterhole, and there are early morning guided drives to the nearby spectacular red dunes of Sossusvlei.
This luxurious desert retreat is situated in the private Kulala Wilderness Reserve, bordering the Namib-Naukluft National Park and adjacent to the dunes of Sossusvlei. Each of the eleven thatched, climate-controlled kulalas has its own plunge pool and rooftop skybed for romantic stargazing.
Little Ongava is the ideal camp from which to base your activities when visiting Etosha. Its wonderful chalets are built along the crest of a hill with spectacular views onto the plains below. Accommodation comprises three spacious suites, each with their own plunge pool and a view of the floodlit waterhole.
Home to the AfriCat Foundation, one of the world’s largest cheetah and leopard rescue programmes, the design of this camp is a tribute to the history of cattle-farming in Okonjima. The complex offers three levels of accommodation, and there is a traditional thatched area for dining.
This luxurious property is on one of the largest private reserves in Namibia, and offers accommodation for 20 guests in ten comfortable chalets. The lodge has a floodlit waterhole, and wildlife activities include safaris in both Ongava Game Reserve and Etosha, walking safaris and night drives.
This camp is one of Namibia’s best kept secrets. Located in the much-lauded Ongava Game Reserve, south of Etosha National Park, it overlooks a nearby waterhole. Constructed from stone, canvas and thatch, the camp accommodates 16 guests in eight large, comfortable, Meru-style tents.
Sossusvlei Wilderness Camp is a luxury lodge situated on a large private reserve, affording easy access to Sossusvlei, but also offering privacy and exclusivity. Built into a mountain using rock, timber and thatch, it provides a cool refuge, with spectacular views across the desert to the rugged mountains and dunes..
Positioned on the edge of a 250-metre high dune in a totally pristine setting, Dune Camp sleeps a maximum of 12 guests in comfortable and spacious tents. A generous deck allows for safe sleep-outs under the stars, and the charm of the camp lies in its tranquil, intimate atmosphere.
Perched on a top of a dune plateau, Dunes Lodge offers panoramic vistas in all directions, and makes a perfect base for exploring the awe-inspiring desert. Accommodation is in nine spacious chalets with en-suite bathrooms and private verandah, and there is also a swimming pool suspended above the sand.