Classic Namibia Safari
Damaraland, Etosha National Park, Kalahari, Kaokoland, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, Waterberg, Windhoek
Combining the road less travelled with the road that must be travelled, this 15-day tour extends our ever-popular 10-day Highlights Safari to explore the ancient landscapes of the Kalahari and the Fish River Canyon with a fascinating diversion to Lüderitz and the ghost town of Kolmanskop.
One of our clients’ most frequent requests is to extend the 10-day Namibia Highlights Safari to include the dramatic southern region of the country. And so here we present to you, with a drumroll and tootling of horns, the highlights of Namibia with a southern extension including the gentle beauty of the Kalahari, the stark and rugged beauty of the Fish River Canyon and the extraordinary other-worldliness of Lüderitz and the ghost town of Kolmanskop.
Add to that the iconic Sossusvlei in the achingly scenic Namib-Naukluft Park; the action-packed Skeleton Coast towns of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay; the desert-adapted wildlife and scenery of Damaraland; and the wildlife bonanzas of Etosha National Park and Okonjima Game Reserve in central Namibia.
This 15-day non-scheduled tour starts and ends in Windhoek and comes in many flavours:
It's all up to you: choose your starting date, choose your accommodation style from standard all the way up to ultra-luxury and choose your style of safari: self-drive, private guided or fly-in. And of course you can always add or remove days and destinations to suit your needs.
If this will be a self-drive tour, you’ll be met by Wayne, our fleet manager, or an agent of the car rental company and transferred from the airport to Windhoek to collect your car and sign all those dotted lines. Estelle will pop in to deliver your tour file and explain your itinerary in detail as well as answer any questions.
If you are taking a private guided safari, your guide will be at the airport with your vehicle all ready to go.
Arrival formalities out the way you’ll hit the road immediately for the the three-hour drive south to the Kalahari and your first night in Africa. And what a night it will be: the stars, the silence and a good meal over a decent bottle of wine will prepare you for a seriously good sleep.
On the way: the drive from Windhoek to the Kalahari is an easy stretch of tarred road except for the last bit that varies depending on where you choose to stay. There is not an awful lot to see or do on this the main road to South Africa but you’ll be impressed by the expansive landscape whizzing by, the great big sky and the remarkable lack of traffic - this is the country’s primary artery and cars are few and far between. The last 60km to the IntuAfrika Game Reserve is gravel but, being an arid region, the roads are good enough for a comfortable 80km/h drive.
When you’re there: sundowners - that great African tradition - will set the tone for the rest of your holiday and the Kalahari is made for sunsets. Enjoy an al fresco dinner if the weather is good or cozy up indoors around the log fire if not. If you arrive early enough, and you have the energy, take a nature walk or guided nature drive with San tracker to see the first of many African animals. Species that thrive in this 10,000-ha kalahari game reserve include the eland, kudu, the graceful oryx, giraffe, zebra, ostrich and many smaller antelope. A rescued lion has her own thousand-hectare enclosure so the chances of seeing your first lion are also good.
You’ve got a five-hour drive ahead of you - more if you like to stop often - so after an early breakfast you’ll hit the road south, far south, to the Fish River Canyon, one of the largest in the world and the largest in Africa.
On the way: if you thought the road from Windhoek to the Kalahari was a marvel of emptiness, the vast landscapes that unfurl into the horizon will seem unreal. A diversion to the Quiver Tree Forest is worthwhile, some of these extraordinary aloes being over 200 years old. Stop for lunch and a refreshing drink in Keetmanshoop before the final plunge.
When you’re there: arrive before sunset and take a guided nature/game viewing drive through the private reserve to the edge of the canyon and watch the sun go down. We love our sundowners here and, after a week or two in Africa, so will you.
With a shorter drive today and most of it on good, empty, tarred roads you’ve got time for another visit to the canyon before you head west towards Lüderitz.
On the way: the landscape changes from the dramatic Nama-Karoo biome with its craggy rocks and ancient aloes to the rolling grass-covered plains of the Pro-Namib Desert. For practical reasons we choose to put up for the next two nights in Aus, where the desert and your road north begin, and take a day trip to Lüderitz and Kolmanskop.
When you’re there: Klein Aus is a stunning nature reserve just aching to be explored - on foot, on bike or by car. Whichever method you choose it will of course include sundowners at a suitably scenic spot from where you can congratulate yourself for choosing to veer so far off the regular routes.
The next day you’ll drive the 100km tar road to Lüderitz and the ghost town of Kolmanskop. The area is steeped in diamond-trade history and, if you’re finding the desert a bit hot, the cool air off the Atlantic coast will be a tonic. Take lunch at one of several decent seafood restaurants and return to Aus for, you guessed it, sundowners.
Another long drive today, and this one all on dirt roads as you enter the NamibRand Nature Reserve en route to Sossusvlei and the Namib Desert proper.
On the way: the Namib Desert is one beautiful place. Stark but beautiful with grassy plains disappearing into hazy mountains and an uplifting feeling of timelessness. Stop often for photos and leg stretches; enjoy a picnic lunch at any one of a hundred scenic roadside stops.
When you’re there: Arrive in time for sundowners and, if you’re in the mood for it, a guided nature drive to enjoy said sundowners; or a good walk might be more suitable. Either way, you’ll enjoy watching the sun setting over the Namibian desert followed by another star-filled evening around an open fire.
The next day a very early start will see you to the Sossusvlei dunes either guided or self-drive (with a shuttle for the last few km of 4x4-only soft sand). Visit Sossusvlei, Dune 45 and Deadvlei - the real star of the show with its petrified trees and the shimmering white pan in an amphitheatre of giant (the biggest in the world in fact) red sand dunes. The sunrise view from atop one of these dunes is worth the early start and the hefty hike. Well worth it.
You can either take a picnic lunch or return to your lodge for a drink, a bite, a swim and a doze. In the afternoon you can visit Sesriem Canyon which, after the Fish River Canyon, is a misnomer but it’s an interesting enough diversion while you wait for sundowners, dinner and some more stargazing.
You’ve got an equally long drive today - the Namib-Naukluft is one of the world’s largest conservation areas so it’s going to take a while to traverse.
On the way: This being the only road north through the park, it can get bumpy after heavy seasonal use. Luckily you’ve got the Naukluft Mountains on your right and the desert to your left making for a rather pretty drive. The landscape flattens out after a while and the endless gravel plains are punctuated by the occasional drop and climb through millennia-old river valleys seemingly carved from bare rock.
Stop at Solitaire for a re-fuel and a strudel and take a picnic lunch in the vast and empty silence of the desert.
When you’re there: rest, recharge and hit the town. After days in solitude, Swakopmund is a veritable metropolis with such wonders as tarred roads, streetlights, traffic lights and, well, traffic.
The Skeleton Coast with its twin - of the non-identical type - towns of Walvis Bay and Swakopmund has an astonishing array of activities and sights. And restaurants. Our recommended activities are the living desert tours at the helm of some seriously knowledgeable guides; a dolphin cruise - the oceanic equivalent of a game drive; kayaking with seals; scenic flights over the Skeleton Coast; and birdwatching on the Walvis Bay Lagoon.
Places of interest include the Walvis Bay Lagoon, the Moon Landscape and Welwitschia Plains - named after one of Earth’s oldest and weirdest plants; museums, galleries and craft markets do a swift trade as do the many restaurants, breweries and coffee shops; you’ll also have a bewildering range of exciting adventure activities to choose from.
The cold ocean, while rich in sea life, is a rather inhospitable place for humans so, unless you’re lucky to catch a warm day, any ideas of a beach-break paradise should be banished forthwith.
You’ve had your civilisation fix now it’s time to head out into the country again, this time along the eerie Skeleton Coast and inland to yet another scenic part of Namibia with rocky mountains, granite outcrops and grass-covered plains doing all the scenic heavy lifting.
On the way: detour to the Cape Cross seal colony and stop at a fairly recent shipwreck the likes of which gave this rugged stretch of coastline its name - some say it was named after the whale skeletons but who’s around to argue?
Buy some gemstones from the roadside honesty shops and take a picnic lunch in the desert.
When you’re there: sundowners, no wait, there’s bound to be a nature walk or game drive to help build up a thirst (as if you need one after a dusty desert drive) that takes you to some elevated spot looking out over the glory of Damaraland. If there’s time you should take a guided tour of the Twyfelfontein rock art made by San hunter-gatherers about 30,000 years ago. Or you can take an early morning outing in the more likely event you arrive later in the day.
The guided 4x4 drive through the dry Ugab River valley in search of the local desert-adapted elephants is a must so do make time for that if you can.
A visit to Namibia without Etosha is like an eisbein without a stein of lager - it’s just not right. Another fairly long drive today takes you through beautiful Damaraland up and over the escarpment to the vast plains covering the eastern half of central Namibia - this is wildlife country.
On the way: If you lingered in Damaraland to partake of a morning activity, you’ll want to make up time to arrive in time for your date with the sunset; if not take your time over this scenic drive and stop for a picnic lunch. Either way, the lions and elephants of your African dreams await your arrival.
When you’re there: game viewing, game viewing and more game viewing. Etosha’s waterholes are famous meeting points for pretty much all of Africa’s great game species including rhino, elephant, lion, cheetah, hyena, giraffe, zebra, many antelopes and a host of lesser-known creatures itching to surprise you. Most lodges offer guided game drives so even if you’re on a self-drive tour of Namibia you’ll still get the benefit of local knowledge and animal tracking skills.
A leisurely game drive will take you through the park to the eastern side for another two days of wildlife wonder.
On the way: stop at any number of waterholes and take lunch at Halali, which marks the halfway point in your day’s journey through Etosha.
When you’re there: having spent all day in the park you’ll probably want to head straight for the swimming pool while your sundowner drinks are prepared. And besides, you’ve got all day tomorrow set aside for game as well. For the die-hards you can still take an evening game drive in the private reserve that returns in time for dinner and stargazing beside the flickering fire.
The wildlife action doesn’t stop with Etosha. A relatively short drive on mostly tarred roads will take you to the Okonjima Game Reserve near the Waterbury Plateau National Park for some close encounters with Africa’s predators - and their prey.
On the way: take a small detour to Hoba, one of the largest intact meteorites on Earth, or you can just put your foot down and get there in time for sundowners.
When you’re there: Okonjima is a game reserve 22,000ha in extent and also the home of the AfriCat Foundation, a predator rescue and rehabilitation programme. But don’t think of this as a petting zoo - far from it. Your game viewing activities are in the vast reserve where cheetahs, leopards, wild dogs, lions and hyenas have all be successfully returned to the wild. Take guided game drives, nature walks and of course educational tours of the foundation.
On your final day make sure you enjoy one last African sunrise, a game drive and a hearty breakfast before making your way back to the real world of Windhoek and your homeward flight.
On the way: Okahanja has a craft market for some last-minute Namibian souvenirs
When you’re there: the drive to Windhoek is an easy three hours tarred roads - four if you stop for lunch and a visit to the craft market. From Windhoek to the airport can take up to an hour so if your outward-bound flight is in the evening, which they usually are, you’ll have time for lunch at one of many restaurants before making your way to the airport. If you can only get a morning flight you can spend an extra night at your choice of hotel or guesthouse in Windhoek and transfer to the airport next day.
Customers who enquire about this tour end up making many changes to the standard itinerary. Below are the most recent variations of this base tour booked by us for our clients. Have a look at their itineraries, see what changes they requested, what the final cost was and read what they have to say about their holidays.
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