14- Day Namibia Conservation Safari
This unique Namibia Conservation Safari offers the once in a lifetime chance to a behind the scenes conservation experience. Visiting some of the leading conservation organisations and reserves in Namibia combined with highlights such as Sossusvlei, Etosha, Swakopmund, N/a’an ku sê and Okonjima Nature Reserve. This is a bucket list experience not to be missed.
Next group departure date: 27 May 2024
Full Itinerary – 14 Day Namibia Conservation Safari
Welcome to Windhoek, transfer to N/a’an ku sê
Our conservation safari will start at the Hosea Kutako International Airport outside Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. You will be picked up in the arrivals hall by your guide or a representative and transferred to your exciting first destination, N/a’an ku sê.
Located just thirty minutes from the airport and nestled in the stunning African bush, N/a’an ku sê originated as a small wildlife sanctuary; it has since become a world famous conservation organisation.
The Na’an ku sê Wildlife Sanctuary provides a safe haven and second chance for countless injured, orphaned, and conflict animals. Wherever possible the aim is to release animals back into the wild. Only animals too ill, abused or habituated remain at the sanctuary. This is done purely for their safety and survival chances, particularly vital for big cats. The release of carnivores, both Cheetahs and Leopards, is a top priority at Na’an ku sê – “returning wildlife to the wild” being the mantra that forms the backbone of the projects.
Orphaned animals are raised with dedication, and their natural needs are carefully considered. We tend away from the feeling of “captivity” and instead create an environment where their natural behaviours are nurtured and encouraged. The sanctuary provides a home to the smallest of Meerkats, mongooses and Rock Hyraxes, to the largest of big carnivores such as Lions, Leopards, Cheetahs and African Wild Dogs, with a wide range of feathered, furry and scaled animals in between.
Depending on our arrival time at Na’an ku sê you might have time to explore the grounds around the lodge, or relax around the swimming pool area and absorb the wonderful views over the natural stone canyon.
We will enjoy an authentic Namibian dinner and then rest up for the fantastic two weeks ahead.
N/a’an ku sê
We will have a full day to enjoy all that Na’an ku sê has to offer.
Na’an ku sê, which means “God will protect us” in the local San Bushman language, was inaugurated in 2007 as the brainchild of several key conservation visionaries in Namibia. In 2011 actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie chose Na’an ku sê to become a partner of the Shiloh Jolie-Pitt Foundation, in honour of their Namibian-born daughter. One of the founders of Na’an ku sê and Angelina met in 1998, and ever since Angelina and then the Jolie-Pitt Foundation have been actively supporting the work of Na’an ku sê.
These days it is a multi-faceted organisation that not only does fantastic conservation work, but are also involved in diverse projects such as wildlife research, community outreach and education, schooling of less-privileged children, veterinarian internships and much more.
After a hearty breakfast, you will join one of the many conservation activities on offer at Na’an ku sê.
If time allows extra activities available are:
• Discover the Roots of N/a’an ku sê
• Guided Nature Walk
• Cheetah Experience
• Caracal Experience
• Sunset Horseriding
• Meerkat Experience
• Sunset or Sunrise Wilderness Drive
• Canine Experience
• Carnivore Tracking
• Elephant Tracking
• Rhino Tracking
Please let us know in advance which extra activities you would like to participate in.
We will again have dinner at our lodge on the grounds and enjoy a good night’s rest. Tomorrow we are off to the desert!
N/a’an ku sê to Sossusvlei
After a hearty breakfast, we will join an optional last activity at Na’an ku sê and afterwards depart for Sossusvlei and the Namib-Naukluft Park.
We will drive through the outskirts of Windhoek, a very interesting small city, located at 1,700 metres (5,600 feet) above sea level (12th highest capital in the world) in the Khomas Hochland plateau area of the centre of the country. It is home to about 400,000 people and has over 300 sunny days per year.
We will then drive down the escarpment via one of the scenic mountain passes into the Namib Desert and the Namib-Naukluft Park. The park is Namibia’s largest conservation area. The park is home to some of the rarest plant and animal species on the planet. The top attraction in the park and one of the country’s major tourist destinations is Sossusvlei, renowned for its spectacular, desiccated white pan surrounded by majestic star-shaped dunes with deep, warm hues. Other features in the Namib-Naukluft Park are Sesriem and Kuiseb Canyons, the Welwitschia Trail, Sandwich Harbour and the Naukluft Mountains.
The Naukluft section of the park was created to serve as a sanctuary for Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra competing with livestock for grazing on farms. With its massive and varied rock formations, Naukluft is a geologist’s paradise. The intermittent layers of horizontally folded igneous rock, quartzite, dolomite and shale are impressive with their giant symmetrical patterns. Five different vegetation communities within the park ensure a wealth of tree and shrub species, and a variety of aloes.
Animals found at Naukluft in addition to Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra are Greater Kudu, Gemsbok, Klipspringer, Common Duiker, Steenbok, Leopard, Black-backed Jackal, Bat-eared Fox, African Wildcat, Caracal and Aardwolf. Naukluft’s steep cliffs are nesting grounds for various cliff-breeding bird species, including magnificent Verreaux’s Eagles.
Our journey today will take about 4 hours depending on the number of stops for photographs. We will certainly start seeing some of Namibia’s fantastic fauna and flora along the way, including Common Ostrich, Gemsbok, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Sociable Weavers or even a Greater Kudu.
We will have lunch en route and once at our lodge we will depart for a late afternoon scenic nature drive if there is time. Our lodge is in an area perfectly situated to explore the surrounding desert and its many attractions.
After an early breakfast and coffee we will depart for a morning excursion to Sossusvlei and Dead Vlei.
We will stop at the scenic Dune 45 along the way. Named for its location 45 kilometres past the town of Sesriem, Dune 45 is renowned for its elegant shape, which, along with its position close to the road, have earned it the distinction of “most photographed dune in the world”. If you’re not keen for the strenuous hike to the top of Big Daddy, Dune 45 is a more forgiving alternative, standing at only 80 metres and featuring a much gentler gradient.
We will also spend a couple of hours at both Sossusvlei and Dead Vlei. 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 photographer’s heaven. It is one of the top tourist destinations in all of southern Africa and a must-see attraction when visiting Namibia.
Sossusvlei itself is actually the pan or valley floor that we will park our vehicle on, and is surrounded by massive dunes on almost all sides. Some of the dunes in the area are a few hundred meters high but the view from the top for those that dare is one you will never forget. Deadvlei is a paradise for photographers, as it is punctuated by blackened, dead acacia trees, in vivid contrast to the shiny white of the salty floor of the pan and the intense orange of the dunes.
After lunch and a well-earned siesta we will join the lodge for a sundowner Nature Drive where we will look for anything from Gemsbok and Springbok to Black-backed Jackal, along with some interesting bird species and even reptiles and smaller creatures.
We will then return to the lodge in time for dinner and a good night’s rest after a day of dune climbing!
Sossusvlei to Swakopmund
After a relaxed breakfast at the lodge we will depart for the coastal town of Swakopmund, driving through the vast Namib-Naukluft Park to get there. It is a beautiful drive of about 4 hours, and if time allows we will stop for the famous Apple Pie in the small desert oasis town of Solitaire, a true Namibian tradition that should not be missed. Lunch will either be en route or in Swakopmund if we arrive in time.
Our entire drive today takes place in the Namib Sand Sea, one of Namibia’s two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is the only coastal desert in the world that includes extensive dune fields influenced by fog. Covering an area of over three million hectares, the site features gravel plains, coastal flats and rocky hills within the sand sea, a coastal lagoon and ephemeral rivers, resulting in a landscape of exceptional beauty. Fog is the primary source of water in the site, accounting for a unique environment in which endemic invertebrates, reptiles and mammals adapt to an ever-changing variety of microhabitats and ecological niches.
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. The town is situated in the Dorob National Park. The park, which incorporates core conservation areas, runs from just south of Walvis Bay to the Ugab River in the north.
Collectively, this area is known as the Namib Skeleton Coast National Park, and it consolidates three national parks: Skeleton Coast, Namib-Naukluft and Sperrgebiet, and includes four wetlands of international importance. The 11 million hectare mega-park is the sixth largest terrestrial park in the world and the largest in Africa.
Dorob National Park has core conservation areas set aside for rare and endangered species. As the park is allowed to be used for tourism and recreational purposes in restricted areas only, the park has been divided into zones. The identified zones are: Damara tern breeding sites, gravel plains, important bird areas, the Kuiseb Delta, Sandwich Harbour, Swakop River, Tsumas Delta, Walvis Bay Lagoon, birding areas and lichen fields. At the same time other areas are set aside for multiple uses, including adventure tourism. Windsurfing, kayaking amongst dolphins, quad biking and skydiving are popular coastal activities.
We will reach our accommodation in Swakopmund in time for a stroll around the town or even an optional adventure activity. We will have dinner at one of the many excellent restaurants in town and a good night’s rest; tomorrow is another exciting day!
Swakopmund (incl Living Desert Experience)
After a relaxing breakfast we will depart for a half day Living Desert Experience where we will learn more about the fascinating desert plant and animal life.
The Living Desert Experience is a unique 4×4 adventure which specialises in bringing the desert to life while sharing the awesome beauty of the Namib Desert with travellers from all over the world. The coastal dune belt may seem barren and lifeless to many people, but in fact it is alive with a fascinating variety of little desert adapted animals, which are able to survive on the life-giving fog which consistently rolls in from the cold Atlantic Ocean.
Hopefully we will see the Dancing White Lady Spider cartwheel 44 turns per second down a dune to escape the enemy, and admire the transparent Namib Dune Gecko with webbed feet that are the desert equivalent to snow shoes. We will learn about the different beetles and insects and how they survive in the dune desert. We will follow in the tracks of a legless lizard (Fitsimmon’s Burrowing Skink), observe Sand Diving Lizards dancing on the hot sand, Perinquey’s Adder, Desert Chameleons and many more fascinating creatures. Furthermore we will learn about the geology, structure and formation of the desert, and admire the vast and beautiful landscapes while enjoying a scenic dune drive combined with fun and adrenaline.
We will return to Swakopmund in time for lunch and then you have the afternoon at leisure. We can help organise quadbiking and sandboarding in the dunes, scenic flights over the ocean and town, curio shopping or just explore the beautiful architecture of this fascinating town with its great coffee shops and restaurants.
We will have dinner in town again and stay in the same hotel.
Swakopmund to Twyfelfontein (incl Cape Cross Seal Reserve)
Today we continue our safari northwards along the Skeleton Coast. It has a longstanding reputation of being a dangerous sea passage for sailors, and indeed the Portuguese sailors used to call this area the “Sand of Hell”, referring to the fact that even if one did survive a ship running aground, the harsh desert would almost certainly provide one’s final resting place.
After visiting one of the many shipwrecks of the area we will spend time at the Cape Cross Seal Reserve. It is the breeding place of over 200,000 South African Fur Seals Arctocephalus pusillus. It is a protected area owned by the government of Namibia and is also a National Heritage Site. We will be able to view the seals from a 200m long walkway, constructed of recycled plastic. Other facilities include information points, toilets, campsites and a picnic spot. Cape Cross has both historic and biological significance and is a popular tourist attraction. Apart from the seals, there are also other fauna to be seen here, including Brown Hyaena, Black-backed Jackal, Greater and Lesser Flamingo, Grey Phalarope, Damara Tern, Cape Teal, Black-necked Grebe and African Black Oystercatcher.
We will then turn inland towards Damaraland. . We will drive past the Brandberg (literally “fire mountain”), Namibia’s highest mountain, with the highest peak at 2,573 meters (8,441 feet) above sea level.
We will be at our lodge in time for lunch and then use the afternoon to explore this unique area that is considered by most to be the most scenic and dramatic landscape in Namibia.
First we will visit Twyfelfontein, a spectacularly scenic area, featuring one of the largest and most important concentrations of rock art in Africa. It is one of Namibia’s two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and thousands of tourists come to this site each year to view some 2, 500 Stone Age rock engravings. The area is home to 17 rock art sites, which collectively encompass 212 engraved stone slabs. There are an additional 13 sites displaying rock paintings. The name ‘Twyfelfontein’ translates to ‘Fountain of Doubt’, which refers to the perennial spring situated in the impressive Huab valley flanked by the slopes of a sandstone table mountain. It was this spring that attracted Stone Age hunters over six thousand years ago, and it was during this time that the extensive group of rock engravings and paintings were produced.
Damaraland is also famous for its several important geological rock formations that we will try to see this afternoon if there is time. This includes the “organ pipes” arrangement (a distinctive series of dolerite pillars that have been exposed by erosion), the “petrified forest” (believed to be more than 200 million years old) and the much-photographed “burnt mountain” (a flat-topped mountain that derives its name from the piles of blackened limestone at its base). Remember to also keep an eye out for the desert adapted animals of the area!
We will return to our beautifully situated lodge for dinner and a good night’s sleep.
Twyfelfontein to Palmwag (incl Desert Adapted Elephants)
After an early breakfast we depart on a 5 to 6 hour drive, where we will be searching for the rare desert adapted African Elephants. This is a uniquely wonderful experience that you will always treasure.
Although not a separate species, and not much different from other savannah elephants of Africa, Loxodonta africana, Namibia’s desert-dwelling elephants are very special nonetheless. They are of high national and international conservation priority, and have been designated as top priority for protection by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature). They live in the Kunene Region, encompassing 115,154 km2 of mostly sandy desert, rocky mountains and arid gravel plains in Namibia’s northwest.
They have adapted to their dry, semi-desert environment by having a smaller body mass with proportionally longer legs and seemingly larger feet than other elephants. Their physical attributes allow them to cross miles of sand dunes to reach water. They survive by eating moisture-laden vegetation growing in ephemeral riverbeds and with their ability to go several days without drinking water. Sometimes they must travel long distances to reach a water source. By living in smaller than average family units of only two or three animals, they decrease pressure on food and water resources. Researchers have noted that they destroy fewer trees than elephants living in higher rainfall areas in other parts of Africa.
After this exciting excursion we will return to the lodge for lunch. After eating we will make our way further north to the Palmwag Concession.
Palmwag is a private concession, run in collaboration with a number of conservation and local community organisations. It is a beautiful area, with boulder-strewn hills, golden grassland savannah and twisting canyons with dry riverbeds.
The 582,000 hectare concession’s freshwater springs support healthy populations of arid-adapted wildlife. Good numbers of Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra, Giraffe, Gemsbok, Springbok, Greater Kudu, Steenbok, Klipspringer, Scrub Hare, Meerkats, South African Ground Squirrel, Black-backed Jackal and Common Genet can be seen. The predator population is the largest outside of the Etosha National Park, with over 100 Lions, Cheetah, Leopard, and Brown and Spotted Hyaena. Bird life is also prolific and diverse with most of Namibia’s near-endemics present.
We will settle in to our accommodation, nestled between huge Makalani palms and Mopane trees, have dinner and a good night’s rest. Tomorrow is another exciting day…
Palmwag (incl Rhino Tracking Experience)
This morning after breakfast you will embark on a half day Rhino Tracking excursion. This will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of this conservation safari. Seeing any animal in this inhospitable terrain and to see them doing so well is a truly humbling experience.
Palmwag Lodge in a joint venture with the Torra Conservancy, Anabeb Conservancy and Sesfontein Conservancy offers rhino tracking in the Palmwag Concession and in the Torra Conservancy. The communities/conservancies directly benefit from these excursions since part of the income generated through rhino tracking is paid to the Conservancies. Rhino tracking excursions are guided by a qualified guide from Palmwag and a qualified tracker from the Rhino Rangers/Save the Rhino Trust.
The concession currently holds the largest free-roaming population of Black Rhinoceros in Africa and is one of very few places where the numbers of these animals are steadily increasing. This is thanks to the vigilance, monitoring and conservation work of the Save the Rhino Trust (http://www.savetherhinotrust.org/), an organisation which was founded in 1982 to protect these desert rhinos from poachers. Today there are fewer than 5,000 Black Rhinos left in the wild, and, with poaching sweeping across the continent, this critically endangered rhinos’ last stand may well be in northwestern Namibia.
These specially adapted individuals can withstand scorching heat – in excess of 40°C (100°F) but can also cope with the below freezing temperatures common after dark in Namibia’s arid regions. Black Rhinos are least active during the heat of the day (between 10am and 3pm) when they take to the shade of large rocks. The animals become more active after dark when the temperatures drop, but they are also active in the early morning and late afternoon. Remarkably, the Namib desert Black Rhino has evolved to survive without water for 2 or 3 days! And further adaptations of this subspecies include eating usually-deadly plants (such as the Euphorbia shrub).
The population density of the Black Rhino in the desert plains of this area of Namibia, is about one rhino per 100 km2, and still the Black Rhinos in Namibia make up to one third of the world’s remaining rhino population! That is a scary statistic. Unfortunately therefore, the Black Rhino is currently listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN (the southwestern Namibian population is listed as Vulnerable). The biggest threat towards the Namibian subspecies is illegal poaching. Hunting and poaching had totally eradicated their populations in the arid regions, but since the 1980’s thanks to the work of organisations like the Save the Rhino Trust the population of these national treasures has increased five times!
After our fantastic morning we will have lunch back at the lodge and a short siesta. In the afternoon we will join a game drive with Palmwag Lodge. Some of the wildlife that we hope to see include Giraffe, Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra, Springbok, Greater Kudu, Gemsbok and hopefully some of the predators that roam this spectacular area. The concession is also rich in reptiles, including Kaokoland Sand Lizard, Namaqua Chameleon, and Anchieta’s and Namib Rock Agama. There are also some strange-looking but fantastic flora, including Welwitschia, Toothbrushtrees, Bottle Trees, euphorbias, Leadwood Trees, Shepherd’s Trees and more. Birding in the area is surprisingly productive, with some special species and near-endemics occurring here. The list includes Rüppell’s Korhaan, Benguela Long-billed Lark, Herero Chat, Verreaux’s and Booted Eagle, Lanner Falcon, Greater Kestrel, Monteiro’s Hornbill, Namaqua Sandgrouse and Burchell’s Courser. This seemingly lifeless part of Namibia is indeed a treasure trove of incredible species!
We will return to the lodge and have dinner that will hopefully include some local delicacies, and then enjoy a good night’s rest.
Palmwag to Etosha National Park
From here we will depart for Etosha National Park, only about an hour away, where will spend the next 3 nights. We will have lunch en route in a nice spot.
Etosha is one of Africa’s biggest and best wildlife reserves and one of the main tourist attractions in Namibia. It is 23,000 km2 in size, of which the Etosha Pan, a shallow depression that only holds water after good rainy seasons, covers an incredible 5,000km2. The name Etosha actually means “great white place” referring to this massive dry pan in the middle of the park, believed to have been formed over 100 million years ago.
Named a game reserve in 1907 by the governor of then-German South West Africa, Etosha was elevated to the status of national park in 1967 by an act of parliament of the Republic of South Africa which administered South West Africa during that time. Etosha is known for its spectacular game viewing and the waterholes attract huge numbers of game in the dry season when all the open water has dried up.
We will arrive at the southwestern side of Etosha late in the afternoon and go for our first game drive in the park. It is an unreal and wonderful experience and very different from game parks in east Africa or even South Africa. Over 110 mammal species have been recorded in Etosha, and it is the best place on earth to see Black Rhinoceros and Cheetah.We will arrive at our lodge after our game drive, have dinner and then a good night’s rest.
Etosha National Park
We have a full day to enjoy Etosha today, but we will also slowly make our way to the eastern side of the park, where we will overnight for the next two evenings. We will have a packed lunch or enjoy lunch at one of the camp restaurants in the park. We will also have an afternoon game drive today.
Etosha is home to a staggering amount of wildlife, both common and rare, including several threatened and endangered species. The mammal list is at over 110 species, including four of Africa’s Big Five, Cheetah, Giraffe, Spotted Hyaena, Zebra (2 species), Common Eland, Greater Kudu, Hartebeest, Common Wildebeest and Gemsbok (Namibia’s national animal). Other interesting and smaller mammals include the Black-faced Impala subspecies, huge herds of Springbok, Common Warthog, Honey Badger, Kirk’s Dik-dik and many more.
In the drier months of the year, almost all the animals tend to congregate around the waterholes dotted around the massive park. They come to drink water and are inevitably followed by predators; this allows us to sit and wait at some of the waterholes and wait for the action to come to us. This is what sets Etosha apart from other parks; unique indeed!
After a fantastic day in the park, we will return to our lodge for dinner and a good night’s rest.
Etosha National Park
We will enjoy morning and afternoon game drives in Etosha today, returning to our lodge in the heat of the day for lunch and to relax.
Your guide will decide, with your input as to your fauna and flora sighting preferences, what the best routes will be to follow. All our guides know Etosha intimately and will make sure you see all that this great African wildlife park has to offer.
The eastern side of the park boasts vast open plains scattered with semi-arid savannah grasslands, dotted with watering holes and secluded bush camps.
Etosha not only boasts some fantastic mammals, but also has a bird list of more than 350 species, including regional specials like Kori Bustard, Blue Crane, Violet Woodhoopoe, Ruppell’s Parrot, Pygmy and Red-necked Falcon, Bare-cheeked and Southern Pied Babbler, and Burchell’s and Double-banded Courser. We will naturally look for these on our drives in the park, as well as around our lodge grounds.
Furthermore, Etosha is a photographer’s dream, with the contrasts in light, colour and textures particularly dramatic. Many a guest’s “lifer shots” of African animal and bird species were taken in this park. The sunrises and sunsets are particularly spectacular, so better get those cameras and phones ready!
We will arrive at our accommodation in the late afternoon or early evening, freshen up and enjoy our last Etosha dinner together.
Etosha to Okonjima Nature Reserve (incl AfriCat)
This morning we will leave the Etosha and make our way to Okonjima Nature Reserve, about 3 to 4 hours to the south.
The 22,000 ha nature reserve is most famous for being the home of AfriCat, a non-profit organisation set up to conserve and protect the threatened Leopard and other wild large carnivores of Namibia.
Both Okonjima and AfriCat are dedicated to creating conservation awareness through education; environmental education at all ages and levels, rehabilitation and reintroduction programmes, providing solutions to human-wildlife conflict issues and conducting constructive wildlife research.
The majority of Namibia’s Leopards and Cheetahs can be found on approximately 7,000 commercial farms and vast areas of communal farmland. These large carnivores occasionally prey upon the livestock that roam unprotected in the bush. As a result, carnivores are often regarded as vermin by the livestock and game-farming community and are deliberately trapped and/or killed. Among the carnivores being rescued, researched and rehabilitated by AfriCat are Leopard, Lion, Caracal, African Wild Dog and hyaenas. AfriCat has given more than a 1,080 carnivores a second chance since 1993, and 86% have been released back into the wild!
Join in on one of the bush walks, enjoy a nature drive or visit AfriCat where there are a range of activities.
Optional activities offered on Okonjima range from tracking leopards from a game-view vehicle; Tracking rehabilitated Leopard on foot; Tracking rehabilitated Spotted Hyena on foot; Tracking rehabilitated Wild Dog on foot , Guided walking / Bushman trail as well as a visit to AfriCat’s Carnivore Care and Information Centre.
Our last lodge for the trip is perfectly situated on the edge of a wilderness area. We will have our final farewell dinner together and enjoy our last night under Africa’s star-filled sky.
Okonjima to Windhoek and Departure
Unfortunately today our fantastic conservation safari ends.
Our last morning of this wonderful trip will be spent at the AfriCat foundation with an activity of your choice. Afterwards we will make our way back to Windhoek, about 3 hours away.
In Windhoek we will take you to the Hosea Kutako International Airport for your homeward flight or for your connecting flight if you decide to combine this safari with an extension to the Caprivi, Victoria Falls, Botswana, Zambia or South Africa. We will also gladly assist with accommodation in Windhoek should you need to stay over.
Do you have a quick question about this Namibia Conservation Safari? Speak to a specialist at