CLASSIC NAMIBIA SAFARI – FULL ITINERARY
Sossusvlei and the Namib Desert
Welcome to Namibia! After arriving at Hosea Kutako International Airport outside the country’s capital city of Windhoek, your Nature Travel Namibia guide will be waiting for you in the arrivals hall of the airport with your name on a signboard. After loading your luggage into the vehicle, we will start making our way to our first destination; iconic Sossusvlei.
We will not have much time to spend in Windhoek itself, but it is a very interesting small city nonetheless. It sits at 1,700 metres (5,600 feet) above sea level (12th highest capital in the world) in the Khomas Hochland plateau area between the Auas and Eros mountain ranges. It is home to about 400,000 people at a low density of only 63 people per square kilometre and has over 300 sunny days per year.
We will drive through the Khomas Highland and down the escarpment via one of the many scenic mountain passes into the Namib Desert. This journey will take about 4 to 5 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 reach our accommodation in the afternoon and if there is time it might be fun to walk around the lodge grounds looking for interesting smaller fauna and local flora. Our accommodation for tonight is in an area perfectly situated to explore the surrounding desert and its many attractions.
Sossusvlei & Swakopmund
After an early breakfast we will depart for an exciting morning excursion to Sossusvlei and nearby Dead Vlei, where we will spend a couple of hours. 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.
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. We will have plenty of time to enjoy some of the many highlights that surrounds Sossusvlei itself:
• Dune 45-
the most photographed dune on earth (situated 45 km past Sesriem on the road
perfect if you are looking for solitude in the desert;
• The magnificently tall Big Daddy dune;
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;
• Sesriem Canyon-
a narrow gorge of 1 km long and up to 30 m deep slashed into the earth by the
Tsauchab river millions of years ago. The name derives from the Afrikaans for
the 6 lengths of ropes that were needed to haul water out of the gorge to the
top with containers in days gone by.
After lunch 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.
Our drive this afternoon is wholly 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.
Swakopmund will be our home for the next two nights.
Living Desert Experience (Swakopmund)
After breakfast in Swakopmund we will depart for a Living Desert Experience, a unique adventure indeed!
We will encounter and learn more about the fascinating wildlife of the Namib Desert with the help of a local expert. We will look for geckos, scorpions, snakes, lizards, birds and beetles as well as the incredible plant life that survives in this harsh and seemingly inhospitable environment. Some of the special creatures we might see include Namib Sand Gecko, Namaqua Chameleon, Shovel-snouted Lizard, Tractrac Chat and even Peringuey’s Adder.
Once we are back in Swakopmund we will enjoy lunch and explore the town with optional activities like quad-biking or sandboarding. Swakopmund has made a name for itself as the activity and sport capital of Namibia, but this town offers so much more. Sandwiched between the hot, arid desert and the cold waters of the Atlantic, Swakop (as the locals call it) is one of the most fascinating colonial towns in all of Africa. It is a heady mix of South African, Namibian and German cultures, architecture, languages and cuisine. It is also the most popular tourist town in the country, with both locals and foreigners loving the laid-back atmosphere, good restaurants, many activities and the temperate climate.
Skeleton Coast & Damaraland
Today we continue our safari northwards along the Skeleton Coast. This bleak and evocatively named area is one of the most unusual coastal wildernesses on the planet, protecting about a third of Namibia’s long coastline. 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 along the coast for some dramatic photographs, we will turn inland towards spectacular 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. In the distance we will also see the Spitzkoppe (sharp head), one of Namibia’s most recognizable landmarks. It’s shape has inspired its nickname, “The Matterhorn of Africa”. It was first climbed in 1946 and is now a popular climbing destination with local and foreign mountaineers alike, with plenty of technical climbs available.
This beautiful mountainous region is home to an assortment of scientifically important desert-adapted wildlife such as elephant, rhino, zebra and lion, which somehow survive and thrive in this near-barren landscape. We hope to see some of them; a special treat indeed!
Damaraland is also famous for its several important geological rock formations that are not to be missed, including 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). We will visit some of these this afternoon.
We will be at our lodge in time for a sundowner drink while we enjoy the view over this rugged but beautiful landscape.
Etosha National Park
After an early breakfast we will depart for Etosha National Park, about 4 hours’ drive away to the northeast. On the way there we will visit Twyfelfontein, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Meaning “uncertain spring” in Afrikaans, it is a massive open-air art gallery in the northwestern Kunene region that is of great interest to international rock art connoisseurs. The 2,000-plus rock petroglyphs, estimated to be 6,000 years old, represent one of Africa’s largest and most noteworthy concentrations of rock art. Most of these well-preserved engravings represent rhinoceros. The site also includes depictions of elephant, ostrich and giraffe, as well as drawings of human and animal footprints, all done in red ochre. Here we will also look out for the Namib Desert’s weird-looking living fossil plant, the Welwitschia.
We will arrive at our lodge on the southwestern side of Etosha late in the afternoon and settle in to our accommodation.
Undoubtedly one of the great parks of Africa, the huge Etosha National Park in north-central Namibia covers more than 22,300 km2 (8,620 sq mi) and is synonymous with big game and wide open spaces. The name Etosha actually means “great white place” referring to the massive (130km long and 50km wide) dry pan in the middle of the park, believed to have been formed over 100 million years ago.
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 enjoy dinner and sit around the camp fire reminiscing about our wonderful trip so far. Remember to look up before settling into your bed tonight – the African night sky, undisturbed by city lights out here in the bush, is truly amazing.
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.
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), Greater Kudu, Springbok, Gemsbok (Namibia’s national animal), Common Warthog, Honey Badger and many more.
Etosha 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.
Tonight we will again sit around a fire after dinner, chat about the day’s sightings and enjoy another spectacular African night sky.
Etosha National Park
We have another 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 on our last night of the safari.
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. Since then it has become one of the main reasons visitors from all over the globe come to Namibia, and annual numbers are over 200,000. Although Etosha is best known today as a spectacular refuge for an abundance of animals, it is also a part of the world that is providing critical evidence for the existence and evolution of ancestral animals. The rocks in the hills near Halali camp have revealed fossil life as old as 650 million years!
We will arrive at our accommodation in the late afternoon, freshen up and enjoy our last dinner together.
After an early morning game drive or a relaxing final breakfast together we will depart for Windhoek. It is a 5 to 6-hour drive southwards to the capital.
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 gladly assist with accommodation in Windhoek should you need to stay over.
Do you have a quick question about this Namibia Safari? Speak to a specialist at