Namibia Icons of a Desert Wonderland
Namibia is a country of startling contrasts that straddles two great deserts: The Namib (after which it is named) is the oldest desert on the planet, and its sea of red sand lies along the Atlantic coastline, while in the eastern interior lies the Kalahari, a vast and sparsely vegetated savannah that sprawls across the border into neighbouring countries.
All this is in interesting juxtaposition with the expansive landscapes that surround the cities. The many national parks and game reserves boast a huge variety of wildlife in a kaleidoscope of differing environments: giraffes amble across the blinding white saltpans of Etosha National Park, gemsbok plunge headlong up impossibly steep red dunes at Sossusvlei, and seals in their many thousands colonise lonely beachheads along the Skeleton Coast.
Astonishing contrasts are everywhere for the visitor to savour, enjoy and photograph. Namibia has rapidly become a well-known safari destination with a difference, famed for its remote and intimate lodges, interaction with the indigenous people as well as the wildlife, and offering unique opportunities to become involved with the cultural heritage of all its peoples.
- Highest freestanding sand dunes in the world
- Haunting Dead Vlei imagery
- Full range of desert adapted animals, including Ostrich, Oryx and Springbok
- Awe- inspiring dramatic landscapes
Desert Rhino Camp
- Spectacular desert landscapes
- World’s highest concentration of desert adapted Black Rhino
Hoanib Skeleton Coast
- Desert adapted Black Rhino
- Cape fur seals in their thousands
- Desert-adapted vegetation such as Welwitschia and lithop
- The nomadic Himba People
- Incredible landscapes
- Predator photography including Lion, Leopard, jackals, Cheetah and Spotted Hyaena
- Huge concentration of plains game: Burchells Zebra, Giraffe and Wildebeest
- Brilliant raptor photography
- Unparralled wildlife activity at Etosha’s famous waterholes
Day 1, May – October: Arrival Day in Windhoek and overnight.
Following your arrival at Hosea Kutako International Airport in Windhoek and collecting your luggage, you will be met by your Rockjumper Wildlife tour leader. Hereafter you will transfer to Hotel Heinitzburg for your overnight stay.
Tonight at dinner your Rockjumper Wildlife tour leader will discuss the tour itinerary with you in detail.
Day 2, May – October: Windhoek to Kulala Wilderness Reserve, Sossusvlei
Following a delicious breakfast, we will begin our journey by air to Kulala Desert Lodge. Situated within the arid Namib Desert on the private 37000ha Kulala Wilderness Reserve, Kulala is the closest lodge to the iconic red dunes of Sossusvlei.
It comprises 19 thatched and canvas "kulalas" ("to sleep" in Oshiwambo) with en-suite bathrooms and verandas.
Each unit is built on a wooden platform to catch the cooling breezes and has a flat rooftop deck where bedrolls are placed at night, thereby allowing you to sleep under the myriad that Namibia’s clear skies portray.
The main area, with décor inspired by northern Africa, has a lounge, bar, dining area, plunge pool and wrap-around veranda overlooking the waterhole – a perfect location to view and photograph the desert vista. The overall setting is a true delight to the senses, bringing together Namibia’s subtle rhythms along with wholesome meals and a feeling of absolute intimacy. A waterhole in front of the camp attracts a number of local wildlife (including Gemsbok, Springbok, Ostrich and Black-backed Jackal) and provides a perfect location to view and photograph the desert scenery.
Day 3, May – October: Kulala Wilderness Reserve, Sossusvlei
Today we have the opportunity to spend an entire morning photographing at leisure in the amazing Sossusvlei area. You will depart early in order to get the best light on the spectacular apricot–coloured Sossusvlei Dunes. World-famous Sossusvlei is an enormous clay pan, flanked by the famous red sand dunes that stand out starkly against the clear blue sky. These dunes have developed over millions of years, the wind continuously transforming the contours of this amazing red sand sea. The ‘vlei’ itself only fills after rare, heavy rainfall when, in a complete turn-around, it becomes a spectacular turquoise lake. Nature drives and walks are also offered on the private reserve, offering incredible views and a chance to catch glimpses and hopefully photograph some of the desert’s hardy and elusive denizens. Desert-adapted wildlife such as Ostrich, Springbok and Gemsbok (Oryx) can be seen on the reserve, as well as smaller creatures including Bat-eared Fox, Black-backed Jackal and Cape Fox. Another option, at extra cost, is early morning ballooning, beginning at first light. The balloon safari offers a truly unique experience to soar silently above the magnificent sand dunes and desert, with a celebratory champagne breakfast being served at the landing site.
Day 4, May – October: Kulala Wilderness Reserve to Palmwag Concession
After our final morning’s photographic safari in the Kulala Wilderness Reserve, we will transfer to Desert Rhino Camp. This incredible camp lies amongst rolling, rocky hills with scattered euphorbia, ancient welwitschia plants, scrubby vegetation and isolated clumps of trees within the 450 000-hectare Palmwag Concession. This region is marked for its tranquil, minimalist beauty, surprising wealth of arid-adapted wildlife and the largest free roaming Black Rhino population in Africa.
Set in a wide valley sometimes flush with grass, accommodation at Desert Rhino Camp is in the form of 8 Meru-style canvas tents that sleep up to 16 guests. Raised from the ground on a wooden deck, each tent features an en-suite bathroom with a hand basin, flush toilet and shower. Beds are made up with crisp, white linen and have two dark wood bedside tables with wicker reading lamps. An extension of the deck functions as a front veranda where guests can relax in director’s chairs to take in the magnificent vistas of the surrounding desert and Etendeka Mountains. The camp’s tented dining and lounge area is also raised on a wooden deck in a single, open-plan tent with partially open sides, likewise offering panoramic views of the adjacent environment.
Activities include rhino tracking on foot or by vehicle. Palmwag Concession’s freshwater springs also support healthy populations of desert-adapted Elephant, Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra, Giraffe, Gemsbok, Springbok, Greater Kudu and predators such as Lion, Cheetah, Leopard, and Brown and Spotted Hyaena. Birdlife is prolific and diverse with most of Namibia’s endemics present.
Day 5 & 6, May – October: Palmwag Concession
We will spend the full day in search of one of Namibia’s and indeed Africa’s most remarkable animal – the desert adapted Black Rhino – on foot or by vehicle. Within the Concession, Wilderness Safaris works closely with Save the Rhino Trust (SRT), a highly respected NGO almost single-handedly responsible for the preservation of the area’s rhinos. SRT focuses on the protection, monitoring and understanding of the local Black Rhino population and is funded by donations and partnerships. About 30 trackers, employed from the local community, monitor over 100 of these desert-adapted beasts.
As the rhino numbers in the area shrank to near extinction, SRT was formed to stop the indiscriminate hunting that was taking place here.
Today this programme is a major success and is responsible for the wellbeing of a very unique sub-species of Black Rhino, differing from other populations found in the sub-region. Since the founding of the Save the Rhino Trust, poaching has drastically declined and the rhino population has more than doubled. Ironically, previously convicted poachers were employed by the Save the Rhino Trust as guards – since they had extensive knowledge of the rhino’s habits!
Day 7, May – October: Palmwag Concession to Skeleton Coast
Hoanib Skeleton Coast is located on the Hoanib River in the northern part of the private Palmwag Concession. Its location thus straddles the Palmwag area and Skeleton Coast National Park, in one of the most remote areas of the Kaokoveld. A land of rugged scenery, the area has a historic coastline, mountains, vast plains, and dry riverbeds inhabited by incredible desert-adapted plant and animal life. Despite the arid environs, one of the greatest concentrations of desert-adapted elephant and lion can be found within this extraordinary area – along with sightings of giraffe, antelope, black rhino, leopard and cheetah.
Exclusivity is taken a step further as the camp comprises only seven twin-bedded tents and one family unit. The camp looks out over the stunning rugged scenery and offers guests all the luxuries and amenities needed for an unforgettable stay. A bewitching and splendid part of the planet, guests can unravel the enigmatic history of the original Strandlopers (Beachcombers), their stone circles lying in hidden valleys, studying the ancient Welwitschia plant, stalking the great herds to savouring the endless landscapes unfolding – untouched – for hundreds of kilometres.
Activities include nature walks, game drives, dune drives, use of hides, exploratory day excursions with picnic lunches and coastal visits exposing the astonishing desert-adapted wildlife, plants and birdlife of the area. Further afield, guests can meet members of the semi-nomadic Himba people and other communities.
Day 8, May – October: Skeleton Coast
The Palmwag Concession is a 450 000-hectare conservancy in Damaraland in the Kunene Region of north-west Namibia. Being on the border of this concession and the vast Skeleton Coast Park, the true Namib Desert, this area is home to a rich diversity of wildlife.
Early morning fog generated by the icy Benguela Current in the Atlantic Ocean meeting the warm desert air of the Skeleton Coast drifts inland over the Namib Desert, providing precious water to the flora and fauna in this incredibly harsh environment. Adaptation to the desert environment is the miracle of all that survives here. The transient Hoanib River, more an underground aquifer than river, supports a ribbon of vegetation along its length. This presenting the only visible food source for the ancient herds of desert-adapted species roaming free among these desert ramparts. As if miraculously, enormous elephants thrive along with giraffe, along with the carnivores that stalk the numerous antelope – lion, leopard and cheetah are all present. The area’s freshwater springs support healthy populations of Hartmann’s mountain zebra, southern giraffe, gemsbok (Oryx), springbok, kudu, dwarf antelope (such as steenbok and klipspringer), scrub hare, comical meerkats (suricates), inquisitive ground squirrels, black-backed jackal and small spotted genet. A major draw card to the region is that the Palmwag Concession supports the largest free-roaming population of desert-adapted black rhino in Africa. The famous Cape fur seals are present in their thousands on the beaches of the Skeleton Coast, attracting predators as well.
Birding enthusiasts are sure to enjoy the diverse avifauna of the Concession. Raptors include Greater Kestrel, Lanner Falcon and Booted Eagles, spotted in the sky or perching on a lonely shepherd’s tree. Out on drives, it is possible to see namaqua sandgrouse, Burchell’s courser, the colourful bokmakierie, grey-backed sparrowlark, Monteiro’s hornbill and white-backed mousebird. Other regular endemics include Rüppell’s korhaan, benguela long-billed lark and possibly herero chat with some focused searching. Verreauxs’ eagle is often sighted around rocky hillsides. Towards the coast tractrac chat and Gray’s lark can be seen. The seal colonies often have jaegers and skuas in attendance with parasitic jaeger, pomarine jaeger and sub-Antarctic skua all possible in summer.
The area has fascinating desert-adapted vegetation such as Welwitschia and lithops, the succulent "flowering stones", and the bizarre elephant’s foot found in rocky crevices. More than a hundred species of lichen are found on the gravel plains and hot West-facing Mountain slopes, which change colour as they absorb moisture when the coastal fog presses inland.
Day 9, May – October: Hoanib Skeleton Coast to Serra Cafema
We will enjoy our final morning safari in Ongava Game Reserve before flying to Serra Cafema, the climax of our Namibian Safari. Serra Cafema Camp is one of the most remote camps in all of Southern Africa.
Inspired by the pioneering spirit of the area and the remote explorer aesthetic, Serra Cafema is an unexpected oasis of luxury and sumptuous spaciousness perched on the Kunene River that forms Namibia’s northernmost border.
Situated under large shady albida trees overlooking the dunes and the Kunene River, the camp comprises 8 raised canvas and thatch units each with en-suite bathroom, retractable glass doors and abundant outdoor lounging, dining and shower decks.
The ‘Ozonganda’, or public homestead area, comprises indoor and outdoor dining areas, sunken lounge, river bar, library, curio shop and swimming pool.
Day 10, May – October: Serra Cafema
Serra Cafema shares this region with the wonderful and colourful Himba people, who are some of the last true nomadic people in Africa. The Kunene River is the only permanent source of water and creates an oasis along its banks surrounded by rugged mountains and sand dunes.
Activities include photographing the breathtaking landscape scenes with Springbok, Ostrich and Gemsbok dotted here and there, traversing the sand dunes in 4×4 Land Rovers, and boating on the Kunene River. Walking and photographing in the remote mountains and river valleys is also a highlight. Serra Cafema is often visited by the native Ovahimba families who live in the nearby vicinity, which gives guests the opportunity to learn about their lifestyle and traditions.
One of the highlights of Serra Cafema is the carefully guided quad bike excursion, which treads lightly on the dunes and allows guests to undergo a true desert experience. In the extreme and remote north of Namibia, rivers, including the Kunene River that forms the border between Namibia and Angola, cut through mountains of largely folded metamorphic rock. In rainy years, the large Marienfluss and Hartmann’s valleys become grassy expanses, but generally their flat topographies are covered by sand broken only by a few tough grasses, shrubs and mysterious ‘fairy circles’. In this isolated region, the Himba people continue their nomadic, traditional way of life.
The reliable, yet minimalist source of water here is the famous Namibian fog, which is created when the icy Atlantic water meets the warm air of the Skeleton Coast. This moisture drifts far inland along the river valleys and is eagerly harvested by plants and animals before the sun burns off the remnants.
Day 11, May – October: Serra Cafema to Ongava Game Reserve (Etosha).
This morning we will say our farewells to the amazing Skeleton Coast and head north–east to the most famous of all of Namibia’s National Parks, fabulous Ethosa! We will be staying at the Ongava Game Reserve situated on the southern boundary of the park. This prolific 30,000ha (74130 acre) private concession is a haven for large concentrations of wildlife: notably Lion, Cheetah, Black and White Rhino, Springbok, Gemsbok, Blue Wildebeest, Burchell’s Zebra, Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra, Waterbuck, Red Hartebeest, Giraffe, Eland and the largest population of the endemic Black-faced Impala outside of Etosha.
Little Ongava is quite possibly Namibia’s most luxurious and exclusive safari destination. Perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking a waterhole, Little Ongava is known for its panoramic vistas of the surrounding African savannah. With only 3 spacious, luxurious and private units, Little Ongava really does offer an intimate and exclusive experience for its guests. Each unit features its own plunge pool, a sala, and an en-suite bathroom with both indoor and outdoor showers and a bath with a magnificent view. The dining and lounge areas share the same wonderful views of the waterhole below and lend themselves to relaxed, stylish meals under thatch or African sky alike.
Days 12 & 13, May – October: Ongava Nature Reserve (Full Day safaris into Etosha)
We will spend the next 2 days exploring the legendary Ethosa National Park. The park originally stretched all the way to the Skeleton Coast and, up to 1967, was the world’s largest park. In 1967, the park’s size was slashed from nearly 10 million hectares to its current size of 2.7 million hectares (about the size of Switzerland). In the early 1990’s a group of Namibian, English, American and South African partners joined together and bought 30,000 hectares of land on Etosha’s southern boundary.
Etosha remains the highest density wildlife area within Namibia; its worldwide fame justly acknowledged. The salt pan (the largest in the world) is speculated to be a remnant of an ancient glacial lake, and is today maintained by scouring winds across its surface and sporadic ephemeral flooding. Springs along the edge of the pan attract and quench the thirst of a dense and varied conglomeration of wildlife, mixing savanna and desert species like Impala and Springbuck. Today we embark on a full day game drive into Etosha, exploring the southern roads of Etosha Pan from Okakeujo through to Halali (where we stop for lunch and relax in the cool shade watching the game coming in to drink at the waterhole), meandering our way from waterhole to spring and enjoying the endless vistas and mirages of the pan itself.
These waterholes and springs don’t only attract the attention of thirsty grazers (and our lenses) but also that of the park’s predators, which know exactly where to go for an easy meal. These include the afore-mentioned jackals, large prides of Lions, Spotted Hyaena and Cheetah. African Elephant are regular, while Greater Kudu, Giraffe and zebra can all be seen and photographed. Birds are also abundant and include the delightful little Pygmy Falcon and several species of eagles and vultures.
Day 14, May – October: Ongava Game Reserve to Windhoek
This morning, after a final morning activity and breakfast, we will depart on a light aircraft to Windhoek for our overnight stay at the Hotel Heininburg. Tonight we will enjoy a celebratory farewell dinner.
Day 15, May – October: Departure Day
Following a well deserved sleep-in and a delicious breakfast, we will transfer to the international Airport for our flights home. Sadly this is where this amazing tour comes to an end.
From the team at Rockjumper Wildlife Tours, we thank you for your participation in this very memorable safari experience and we wish you a safe and trouble free travel to your final destination.