Host: Mike O'Connor-Smith
When:Anytime, though December/January could become unbearably hot.
Length of tour: A 13 day itinerary is described but Mike is happy to customize visits of other lengths and with different destinations and activities.
Number of guests: From four to six. Single couples welcome at slight extra cost.
Fee: Land costs are US$2,400. Single supplement is US$340. Included are en suite accommodation, all meals, entrance fees, airport transfers, and accommodation in Windhoek. On board drinks are provided. Bar accounts, laundry, are excluded.
Dinner is at a local restaurant.
DAY TWO. After breakfast, you travel South via the historically and politically important town of Rehoboth, then turn West, away from the main roads, and descend one of the Country's steepest passes (Spreetshoogte), onto the fringes of the oldest known desert in the World, the Namib. Picnic lunch en route.
Along the road, Baboons, Springbok, and Gemsbok are animals to watch for, and roadside birds you may encounter include Pale Chanting Goshawk, Martial Eagle, and Korhaan.
Continue to the 200,000 hectare NamibRand Nature Reserve, 70 km South of Sossusvlei. You overnight at Wolwedans Dune Camp, set amongst the dunes in the heart of this vast .
reserveAccommodation consists of six comfortable, twin-bedded tents with en suite facilities. The entire camp is built on wooden platforms above ground level, and each tent has a private verandah overlooking the desert. There is a central lounge/dining area with a spacious verandah.
DAY THREE. After breakfast, you leave by Landrover to spend the day exploring this fascinating desert landscape. Majestic Camel thorn trees grow between belts of vegetated red dunes. This habitat supports large game such as Gemsbok and Springbok, while many smaller mammals are found in these arid surroundings. You will learn about their unique survival habits. Over 100 species of birds have been recorded in the area. Lunch will be back at camp, or at a shady spot in the desert.
Overnight as previous.
DAY FOUR. Leaving after breakfast, the full day is spent in the Namib Naukluft Park as you drive through to the coast. After passing through the Gaub and Kuiseb canyons, you reach the gravel plains of the desert. Centuries old Camel thorn trees follow the dry river courses and you stop at one of these for a picnic lunch. Game to look for includes Ostrich, Mountain Zebra, Springbok, and Gemsbok.
Overnight in Swakopmund, with dinner at one of the town's excellent restaurants.
DAY FIVE. Morning trip to Walvis Bay. The harbour is Namibia's only deep water port and is always busy. The entire town is driven by the fishing industry, one of Namibia's most important foreign exchange earners.
The Walvis Bay Lagoon is one of Africa's most important coastal wetlands for migrating birds. Some 60,000 gather here, and there are thousands of migrant species in the Summer months. Large numbers of waders are always present.
The afternoon is at leisure in Swakopmund. A very photogenic town, the German colonial architecture, old jetty, lighthouse, small but well stocked shops, all make Swakopmund worth spending time in. There is an excellent museum, and the adjacent beach offers clean, safe swimming. For birders, the salt pans just North of the town, are worth a visit.
Overnight as previous.
DAY SIX. Driving North along the Skeleton Coast, you stop at the Cape Fur Seal colony at Cape Cross with numbers of over 150,000 seals. Black-backed Jackal, which prey on seal cubs, are frequently seen, and there are always numbers of ocean birds.
Turning inland, the scenery slowly changes to the rugged mountains of the Damaraland region. You pass the Brandberg, Namibia's highest mountain, and stop at some fine specimens of the ancient "living fossil" plant, Welwitschia mirabilis. A member of the pine family endemic to this part of Namibia, some have been dated to over a thousand years.
Overnight in the small town of Uis, a once rich, now abandoned tin mine. Accommodation is in the mine guest house, but privately run as a country hotel.
DAY SEVEN. After breakfast, you bypass the Brandberg and take a little-used road passed some impressive Granite outcrops to Twyfelfontein (Doubtful Fountain). Here, on huge rust-red sandstone boulders, is one of Africa's richest collections of rock engravings. Some of these are estimated to be over 5,000 years old.
After a picnic lunch, you continue through the Damaraland mountains, layered with colourful, volcanic Basalt rocks, to Palmwag Lodge for overnight. Palmwag Lodge is an oasis of tall Fan Palms, Hyphaene petersiana, and a natural spring on the Uniab River.
Accommodation is in bungalows with a central bar and dining area.
It is here where you may see the desert adapted Elephants coming down to drink. Mountain Zebra, Lion, and Black Rhino also occur in this seemingly barren area. Birds you may see include restricted range species such as Rueppell's Korhaan, Ludwig's Bustard, and Namibia's best known endemic, Herero Chat.
DAY EIGHT. Leaving the semi-desert behind, you have a relaxing drive over the Grootberg Pass where the vegetation changes to thornbush savanna and sparse Mopane woodland. After a brief stop in Kamanjab you head North to Hobatere Lodge, arriving in time for lunch. Situated on the western border of the Etosha National Park the Lodge accommodates a maximum of twenty four guests in a 32,000 hectare concession of natural woodland and bush. The area is host to large and small game, and Leopard are seen frequently. The night game drives can be particularly rewarding.
Steve and Louise Braine hold the concession, with Steve being one of Namibia's top birding specialists. A number of Namibia's near-endemics are found here, including Rueppell's Parrot, Hartlaub's Francolin, Rockrunner, and Barecheeked Babbler.
DAY NINE. After breakfast and a short walk or drive, you depart for Etosha, flagship of Namibia's National Parks. Overnight at Okaukuejo Rest Camp with it's world renowned floodlit waterhole.
Government Rest Camps provide the only accommodation in the Park itself. This is normally in basic bungalows or twin bedded rooms en suite. All camps have floodlit waterholes, and depending on the rains, they are frequented by most game, including Black Rhino.
Etosha boasts 114 mammal species of which larger game accounts for about 22, including Eland, Hartebeest, Warthog, Gemsbok, Kudu, Giraffe, Lion, and Elephant. Some 350 bird species have been recorded in Etosha, including a number of raptors from the Martial Eagle to the tiny Pygmy Falcon. Namibia's only population of Blue Crane inhabits the Namutoni area. The area around Namutoni in the East has some excellent waterholes, and offers the best opportunity of finding the diminutive Damara Dik-Dik, one of the smallest antelope in the world. Eland, Hyaena, and Black-Faced Impala, endemic to Namibia, are regularly seen in this area.
An early start, followed by a latish breakfast in the restaurant, offers the best opportunity of finding predators.
DAY TEN. A slow drive in search of game takes you to Namutoni Rest Camp in the East. Namutoni Fort was a German police post at the turn of the Century. It has been rebuilt according to the original plans. There is a lunch break at Halali Rest Camp, halfway to Namutoni.
Accommodation is similar to Okaukuejo.
DAY ELEVEN. The day will be spent game viewing around the excellent waterholes in the Namutoni area. Overnight as previous.
DAY TWELVE. You head South via the unique Otjikoto Lake near Tsumeb. During the First World War retreating German forces dropped their artillery into the deep waters of this Dolomite sinkhole. Some of these pieces have been recovered, restored, and are on display in the Tsumeb museum.
Overnight at the Waterberg Plateau Park, some 280 km North East of Windhoek. The well designed Rest Camp merges with the surrounding natural bush at the foot of the magnificent red sandstone cliffs.
Waterberg is the scene of the major German/Herero clash of 1904, and the graveyard is still well preserved. The scenic walks around the camp are well laid out, and you can find Kudu, Baboon, and Damara Dik-Dik at close range.
In the grounds of the Rest Camp, Helmeted Guineafowl, Redbilled Francolin, Hoopoe, and Groundscraper Thrush are frequently seen.
DAY THIRTEEN. After breakfast, you depart for Windhoek International airport for your return flights. En route, you stop at the historical town of Okahandja with its thriving wood carvers market.
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