Ultimate Namibia Safari
Includes: Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, Damaraland, Etosha Park & AfriCat
This 10 day Ultimate Namibia Safari affords you the chance to experience this magnificent and memorable country in a very personal way. You will have your own professional and experienced safari guide who will enhance your enjoyment of this unique country by making it a fascinating and stress-free journey of discovery amidst very dramatic scenery. The knowledge, experience and attitude of guides is critical to a successful safari and the guides used on this safari are both personable and very professional.
Your guide has an intimate knowledge of each area and camp / lodge that you visit, allowing them to share the local highlights whilst adding continuity and depth to your safari. It goes without saying that they know exactly what a "True Namibian Safari" is all about. Not only are the guides highly qualified, each has a specific area of expertise. Together they possess the breadth and depth of knowledge to allow them to answer questions and satisfy the particular interests of each of our guests.
While on this safari you will experience the following highlights:
- Travel with one of Namibia’s most reputable and well-known naturalist guides.
- Stay in the only camp inside Etosha,the world’s fourth largest National Park.
- Climb some of the world’s highest free-standing sand dunes at Sossusvlei.
- Sea kayak with seals and dolphins on the Skeleton Coast (option ski boat).
- Track for desert-adapted elephants.
- Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Twyfelfontein.
- Visit an authentic and remote Himba settlement.
- Explore 2 very different parts of the Etosha National Park by spending time on both the Ongava and Onguma Private Game Reserves.
- Sleep in the tree tops overlooking one of the most productive waterholes on the Onguma Private Game Reserve
- Visit the world renowned Big Cat research centre run by the Africat Foundation.
- Day 1: Windhoek to Sossusvlei area
- This morning you will be collect you from your accommodation establishment in Windhoek or from the Windhoek International Airport (assuming you land before 09h00). You then depart from Windhoek in your safari vehicle with your personal guide and drive southwest through the scenic Khomas Hochland highlands before you head down the Great Escarpment into the Namib Desert below. A picnic lunch will be served at a scenic location en-route. You will arrive at Hoodia Desert Camp in the late afternoon where you will stay for two nights whilst you explore the remarkable sights of the Namib Desert with your guide. If there is still time today, your guide will take you to visit Sesriem Canyon, a nearby geological attraction, or you can relax and soak in the scenic and tranquil surroundings at Hoodia Desert Camp.
Sesriem Canyon: Sesriem Canyon has evolved through centuries of erosion by the Tsauchab River which has incised a narrow gorge about 1.5 km long and 30 meters deep into the surrounding conglomerates, exposing the varying layers of sedimentation deposited over millions of years. The shaded cool depths of the canyon allow pools of water to gather during the rain season and remain for much of the year round. These pools were a vital source of water for early settlers who drew water for their livestock by knotting six (ses) lengths of rawhide thongs (riems) together, hence the canyon and surrounding area became known as Sesriem. Hoodia Desert Camp: Hoodia Desert Camp lies nestled on the banks of the Tsauchab River, overlooked by the impressive Naukluft Mountains. The camp offers comfortable accommodation in thatched and tented bungalows equipped with a private open-air bathroom, air-conditioning, mini bar, tea and coffee station and a shaded balcony. The camp restaurant serves excellent traditional and international cuisine accompanied by a wide selection of South African wines from the underground wine cellar. A wooden walkway leads you to a refreshing swimming pool sculpted into natural rock. This wonderful camp is a welcomed oasis from which to enjoy your memorable desert experience.
Meals: Lunch & dinner
Accommodation: Sossus Dune Lodge or Hoodia Desert Camp
- Day 2: Sossusvlei
- This morning you will rise early for a magical excursion with your guide into the Namib Naukluft National Park, entering the Park gates at sunrise to capture the dunes whilst the light is soft and shadows accentuate their towering shapes and curves. This area boasts some of the highest free-standing sand dunes in the world. Your guide will give you an insight on the formation of the Namib Desert and its myriad of fascinating creatures and plants that have adapted to survive these harsh environs. Once you have explored to your hearts content you can enjoy a relaxing picnic breakfast under the shade of a camel thorn tree. Return to Hoodia Desert Camp in the early afternoon for a late lunch, stopping off to view Sesriem Canyon if you haven’t already done so the day before. The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure (from experience, this is usually welcomed after an exhilarating morning in the dunes).
Sossusvlei: This most frequently visited section of the massive 50,000 km˛ Namib Naukluft National Park has become known as Sossusvlei, famous for its towering apricot coloured sand dunes which can be penetrated by following the Tsauchab River valley. Sossusvlei itself is actually a clay pan set amidst these star shaped dunes which stand up to 300 meters above the surrounding plains, ranking them among the tallest dunes on earth. The deathly white clay pan contrasts against the orange sands and forms the endpoint of the ephemeral Tsauchab River, within the interior of the Great Sand Sea. The river course rises south of the Naukluft Mountains in the Great Escarpment. It penetrates the sand sea for some 55 km before it finally peters out at Sossusvlei, about the same distance from the Atlantic Ocean. Until the encroaching dunes blocked its course around 60,000 years ago, the Tsauchab River once reached the sea; as ephemeral rivers still do in the northern half of the Namib. Sand-locked pans to the west show where the river previously flowed to before dunes shifted its endpoint to where it currently gathers at Sossusvlei. Roughly once a decade rainfall over the catchment area is sufficient to bring the river down in flood and fill the pan. On such occasions the mirror images of dunes and camel thorn trees around the pan are reflected in the water. Sossusvlei is the biggest of four pans in the vicinity. Another, famous for its gnarled and ghostly camel thorn trees, is Deadvlei which can be reached on foot over 1 km of sand. Deadvlei’s striking camel thorn trees, dead for want of water, still stand erect as they once grew. They survived until about 900 years ago when the sand sea finally blocked the river from occasionally flooding the pan.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation: As above
- Day 3: Sossusvlei to Swakopmund
- NOTE: Option to include a sunrise balloon flight over the Namib Naukluft National Park before you depart for Swakopmund (optional extra at additional cost and should be pre-booked).
The fascinating drive today takes you northwest through awesome and ever changing desert landscapes of the Namib Naukluft National Park, including the impressive Gaub and Kuiseb canyons. You will meet the coast at the port town of Walvis Bay and then continue north to Swakopmund where you can enjoy the pleasant seaside location and cooler coastal air for your next two nights. There will be time this afternoon to wander around town and along the waterfront on foot if appeals, before heading off for dinner at the popular Tug Restaurant by the jetty which specialises in fresh seafood.
NOTE: As an alternative to the drive from Hoodia Desert Camp to Swakopmund you may like to take a scenic light aircraft flight over Sossusvlei and along the Diamond Coast (optional extra at additional cost), allowing you a birds eye view over the dune sea, abandoned mining camps, shipwrecks, Sandwich Harbour and salt pans before you land at Swakopmund Airport. Your guide will drive to meet up with you in Swakopmund later in the day.
Swakopmund: Swakopmund resembles a small, German coastal resort nestled between the desert and the sea. It boasts a charming combination of German colonial architecture blended with good hotels, shops, restaurants, museums, craft centres, galleries and cafes. Swakopmund had its beginnings as a landing station in 1892 when the Imperial Navy erected beacons on the site. Settlers followed and attempts to create a harbour town by constructing a concrete Mole and then iron jetty failed. The advent of World War 1 halted developments and the town sank into decline until half a century later when infrastructures improved and an asphalt road opened between Windhoek and Swakopmund. This made reaching the previously isolated town quicker and easier and it prospered once again to become Namibia’s premier resort town. Although the sea is normally cold for swimming there are pleasant beaches and the cooler climate is refreshing after the time spent in the desert.
Swakopmund guesthouse: During your two nights in Swakopmund you will be accommodated at a charming and welcoming guesthouse conveniently located just minutes walk from the centre of town and the waterfront. .
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Accommodation: Centrally located guest house in Swakopmund
- Day 4: Swakopmund
- After an early breakfast your guide will drive you along the scenic coastal road back to Walvis Bay for a memorable seal and dolphin cruise within the outer lagoon and harbour. This is an ideal way of seeing Cape fur seals, heaviside and bottlenose dolphins, pelicans, flamingos and a wide variety of sea birds. If you are lucky, there is also a chance of seeing whales, leatherback turtles and sunfish. During the course of the cruise snacks will be served along with local sparkling wine and fresh oysters. You will return to the jetty at roughly 12h30 after which you may like to explore Walvis Bay further before returning to Swakopmund for an afternoon at leisure at your guesthouse or in town. You may also like to partake in some of the many activities that Swakopmund has to offer, these include camel rides, scenic flights, quad-biking in the dunes, sky diving and more (all at extra cost).
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Centrally located guest house in Swakopmund
- Day 5: Swakopmund to Damaraland
- Continue on your safari, heading north and east into the wonderful and diverse region of Damaraland. You will pass Namibia’s highest mountain, the Brandberg which peaks at 2,573 m above sea level, and take time to view game and absorb the vastness of the scenery along the way. Damaraland is typified by displays of colour, magnificent table topped mountains, rock formations and bizarre-looking vegetation. The present day landscape has been formed by the erosion of wind, water and geological forces which have formed rolling hills, dunes, gravel plains and ancient river terraces. It is the variety and loneliness of the area as well as the scenic splendour which will reward and astound you, giving one an authentic understanding of the word 'wilderness'.
If time allows this afternoon your guide will take you to visit the nearby attractions and geological sites of Twyfelfontein rock engravings (recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site), Burnt Mountain and the Organ Pipes - if not there is plenty of time to do so tomorrow.
Twyfelfontein: Strewn over a hillside amongst flat-topped mountains of red sandstone, Twyfelfontein’s boulders and slabs of red sandstone hold some 2,500 prehistoric engravings that depict wildlife, animal spoor and abstract motifs. It is perhaps the largest and finest collection of petroglyphs in Africa. The engravings show animals such as elephant, giraffe, kudu, lion, rhinoceros, springbok, zebra and ostrich that once used to drink from a fountain at the bottom of the hill. In some cases footprints were engraved instead of hooves or paws. The abstract motifs feature mainly circles. Stone tools and other artifacts found at Twyfelfontein suggest that hunter-gatherers occupied the site over a period of perhaps 7,000 years. These days a local guide accompanies visitors to showcase the rock art. The engravings lie along two circular routes, one an hour’s climb and the other 40 minutes longer. Twyfelfontein is one of Namibia’s key National Monuments and has recently become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Burnt Mountain: A rounded hill located a few kilometers from Twyfelfontein and the Organ Pipes, known as the Burnt Mountain, seems to catch fire again at sunrise and sunset. Its fantastic range of colours at dawn and dusk are due to a chemical reaction that took place roughly 125 million years ago when molten lava penetrated organic shale and limestone deposits, resulting in contact metamorphism. In ordinary sunlight it is a dull black. Blackened rubble lies to one side like cinders from the original fire. Organ Pipes: The Organ Pipes are another geological curiosity in the area consisting of a mass of perpendicular dolerite columns that intruded the surrounding rocks also about 125 million years ago and have since been exposed in a ravine due to river erosion.
Camp Kipwe: Camp Kipwe lies in the heart of Damaraland, ideally located a short drive from the local attractions in the area. The Camp is nestled amongst an outcrop of giant granite boulders, a stones throw away from the ephemeral Aba Huab riverbed where desert adapted elephants often traverse. Each comfortable thatched bungalow is simply but tastefully furnished with en-suite bathroom. In the centre of the camp lies a large alfresco dining area, bar, lounge and reception with an inviting fireplace nearby to relax beside in the evenings. A refreshing swimming pool and lovely views also complement the Camp.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Accommodation: Camp Kipwe
- Day 6: Damaraland
- After an early breakfast you will be treated to an exciting 4x4 excursion along the ephemeral Aba Huab River valley to explore this remarkable region and to search for game, including the elusive desert adapted elephants if they are in the area. Damaraland is home to a variety of desert adapted wildlife and hidden desert treasures. You will return to Camp for lunch and this afternoon you may visit Twyfelfontein and other nearby attractions if you haven’t already done so, or take a walk with your guide into the local area around Camp, or relax and enjoy some well deserved leisure time.
Desert Adapted Elephant: In habitats with sufficient vegetation and water an adult elephant consumes as much as 300 kg of roughage and 230 litres of water every day of its life. Consider what a herd of them would eat and drink in a week or a month or a year. African elephant in a desert? Well, yes! Not only elephant, but other large mammals as well, such as black rhinoceros and giraffe. Their ranges extend from river catchments in northern Kaokoveld as far south as the northern Namib. Apart from the Kunene River, seven river courses northwards from the Ugab provide them with possible routes across the desert, right to the Skeleton Coast. The biggest are the Hoarusib, the Hoanib, the Huab and the Ugab Rivers. Desert adapted elephant in Kaokoland and the Namib walk further for water and fodder then any other elephant in Africa. The distances between waterholes and feeding grounds can be as great as 68 km. The typical home range of a family herd is larger then 2,000 km˛, or eight times as big as ranges in central Africa where rainfall is much higher. They walk and feed at night and rest during the day. To meet their nutritional and bulk requirements they browse on no fewer than 74 of the 103 plant species that grow in their range. Not a separate species or even a subspecies, they are an ecotype unique to Namibia in Africa south of the equator, behaviourally adapted to hyper-arid conditions. Elephant in Mali on the southwestern fringe of the Sahara Desert are the only others known to survive in similar conditions.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Accommodation: Camp Kipwe
- Day 7: Damaraland to Etosha
Today after a very early breakfast you set off on your journey to the Etosha National Park, travelling via the Grootberg Pass. Along the way your guide will take you to visit a local Himba settlement – you may have to search for a while as the semi-nomadic Himba people sometimes move location with no notice. They are one of the last truly traditional peoples of Namibia and have little time for conventional practices. Here you will learn about the customs and traditions of this very proud nation, and will be given insight into their beliefs, way of life and everyday routine. After visiting the Himba you will head east through the small town of Kamanjab before heading on for tonight’s destination at the homely Andersson’s Camp, which is situated just south of the Etosha National Parks Andersson Gate. A picnic lunch will be had en-route and arrival will be in the very late afternoon or early evening (after a long but rewarding day). After your arrival you will have some time at leisure, which can be spent appreciating the unique surroundings and enjoying the game viewing at the camp’s floodlit waterhole.
The Himba: The Himba, Tjimba and other Herero people who inhabit Namibia’s remote north-western Kunene Region are loosely referred to as the Kaokovelders. Basically Herero in terms of origin, language and culture, they are semi-nomadic pastoralists who tend to tend from one watering place to another. They seldom leave their home areas and maintain, even in their own, on which other cultures have made little impression. For many centuries they have lived a relatively isolated existence and were not involved to any noteworthy extent in the long struggle for pasturelands between the Nama and the Herero. The largest group of Kaokovelders is the Himba, semi-nomads who live in scattered settlements throughout the Kunene Region. They are a tall, slender and statuesque people, characterized especially by their proud yet friendly bearing. The women especially are noted for their unusual sculptural beauty, enhanced by intricate hairstyles and traditional adornments. They rub their bodies with red ochre and fat, a treatment that protects their skins against the harsh desert climate.
The homes of the Himba of Kaokoland are simple, cone-shaped structures of saplings, bound together with palm leaves and plastered with mud and dung. The men build the structures, while the women mix the clay and do the plastering. A fire burns in the headman’s hut day and night, to keep away insects and provide light and heating. A family may move from one home to another several times a year to seek grazing for their goats and cattle. A Himba woman spends as much as three hours a day on her toilette. First she bathes, then she anoints herself with her own individually prepared mixture which not only protects her skin from the harsh desert sun, but also keeps insects away and prevents her body hair from falling out. She uses another mixture of butter fat, fresh herbs and black coals to rub on her hair, and ‘steams’ her clothes regularly over the permanent fire. Men, women and children adorn themselves with necklaces, bracelets, anklets and belts made from iron and shell beads. With their unusual and striking designs, these items have gained a commercial value and are being produced on a small scale for the urban market. Sculptural headrests in particular are sought-after items.
Andersson’s Camp: Located just 4.5 km from Etosha National Park’s Andersson Gate, Andersson's Camp takes its name from Charles Andersson, the Swedish explorer who first 'discovered' the Etosha Pan with Sir Francis Galton in 1851. Set against a backdrop of the low Ondundozonanandana Mountains, Andersson's Camp is located within the private Ongava Game Reserve which borders onto Etosha National Park. The Ongava Game Reserve is typified by white calcrete soils, rocky outcrops and scrub-covered plains which support a rich variety of game such as giraffe, lion, rhino and various antelope species. The Camp overlooks a waterhole where guests can enjoy the interaction of wildlife coming and going throughout the day and night.
This former farmstead has been tastefully rebuilt to modern-day standards and the design and construction of Andersson’s Camp was guided primarily by the principles of environmental sustainability – reduce, reuse, recycle. The old farmhouse now forms the main dining, bar and swimming pool area of Andersson's Camp, with guest tents radiating outwards into the secluded Mopane woodlands typical of the region. Tents are constructed using a clever mix of calcrete stone cladding, canvas and wood, with double-door entrances and a small verandah that is an extension of the elevated wooden decks on which the tents are raised.
The open-air en-suite bathrooms continue the unique design. Andersson's Camp's close proximity to Etosha National Park is ideal for game drive excursions into Etosha to take in the array of game found there.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Accommodation: Andersson's Camp
- Day 8: Etosha Park
- The route today takes you from Dolomite Camp in western Etosha through the park on a game drive to arriving at Okaukuejo Restcamp in the afternoon. This evening you can relax by Okaukuejo’s excellent floodlit waterhole where game comes and goes throughout the night.
Etosha National Park: Etosha National Park covers 22,270 km˛, of which approximately 5,000 km˛ is made up of saline depressions or ‘pans’. The largest of these pans, the Etosha Pan, can be classified as a saline desert in its own right. The Etosha Pan lies in the Owambo Basin, on the north-western edge of the Namibian Kalahari Desert. Until three million years ago it formed part of huge, shallow lake that was reduced to a complex of salt pans when the major river that fed it, the Kunene, changed course and began to flow to the Atlantic instead. If the lake existed today, it would be the third largest in the world. Etosha is the largest of the pans at 4,760 km˛ in extent. It is nowadays filled with water only when sufficient rain falls to the north in Angola to induce floods to flow southward along the Cuvelai drainage system.
The Park consists of grassland, woodland and savannah. Game-viewing centers around the numerous springs and waterholes where several different species can often be seen at one time. The Park boasts some 114 mammal and over 340 bird species. Wildlife that one might see includes elephant, lion, giraffe, wildebeest, eland, kudu, gemsbok (oryx), zebra, rhino, cheetah, leopard, hyena, honey badger, and warthog, as well as the endemic black faced impala.
Onguma Tree Top Camp: Tree Top is a unique and beautiful camp, situated on the Onguma Game Reserve, bordering on the eastern side of Etosha National Park. It is a small and intimate camp, especially designed for those travellers who would like to truly experience the bush in all its raw splendour. This Camp is built on wooden stilts amongst the tree tops with full views over one of the most beautiful watering holes on the Reserve. The Camp consists of 4 thatched wooden chalets and a main complex, making the camp ideal for a small group looking for a private getaway.
The main complex is completely open towards the front where the waterhole is situated, but there is also the option of letting down canvas sides if the weather is inclement. Guests can relax in the comfortable lounge or in front of the fire place. The kitchen is open plan so guests can watch whilst the chef conjures up wonderful dishes on an open fire. The Boma area steps off from the lounge deck, where guests can relax while watching the animals and birds that frequent the hole throughout the day. The four thatched rooms are designed in such a way that the canvas sides can be opened to expose breath-taking view and animals any time. All rooms have an en-suite bathroom as well as a wonderful private outside shower, and a private deck in front where guests can relax and enjoy exactly the same views as from the main area’s deck.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Accommodation: Onguma Tree Top Camp
- Day 9: Game Driving in Etosha
Another morning dedicated to memorable game drives within the eastern section of Etosha National Park. You will return to camp for lunch and an early afternoon rest, spending your final afternoon on a game drive on the private Onguma Game Reserve, culminating in a final sundowner overlooking Fischer’s Pan. You will return after sunset with enough time to freshen up and enjoy your final ‘safari dinner’ overlooking the camp’s floodlit waterhole.
Onguma Game Reserve: Situated on the eastern side of Etosha and borders Fisher’s Pan. Onguma Game Reserve has more than 20,000ha of protected land and wildlife. The nature reserve boasts over thirty different animal species consisting of plains game including kudu, giraffe, eland, oryx, hartebeest, zebra, impala and many more roam freely, as well as predators such as lion, cheetah and leopard, being common residents of the area. Onguma Game Reserve is now also proud to be home to a family of black rhinos! More than 300 bird species can also be viewed at Onguma Nature Reserve.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Accommodation: Onguma Tree Top Camp
- Day 10: Etosha to Africat Foundation (Okonjima) - Windhoek
Your early departure will take you south from Onguma Tree Top via Tsumeb, Otavi and Otjiwarongo to reach Okonjima’s AfriCat Day Centre, a wonderful highlight with which to conclude your safari. You will arrive in time for lunch before embarking on an exciting and informative game drive and tour of the centre. Here you will learn about the function and vision of the AfriCat Foundation and will also get to meet some of the Foundation’s special carnivore ambassadors. After the excursion and freshening up, the journey continues further south to arrive back in Windhoek in the late afternoon, just as the sun is setting. Upon your arrival in Windhoek you will be transferred to your accommodation establishment of choice, or out to the Windhoek International Airport (transfer to be booked additionally) if flying out in the evening - departure flights must be no earlier than 21h00 to allow sufficient time for the visit to the AfriCat Foundation and the journey back to Windhoek, or a final night in Windhoek can be arranged at additional cost if required. A final night in Windhoek is highly recommended!
AfriCat Foundation: Okonjima is home to the AfriCat Foundation, a wildlife sanctuary which focuses on the research and rehabilitation of Africa's big cats, especially injured or captured leopard and cheetah. Close encounters with leopard and cheetah are an unforgettable highlight. Activities include leopard tracking by vehicle, a visit to the cheetah welfare project and a visit to the night hide where nocturnal animals such as porcupine, caracal, honey badger and even leopard may be seen.
NOTE (OPTIONAL EXTENSION):
You have the option to extend your safari for an additional night or two at Okonjima, staying at their delightful Luxury Okonjima Bush Camp. This affords you the opportunity to get a more in-depth insight into the work being done by the AfriCat Foundation as well as getting to see more of cheetah, leopard and other big cats in the wild.
Meals: Breakfast & Lunch
- Accommodation as stated in the itinerary.
Transportation in a luxury air-conditioned safari vehicle. Meals stipulated above.
Services of a registered and experienced English-speaking safari guide.
Entrance fees and excursions as described in above itinerary.
Return airport transfers from Windhoek International Airport - Windhoek - Windhoek International Airport.
Mineral water on board the safari vehicle.
- International flights to Namibia and airport taxes.
Any meals not included in the listed itinerary.
Any entrance fees and excursions not included in the itinerary.
All beverages with the exception of mineral water on board the safari vehicle.
Laundry (laundry service available at lodges at extra cost).
Items of personal nature.
- Route & Accommodation
- The itinerary above is a guideline only and whilst we try to adhere to it there may be circumstances when it may change - for example weather and/or road conditions, seasonal daylight hours etc. Overnight stops on occasion may be altered from those indicated.
- Is normally restricted to 20kg (not including photographic equipment) per person in a soft, hold all type bag. Weight is generally less important than volume as everything is carried with you on safari. If adding extensions that involve light aircraft transfers the luggage limit may be reduced further to 12 kg in soft bags (please enquire if this may apply to you). If required, any extra luggage can be stored at our base when visitors are away on safari.
- Vehicles used are normally comfortable minibuses, equipped with air-conditioning and cool boxes or fridges for drinks and snacks. A trailer for luggage is taken if required. Ultimate Safaris reserves the right to change the vehicles used to 4 x 4 safari vehicles if the road conditions at the time indicate that this is necessary for the success of the safari.