BEST OF NAMIBIA
July 21-August 9, 2020
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We will have final price once we’re within range on the international air, which should be in September.
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TUE, JULY 21 — DEPART U.S.
Our African adventure begins today as we board a KLM jet bound for Amsterdam.
WED, JULY 22 — AMSTERDAM-JOHANNESBURG
We arrive in Amsterdam this morning and connect with a flight to Johannesburg, arriving this evening.
THU, JULY 23 – JOHANNESBURG-WINDHOEK
The morning is at leisure before a midday flight to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. The Republic of Namibia, formerly German Southwest Africa (1884-1915) was mandated as South West Africa to South Africa by the League of Nations in 1920 and gained its independence in 1990. This evening we enjoy a welcome buffet dinner in the hotel’s Ekipa restaurant.
Hilton Windhoek (BD)
FRI, JULY 24 — WINDHOEK-KEETMANSHOOP
After breakfast, we drive south to the old German town of Keetmanshoop, with photo stops and a picnic lunch en route. This afternoon we visit the extremely photogenic “quivertree forest” to photograph hundreds of these fascinating plants bathed in warm afternoon light and juxtaposed against the setting sun. The quivertree is one of the most interesting and characteristic plants of the very hot, dry parts of Namibia. Actually, it’s not a tree, but an aloe. It’s often called a kokerboom because some Bushmen and Hottentot tribes used the tough, pliable bark and branches to make quivers for their arrows; koker is the Afrikaans word for quiver.
Central Lodge (BL)
SAT, JULY 25 — KEETMANSHOOP
We return to the quivertree forest for sunrise photography, then midday is free to explore historic Keetmanshoop on your own. This afternoon we drive to the Giants’ Playground, captivating rock formations comprised of gigantic dolerite boulders that glow with the warmth of late-afternoon light. The dolerites (160-180 million years old) are magma that was pressed up, but cooled off just below the earth’s surface. The softer parts of the stone and the top layer of the earth’s crust eroded away, which left the dolerites exposed. Return to Keetmanshoop after sunset.
Central Lodge (B)
SUN, JULY 26 — KEETMANSHOOP-LUDERITZ
Additional time for photography at Giants’ Playground before driving west through the Namib Desert to Luderitz, on the Atlantic coast. Scarcely touched by the 21st century, this remote seaside town is reminiscent of a small Bavarian village with its bakeries, coffee shops, Art Nouveau architecture, and a Lutheran church rising above the lesser buildings. The picturesque port supports a fleet of crayfish (rock lobster) boats that are active from November to April. Buffet dinner this evening at Barrels, a local favorite.
Luderitz Nest Hotel (BD)
MON, JULY 27 — LUDERITZ / KOLMANSKOP
Rising early, we drive to the amazing ghost town of Kolmanskop, remnant of a diamond stampede in Namibia in 1907, when it was a German colony and small houses were built for the mine owners. After most of the diamonds had been mined, people moved on to South Africa, so the buildings have been abandoned since the late ’30s and early ’40s, to be slowly engulfed by the relentlessly shifting coastal sands. We’re at the ghost town by sunrise for interior and exterior sandscapes. We return to Luderitz for a late breakfast, then the day is at leisure to explore Luderitz before a second visit to Kolmanskop for late-afternoon photography. Buffet dinner this evening in the hotel’s Penguin Restaurant.
Luderitz Nest Hotel (BD)
TUE, JULY 28 — LUDERITZ-SOSSUSVLEI
We follow a northward route along the edge of Namib-Naukluft National Park to Sossusvlei, arriving in time for lunch. Life under Namibia’s sun has always been tough. This is a region of stark landscapes, parched savannahs, and dry riverbeds. Over millions of years, the forces of nature have sculpted fascinating formations while plants and animals evolved life forms like nothing else on earth. A major natural phenomenon lies in the south of the country: Sossusvlei, with 1,000-foot sand dunes, among the world’s highest. Sossusvlei is part of the Namib Desert which runs along the Atlantic coast for the length of the country. The yellow and gray-buff hues of the pan contrast sharply with the brick-red dunes, providing spectacular opportunities for photography, especially at dawn and dusk when the low sun creates a symphony of color, light, and shadow. Occasionally, the graceful shape of an oryx, standing on the crest of a dune, can be seen etched against the skyline as it attempts to catch the slightest breeze and reduce its body temperature. Late-afternoon photography in the dunes, until sunset.
Sossus Dune Lodge (BLD)
WED, JULY 29 — SOSSUSVLEI
A full day of shooting allows plenty of time to explore and photograph the Sossusvlei area. We’re out before sunrise, back after sunset, with time in between for a midday rest when the light is flat. During our morning visit, you may want to hike into the famous salt/clay pan called Dead Vlei where long-dead camel thorn trees create a graphic foreground to the undulating dunes.
Sossusvlei Lodge (BLD)
THU, JULY 30 — SOSSUSVLEI-SWAKOPMUND
Optional sunrise photography at the dunes before we drive north through dramatic Kuiseb Canyon, then turn toward the coast. Our route takes us along Welwitschia Drive, where we can see some fine examples of the remarkable Welwitschia mirabilis plant. It has been estimated that the largest ones, whose tangled masses of leaf strips can measure up to six feet across, may have been growing for up to 2,000 years. Another botanical curiosity here is the large fields of lichen which derive their moisture from sea fogs. We also see the Moon Landscape, a vista across eroded hills and valleys carved by the Swakop River, before arriving in Swakopmund. Buffet dinner this evening at the Old Steamer Restaurant.
Hansa Hotel (BD)
FRI, JULY 31 — SWAKOPMUND
A morning excursion takes us south across the longest bridge in Namibia to Walvis Bay, where we enjoy a catamaran cruise in search of whales, dolphins, molas, leatherback turtles, and seals. Accompanying the boat are seabirds such as pelicans, cormorants, and gulls. Upon our return to Swakopmund — a small slice of Bavaria perched on the Namib Desert’s northern edge — the remainder of the day is free to explore and photograph the town’s colonial-era structures, half-timbered houses, and many flower gardens.
Hansa Hotel (B)
SAT, AUG 1 — SWAKOPMUND-TWYFELFONTEIN
Cape Cross, north of Swakopmund, is home to Namibia’s largest breeding colony of Cape fur seals, an estimated 80,000-100,000 animals. It’s also of historical interest because it was here, in 1486, that the first European — Portuguese navigator Diego Cao — set foot on the Namibian coast. We drive inland through the superb wilderness area called Damaraland to the boulder-strewn hillside of Twyfelfontein. Home to a superb collection of San rock art — more than 2,000 rock engravings and paintings depicting animals, animal spoor, and people, some dating to before 3300 B.C. — it’s considered one of the richest rock art sites in Africa. This afternoon we follow a loop walking trail through the petroglyphs.
Twyfelfontein Lodge (BLD)
SUN, AUG 2 — TWYFELFONTEIN-OPUWO
Today we drive north to the Kunene region, formerly known as Kaokoland. Situated in Namibia’s remote northwest, it encompasses the Kunene River which has given its name to the area and forms the border with Angola. Many of Namibia’s main attractions are found here — the famed desert-adapted elephant, the ancient culture of the Himba people, and beautiful landscapes with interesting geological formations. Inhabitants of this region comprise three dominant ethnic groups: the Damara, Herero, and Himba.
Opuwo Country Lodge (BD)
MON, AUG 3 — OPUWO
The Himba people inhabiting Kunene are descendants of the earliest Herero who migrated into the area in the 16th century. Around the middle of the 18th century the pressure of too many people and cattle in this dry, fragile environment led to the migration of the main body of the Herero to the rich pasturelands farther south. Many Himba still live and dress according to ancient traditions and live in scattered settlements throughout Kunene. They are a slender and statuesque people. The women, especially, are noted for their unusual sculptural beauty, enhanced by intricate hairstyles and traditional adornments whose designs are made from iron or shell. As Himba men and woman wear few clothes apart from a loincloth or goat-skin mini-skirt, they rub their bodies with red ochre and fat to protect their skin against the harsh desert climate. Himba homes are simple cone-shaped structures of saplings bound together with palm leaves and plastered with mud and dung. A family may move from one home to another several times a year to seek grazing for their goats and cattle. Today we visit Himba homesteads, meeting and photographing these intriguing people.
Opuwo Country Lodge (BD)
TUE, AUG 4 — OPUWO-ETOSHA
This morning we drive south to the famed Etosha National Park. Etosha, 8,600 square miles in area, is the jewel in Namibia’s wildlife crown and one of the world’s great game sanctuaries. A central salt pan covering nearly 2,000 square miles is edged with peripheral waterholes where abundant wildlife congregates. The park takes its name from the Etosha Pan, the ultimate destination of channels draining from the catchment area in southern Angola. There are 114 mammal species here. Some can invariably be found in specific areas or home ranges, whereas others wander in search of better grazing or browsing. Still others follow yearly migration patterns depending on the availability of grazing and rainwater. The best game-viewing in Etosha is achieved by sitting quietly at waterholes and waiting to see what turns up. This is especially true during the winter months (May-August) and before the rainy season (September-November), when the animals congregate around the watering points.
WED, AUG 5 — ETOSHA
Two full days in Etosha give us ample opportunity for wildlife photography. The main attraction of Okaukuejo is that it overlooks a permanent waterhole, which is floodlit at night. Here, a wide diversity of wildlife congregates and interacts. The spectacle starts at dawn, with animals coming in large numbers to quench their thirst. The excitement continues throughout the day and deep into the night. In the early evenings, it’s not uncommon to have black rhinoceros, elephant, and lion all drinking at the same time.
THU, AUG 6 — ETOSHA
The entire day is at leisure to sit by the waterhole and enjoy the fantastic parade of animals which come to drink. If you prefer, you can book a shared safari vehicle through the lodge for a morning, afternoon, or night game drive, though the consensus last time we visited was that game-viewing is more reliable (and far less expensive) sitting by our own waterhole.
FRI, AUG 7 — ETOSHA-WINDHOEK
Time to photograph at the waterhole again this morning before we return to Windhoek. En route, we stop at Outjo for a visit to REST, an organization whose mission is to conserve, research, and bring attention to some of Namibia’s endangered animals, including the African wild dog, Cape vulture, Damara dikdik, dwarf python, spotted rubber frog, and pangolin. Here, we have a unique opportunity for a special photo session with a pangolin in a location conducive to natural photographs. Afterward, we continue on to Windhoek, where our farewell dinner this evening is in the hotel’s Ekipa restaurant.
Hilton Windhoek (BD)
SAT, AUG 8 — WINDHOEK-JOHANNESBURG
The morning is free for sightseeing on your own, shopping, and packing before our afternoon flight to Johannesburg, where we connect with an overnight flight to Amsterdam.
SUN, AUG 9 — AMSTERDAM-U.S.
Our Namibia adventure comes to an end as we arrive in Amsterdam this morning and connect to flights back to the U.S.
Note: Departure from either New York/JFK or Los Angeles. Included meals are indicated by B, L, and D for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Game drives are three to a vehicle, with the tour leader rotating among vehicles on each game drive (so maximum four occasionally).