Days 1 - 2
The Kalahari Basin covers most of Botswana and large parts of Namibia and South Africa. The name Kalahari means 'the great thirst' and describes the world’s largest continuous area of sand. It is an exceptionally beautiful semi-desert. In Namibia it is characterised by red dunes, acacia trees and wispy, mostly golden grass. The wide variety of wildlife includes gemsbok, impala, jackal and cheetah, not to forget the famous Meerkat. In all three countries the Kalahari is the last bastion of the indigenous San people who lived as hunter-gatherers in the whole of southern Africa before the modern world started to take over.
Fish River Canyon
Days 2 - 4
The Fish River Canyon is the most impressive natural wonder in southern Namibia. The canyon starts near Seeheim in the lower reaches of the Fish River and ends 160 km further south at Ai-Ais. It is an awe-inspiring gorge that meanders through the fissured Koubis massif at a depth of up to 550 metres. The Fish River Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world.
The canyon started to form about 500 million years ago during a pluvial episode – i.e. a period of intense rainfall. The huge gorge was not only created by water erosion, however, but also by the collapse of the valley bottom due to tectonic movement and by glaciation during the Karoo Ice Age.
The Fish River Canyon is part of the Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park. The entrance gate is at the Hobas Campsite, from where it is 10 kilometres to the canyon and the most stunning view of the famous Hell's Bend.
The 86 km Fish River Canyon hike is very popular. But it is a tough challenge of 4-6 days and aspiring hikers have to prove their physical fitness with a medical certificate when they apply for a permit from Namibia Wildlife Resorts in Windhoek. Due to soaring temperatures during the summer months, the trail is open only from May to September.
Much easier, but no less scenically beautiful hikes are offered in the adjacent private nature reserves Canyon Nature Park and Gondwana Canyon Park, which also have excellent accommodation.
Days 4 - 6
Tucked away in the rocky Aus Mountains on the fringe of the Namib plains, the small village of Aus is located in the south-western ǁKaras Region. The arid surroundings are known for their unique botanical diversity. Aus lends itself as an excellent base from which to explore the area and view the main attraction: the feral horses of the Namib Desert, which run wild and free on the sparsely vegetated plains. Catch a glimpse of these desert-adapted creatures at the water trough at Garub just 20 km away from the village.
Activities: Experience the Succulent Karoo on a visit to the beautiful Gondwana Sperrgebiet Rand Park, home to the most biodiverse desert in the world; take a scenic hike to discover fascinating indigenous fauna and flora; view the vast desert landscape from the back of a horse; camp under the dazzling Namibian night sky.
Days 6 - 8
Located in Namib-Naukluft National Park, Sossusvlei is famous for its setting amidst the iconic red dunes of the Namib. The clear blue skies contrasting with the towering dunes make this one of the most scenic natural wonders of Africa and a photographer's dream. At up to 400 metres high, some of the ‘mountains of sand’ are among the highest in the world. In the morning and evening light the dunes come alive with amazing displays of colour that draw photography enthusiasts from around the globe. Sossusvlei is home to a variety of desert wildlife including gemsbok, springbok, ostrich and various reptiles. This awe-inspiring destination is the second-most visited attraction in Namibia.
Activities: Climb 'Big Daddy', one of Sossusvlei’s tallest dunes; explore neighbouring Deadvlei, a dazzling white clay pan dotted with ancient fossilised camel thorn trees; take a scenic flight across the Namib Sand Sea or a hot air balloon trip followed by a once-in-a-lifetime champagne breakfast amidst the majestic dunes.
Days 8 - 10
In 1892, eight years after South West Africa was declared a German Protectorate, Swakopmund was founded with the intention to build a harbour. By 1907 a little town pulsating with life had emerged from the desert! Swakopmund boasted the largest European population of all the German colonies in Africa. Decades on and much bigger now, the charming town is as alluring as ever. The mix of Namibian influences with picturesque buildings from the colonial era, palm-lined streets and seaside promenades, the laid-back holiday atmosphere plus the cool sea breeze make Swakopmund one of the most attractive places in the country.
Despite the turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean on its doorstep and the Namib Desert as its backyard, Swakopmund is not a tropical sunbathing paradise, however. The moderate climate along the coast is due to the cold Benguela Current. The current also causes the nightly fogs for which the town is famous and which sustain the wealth of desert flora and fauna near the coast. Early mornings and the evenings can be chilly throughout the year – a welcome respite from the inland heat.
Swakopmund has become the country’s adventure mecca. The desert, the dunes and the ocean lend themselves to a host of thrilling activities: sandboarding, sand skiing, quad biking, dune carting, beach angling and deep sea fishing, to name but a few, and not to forget parachuting.
There is no shortage of diverse shops, bistros and restaurants. Small specialist shops sell hand-made leather work, art & crafts, hand-woven carpets and wall hangings, hand-embroidered bed and table linen and other items proudly made in Namibia. Superb jewellery, designed and crafted with local gemstones by master goldsmiths, are another special feature of Swakopmund.
Activities other than fun in the sand and the sea: visit the art galleries and buy contemporary Namibian art and crafts; visit the museum to learn about Swakopmund’s history; join a tour of Karakulia Weavers and watch karakul wool being spun and woven into wall hangings and rugs; admire the world's largest quartz crystal cluster and other mineral treasures at the Kristall Galerie.
Days 10 - 11
This vast arid landscape is among the most beautiful regions in Namibia. Untamed, rugged and exceptionally scenic, it features open plains, ancient valleys, impressive mountains and spectacular rock formations. Apart from Spitzkoppe and Brandberg there is Vingerklip, a lone rock stack (35 m high) in the Ugab Valley east of Khorixas, the former ‘capital of Damaraland’. West of the small town is Twyfelfontein, a huge open-air gallery of prehistoric rock engravings. The Petrified Forest, the cluster of basalt columns called Organ Pipes and the Burnt Mountain are found in the same area. Damaraland is also famous for its Black rhino population, desert-adapted elephants and lions as well as a host of other wildlife.
Activities: Join guided drives & nature walks; go rhino-tracking with a guide; visit local communities and the Living Museum of the Damara.
Etosha National Park
Days 11 - 13
Etosha National Park in the central north is world-famous for its abundance of wildlife and premiere game viewing opportunities. The park is home to 114 species of mammals, including elephants, black rhinos, lions and other big cats and predators, giraffes, various antelopes and zebras, as well as hundreds of species of birds and reptiles. The vegetation ranges from dense bush to open plains with semi-arid savannah grasslands. During the dry season and in times of drought, the animals flock to the perennial springs and artificial waterholes which are maintained all over the park.
Etosha Pan in the heart of the nature reserve is a vast shallow depression of 5000 kilometres2 that can even be seen from space. The huge salt pan is dry for most of the year and lies shimmering in the heat, but after good rains it fills up with water and attracts scores of birds, especially flamingos from as far away as the Walvis Bay Lagoon on the Atlantic coast.
The western reaches of Etosha are quite different from its south-eastern and eastern parts. Even the characteristic white dust of the pan gives way to reddish-brown soil. The hills of western Etosha are the realm of Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra.