Days 1 - 2
Namibia’s capital, Windhoek, is a cosmopolitan city with an abundance of restaurants, shops, entertainment venues and accommodation. Windhoek is clean, safe and well-organised. The city centre is an interesting architectural mix of historical and modern buildings. The colonial legacy is still alive in its many German eateries and shops and the fairly widespread use of the German language.
City centre sights within easy walking distance: the Alte Feste (Old Fortress) museum; Christuskirche (Christ Church), consecrated in 1910; Tintenpalast (built in 1912/1913 as the seat of the colonial government and nicknamed Ink Palace), which is part of the parliamentary complex; the massive Independence Memorial Museum and the imposing contemporary building of the Supreme Court.
The international airport is 40 km east of Windhoek.
Days 2 - 4
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 4 - 6
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 6 - 7
The small headland of Cape Cross lies on western Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, roughly 60 kilometres north of Henties Bay. The historic area was landed on by the Portuguese in 1486, and they erected a stone cross here in honour of the Portuguese King, however, this cross was replaced by the German settlers in the 1800’s. Cape Cross best known for its extraordinary breeding colony of Cape fur seals and has been made a reserve. With the abundance of fish swimming in the cold Benguela current, the seals have plenty to snack on, and they also enjoy lying and playing out in the sun. From a 200-metre-long walkway, watch the seals at play and learn about them through the area’s information points.
Days 7 - 9
Palmwag Lodge, halfway between Swakopmund and Etosha, is idyllically located among tall Makalani palm trees on the banks of the seasonal Uniab River. It is one of Namibia's oldest and most popular tourist destinations. The availability of water often lures elephants closer to the lodge. Palmwag manages the concession area around the lodge, a vast nature park of 5500 km² which boasts the largest predator populations outside Etosha National Park and most of the world’s free-roaming Black rhino. There are also healthy numbers of the legendary desert-adapted elephant as well as mountain zebra, giraffe, springbok, kudu and more.
Days 9 - 11
Situated in the Kaokoland area of Namibia, Epupa Falls lies near the border of Angola. Named by the Herero people after the spray it creates, Epupa means ‘water falling’. The falls consist of a series of cascades created by the Kunene River as it drops 60 metres, forming hundreds of natural pools that provide the Himba people and visitors with a fantastic recreation spot. These jaw-dropping beautiful falls create a spectacular contrast to the arid desert and rugged surrounding mountains. Visitors can look forward to discovering the unspoilt environment, the majestic baobabs and wild fig trees dotting the surroundings. Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy world-class birdwatching and spot an array of species including the bee-eaters, hornbills, kingfishers, fish eagles, flycatchers, and herons.
Days 11 - 13
Encompassing northern Namibia and southern Angola, Ovamboland lies north of the great Etosha Pan. Ovamboland is very different from the rest of Namibia with an environment which allows for crop farming and therefore is home to a significantly higher population, with more than half of the country’s population settled in this unique part of Namibia. The landscape is mostly flat and dotted with small settlements, and after extensive rain, Ovamboland is covered with large pans. Oshakati is the largest town in the region and to the south is the Etosha National Park, accessible via the King Nehale Gate. The Ovambo people sell their local handicrafts to travellers including: intricately weaved baskets, pottery, beautiful jewellery and animal wood carvings.
Days 13 - 15
In most places in the park, the pans are devoid of vegetation with the exception of halophytic Sporobolus salsus, a protein-rich grass that is eaten by grazers like blue wildebeest and springbok. The areas around the Etosha pan also have other halophytic vegetation including grasses like Sporobolus spicatus and Odyssea paucinervis, as well as shrubs like Suaeda articulata. Most of the park is savanna woodlands except for areas close to the pan. Mopane is the most common tree, estimated to be around 80% of all trees in the park. The sandveld of north-eastern corner of Etosha is dominated by acacia and Terminalia trees. Tamboti trees characterize the woodlands south of the sandveld. Dwarf shrub savanna occurs areas close to the pan and is home to several small shrubs including a halophytic succulent Salsola etoshensis. Thorn bush savanna occurs close to the pan on limestone and alkaline soils and is dominated by acacia species such as Acacia nebrownii, Acacia luederitzii, Acacia melliferra, Acacia hebeclada and Acacia tortilis. Grasslands in the park are mainly around the Etosha pan where the soil is sandy. Depending on the soil and the effects of the pan, grasslands could be dominated by one of the Eragrostis, Sporobolus, Monelytrum, Odyssea or Enneapogon species.
Etosha National Park
Days 15 - 17
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.
Okonjima Nature Reserve
Days 17 - 18
Halfway between Windhoek and Etosha National Park lies Okonjima Nature Reserve. Okonjima is home to AfriCat, a 22,000 ha sanctuary which gives captive big cats a second chance to be released back into the wild and become completely independent hunters in a protected area right in the middle of commercial cattle farmland. Excellent accommodation options are available, from luxury villas to secluded camping sites.
Activities: Guided big cat tracking safaris; leopard-spotting; off-road night drives; hiking the Bushman Trail to learn about San culture.