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.
Okonjima Nature Reserve
Days 2 - 4
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.
Days 4 - 6
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 6 - 7
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.