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Namibia. Big Cat Safari
Namibia. Fancy a Safari Vacation with a Difference?
Namibia is off the beaten track for the average beach/safari tourist. The desert, sand dunes and wildlife make it one of the best places in Africa to visit. This article is about where to go and the things to see in this wonderful safari destination, travel tips advice and recommendations and lots of Namibia photos. Namibia has excellent wildlife viewing, like many other countries in Africa, especially in Etosha National Park, but with fewer tourists and generally a higher quality experience. The famous sand dunes at Sossusvlei, which are the tallest in the world and the Kalahari desert also make Namibia a different and special experience. Okonjima Lodge, the home of The AfriCat Foundation is also a wonderful place to stay. It is easy to discover the country on a self-drive holiday or combined with safaris accompanied by experienced guides.
Namibia. The home of giant sand dunes, and fantastic African safari
Namibia is one of the few countries in Africa that can claim that the animals are more dangerous than the people. In all of Africa it is probably true to say that the mosquito is the most dangerous animal, but in Namibia it is the hippopotamus that comes in second instead of man. Namibia has a very small population of fewer than 2 million people. It now however also has a small high quality tourist industry. The wildlife is less abundant than many other parts of Africa on the usual safari tourist trail, but the lack of bus-loads of tourists on a day trip away from the beach makes it far more pleasant and the wildlife viewing more satisfying . The varied landscape of the country, from the huge sand dunes (allegedly the biggest in the world?) to the Kalahari dessert and game viewing in Etosha National Park make it a wonderful holiday destination for lovers of the natural world.
When I went to Namibia I did a ten day self-drive holiday with my partner, starting and finishing in Windhoek. At each safari lodge I gave up my hire car in favour of being driven in a more suitable four-wheel drive vehicle with an experienced guide, although at the Etosha National Park it would have been possible to self-drive there too. I would however generally recommend taking the guide. I was hoping for a large 4x4 to drive myself through the dessert, as I had done in the outback in Australia recently, so I was bemused to be given a VW Polo to traverse the hostile landscape. It, however, had no problems are the roads were mostly quite good.
We flew BA from London Heathrow via Johannesburg to Windhoek, where a driver arranged by Audley travel (www.audleytravel.com) who put together this taylor-made itinerary for us, was waiting to take us to our hotel.
Heinitzburg Hotel, Windhoek is a great place to stay at the beginning and end of a safari trip in Namibia (or Botswana which is easily accessible by small plane from here too) This splendid old castle which has been extended and converted into a luxury hotel, with a fine wine cellar, good food and a terrace with views over Windhoek. We briefly ventured into Windhoek (I had been before a few years earlier for a trip to the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park in Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe, but that is the subject of a future review) There are the usual African tourist shopping opportunities, but I didn't sample anything more cultural there.
Namibia Map - Etosha National Park and the Capital of Namibia, Windhoek
Guide Books for Namibia
The Drive Through The Kalahari Desert
We had our car delivered to the hotel and set off into the wilderness. Our first stop was Sossusvlei, 4 to 5 hours drive away, stopping only for a packed lunch provided by the hotel and to look at a few monkeys playing. The only other wildlife en-route being a few birds of prey. On arrival we stayed at Sossusvlei Wilderness Camp, a fantastic place to stay, surrounded by huge sand dunes. Cabins on stilts, with balconies and small plunge-pools, on the edge of a cliff, look out across the wilderness to the dunes many miles away. We dropped the car at the thatched reception and were driven through the camp in a 4x4 to the lodge/bar for check-in. We partook in a medicinal gin and tonic and enjoyed the most memorable of sunsets, followed by an exploration of the stars with a large telescope, escorted by a member of staff (The sky is so clear and the light pollution negligible) A wonderful dinner was served to all the guests, with free wine (my favorite variety) The Wilderness Camp provide guides and transport to explore the dunes, setting out before sunrise and stopping for a picnic breakfast. Not much wildlife apart from the usual springbok, birds of prey etc. but the sunrise over the enormous dunes is stunning.
We drove on to Swakopmund, officially about 4 hours away, but we took 6 hours. Quite a tough drive through the dessert. We stayed at the Hansa Hotel overnight. The best hotel in a not very inspiring town. The town was completely closed apart for one bar. The hotel however was fine and its restaurant was really quite good serving local delicacies such as Kudu steak, and German style buffet breakfast. The bar was very good too, with an open fire and reproduction furniture in keeping with the surroundings (the hotel was built in 1905)
Sossusvlei, Namibia: The Biggest Sand Dunes in the World
Essential Photographic Equipment to take on Safari
If you don't already have an SLR camera and a long lens, it would be a good idea to get one, because a compact camera will not get good results. Typically a zoom lens going up to at least 300mm would be ideal.
I have written a more detailed recommendation of cameras here:
but here is some good kit for a safari:
African Gifts and Souvenirs
Etosha National Park
Next stop was Okonjima Lodge, Ongava lodge, next to Etosha National Park entrance, via Otjiwarongo and Outjo. Tarmac roads made the drive somewhat easier. Occasional Ostrich, kudu and monkeys kept us alert. On arrival at the lodge we were greeted by the friendly staff with cold towels and drinks then shown the thatched hut with balcony overlooking the water hole, then immediately ushered into a Land Rover for our first game drive. We saw a female white-rhino with a baby very near-by and the guide whispered, "This is the most aggressive animal in Africa. If it sees you it will attack... so, lets get out of the car, and who wants a Gin and Tonic?" We watched the sunset with our sun-downers. A magical experience, and possibly the best G&T I have ever had. Back to the lodge and restaurant for dinner and more wildlife watching from the bar. From the lodge, during the day it is possible to do game drives in Etosha Park next door where lions, antelope, elephants, zebra, lots of birds and the occasional squirrel may be seen. You can also get just as good a view from the bar/lodge in wonderful relaxing surroundings. This is an absolutely wonderful place to stay.
Some useful reading if you plan a safari in Africa...
Okonjima Guest Farm/Bush Camp
run by the Africat charity (www.africat.org)
On the way back home we stayed over night at Okonjima Guest Farm/Bush Camp, which is run by the Africat charity who help rescue leopards and cheetahs. The accommodation is also in the form of traditional huts, with luxurious beds and bathrooms inside, but here the half-mile walk through long grass to the lodge with a torch is even more traumatic. Leopards wander around the grounds freely, although rarely eating the guests. The same format of game drives and communal dinners with sun downers while game viewing is used here, but with a different selection of wildlife. The hides for watching the leopards made viewing and photography from close-up exceptional.
I would certainly recommend a holiday in Namibia to a keen wildlife enthusiast, while much more expensive (our trip more than Â£2,000 each for 10 days) than the cheapest safari/beach holiday in Kenya or Tanzania I would imagine it will give a far more memorable experience.