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Drive Through Namibia

One of the best things about Namibia is that, unlike many other safari destinations, is it offers the chance for travelers to do a self-drive itinerary If exploring Africa behind the wheel of a car appeals to you, then Namibia should be high on your list. Below is an example of an itinerary that could be done as a self-drive or with a private guide depending on your style! (Find a list of other great things about Namibia here).

Day 1-2: The Olive Exclusive Boutique Hotel, Windhoek    

Upon your arrival in Windhoek you will be met and transferred to the Olive Exclusive Hotel. Your rental car will be dropped off in the late afternoon.

Windhoek, Namibia's capital, is located in a basin between the Khomas Highland and the Auas and Eros mountains. With 150,000 inhabitants, it is also the biggest city in the country. It is a pretty small city, situated in a valley and combines the architecture of a modern city with its German colonial heritage, most notably in its city center. Early buildings such as the Alte Festung (old fort), Christuskirche and Tinenpalast (the parliament buildings) are of a particular historical interest. Don’t be caught off guard by Namibia’s friendly citizens, enthusiastic about entertaining their guests to ensure a great visit.  One of the most remarkable features of Windhoek is the mountains and hills that encircle the city. Standing 5,428 ft. above sea level, these peaks create breathtaking views and are a site to be seen.

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The Olive Exclusive is a cool, contemporary and stylish boutique hotel where sleek modern lines complement organic textures, natural furnishings, an eco-friendly approach and dedicated personal service. Simple elegance is key, from the organic rough-hewn wooden benches and side tables, through the sculpted chunk of granite coffee table in the guest lounge, to walls clad in abstract Namibian landscapes by well-known South African designer and photographer Micky Hoyle.

The seven suites are individually decorated to reflect a different region in Namibia, and each has its own lounge area with fireplace and dining room, for private dining. Wide glass doors open onto spacious decks where you can relax on a shady daybed and enjoy al fresco lunches. Enjoy the night in an extra-length bed dressed in crisp, pure-cotton linen, or indulge in a bubble bath in a freestanding tub with sweeping mountain views. Air-conditioning, high definition satellite TV and iPod docking stations are standard, as is a computer with WiFi access. The fully stocked mini bar is complete with a premium wine selection; toast the setting sun in fine style.

Overnights at OLIVE EXCLUSIVE.

Day 2-3:       Okonjima Bush Camp, Central Namibia           

Today you depart Windhoek for Okonjima, the home of Africat.

The central Namibian highlands are much cooler and less harsh than the arid lowlands that make up the majority of the country.  This is great cattle ranching country and most tourism facilities have their origins in cattle and more recently game ranching.

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Okonjima Bush Camp is situated halfway between Windhoek and Etosha National Park, in a wilderness area. Big cats are the main attraction here as Okonjima is the the home of the Africat Foundation.

Founded in 1991, the wildlife sanctuary is dedicated to creating conservation awareness, preserving habitat, promoting environmental educational research and supporting animal welfare. Their main focus is Africa's big cats, especially injured or captured leopard and cheetah. AfriCat runs the largest cheetah and leopard rescue and release program in the world. In the last 17 years, over 1,000 of these predators have been rescued and over 85% have been released back into the wild. Close encounters with leopard and cheetah are an unforgettable highlight of your time at AfriCat. Track leopards by vehicle, visit the cheetah welfare project, and spend some time in a night hide to see such nocturnal animals as porcupine, caracal, honey badger and even leopards.

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The Bush Camp 'Lapa' is built in the shape of the indigenous Camelthorn pod and houses the reception, well stocked-bar, curio shop, and lounge area, complete with open fireplace and large comfy chairs to relax on. Meals are served in indoor and outdoor dining areas, an ideal spot to watch the sun set with a cool sundowner, around a lovely fire. Accommodation in the camp consists of 8 luxury, thatched African-style chalets, and 1 luxury, honeymoon suite. With complete privacy in mind, the chalets have been sited between 80-100m apart. The chalets are a combination of earthy ochre walls, and khaki green canvas, under a thatched roof. The front half of the canvas paneling can be rolled up not just for an extra bush veld view, but also for natural cross-chalet ventilation.

Overnight at OKONJIMA BUSH CAMP.

Day 3-5: Onguma Tented Camp, Etosha National Park           

Today you depart for the eastern side of Etosha National Park.

Etosha National Park is Namibia's premier wildlife destination. At almost the size of Switzerland it is certainly one of Africa's largest game parks. Vegetation ranges from dense bush to open plains attracting a diversity of wildlife and the heart of the park is The Etosha Pan - a shallow depression that covers an area of 5000sq kilometres. During the drier months of June to November the water points exert a magnetic pull on the big game herds, and forms the centre piece for visitors looking to see the nearly 150 mammal species to found in the Park, including several rare and endangered species such as the black rhino, black-faced impala, tssesebe and gemsbok.

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Originally part of the greater Etosha Game Reserve, Onguma is one of Namibia’s best-kept secrets. Situated on the eastern side of Etosha, bordering Fisher’s pan, you will be afforded the opportunity of experiencing Africa in all her beauty and diversity. The Onguma reserve covers an area of 50 000 acres and incorporates ecological substrata such as savannah, bushveld, omuramba and dry pan. Age-old and well-worn migration routes, once used by elephant and buffalo, wander through Onguma’s three dry riverbeds.  The reserve boasts over thirty different animal species. Plains game roams freely on the reserve and predators, although not easy to spot, are nevertheless common residents of the area. Onguma also became part of an innovative custodianship project relating to the black rhino. Six black rhino were darted in Etosha National park and shipped to the reserve. Here they are protected and monitored. More than 300 bird species can be viewed at Onguma. The reserve boasts the biggest breeding colony of white-backed vultures in Namibia. Duringthe summer months Onguma becomes a bird-watchers paradise with thousands of species migrating to wetlands created by the seasonal rains.

In the local Herero language, Onguma means, "the place you don't want to leave." With a stunning main building and seven tents providing private, exclusive accommodation, Onguma Tented Camp, certainly lives up to its name. Inspired by a photograph of an Oryx on Etosha's Fisher's Pan, the interior echoes the colours of its natural surrounds. Grey, charcoal, black, white, and creams, together with a touch of muted or unexpectedly bright green, adds sophistication and earthiness to the atmosphere.

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An atmosphere of elegant dining prevails, complimented by the daily activities taking place around the nearby watering hole. The surrounding nature lends itself to long lazy afternoons, spent relaxing on the sofas in the lounge, watching the animals go. And when things heat up, all that is required is a gentle stroll to the rim flow pool. Sit and relax in the flowing waters while enjoying an ice cold cooler. Alternatively if more strenuous activity is required, then relaxing on your patio and reading a good book should provide you with all the exercise you may need.

Overnight at ONGUMA TENTED CAMP

Day 5-6: Ongava Lodge, Etosha National Park     

You will spend the day exploring the center of Etosha before arriving at Ongava Lodge.

Etosha National Park is Namibia's premier wildlife destination. At almost the size of Switzerland it is certainly one of Africa's largest game parks. Vegetation ranges from dense bush to open plains attracting a diversity of wildlife and the heart of the park is The Etosha Pan - a shallow depression that covers an area of 5000sq kilometres. During the drier months of June to November the water points exert a magnetic pull on the big game herds, and forms the centre piece for visitors looking to see the nearly 150 mammal species to found in the Park, including several rare and endangered species such as the black rhino, black-faced impala, tssesebe and gemsbok.

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Ongava Lodge is situated along the southern boundary of Etosha National Park in the privately owned Ongava Game Reserve. Ongava is the ideal place from which to base your activities when visiting Etosha. Accommodation comprises twelve air-conditioned brick, rock and thatch chalets, each with en-suite facilities.Meals are either served in the main dining area under thatch with a view over the camp's water hole, or on the dining deck under the stars. Activities include game drives in open 4x4 vehicles into the Okaukeujo area of Etosha where Lion, Elephant, Cheetah, Gemsbok, Springbok and Hartebeest can be seen at many of the waterholes in the park.In addition, hides and walks with armed guides are enjoyed on the private reserve. Ongava has resident White and Black Rhino, giving guests staying at Ongava the unique opportunity to see both of these charismatic species. Ongava Lodge was listed on the Condé Naste Traveller Gold Reserve List for 2005.

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Overnights at ONGAVA LODGE.

Day 6-8: Camp Kipwe, Damaraland   

Today you head into the heart of Damaraland.

Damaraland is considered one of the most interesting and beautiful areas of Namibia.  It has several endangered desert-adapted species such as the rare desert elephant.  The hunting of wildlife in this area threatens to push populations down to risky levels  Ecotourism projects  have created a viable alternative by providing benefits to the local communities from the preservation of wildlife by making the community an active partner in the management of Damaraland. So far, the management plan for Damaraland has led to increases in the numbers of desert animals. Bird life is concentrated mostly along the dry river beds, but can be quite prolific here as well.

Elephant at Camp Kipwe

In addition to the rare mammals and birds you will see on game drives through the desert, southern Damaraland boasts a wealth of anthropologic and geologic wonders. Strewn over a hillside at Twyfelfontein in the southern Kaokoveld, boulders and slabs of red sandstone hold some 2,500 prehistoric engravings that depict wildlife, animal spoor and abstract motifs. The rounded hill south-west of the Petrified Forest, known as the Burnt Mountain, seems to catch fire at both sunrise and sunset. Its’ fantastic range of colors comes from a chemical reaction that took place 132 million years ago when molten lava penetrated shale and limestone deposits. In ordinary sunlight, it is a dull black with blackened rubble lying to one side like cinders from the original fire.

Make your way to the ancient rock-strewn landscape of a previous glacial era.  The 870, 000+ acre Torra Conservancy is a vast rocky area of rugged beauty interspersed with linear oases where spectacular topography dominate. An almost unquantifiable stillness pervades the air.

This private concession supports a diverse  population of arid-adapted wildlife, including several herds of Namibia’s acclaimed ‘desert-adapted’ elephants, and healthy numbers of Hartmann’s mountain zebra, southern giraffe, gemsbok and springbok in a landscape dotted with equally interesting flora.

Exterior of Camp Kipwe

Your guide will bring this arid desert to life on drives and nature walks, illustrating the compromises made by all life forms, from the prehistoric Welwitschia to the tiniest spider, in the constant struggle to survive. Sighting of desert elephant depend on their movements as they range over huge distances. Stargazing is "par excellence", with crystal clear night skies.

Designed to creatively embrace the granite boulders, the camp embodies its Swahili meaning as it blesses the mind, body and soul of every traveler that makes the journey. Taking advantage of the nearby Aba Huab River and all-consuming expansive landscape, Kipwe offers a refreshing perspective on traditional safari life.

Here is where your uncluttered sense of self emerges redefined, as you enjoy the simplistic elegance of the camp and appreciate the attention to detail in everything you touch.

Overnights at the CAMP KIPWE.

Day 8-9: Swakopmund Guesthouse, Swakopmund  

Today you head for the coastal town of Swakopmund.

 Swakopmund, Namibia's second biggest town and traditional "summer capital," is one of the most surreal and unique destinations in the country, central Europe meets the African desert next to the ocean. Founded in 1892 as the main harbour for German South West Africa, Swakopmund is often described as being more German than Germany and the quirky mix of German and Namibian influences, colonial-era buildings make it a fascinating destination. Just outside Swakopmund, a section of towering dunes have been set aside for a variety of adventure activities - sand boarding and skiing, quad biking, camel rides and off-road driving. Swakopmund also offers a host of other attractions, including boat trips to see dolphins and seals, shore-based angling, skin diving, surfing or just simply relaxing on the beach. Moreover, the town is surrounded by the Namib-Naukluft Park, one of the most bewitching desert wilderness areas in Africa.

The Swakopmund Guesthouse has 12 en suite rooms and is situated in the town center, a mere five-minute walk from the beach and main shopping area, Swakopmund Guesthouse is owned and run by the Borg family.

Swakopmund Guesthouse

The guesthouse was previously used as a holiday house but has been completely revamped to offer four standard rooms, seven luxury rooms and one family suite. The spacious rooms, wallpapered in peaceful ocean views add to the clean and neat atmosphere of the guesthouse. The en-suite bathrooms with soft cream walls are decorated with beach pebbles that give them a unique atmosphere. The Swakopmund Guesthouse is a bed-and-breakfast facility, offering more than usual by providing guests with a scrumptious breakfast buffet, catering for the more upmarket traveler. Facilities range from laundry services to "anything else that guests might ask for." The Swakopmund Guesthouse is run with an eco-friendly approach, making use of solar energy and recycled water.

Optional activities include quad biking, sand boarding, camel rides, horse riding or a visit to the museum, aquarium or the crystal gallery.  We also suggest for your full day here choosing from either a full day Mesum Crater Tour or doing a combination of a scenic Skeleton Coast Flight and a ½ day Seal Colony Tour to get a taste of what the Skeleton Coast is all about.

Overnights at Swakopmund Guesthouse.

Day 9-11: Sossus Dune Lodge, Namib 

Today you will head for the towering dunes of Sossusvlei. Here you will be able to view and climb some of the highest dunes in the world, some of which measure more than 1000 feet tall.

The Namib is the world’s oldest desert, and although it stretches along the entire length of Namibia’s coastline, the Namib commonly refers to the vast sea of sand from Luderitz to Swakopmund.  For a big sandy desert the scenery is remarkably varied, with the giant red dunes of Sossusvlei being the most famous part.

Because of how old it is the Namib is home to numerous species that don’t occur elsewhere and although no humans live in the desert an amazing array of flora and fauna manages to survive here. Famous species include the Welwitschia – a living fossil plant, endemic chameleons, fur seals along the coast, brown hyenas, jackals and remarkably one of Africa’s largest antelope the Gemsbok.  The name Namib is of Nama origin and means "vast place" and vast it certainly is.

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Namibia Wildlife Resorts launched the first lodge in the Namib-Naukluft Park, the Sossus Dune Lodge, in June 2007. Built in an environmentally sensitive manner, primarily from wood, canvas and thatch, in an attractive 'afro-village' style, Sossus Dune Lodge offers guests an evocative and life changing experience. Situated within the park, guests benefit from being able to reach Sossusvlei before sunrise, and stay until after sunset, and on their return after an exhilarating day, relax in the tranquillity and splendor of the Namib Desert, under the spectacular African sky. Sossus Dune Lodge offers professional guided tours, fully unleashing the beauty and biological diversity of the desert environment to visitors, and offers the best beds in the desert.

Day 11-13: Wolwedans Dunes Lodge, Namib

You will depend your final two nights exploring the NamibRand Nature Reserve from Wolwedans Dunes Lodge.

The Namib is the world’s oldest desert, and although it stretches along the entire length of Namibia’s coastline, the Namib commonly refers to the vast sea of sand from Luderitz to Swakopmund.  For a big sandy desert the scenery is remarkably varied, with the giant red dunes of Sossusvlei being the most famous part.

Because of how old it is the Namib is home to numerous species that don’t occur elsewhere and although no humans live in the desert an amazing array of flora and fauna manages to survive here. Famous species include the Welwitschia – a living fossil plant, endemic chameleons, fur seals along the coast, brown hyenas, jackals and remarkably one of Africa’s largest antelope the Gemsbok.  The name Namib is of Nama origin and means "vast place" and vast it certainly is. 

Wolwedans Dunes Lodge

The Dunes Lodge is perched on top of a dune plateau, overlooking panoramic vistas in all directions and capturing the beauty of the desert in a most memorable way. Building style is a combination of wooden structures and canvas blinds, opening up to the desert beyond.  The lodge reflects the ambience of a tented camp, but provides the comfort and protection of a permanent building. Each of the nine spacious chalets with en-suite bathrooms sports a private verandah, which connects you to vast stretches of untouched sand. Sleeping with your canvas blinds open is just like sleeping under the stars.

The main complex - which has completely been rebuilt during 2003 - consists of two lounges, a number of sundowner decks, a fireplace, a tea deck, a library, the wine cellar and two dining rooms.  The lodge also has a swimming pool, which is suspended above the sand. All communal areas of the lodge open out onto decks with superb views.

Overnight at WOLWEDANS DUNES LODGE.

Day 13: Departure  

Price: The price person (sharing) for this trip starts at $4400 per person and varies by season

Includes: Accommodation as specified above, all meal as per the above itinerary, scheduled activities & local branded beverages as offered at Okonjima Bush Camp and Wolwedans Dunes Lodge  (premium brands excluded), as specified above (based on 2 pax) & welcome pack. Rental vehicle in the form of a Nissan Double Cab 4x4.

Excludes: All international and regional flights and airport tax, personal travel insurance, meals not included above, any additional sightseeing, all park fees and entrance fees, all beverages (except whilst staying at Okonjima Bush Camp and Wolwedans Dunes Lodge  ), all premium branded drinks, entry visas fees, laundry, items of a personal nature (e.g. telephone calls, curios, medicines etc.), gratuities, as well as any unscheduled additions to the safari, fuel, fines and GPS for the rental car.

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Jamie Mehrotra