Wedged between the mighty Kalahari and the South Atlantic Ocean, the Namib Desert stretches more than 1,200 miles from its northern tip of the Carunjamba River, Angola, to the Olifants River in Western Cape. Aptly, its name originates from the Khoekhoegowab word for ‘vast place’.
Having endured arid or semi-arid conditions for up to 80 million years it is thought to be the oldest desert on Earth, and it contains some of the world’s driest regions, challenged only by the aridity of the Atacama Desert, Chile.
But by no means is the Namib Desert a dead-zone; stretching along a vast coastline of tumbling surf, swirling dunes and glimmering pans, it is a land of rich natural resources including diamonds, copper and uranium. Several indigenous groups call this land home, and it is thought that the Namib may be home to more endemic species than any other of the world’s deserts.
One of the least densely populated countries on earth – second only to Mongolia – Namibia’s expansive landscapes are increasingly being set aside for conservation in game parks and nature reserves. Beautiful, sweeping terrains that provide the perfect settlements for some of southern Africa’s most stunning new lodges and camps.
Flying into Windhoek, meet with your Namibian guide, along with an entourage of dune buggies and 4x4s, to plot out the route ahead and begin your exploration through Namibia.
Drive south to Sossusvlei within the Namib-Naukluft National Park. Sossusvlei – a large, white, salt and clay plain fed by the Tsauchab River – is known for its sea of immense, red sand dunes, some of which are the tallest in the world.
Stay here in one of the boutiquey, thatched ‘kulalas’ in the oasis of Little Kulala or the newly opened The Nest at Sossus, extraordinarily designed to resemble the nests of Namibia’s endemic social weaver birds.
Or venture further south to experience the overwhelming night skies of NamibRand Nature Reserve – Africa’s only Dark-Sky reserve and one of just two on the planet to receive gold-tier status. Here, stay in the luxurious tranquillity of &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge and spend the evening mapping out the lesser seen corners of the night sky with the guidance of a world-class astronomer.
As the sun’s first rays light up Sossusvlei Corridor’s low rolling sand dunes and gravel plains, glide silently over the desert on an unforgettable balloon safari and, landing for breakfast in a spectacular private location, experience the breath-taking feeling of absolute solitude.
In the evening, take a private game drive deep between the spectacular towering dunes, to track the region’s unique, desert-adapted wildlife. The area consists of several distinct ecosystems which support an array of fascinating wildlife, including gemsbok, springbok, Hartman’s and Burchell’s zebra, giraffe, hartebeest, baboon and the fascinating spiral-horned antelope. As well as elusive leopards, hyena, jackals, foxes, African wildcats, the cartoon-like aardwolf, plus over 150 species of bird!
Head northwest up the coast to assist with ongoing conservation work, tracking one of the last free-roaming rhino populations, and discover why this stretch of roaring dunes, windswept plains, shipwreck sites, mammal skeletons and wild desolation is commonly referred to as the ‘end of the world’. As the mighty dunes drop into the tumbling Atlantic surf, a thick fog forms – a fog that, while providing a vital source of moisture for life’s survival in the desert, has proved fatal to thousands of ships over the years, leaving their wrecks littered along the coastline.
One of Africa’s most remote destinations, the Skeleton Coast is a hauntingly beautiful land where contrasting worlds collide; seal colonies and seabirds are predated upon by huge lions, and desert elephants are often seen wading through the shoreline, where 11 species of shark patrol beneath the waves.
Quad bike across rollercoaster sand dunes, making your way to Shipwreck Lodge and spend the night in the unique wooden cabins which blend perfectly into their eerie setting, sitting high upon the dunes like ancient-marooned boats. Here, enjoy a cosy evening in the lodge with a delicious dinner of regional delicacies and storytelling by the fire.
Awake to spectacular views over the Atlantic and breakfast in the fresh sea breeze, then transfer seamlessly by Cessna Caravan to the very north of Namibia and the home of the Himba people. Spend time amongst the semi-nomadic Himba and learn about their fascinating traditional lifestyle and beautiful, unique appearance.
Settle into the lush oasis of Serra Cafema lodge of the banks of the winding Kunene River. Nestled within hostile rocky moonscape of the Hartmann Valley, Serra Cafema is southern Africa’s most remote lodge, yet no luxuries are spared in this rustic-chic riverside camp.
Spend the day venturing out by boat to search for crocodiles and water birds, then savour an unforgettable finalé dinner as the sunset hues glow across the tranquil flowing waters, and the stars above burst into light in Namibia’s vast night sky.
Throughout your personal exploration of the Namib Desert’s incredible landscapes, leave a trail of positive impact by contributing to one of the many social, technological and conservation initiatives in development within the region.
Namibia makes the perfect addition to an extended adventure through the great continent of Africa; from the vast plains and towering forests of Zimbabwe, the wonderland waterways of Botswana, Kenya’s ancient Rift Valley and the bountiful wildlife of Tanzania.
From family safaris, enjoyed by all ages, engaging and educational cultural explorations, epic, multi-country quests to entertain friends, to hands-on, conservation-based sabbaticals, Africa is a place like no other that delivers diversity and awe on every level…
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