A SAFARI OF THE SENSES
An Extraordinary Namibia Safari
Safari travel is always both exceptional and iconic. However, wherever you may travel throughout Africa, the experience is of a certain familiar genre. So where should you travel if you’re looking for a journey to break that mould? The answer is Namibia.
Possessed of breathtaking landscapes, unique wildlife and exceptional luxury, Namibia doesn’t simply tick many of the safari boxes, it defines many of its own.
From the dunes of Sossusvlei to the rugged Skeleton Coast and grasslands of Etosha National Park, Namibia is a country of many faces. Perhaps not on par with the Maasai Mara or Kruger region, Etosha, on the northern borders of the country, presents visitors with a classic Namibia safari opportunity. Abundant in wildlife, including elephant, lion, leopard and black rhino, the park combines semi-arid plains and vast salt pans, the animals dramatically contrasting the barren landscapes.
Game drives are highly rewarding, though at 8,500 square miles (22,000km²) there is a lot of ground to explore. Though once four times larger and extending all the way to the coastline, its current area is more manageable, both in terms of visiting and wildlife viewing, and for veterinary care and anti-poaching efforts. This has led to a strengthening of numbers in the more endangered creatures of the region, including cheetah and black rhino.
Wildlife is just one reason for taking a Namibia safari, and journeying southeast will bring visitors to the dunes of the Namib-Naukluft National Park. Though wildlife can be found here, including desert-adapted subspecies of elephant and cheetah, they are comparatively scarce, and it is the landscape that draws one’s attention. The contrast of ashen desert floor and towering red dunes juxtaposed with the expansive blue sky is bewitching, changing continually as the sun makes its passage between horizons.
The western shore, scattered with thousands of shipwrecks dating back as much as 500 years, is no less dramatic, as the Atlantic Ocean crashes upon the rocky coast, the dunes cascading down to the shoreline. Fur seals bask in the sunshine and, on rare occasion, elephant can be seen parading the beach as if contemplating a dip.
Further south, landscapes once again take centre stage. Fish River Canyon is one of the largest in the world, second only to the Grand Canyon, and offers incredible panoramic views and superb hiking on a Namibia safari. A short distance to the west lies Spitzkoppe, its barren vista frequented for the impressive natural arch located there.
- Where to Stay in Namibia
- Namibia Wildlife
- BDestinations in Namibia
Where to Stay in Namibia
Against the backdrop of these stunning locations and the animals that inhabit them, you will find luxurious properties designed to complement their setting and often match its uniqueness. It is a tall order to justify presence in such a remarkable place, but many lodges and camps accomplish this and more. Matching classical safari style with boutique modernity, you will find the romance of antique furniture under sweeping canvas coupled with contemporary furnishings and conveniences on your Namibia safari. The only disadvantage with Namibia’s properties is the frequency with which you will need to pinch yourself.
HOANIB VALLEY CAMP
Cocooned by its surrounding hillscapes, Hoanib Valley Camp is an interpretation of the safari camps of other African countries, though impeccably executed. Each of its six tented lodges is adorned with dark canvas canopies, private timber verandas spilling onto the valley floor. Hoanib Valley is one of the best destinations on a Namibia safari to observe desert-adapted elephant, giraffe, lion, rhino, mountain zebra, and oryx, and it isn’t uncommon for a small herd of elephant to traipse through the property. Here too, one can discover the elegance of the Himba people. This resilient tribe has resided in the arid region for many centuries and, like the animals they share the region with, have uniquely adapted to a life all but bereft of water. Village visits are truly fascinating, and Hoanib Valley Camp does so with the utmost respect in order to both support and protect the deeply spiritual and traditional Himba people.
Scattered across a rocky hillside with expansive views over the desert floor, Zannier Sonop is impossibly striking. Upon stilted hardwood platforms rest a collection of opulent tented suites, each exuding old-world charm and elegance. Sonop is second to none, and this is fulfilled by unparalleled staff and facilities. That this camp has been established to such a high calibre is confounding, with features including a full-sized snooker table on sturdy timber legs, a pool and cinema deck, its own stable and spa, and a dining room that evokes the gentlemen’s clubs of 1920s London… until you gaze outwards across the dramatic Namibian vista. Wildlife is relatively sparse, but cycling and horseback adventures through the hills will reveal a collection of animals, including elephant and oryx, that have taken up residence here.
By night, it is not the land but the sky that will grasp one’s attention, and as the heavens illuminate a vast field of stars create a staccato display across the infinite darkness. In fact, Namibia – and this region in particular – is known for being one of the best places in the world to avoid light pollution and enjoy stargazing.
Shipwreck Lodge reflects the skeletal remains of the vessels strewn across Namibia’s coastline, but here the comparison ends. Each villa evokes nuances of contemporary mountain chalets, the pale timber cabins offering a cosy interior with nautical accents, such as portholes and an off-kilter design that suggests a ship resting on its quarter.
Shipwreck Lodge offers more vacation and less Namibia safari and, though several species are present, time is spent in exploration of this isolated and spectacular region. Quadbiking through the dunes, excursions to the Hoarusib River canyon, luncheons on the beach with seals barking on the shore; these are the times spent on a Namibia safari at Shipwreck Lodge. Wonderfully romantic and intriguingly positioned, it is for the serenity and fascination of the landscapes that one should visit, rather than in expectation of wildlife viewing.
An exclusive property for single parties of up to seven guests, the Nest@Sossus provides ultimate privacy for its residents. With a host of activities at your disposal, you can choose to take a private game drive, sail over the desert in a hot-air balloon, take to the valleys by bicycle or on foot or visit the profoundly photogenic skeletal camel thorn trees of Deadvlei. Inspired by the intricate creations of the weaver bird, the property is not ‘the nest’ by name alone. The interior reflects traditional local building methods but is more Hobbit hole than mud hut, and the cool, cosy interior envelops you in comfort and luxury. As with so much on a Namibia safari, the Nest@Sossus is utterly distinctive – quirky and idiosyncratic, though never at the expense of almost decadent sumptuousness. The surrounding countryside provides game viewing and more than enough photographic subject matter, while the camp’s nearby waterholes draw nature in from far afield, providing a vital refuge in the desert, particularly through Namibia’s ruthless dry season. Oryx, springbok, zebra, kudu, giraffe, klipspringer, bat-eared fox, and aardwolf, as well as predators such as leopard, cheetah and spotted hyena are just some of the creatures drawn to the life-giving springs.
Little Ongava is the premier property in Etosha National Park and for those wishing for a Namibia safari’s finest nature viewing, this is the residence of choice. Delightfully intimate, it offers just three private suites, each with its own exclusive plunge pool, sala and outdoor shower, as well as a fully-appointed ensuite. Guests at Little Ongava share a dedicated guide and vehicle, ensuring the best possible nature experience at one of Africa’s great wildlife destinations. Wildlife in Etosha is extraordinary and the selection of creatures to be seen is unlike almost anywhere else. With a strong elephant population, comparatively high number of cheetah and on of the largest concentrations of black rhino in Africa living alongside the more populous giraffe, zebra and antelope species, Etosha is exceptional for game viewing. One of Little Ongava’s most memorable offerings is to walk with black rhino. Carefully monitored and strictly under expert guidance, guests are able to take to the park on foot and approach these majestic but highly threatened creatures.
Namibia isn’t renowned for its abundant wildlife, nor should it be. Its serenity and pure sense of escapism combine with its arresting landscapes to more than compensate for its comparatively low natural population. However, depending on your destination it is still possible to find a wealth of wildlife on a Namibia safari, some of it rarely seen anywhere else. Nocturnal bat-eared foxes, for example, are infrequently spotted in other countries, but chances are significantly higher (though still not guaranteed) in Namibia.
Some species, such as elephant, zebra and leopard, may look almost identical to their neighbours of greener pastures, but form subspecies that have biologically adapted to be able to survive the arid environment. Namibia is also heralded as one of the best destinations to witness black rhinos in the wild, and with only 6,000 of the endangered species remaining, this alone is a tantalising drawcard for nature lovers.
- Bat-eared Fox
- Black Rhino*
- Cape Fur Seal
- Honey Badger
Destinations in Namibia
Though there are numerous worthy locations to visit in Namibia, they can be encapsulated in three specific regions: northern, central and coastal. To the north, bordering the more verdant Angola, you will find grasslands and a higher density of wildlife. The central regions include Sossusvlei and the Namib-Naukluft National Park, famous for their otherworldly dunescapes and valleys. The coast is where the desert meets the ocean, and this breathtaking scenery, though only suitable for a shorter stay, is both imposing and impressively appealing.
Here you will find Etosha National Park and, while still semi-arid, expansive grasslands with wandering herds and prowling predators. Incomparable with other African safaris, the region provides a distinctly different game drive experience. In this dehydrated landscape, nature has few places to hide, making it all the more visible to visitors, albeit at a distance. But there is something almost inexplicable that comes with this: one gains a deeper appreciation for each and every animal, from the most common – the zebra and antelopes – to the rare, such as cheetah and rhino. Though you may have seen them before, it is unavoidable not to marvel at their resilience, and there is a deeper level of gratitude and respect for each sighting on a Namibia safari.
Though some elite properties do exist in the north, such as Little Ongava, lodges and camps are generally of a less luxurious persuasion, more providing accommodation from which to visit the national park and surrounds than a boutique residence.
Adding to this, in Kaokoland to the northwest, the Himba people are a cultural wonder. Adorned in their traditional otjize ochre body paint and with their hair in thick braids accented with ornate jewellery, the wonderfully hospitable Himba are as captivating in their ways as they are beautiful to look upon. Learn more about the Himba and their incredible culture in our recent blog.
Here, one will discover that the opposite is true; nature is more sporadic, but luxury excels. Central Namibia is simply breathtaking. In every moment and at every turn, one is captivated by the strikingly picturesque desert scenery, and even at night one will stare in wonder.
It would be incorrect to assume that game drives aren’t fruitful in Central Namibia, but they are certainly less prolific than in other regions of Namibia and Africa at large. But there is something bewitching about viewing a lone cheetah prowling the sands or a herd of elephant emerging on the horizon in a gathering cloud of dust.
Without such an abundance of wildlife, Central Namibia’s focus is turned to its properties and topography. A high degree of luxury is presented in almost every camp, both in facilities and infrastructure, and in the level of staffing. Impeccable service staff, expert guides and world-class chefs provide only the best in every moment of their guests’ time with them. Each property is also architecturally distinct and impressive, from luxury camps to more established lodges. Each is worthy of an exotic Hollywood movie, be that a thrilling adventure or poetic romance.
As mentioned, the coast is more suited to a brief stay, though equally as unmissable as other destinations throughout Namibia.
Still desertous, it offers the attractions and activities of Central Namibia, with the Skeleton Coast punctuating one’s visit with oceanic energy. The remoteness of this destination is tangible and offers an appeal all of its own. Here too, you will find premium service, with such activities as dune-top sundowners and full-service beach lunches adding a sense of exclusivity and absolute decadence.
Wildlife is more scarce again, but that they survive in this hostile corner of the world makes every sighting that much more rewarding.
A Namibia safari is not for everyone, and yet it is also for anyone. If the sole focus of your safari is to see an abundance of African wildlife, Namibia may not fulfil your expectations. But the country isn’t without game-viewing opportunities, and these are complemented by breathtaking vistas, superb luxury and an excellence of service rarely found elsewhere.
Namibia is incomparable and is equally suited to couples as it is to families, the active to the more sedate. A spectacular location for every level of photographer, it also offers some extraordinary animal encounters, all infused with unequivocal serenity. Combined with a more frenetic bush safari, Namibia can wonderfully bookend your itinerary with tranquility and indulgence as you enjoy peaceful walks across the plains and luxuriant massages bathed in the golden light and spectacular scenery of this captivating land.
Let us take you on a Namibia safari – contact your Travel Designer today.