Welcome to Namibia–a place with the largest sand dunes, the highest population of wild cheetahs, and the largest seal colony on the planet. Here, the sand is so aggressive it swallows entire towns. This is the only place in the world where the Hartmann zebra occurs naturally. Namibia is one of the most peaceful, beautiful countries on the continent.
BUSHCATS OVER NAMIBIA
The good people at SkyReach Aircraft of South Africa manufacture the ultimate bush aircraft, a lightweight, low and slow winged vehicle, designed for minimum maintenance and largely modular, so any part can be replaced with ease. We flew 4000 kilometers the width and breadth of Namibia, in almost every condition, from heat to fog, desert to mountain, from canyon to sea, experiencing the best Africa can offer from the seats of soaring sports cars called BushCats.
To learn more about BushCats, including specifications and costs, click here.
BEST SAFARI GUIDE IN THE WORLD
In the Namibian bush, our way was illumined by professional wildlife guide Justin Seymour-Smith. With more than 30 years of experience and a passion for wildlife knowledge, he is a kind of artist with a torch who kindles curiosity, conservation and understanding. A native to Africa and an avid outdoorman, Justin says for him guiding is the greatest act of optimism.
Justin Seymour-Smith has been a professional safari guide for more than 30 years and holds a degree in Natural Sciences. He has spent the majority of his life involved in wildlife and conservation initiatives, traveling and guiding in many parts of southern and eastern Africa. A photography enthusiast, keen birder, and observant expert, he is both meticulous and engaging when leading safaris.
Phone: +263 773 263 672
WHERE TO STAY
The Protea Hotel
In Kimberley, on the edge of The Big Hole, former mega-diamond mine, and largest man-made ditch in the world.
The Fish River Lodge
At the edge of the Grand Canyon of Africa.
The Nest Hotel
In the Bavarian style town of Lüderitz.
Solitaire Guest Farm Desert Ranch
A cosy, private guest farm that is the perfect place to relax for a few days or stop over en-route to Sossusvlei, Sesriem Canyon, the Namib Naukluft Park or Walvis Bay and Swakopmund.
The Cape Cross Lodge
Next to the largest seal colony in the world
Where the Desert Elephant dwell.
Purros Community Campsite
Specialty lodging in Kaokoland. Remote campgrounds amongst stunning mountain scenery and vibrant wildlife.
Epupa Falls Lodge
On the banks of the Kunene River, and in the heart of Himba country.
Located 17km from the south entrance of Etosha National Park. Famous for its flood-lit waterhole, with bush chalets perfect for front row viewing of wildlife at drinking time.
High on a hill overlooking the capital Windhoek
WHAT TO DO
Visit Augrabies Falls.
On the Orange River, in the Kalahari Desert. It means the “place of big noises,” and lives up to that name.
Discover Fish River Canyon.
Out of nowhere there is suddenly a gash in the skin of the continent. “The Grand Canyon of Africa” is 160 kilometers long and 27 kilometers wide. In the mists of geological time, a sea bed was lifted kilometers above the level of the ocean and weathered into ranges of table mountains. Then some 500 million years ago, a fault opened up. Widened by glaciation and altered by more faults and wind erosion, canyons within canyons were formed until 50 million years ago a river began to flow.
Wander through a ghost town.
Kolmanskop, is Namibia’s famous ghost town currently being swallowed by desert sands. Established in 1908 when diamonds spilled like rain, it became a lavish outpost, with a bowling alley, bakery, ballroom, theatre, casino, ice factory and the first x-ray-station in the southern hemisphere (for detecting swallowed gemstones). Then the diamonds ran dry, and it was abandoned in 1954, left to the swirling sands.
Sip locally at The Neuras Winery.
The landscape here is called gramadoelas, a thirsty, savage, fissured terrain. It looks like Sergio Leone’s Italy….the perfect set for a spaghetti western. Nonetheless, it hosts a wine oasis, producing about 3,000 bottles a year. We check in, and sit down to sample the Neuras Shiraz and the Namib Red, a Shiraz Merlot blend, along with plates of cheese and biltong, which though tasty sits like rubber in my belly. But the wines, though they look like Robitussin, are, improbably, quite good.
Feed your sweet spot at Moose McGregor’s Desert Bakery.
In the much-loved pit stop known as Solitaire, this place features the best apple strudel in Africa. A cervine sign says, “Many people have eaten here and survived.” They serve up about 400 of the apple pastries a day.
Marvel at The Sossusvlei Dunes.
The dunes are so lusciously honeyed I’m tempted to lick them. At Dune 45 a sizable throng of people are plodding up the sharp ridge of the dune. We watch as the top of the dunes are eaten away by the wind, and then push on. At the end of a dirt road distinguished by the quality of its ruts, we stop at Deadvlei, “dead marsh.” This is a pan once fed by a nearby river, but at some point the dunes shifted and cut off the flow, and the camel-thorn trees died. Their ghostly, scorched remains are still standing hundreds of years later, like the setting for a post-apocalyptic fashion shoot. The dunes above us smoke; the wind makes a scratchy drumming sound, caused by the piezoelectric properties of crystalline quartz, the same way a needle on a phonograph translates vibrations into sound.
Rummage through The Skeleton Coast.
The world’s largest shipping graveyard, littered with whale and seal skeletons, and the remains of ships that corrode along the shore. Early Portuguese sailors called it As Areias do Inferno (The Sands of Hell), as once a ship washed ashore, the fate of the crew was sealed. The tides now seem to be pulling us along this high road to the coast. We pass over the Eduard Bohlen, a 310’-long cargo ship that wrecked here in 1909 in a fog. It’s rusted, partially buried hull now lies several hundred meters inland, as the Kalahari sand is creeping westward, towards Brazil, perhaps someday reconnecting the continents, Gondwanaland II.
Go to Cape Cross Seal Colony.
The largest seal colony in the world. Tens of thousands of the saucer-eyed pinnipeds honk like a mix of monkeys and sheep. And don’t ask about the eau de toilette.
A flat gravel plain sprouting with koppies, inselbergs, buttes, mesas, cathedrals, temples, and a Fata Morgana of unlimited freedom. We steer our winged sports cars through a bald granite gate at Spitzkoppe, “the Matterhorn of Namibia,” and then by a blue crest of rock that rises above the surface like the dorsal fin of giant fish…Brandberg Mountain (Burning Peak), highest in Namibia at 2,606 meters.
Spend a day with the Desert Elephants.
Adapted pachyderms with smaller body mass and larger feet than savannah elephants. Their physical attributes allow them to cross kilometers of soft sand to reach water. They survive by eating moisture-laden vegetation growing in transient riverbeds, and can go several days without water. In the 1980s they were poached to extinction, or so it was reported. But then they started to show again, in increasing numbers, so that now there are an estimated 600-3000. But nobody knows for sure.
Be Swept Away by Epupa Falls.
On the Kunene River, spilling between Angola and Namibia, rimmed by Makalani palms and Baobabs. A boiling cauldron of water, it’s wet and slippery, with no fences or barriers, just a rainbow for support.
Learn the culture of The Himba.
One of the last semi-nomadic tribes. The men have shaped hairdos, caked with mud, butter and ash giving the appearance of red helmets. Some of the women wear a small nautilus-type shell on a leather cord around the neck, and conically tapering metal-studded bracelets extending from wrist to elbow, and lots of ankle jewelry of beads on leather thongs. The hair is done in corn-row braids coated thickly with ochre powder and animal grease. Their front teeth are filed. Their skin is russet-colored, and glows. They are bare-breasted, with leather aprons.
Visit Etosha National Park.
One of the best wildlife viewing parks in the world, Etosha is an enormous park enclosed with a fence that extends from the conservation policies of the past to an uncertain future. No one knows just exactly how much wildlife is in Etosha, but its more than enough to keep the eyes busy.
Namib Carnivore Conservation Centre
A partnership between the N/a’an ku se Foundation and Solitaire Guest Farm. The NCCC is home to a 500ha ‘soft-release’ enclosure to help acclimatize cheetah to their new environment prior to release back to the wild. The enclosure is also home to six ambassador cheetahs that tourists can view on a cheetah tracking safari.
Save The Elephants
Hopes to secure a future for elephants and to sustain the beauty and ecological integrity of the places they live; to promote man’s delight in their intelligence and the diversity of their world, and to develop a tolerant relationship between the two species.
Elephants without Borders
Since elephants don’t use passports, the notion of elephants and conservation without borders is crucial for preserving biodiversity and a healthy landscape. Using African elephants as an inspiration, EWB strives to identify wildlife migratory corridors, secure wild habitats and elevate conservation of all wildlife. The largest mammal that walks the earth is now leading the way to help save vast areas of wild lands and the biodiversity they support.
HOW TO GET THERE
Etihad Airways has the most luxurious passage to Africa from the United States. Not only is it the fastest growing airline in the history of commercial aviation, it is also about to make all other First Class offerings feel quotidian and wanting.
For more on my experience flying Etihad, click here.