If I close my eyes and think about my past trips to Namibia, my mind floods with memories so vivid I can smell the dry fragrance of the desert and feel gritty sand crunching under my shoes. I remember when I stood on a camel thorn, stifling a gasp less I threaten the silence of the game-packed Okaukeujo waterhole, and when we climbed a Spitzkoppe peak at dawn, my rubber shoes gripping the granite, as the sun bathed the campsite below us in a soft pink light...
Whether it’s the dramatic scenery of the Sossusvlei dunes or the haunting beaches of the Skeleton Coast, Namibia is a country of unique landscapes, something that Go2Africa Safari Expert Anza and Product Manager Liesel found out on their recent safari into this often barren but always beautiful land. I asked them what impression immediately stood out for them.
“Definitely the space", Liesel answered, even though she’d worked in Namibia's Etosha National Parkmany years before. “I don’t think you ever get over the space and the stillness of Namibia. So many of its destinations are wild and remote - only once before have I felt like I was dropped in the middle of nowhere”. That happened in one of the most remote parts of the Amazon rainforest.
Anza agrees: “I would say the landscapes and the space stand out the most. For me the Namib Desert – particularly the Wolwedans region - is unforgettable. It’s something you really can’t experience anywhere else.”
Liesel and Anza were joined by fellow Africa Safari Expert Madelein and Managing Director Joanne. Together, this awesome foursome explored Namibia from top to toe. One of the highlights was a stopover at Sossusvlei – home to the highest and biggest dunes in the world.
“We stayed at Sossusvlei Desert Lodge” says Liesel, “and while it is an hour’s drive from the main Sossusvlei dunes, it's still really well located." Her advice is to get to the dunes at dawn to climb and photograph them, then explore nearby Deadvlei. This fascinating destination is actually a petrified lake dotted with skeletal trees so ancient they form dramatic statues that seem ready to crumble at a touch.
While Liesel and Joanne took on the dunes, Anza and Madelein went quad biking from the lodge. “It was brilliant!” smiles Anza, “you didn’t even need to have experience - we just followed the path up and over an ocean of sand dunes – it’s a perfect family activity.”
Leaving one desert landscape behind them, the team headed north into one of Africa's most remote and wild places, the Kunene region in the Kaokoveld. They stayed right on the Kunene River, which carves a bright slash of living green against a landscape of burnt orange sand bound in the north by the Angolan highlands.
“This whole area is just so isolated. Such a highlight for me!”, reminisced Liesel. “We were supposed to fly directly on to a landing strip, but we struggled to even find the windsock.” This remote area delivered one of their most memorable Namibian experiences: an encounter with the Himba people.
This semi-nomadic people group still roam the northern Namibia wilderness, the women famously covering themselves with ochre clay which protects them from the desert sun and gives their skin a rich red tone. But is meeting with the Himba an authentic experience? “I found it completely genuine” says Liesel, and Anza agrees. “I found that the women were quite relaxed and not bothered by our presence, although the children were quite shy. It’s such a remote area that not many people manage to get up there. This makes the interactions honest and culturally respectful.”
And although Liesel and Anza named the Sossusvlei and Himba encounter their Namibian highlights, there were plenty more: They saw desert-adapted elephants in Damaraland (these long-legged elephants are able to survive for days without water), marvelled at the changing landscapes of the Wolwedans Private Reserve, and flew over the vast Etosha Pan.
Would they go again? A resounding 'yes' from Liesel, “Namibia is a country you can visit more than once - in fact, it’s almost impossible to do it all in one go. I recommend choosing a few destinations and experiences and doing them properly. But if you have the time and have booked a fly-in safari, you can do and see a great deal.”
Anza agrees and recommends flying into Namibia, “There are bi-weekly flights to Windhoek from Maun in Botswana and also from Victoria Falls, so you can combine a Namibian adventure with a Botswana safari quite easily.”
While Liesel dreams of visiting the Fish River Canyon and the Skeleton Coast, she’s really keen to discover the wetlands of the famous Caprivi Strip. Anza would love to join the local Bushmen on a walk north of the Waterberg – but that’s for another trip... Maybe next time I’ll join them too!
View the full photo gallery of this trip in our Google+ album.