“Conservancies are the future of Africa. There is no stronger example of the conservation model put to use in southern Africa than in Botswana and Namibia. From the intentional cap on the number of visitors through pricing in Botswana, to the constitutional amendment for sustainability in Namibia, southern Africa is facing a new frontier for remote safaris. The open ranges of northern Namibia, where the real Namibia can be found, to northern Botswana’s Selinda Spillway, where you witness the lesser-known zebra migration offer a different view to than the crowds of Chobe experience.”
Day By Day Itinerary
Day 1: Windhoek, Namibia
Welcome to Namibia. Our representative meets you on arrival at the Windhoek International Airport, and transfers you to Windhoek, which is in the center of the country and is the starting point for most Namibian adventures. Enjoy a short tour of Namibia’s capital city, nestled among rolling hills, bounded by three mountain ranges – the Eros in the east, the Auas to the south and the Khomas Hochland in the west. Due to its colonial heritage, it is a blend of new and old, Africa and Europe. Along the capital’s main street you’ll discover well-preserved German colonial buildings that contrast markedly with today’s modern architectural styles. You may spot Herero women in their traditional Victorian dresses mingling with executives attired in the latest fashions.
Later, you are escorted to your luxury boutique hotel, where you have the remainder of the day at leisure to enjoy your all-suite hotel. In the peaceful suburb of Eros in an olive tree plantation, this new, luxurious hotel provides exclusive premier and junior suites. All guests have access to a sparkling communal pool located in an olive grove. All suites have their own lounge area, dining room, satellite TV, premier wine selection, direct-dial telephone, air conditioner, safe, personal computer for internet access, complimentary wireless internet access, and goose-down duvets. The Olive Exclusive All-Suite Hotel – Junior Suite
Day 2: Windhoek / Sossusvlei – NamibRand Nature Reserve
After breakfast, you fly via scheduled light aircraft to the Sossusvlei, landing at Sossusvlei Desert Lodge’s airstrip. You are welcomed by your local lodge guide and transferred to your lodge. This afternoon you can begin exploring with a sundowner drive, a guided walk, or quad-biking in the dunes. NamibRand Nature Reserve began as a conservation initiative in 1984. It now extends over 180,000 hectares/444,790 acres of pristine Namib Desert. Before becoming a private nature reserve, the land had been used primarily for sheep farms. Today, you can admire nature in its original state, as indigenous animals and plants are flourishing once again.
The reserve shares a common border of nearly 100 km/62 mi with the Namib-Naukluft National Park to the west, and the natural boarder of the imposing Nubib Mountain Range to the east. The particular attraction of NamibRand is its diversity of desert landscapes, representing virtually all facets of the Namib Desert. Expansive sand and gravel plains and endless stretches of grass savannah alternate with majestic mountain ranges and vegetated dune belts of deep red sand. The variety of flora and fauna is as fascinating as the color nuances of the landscape, which change continuously as the day progresses. Sossusvlei Desert Lodge in the northern foothills of the reserve is designed to make the most of its breathtaking surroundings while providing a sophisticated and luxurious stay. The lodge consists of glass and stone curves, where walls and windows fold away completely to open onto the grassy plains, distant dunes, and mountain ranges. Each spacious, air-conditioned suite features a shaded deck, split-level bedroom and living room with fireplace for cool evenings, en suite glass encased bathroom and outdoor shower.
Star gazing is a highlight in this magnificent setting, with a star-viewing sky light in each room and an observatory with a powerful telescope. Guided activities explore the local reserve, including scenic 4x4 nature drives, fascinating walks and exhilarating quad-biking excursions. Sossusvlei Desert Lodge (B/L/D)
Day 3: Sossusvlei - Namib Naukluft National Park
Early this morning, you venture into the Namib Naukluft National Park, entering the park at sunrise
to experience the dunes while the light is soft and shadows accentuate their towering shapes and curves. Your guide offers insights on the formation of the Namib Desert and its myriad of fascinating creatures and plants that have adapted to survive these harsh environs.
The most frequently visited section of the massive Namib Naukluft National Park is Sosssusvlei, famous for its towering apricot-colored sand dunes which can be reached by following the Tsauchab River Valley. Sossusvlei itself is actually a clay pan set amid the star-shaped dunes which stand up to 300m/984ft above the surrounding plains, ranking them among the tallest dunes on earth.
The deathly white clay pan contrasts against the orange sands and forms the endpoint of the ephemeral Tsauchab River, within the interior of the Great Sand Sea. The river course rises south of the Naukluft Mountains in the Great Escarpment. It penetrates the sand sea for some 55km/31mi before it finally peters out at Sossusvlei, about the same distance from the Atlantic Ocean. Until the encroaching dunes blocked its course around 60,000 years ago, the Tsauchab River once reached the sea. Sand-locked pans to the west show where the river flowed before dunes shifted. About once a decade rainfall over the catchment area is sufficient to bring the river down in flood and fill the pan. On such occasions, images of dunes and camel thorn trees around the pan are mirrored in the water. Once you have explored the dune fields, enjoy a relaxing picnic breakfast in the shade of a camel thorn tree. Return to Sossusvlei Desert Lodge in the early afternoon for a late lunch, stopping off to view Sesriem Canyon along the way.
The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure, or you may like to enjoy another guided excursion on the reserve. Sossusvlei is the biggest of four pans in the vicinity. Another, Deadvlei, is famous for its gnarled and ghostly camel thorn trees; dead for want of water that still stand erect as they once grew. They survived until about 900 years ago when the sand sea finally blocked the river from occasionally flooding the pan. Sossusvlei Desert Lodge (B/L/D)
Day 4: Sossusvlei / Damaraland
After a leisurely breakfast, return to the airstrip for your scheduled light aircraft flight to Damaraland. The flight route begins with an amazing bird’s eye view of Sossusvlei and the great dune sea that stretches to the coast. You then fly north along the coastline (fog permitting) over abandoned mining camps, shipwrecks, Sandwich Harbour, salt pans and Walvis Bay Lagoon before landing at Swakopmund Airport to refuel. Then continue north and inland into the heart of Damaraland, where you will spend two nights at Damaraland Camp. On arrival, you are welcomed by your private naturalist guide, who will accompany you for the remainder of your journey.
This afternoon, you can choose to enjoy a guided walk in the local area or simply relax at camp and soak in the beauty of your surroundings. The area offers displays of color, magnificent flat-topped mountains, interesting rock formations and bizarre-looking vegetation. The present day landscape has been formed over millennia by erosion caused by wind, water and geological forces. The result is rolling hills, sand dunes, gravel plains and ancient river terraces.
Your camp is situated in this rugged beauty on the northern banks of the Huab River. This private paradise is wrapped in stunning silence, beauty and tranquility. There are just nine large canvas tents, each with en suite bathroom. The dining room, bar and curio shop are under canvas while an open fire is found nearby.
Enjoy nature walks and drives with expert and experienced guides, who give you insights into this unique desert environment, and learn about indigenous communities who have made this their home. Damaraland Camp (B/L/D)
Day 5: Damaraland
After an early breakfast, you will be treated to an exciting 4x4 excursion along the ephemeral Huab and Aba Huab River valleys to explore this remarkable region and to search for game, including the elusive desert-adapted elephants if they are in the area. In habitats with sufficient vegetation and water an adult elephant consumes as much as 300kg/661lbs of roughage and 230 liters/61 gallons of water daily. Their ranges extend from river catchments in northern Kaokoveld as far south as the northern Namib. Apart from the Kunene River, seven river courses northwards from the Ugab provide them with possible routes across the desert, right to the Skeleton Coast. The biggest rivers are the Hoarusib, the Hoanib, the Huab and the Ugab. The elephants in Kaokoland and the Namib walk further for water and food than any other elephant in the world, with the typical home range of a family herd greater than 2,000km²/770²mi, or eight times as big as ranges in central Africa where rainfall is much higher. They walk and feed at night and rest during the day. To meet their nutritional and bulk requirements they browse on no fewer than 74 of the 103 plant species that grow in their range. Not a separate species or subspecies, they are an ecotype unique to Namibia, and behaviorally adapted to hyper-arid conditions. Elephant in Mali on the southwestern fringe of the Sahara Desert are the only others known to survive in similar conditions.
Damaraland is home to a variety of other specially adapted wildlife, including black rhinos and giraffe. Enjoy a picnic lunch in the shade of a large Ana tree, or you also can return to camp for lunch, if you prefer. This afternoon, you can choose to see the ancient Twyfelfontein rock engravings (note that this will make for a very long day). Alternatively, can take a walk in the area with your guide, or simply relax and enjoy some well-deserved leisure time.
Twyfelfontein, ‘doubtful spring,’ was named by the first European farmer in the area. Strewn over a hillside amongst the flat-topped mountains of red sandstone, Twyfelfontein’s boulders and slabs of red sandstone hold some 2,500 prehistoric engravings that depict wildlife, animal spoor and abstract motifs. It is perhaps the largest and finest collection of petroglyphs in Africa. The engravings show animals such as elephant, giraffe, kudu, lion, rhinoceros, springbok, zebra and ostrich that once used to drink from a fountain at the bottom of the hill. In some cases, footprints were engraved instead of hooves or paws. The abstract motifs feature mainly circles. Stone tools and other artifacts found here suggest that hunter-gatherers occupied the site over a period of perhaps 7,000 years.
The engravings lie along two circular routes, one of which is an hour’s climb and the other is approximately 40 minutes longer. It’s one of Namibia’s key national monuments as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Organ Pipes are another geological curiosity in the area consisting of a mass of perpendicular dolerite columns that intruded the surrounding rocks about 125 million years ago, and have since been exposed in a ravine due to river erosion.
A rounded hill just a short distance away is known as Burnt Mountain. In the mid-day light, the mountain looks black. The blackened rubble lies to one side like cinders from the first fire. But come sunrise and sunset, it comes alive with color. The range of colors is due to a chemical reaction that took place roughly 125 million years ago when molten lava penetrated organic shale and limestone deposits, resulting in contact metamorphism. Damaraland Camp (B/L/D)
Day 6: Damaraland
After breakfast, you and your guide visit a local Himba settlement. The semi-nomadic Himba people can change locations without notice. They are among the last of the traditional peoples of Namibia, and have little time for or interest in conventional practices. You will learn about the customs and traditions of this very proud nation, and gain insight into their beliefs, way of life and everyday routine. The Himba, Tjimba and other Herero people, who inhabit Namibia’s remote northwestern Kunene Region, are loosely referred to as the Kaokovelders.
The largest group are the Himba, who live in scattered settlements throughout the Kunene Region. The Herero are semi-nomadic pastoralists who tend wander from one watering place to the next. For many centuries, they have lived a relatively isolated existence and were not involved to any noteworthy extent in the long struggle for pasturelands between the Nama and the Herero. They are a tall, slender and statuesque people, characterized especially by their proud yet friendly bearing. The women especially are noted for their unusual sculptural beauty, enhanced by intricate hairstyles and traditional adornments. They rub their bodies with red ochre and fat, a treatment that protects their skins against the harsh desert climate.
The homes of the Himba are simple, cone-shaped structures of saplings, bound together with palm leaves and plastered with mud and dung. The men build the structures, while the women mix the clay and do the plastering. A fire burns in the headman’s hut day and night, to keep away insects and provide light and heating. A family may move from one home to another several times a year to seek grazing for their goats and cattle. Men, women and children adorn themselves with necklaces, bracelets, anklets and belts made from iron and shell beads. With their unusual and striking designs, these items have gained a commercial value and are being produced on a small scale for the urban market. Sculptural headrests in particular are sought-after items. Later, travel to Grootberg to visit a school, and see the development work that has been done there before returning to camp in time for dinner. Damaraland Camp (B/L/D)
Day 7: Damaraland / Okonjima - AfriCat Foundation
This morning, you drive southeast to Okonjima Bush Camp at the base of the Omboroko Mountains near Waterberg. Okonjima is home to the AfriCat Foundation, a wildlife sanctuary that focuses on the research and rehabilitation of Africa's big cats, especially injured or
captured leopard and cheetah. Close encounters with leopard and cheetah are an unforgettable highlight. You will discuss with your guide your particular interests for your stay here. Activities include leopard tracking by vehicle; a visit to the cheetah welfare project; radio-tracking of the rehabilitated cheetahs, wild dogs and spotted hyenas on foot; sharing a day in the life of a Bushman during a guided walk; and spending time in the night hide where nocturnal animals such as porcupine, caracal, honey badger and leopard may be seen.
The leopards roam freely and catch their own prey within the 20,000-hectare/49,421-acre private Okonjima Nature Reserve. The Okonjima Bush Suite overlooks a waterhole and is nestled in the open Acacia thorn veld in a secluded wilderness area. It consists of two separate, private, en suite bedrooms under a magnificent thatched roof, with a fully equipped kitchen. The living space boasts a spacious lounge, a dining area under roof or outside under natural shade, and an open, wood-burning fireplace. The bedrooms have high roofs with fans, air-conditioning and, when needed, heating. Each room has two queen-size beds, of which one can be wheeled outside onto the terraces for a night under the stars! Each bedroom has a Wi-Fi or dial-up internet connection. You have a personal host/hostess, chef, guide and game drive vehicle at your service. Okonjima Bush Suite (B/L/D)
Day 8: Okonjima - AfriCat Foundation
You wake early this morning for another memorable guided activity tailored to your interests before you return for a sumptuous brunch. Your afternoon can be spent relaxing by the swimming pool overlooking the waterhole and enjoying the tranquility of the sun until you go out on another AfriCat excursion after ‘coffee and cake’ in the afternoon. Okonjima Bush Suite (B/L/D)
Day 9: Okonjima / Windhoek
You will rise early this morning for one last guided activity before you return to Bush Suite for a sumptuous breakfast. Depart for Windhoek in the late morning, via the town of Okahandja, arriving in mid-afternoon, and if time permits, you can visit the Woodcarvers Craft Market in Okahandja if you wish for some last-minute shopping before continuing on to Windhoek. Upon arrival, you are taken to your hotel. The Olive Exclusive All-Suite Hotel – Junior Suite (B/L/D)
Day 10: Windhoek / Maun, Botswana / Okavango Delta – Selinda Reserve
You have an easy morning to sleep in or take time to explore the city before transferring to the Windhoek International Airport for your international flight to Maun (flight cost additional). Upon arrival in Botswana and after clearing customs, you will meet your representative, who will assist you with the arrangements for your scheduled light aircraft transfer to Selinda Camp in northern Botswana.
The afternoon is spent on game-viewing activities arranged by the camp. The comfortable tented safari camp in the Selinda Reserve is on the banks of the eastern Selinda Spillway between Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park. The camp’s nine spacious tents are tucked away into the natural vegetation with wonderful views of the palm-studded floodplains. Each tent has an en suite bathroom and shaded deck. The main area is attractive, cool and under thatch, including dining, lounge and bar areas with spectacular views. Set apart from the main area, the photo and art gallery is next to the camp’s 500-bottle wine cellar, open-air deck, plunge pool and traditional campfire area. The joins the Okavango Delta with the Linyanti/Kwando waterways, the river systems close to the eastern boundary of Chobe National Park. The reserve follows the Selinda spillway, a dry river that connects the Okavango to the Chobe River. The Spillway flows only in years of high floods and high rainfall. The camp is small and personal, allowing only a handful of guests at one time. You experience a big game safari in the finest African tradition in an area known for elephant, buffalo, red lechwe, giraffe, zebra, impala, kudu, cheetah, wild dog, lion and leopard. There is also some 300 species of birds that inhabit the surrounding marshes and dry country. Selinda Camp (B/L/D)
Day 11: Linyanti Nature Reserve / Savute Channel
Today you will talk with your guide about your interests, and then join in one of the camp’s activities. This includes game drives, night drives, nature walks in the local area and boat/mokoro trips on the river. You also have the option to visit the platforms and hides to watch and photograph animals and birds. Selinda Camp (B/L/D)
Day 12: Linyanti Nature Reserve / Okavango Delta
After one last activity and brunch, your local guide will transfer you to the airstrip for your flight over the Okavango Delta to Little Vumbura. Upon landing at the airstrip, you are met by a local guide and transferred to the camp in time for a light lunch.
After settling in and a siesta, you will depart on a game-viewing activity of your choice. Little Vumbura is situated in a private concession in the northern part of the Okavango Delta. Here you have the option for varied activities on both land and water. You have the option to spend the rest of the day game viewing, on nature walks, or boating. Surrounded as it is by water and lying close to large rivers, the camp’s focus is on water-based activities with mokoros traversing floodplains under the guidance of experienced polers, and motor boats travel up and down the permanent channels. Game drives in open Land Rovers allow guests to get close to animals in the savannah areas.
If you like, you can request a walking safari around the islands to enjoy Africa from a different perspective. Game viewing is consistently good year round here with lion, leopard, elephant, sable and buffalo along with extensive plains game.
Your camp is a beautiful camp with six tents
shaded by the canopy of an ancient Okavango Delta forest. Each tent is large and roomy and has en suite facilities. A plunge pool and reading area overlook the floodplains and a star deck leads off the dining area. The camp is also part of a community participation initiative. Little Vumbura is situated in a Wildlife Management Area. Five villages have combined to form a trust which manages the affairs of the community and ensures that the rewards of ecotourism are fairly distributed around the Okavango Delta to provide income, education, medical assistance and employment opportunities. Little Vumbura Camp (B/L/D)
Day 13: Okavango Delta
Today you continue to explore this amazing environment. The Okavango River flows inland into the Kalahari Desert, creating a labyrinth of lagoons, lakes and hidden channels covering an area of roughly 15,000 km²/5,792 mi². It is the largest inland delta in the world.
Photo: Little Vumbura Camp/Wilderness Safaris
Trapped in the parched Kalahari sands the Okavango
Delta is a magnet for the wildlife that depend on its permanent waters. The delta is continuously moving, mysterious, placid, gentle and beautiful, from a wide and winding river channel, it spreads through tiny, almost unnoticeable channels that creep away behind a wall of papyrus and phragmites reeds, into an ever-expanding network of increasingly smaller passages. These link a succession of lagoons, islands and islets of various sizes, open grasslands and flooded plains in a mosaic of land and water. Palms and towering trees abound, throwing their shade over crystal pools, forest glades and grassy knolls. The Okavango's water is remarkably clean and pure.
This is almost certainly because it passes through very sparsely populated areas on its journey from Angola. Despite this, a staggering 660,000 tons of sediment a year are delivered to its great alluvial fan. The overall length of the delta from the Botswana border to the Thamalakane River is a little less than 300 km/186 mi, and so the core of the delta is approximately 200 km/124 mi from end to end. Little Vumbura Camp (B/L/D)
Day 14: Okavango Delta / Maun / Johannesburg / Depart
Today you will be transferred back to the airstrip for your scheduled light aircraft flight with
Wilderness Air Botswana to Maun Airport for your ongoing flight. (B)
Included In The Tour Cost:
- Hotel accommodations as indicated in the itinerary, inclusive of taxes and service charges
- Meals as indicated in the itinerary (B-breakfast, L-lunch, D-dinner)
- All airport transfers as indicated in the itinerary
- All ground transportation as indicated in the itinerary
- Expert English-speaking guide services during included transfers and sightseeing
- All sightseeing as indicated, inclusive of entrance fees
- Baggage handling and tip to porter, for 1 piece of luggage per person, at airports
- Comprehensive assortment of pre-tour materials and amenities
- Big Five’s 24-hour White Glove Service® guest assistance
- Complimentary one year membership to One More Generation, including adoption of an endangered species
Not Included In The Tour Cost:
Any airfare; Any passport or visa fees; Supplemental Travel Insurance (which is strongly recommended); Excess baggage fees; Items of personal nature such as gratuities, telephone / fax / internet charges, laundry, beverages, meals and services not specified in the itinerary.
Prices are for land only, double occupancy.
The Big Five Edge
At Big Five, you are working with one of the most experienced groups in the travel industry. Our Destination Specialists receive 900+ hours of in-destination and in-office training annually; and have a combined average 20 years’ experience in travel.
Big Five is in the top one percent of luxury tour operators to place on Travel+Leisure magazine’s A-List. Our Destination Specialists have appeared on this distinguished list of top travel professionals from 2009 to 2015. This list validates the value of experience. This recognition is achieved by going through unbiased questioning and itinerary planning, and it is not based on voting by magazine subscribers.
White Glove Service® Guest Assistance
Big Five provides a personal experience that begins with a live person answering each call promptly during business hours. Our 24-hour White Glove Service® guest assistance desk is manned by a team of specialists available 365 days from anywhere in the world. WGS® is your:
- Personal concierge service for anything from dinner reservations to hard-to-get special event tickets
- Assistant to relay messages to family and friends, to help arrange private air charters and other
- Emergency specialist who is there to tackle any emergency situation from lost luggage to stolen passports to emergency medical assistance
- Information kiosk for all the latest news, weather, airline delays; whatever information you need to make your journey run more smoothly
- Organizer who can coordinate special events such as a birthday or anniversary dinner, flowers or gifts
- Our Destination Specialists combine creativity with their impressive knowledge to customize clients’ journeys to meet each guest’s interests, whether that is honeymoon couples, families or special interest groups.
- Big Five guests benefit from our partnerships with properties and suppliers who have strong sustainable ethics built into their operations, which assures each guest will experience the best a destination has to offer. As part of our commitment, we employ local professional guides and drivers in each destination; and we support local initiatives dedicated to cultural preservation and habitat conservation.