With gobsmacking landscapes, the massive southern African nation of Namibia is quickly scaling to the top of many travelers’ bucket lists. But the Skeleton Coast—the country’s most common point of reference with its moon-like dunes and shipwrecks—is actually just one example of the kind of stunning surrealist scenery that Namibia has in droves. There are plenty more mind-bending must-sees and once-in-a-lifetime experiences to be had in this untamed country. Here’s where to start:
Track The Rhinos:
Namibia is home to the world’s largest population of free-roaming black rhinos, a critically endangered species threatened by poachers on a daily basis. In the red-boulder-strewn semi-desert of Kunene, desert-adapted black rhinos run free under the watchful eye of Save the Rhino Trust, an NGO that conducts daily patrols to monitor the population.
Wilderness Safaris, Africa’s leading eco-tourism operative with seven camps in Namibia, works in conjunction with Save the Rhino Trust and Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism at their conservation-focused Desert Rhino Camp. Guests of Desert Rhino Camp get a behind-the-scenes peek at this conservation effort with the rare invitation to track rhino on foot alongside expert trackers from Save the Rhino Trust. Undertaken with the utmost seriousness, guests are even instructed to turn off the GPS on their cell phones to prevent the automatic geotagging of any photos that they may capture during their trek. Seeing a free-roaming black rhino is an unforgettable experience—one that will hopefully be available for generations to come.
Besides the almost-mythological rhinos, Namibia is home to other rare wildlife—much of which is endemic to the country. In various points throughout Namibia, you can also spy dark-haired, desert-adapted lions; galloping herds of Hartmann’s mountain zebra; spotted and brown hyena; southern giraffe; desert-adapted elephant; and zippy, silvery oryx (Namibia’s national animal).
Hike (Or Bike) The Dunes:
Google Namibia and you’ll see images after image of dunes and black petrified trees. The rust-colored dunes of Sossusvlei, topping out at over 1,000 feet, make up some of the country’s most renowned landscape. Hiking the dunes is a worthwhile challenge, but for those in search of a bit more adrenaline, head up north and try quad-biking the dunes. At the newly refurbed, environmentally-sensitive Serra Cafema camp, guests are able to take a high-octane spin on the camp’s fleet of quad bikes over lunar-like sand dunes and basalt mountain peaks.
For more hikes, don’t miss the rocky hills of Damaraland. At Damaraland Camp, one of the oldest camps in Namibia, you can go on guided nature walks with experts who will show you gasp-worthy views of the Huab River Valley, while also teaching you about the region’s unique flora and fauna.
Though it’s possible to do a self-drive safari in Namibia, flying above the clouds in a small aircraft not only lets you cover more of the country but also serves as an unforgettable experience in and of itself. Some of the country’s most spectacular accommodations are the ones that are the most remote and only accessible via airstrip, and this is why Wilderness Safaris partners with Wilderness Air, a private airline fleet designed to zip in and out of Namibia’s most far-flung camps. Riding high in these Cessna aircraft with the highly skilled pilots is also a great way to spot wildlife from above.
A trip to the aforementioned Skeleton Coast is a priority for most travelers, and seeing it by air is extra special. At Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, travelers have the option of doing a whole day excursion to this memorizing area: First, guests take a 4×4 to the coast via the scenic Hoanib River and Klein Oasis, and on the way back, guests are treated to a scenic flight with a bird’s-eye view of the coast from high above.
Meet The Locals:
Namibia’s far northern Kaokovel region is home to the nomadic Himba, a tribe often distinguished by the women’s unique hairstyles and the red-ochre paint on their skin. Serra Cafema has been created in partnership with the local Himba community who have temporary settlements throughout the 300,000-hectare Marienfluss Conservancy. The camp honors their partners via massive photographic portraits displayed throughout and the camp also sports an exclusive range of toiletries made by the local Mbiri company, who work in partnership with Himba women.
Of course, none of this compares to actually meeting the local Himba people in their settlements, which Serra Cafema can arrange via one of their Himba guides who speak the OtjiHimba language. There are about 5-10 settlements nearby, and about 80% of the camp’s staff come from the Himba community.
Africa Travel Resource is the world’s leading tailor-made safari company. A six-night Namibian safari including two nights at Damaraland Camp, two nights at Desert Rhino Camp and two nights at Serra Cafema including air transfers from Windhoek start at US$5,966 per person (based on two people sharing). www.africatravelresource.com
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