Cederberg Mountains - Day 1
The Cederberg mountains and nature reserve are located near Clanwilliam and named after the endangered Clanwilliam Cedars (Widdringtonia cedarbergensis) which are endemic to the area, growing at an altitude of 1 000 m to 1 500 m. Some species are believed to live up to 1000 years but human activity has led to the destruction of most of the original forests. The mountains extend about 50 km north-south by 20 km east-west, the highest peak in the range is Sneeuberg (2,028 m). The area is defined by dramatic sandstone rock formations, often reddish in colour. Cederberg Wilderness Area was recently proclaimed one of eight World Heritage Sites within the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa. The area is also known for the San rock art and the discovery of important fossils, particularly in recent years. The fossils are of primitive fish and date back 450 million years to the Ordovician Period.
The Gariep (Orange) River - Day 2
The Orange River was originally called the Nu Gariep (“great river”) by the indigenous Nama people. It was named the Orange River by Colonel Robert Gordon, commander of the Dutch East India Company garrison at Cape Town, on a trip to the interior. Gordon named the river in honour of William of Orange, although a popular belief is that it was named for its colour. Nowadays known byits original name Gariep River, it is the longest river in South Africa, covering 1 800 km. It rises in the Drakensberg mountains in Lesotho, where it is known as Senqu, flowing westwards through South Africa to the Atlantic Ocean at Alexander Bay. On its long journey, the Orange offers a variety of vistas: in places it is seamed by rugged mountain chains and in other parts, by endless dune fields. The river forms part of the international border between South Africa and Namibia and between South Africa and Lesotho as well as several provincial borders within South Africa. Although the river does not pass through any major cities, it plays an important role in the South African economy by providing water for irrigation and hydroelectric power. The Orange River is also responsible for the diamond deposits along the Namibian coast. Over millions of years it transported diamonds from the volcanic pipes in Kimberley in South Africa to the sea. From there, the currents took them northward and the surf deposited them into the dune fields of the Namib.
The Orange River is also famous for its white water rapids. Our tours don’t include full white water rafting adventures however you will have opportunity to enjoy a gentle paddle down the river in canoes that are provided by the camp site.
Fish River Canyon - Day 3
The Fish River Canyon in the South of Namibia is the second largest in the world and the largest in Africa, in places it is 27kms wide and up to 550m deep while in total it is over 160km long. It is a natural wonder that should not be missed when visiting Southern Africa. Another major attraction of the area found at the Southern end of the Fish River Canyon is Ai-Ais hot springs resort. Ai-Ais meaning 'burning water’ in the local Nama language, refers to the sulphurous thermal hot water springs found at the base of the mountains at the southern end of the Fish River Canyon. The Ai-Ais (pronounced “eye-ice”) springs originate deep under the riverbed and form an oasis in the extremely arid area. During the Nama uprising of 1903–07, when the local Herero and Nama people rebelled against German colonial rule, the hot springs were used by German military forces as a base camp. In 1915, the area was again used as a base by South African troops who were recovering from wounds during the South-West Africa Campaign. In the 1960s the spring was proclaimed a national monument and became a conservation area and on 16 March 1971, the camp was officially opened. The thermal water, rich in sulphur, chloride and fluoride, has an average temperature of about 60 degrees C and is said to be therapeutic.
Namib-Naukluft National Park - Day 4
The Namib-Naukluft National Park is bigger than Switzerland at 49,768 square km, making it the largest game park in Africa. Being in Namibia this national park is predominantly made up of fiery desert and burnt orange dunes and hills formed by the push and pull of the wind.Unlike most wild African parks that are filled with typical wild and untamed animals, the Namib-Naukluft National Park is filled with animals of a different kind. Snakes, never before seen “weird” insects as well as over 200 species of birds inhabit the area.
The area of Sossusvlei is more notorious and is the main tourist attraction to the area. Namib-Naukluft National Park tours will not only provide visitors with a wonderful and quintessential desert experience that the Namib is so famous for but will allow them to walk in the footsteps of hyenas, gemsbok and jackals.
The Namib is characterized by its Inselbergs and rocky outcrops called Kopjes. These enclaves and outcrops have been completely created by nature and are the tell-tale signs of heavy wind and its ability to form natural art. They’re also evidence of Gondwanaland and the time when the two most southern tips of the world separated to form Africa, South America and Australia.
Namib means “open space” and tours to Namib-Naukluft National Park will show you all that this diverse space has to offer.
Sossusvlei - Day 5
Sossusvlei is one of the world’s most remote and beautiful places, synonymous with sweeping sand dunes and astonishing sunsets. The salt and clay pan is enclosed by towering, vivid red dunes, which some say are the highest in the world, presenting a breath-taking picture, as their crimson colour clashes with the cobalt sky.
The area is located within the Namib-Nauklift National Park of Namibia, in the heart of the exquisitely isolated desert. Having endured arid or semi-arid conditions for at least 55 million years, it is considered to be the second oldest desert in the world, after the Atacama Desert in Chile. It has less than 10 mm of rain annually and is almost completely barren, Despite the harsh conditions, a variety of plant and animal life can be found in the desert. There are some unusual species of plants and animals that are found only in this desert.
Sossus is Nama for ‘no return’, while vlei is the Afrikaans word for marsh, so effectively the area is known as ‘no return marsh,’ in reference to the fact that it is the Tsauchab River’s natural endorheic drainage basin. The region spans between the Koichab and Kuiseb rivers and is a dream destination for photographers. The dunes have a brilliant red palette and are best viewed at sunrise and sunset, when the sun’s crepuscular rays cast them in an incandescent flaming hue, while the wind demonstrates its artistry, painting complex ripples in the sand. The highest of all the dunes is ‘Big Daddy’ which dominates the landscape, measuring a remarkable 380 metres in height. Although the region is predominantly associated with drought, periodically the rains will fall and the vlei fills with water, attracting many animals and people to its banks. This sight is extremely rare and not one to be missed, as the area teems with life, adorning the undulating dunes. Visit the majestic Sesriem Canyon which starts as a deep cleft in the ground, eventually expanding into a flattened plain. Witness the Naravlei, from the top of ‘Big Mama’ – an obliging dune which is well worth the climb and explore the haunting desolation of Dead Vlei, which is named for its numerous dead camelthorn trees, some of which are over 800 years old.
Swakopmund - Day 6
Swakopmund is a coastal city on the North Western coast of Namibia, it is known as the adventure capital of Namibia and this is evident in the long list of optional activities that are available on our stop overs on our Swakopmund tours.
The town has a permanent inhabitation of 42 000 residents so is by no means massive. It does however have a rich and fascinating history and the influence from the days of German colonization. The architecture is stunning and there are many quaint shops and nooks, you can lose yourself for an entire day in the city centre should you choose not to take part in the optional extras and would rather spend a day exploring.
Our Swakopmund tours offer as optional extras, sky-diving, quad biking and sand boarding to name but a few. If however you feel in the mood for something more gentle we also have a nature walk with a highly qualified local guide who will guide you through the diverse and rich local flora and fauna.
Swakopmund has a rich and fascinating history which is evident in the infrastructure of the town and the culture of the people, Swakopmund travel allows you the opportunity to learn about a part of African colonization that is often left unlearned. The German occupation of Southern Africa has a massive impact on the language and culture to a degree that is still evident today. Founded in 1892 as the main harbour for the imperial German Colony, it was chosen for its fresh water supply and deep natural harbour.
When the Union of South Africa took over control of German South West Africa after World War 2 it transferred shipping responsibility to Walvis Bay, as such many of the major shipping companies that opened up offices moved out. The phenomenal architecture they left behind though is still visible.
Spitzkoppe - Day 8
Spitzkoppe tours take you to a collection of granite peaks located between Swakopmund and Usakos. The peaks stand out dramatically on the flat desolate landscape. The granite that forms the peaks is over 700 million years old and the highest of them rises 1784 meters above sea level which works out to 700 meters above the desert. One of the major attractions of the region are the rock paintings done by the Khoi San tribes that inhabited the area. The Spitzkoppe tours that we run take advantage of not only the natural wonder of the area but the historic significance of these paintings. Our Spitzkoppe travel package involves setting up an over-night camp at the base of one of the granite peaks and a guided tour of the natural wonders of the area. The peak is knownby rock climbers all over the world as one of the most challenging in Southern Africa. Although our Spitzkoppe tours do not offer the chance to climb the peak, there is a guided nature walk of the area and you will have free time to explore the region around the camp and if you are feeling adventurous you can try climbing it for some stunning views.
The Himba People - Day 9
The Himba are descendents of the Herero people and still speak a dialect of the old Herero language. There are about 20,000 – 50,000 Himba people living in the Kunene region, where they have recently built two villages at Kamanjab. The Himba are semi-nomadic pastoralists who breed cattle and goats in this dry, rugged, and mountainous area. They are some of the most photographed people in the world, due to their striking style of dress and their traditional lifestyle. Their appearance is characterised by scanty goat-skin clothing, and they are heavily adorned with jewellery of shells, copper and iron, according to the tribal hierarchy. The distinctive red colour of their skin and hair is a mixture of butter, ash and ochre (otjize) which protects them from the harsh desert climate.
Typically the women take care of the children, do the milking and other work, whilst men take care of the political tasks. The villages are made up of family homesteads – huts built around a central fire and livestock enclosure. Both the livestock and fire are pivotal to the Himba belief in ancestor worship, the fire representing ancestral protection of the living community.
Situated about 20 km outside of town, a guided tour around the village will not only give you an in-depth insight into the life and ways of the last traditional tribe in Namibia, the Ova-Himba, but an amazing photographic opportunity as well. You will find out about the milking ceremony, the smoke bath, be informed on the beliefs around the holy fire, ancestors and herbal medicine. You will also learn about the jewellery and hairstyles to imitate the status of each tribe member and their close relationship with nature, their cattle and children.
Note: The semi-nomadic Himba people are extremely susceptible to Western influence and have lost a large portion of their land to farmers, engineers, miners and many were displaced during the wars that raged in Angola. The dwindling number of pastoralists that still exist in their natural environment are protected as far as possible by creating a “buffer zone”, or an “educational tribe” where tourists who would like to get a better understanding of the way of the Himba, their lifestyle and their traditions, can do so without interfering with those still living in their natural environment. Visiting the Himba tribe can be a controversial topic that gets discussed at the camp fire, however not so much if the reason for visiting this particular tribe is understood beforehand.
The income that this specific tribe generates from the visits goes towards the education of orphaned Himba children and assists the tribe in giving them a chance to learn about their own culture and heritage.
There is a market at the end of your visit, this is a way for the women to establish a small income, used for their own private expenses, and it is up to you whether you’d like to purchase anything or not.
Etosha National Park - Day 10
Etosha Pan National Park is a large endorheic salt pan which forms part of the Kalahari basin. It is a 120 km long dry lake bed, which is protected by the Etosha National Park home to some of the most phenomenal game viewing in the world. One of the elements that make the Etosha National park tours so memorable is that the camps sites within the park are built on the edge of water holes, so you can spend peaceful evenings with good company as the sun goes down watching the animals come down to the waterhole to drink.
On our Etosha National Park tour we will take you on several game drives that utilise an elevated truck to provide the best possible game viewing. There are optional night drives for you to take part in, and although they are not included in the Etosha National Park tours they are highly recommended. The optional game drives are taken with expert guides who have an abundance of local knowledge and will try to help you see as many as possible of the 114 mammal species, 340 bird species, 110 reptile species, 16 amphibian species and, surprisingly, one species of fish.
However, game viewing can never be offered with guarantees, as you are dealing with wild animals you can never be certain of exactly where they will be or how they will behave.
Windhoek - Day 12
The Nama people originally gave Windhoek the name Ai-Gams, meaning “hot water” due to the hot springs that were once part of the town. The Herero people who lived there called it Otjomuise, “place of steam”. Theories vary on how Ai-Gams/Otjomuise got its modern name of Windhoek, most believe the name Windhoek is derived from the Afrikaans word Wind-Hoek, meaning "corner of wind". It is also thought that the Afrikaners named Windhoek after the Winterhoek Mountains, at Tulbagh in South Africa, where the early Afrikaner settlers had lived. In those days Windhoek was the point of contact between the warring Namas, led by Jan Jonker Afrikaner, and the Herero people.
Present-day Windhoek was founded on 18 October 1890, when German settler Von François fixed the foundation stone of the Alte Feste fort. During the next fourteen years Windhoek developed slowly, with only the most essential government and private buildings being erected. After 1907, the town grew quickly as people migrated from the countryside to the city and a large influx of European settlers began arriving from Germany and South Africa. Many beautiful buildings and monuments were erected, including Heinitzburg, one of three castles in Windhoek, the fairy-tale Christuskirche and The Rider statue.
Windhoek is now one of the country’s busiest cities – known for its alluring diversity and cosmopolitan feel, the metropolis attracts myriad visitors each year. During your time here you can wander through the town and gaze at an array of stately buildings, including the impressive parliament buildings and Hero’s Acre. If you’re historically inclined, then ensure that you pop into the plethora of museums on offer, including the National Library and National Art Gallery. If you’re in need of some rest and rejuvenation, then visit the serene National Botanical Gardens to immerse yourself in the tranquillity of the gorgeous grounds. Botanists will delight in the numerous plant species on offer which attract plenty of exquisite insects and prolific bird life. Also well worth a visit is the smallest functioning cathedral in Southern Africa – St Georges, and look out for Das Reiterdankmal – a towering bronze sculpture of a horse commemorating those lost in colonial wars. You could also stroll down Robert Mugabe Avenue to admire Alte Feste – one of the city’s oldest buildings that was built in 1890. Once military headquarters, today, it serves as an intriguing state museum, housing an array of memorabilia that commemorates Namibia’s journey to independence.
Botswana - Day 13
As we cross the Botswana border we’ll start to see villagers, cattle, donkeys and sheep along the side of the highway. Sometimes the donkeys and cows sit in the middle of the road and any amount of horn blowing won't get them out of the road. Independent since 1966, Botswana (formally a British protectorate) has three of the world’s richest diamond mines and this has made Botswana quite a wealthy nation. Now 40 years old, it is known as the African success story. Politically stable and with the foresight to invest in education, healthcare, high economic standards and without the racial issues that have plagued other countries, Botswana has the best economy in sub-Saharan Africa. The government has employed a strategy of high income - low impact tourism. This is where they reduce the number of tourists entering any area of the country by charging a lot more than neighbouring countries, thereby making it more restrictive for the budget traveller.
Bushman (San) people - Day 13
The Bushmen of Southern Africa are the oldest indigenous inhabitants of Southern Africa and have lived off the land in symbiosis for hundreds of years. It is said that the word ‘San’ meant ‘wild people who can’t farm’, however historically they didn’t have a collective word for themselves. They now call themselves Ncoakhoe meaning ‘red people’ but the term ‘San’ is still predominant. They were nomadic people – primarily hunter gatherers, moving to where the food and water could be found. It is estimated that there are only 5, 000 San people left, with 60% of them living in Botswana and the rest in Namibia and northern South Africa. Many examples of their expressive and remarkable cave paintings can be found dotted around Southern Africa, tracking their historical movements. They have much to offer our modern way of living in terms of a sustainable existence with nature. Bushmen tours give you the opportunity to interact with this fascinating culture and get a true understanding of how they have survived in the harsh environment through an understanding of nature. Many of our Botswana overland tours offer the opportunity to interact with a traditional village of San people that still live very much the way that they did many generations ago. It is not included in the tours and needs to be decided on before-hand. Some people feel it is unethical to treat the villagers as a spectacle however it provides an education for the visitors and much needed funding for the conservation of the area and their way of life.
Okavango Delta - Day 15
Every year, more than 11 cubic kilometres of water flow from the Okavango River into the Delta, irrigating more than 15 000 square kilometres of the Kalahari Desert, making it the largest inland delta in the world, a labyrinth of lagoons, lakes and hidden channels. It originates in Angola - numerous tributaries join to form the Cubango River, which then flows through Namibia, becoming the Kavango River and finally enter Botswana, where it is becomes the Okavango. Millions of years ago the Okavango River used to flow into a large inland lake called Lake Makgadikgadi (now Makgadikgadi Pans). Tectonic activity and faulting interrupted the flow of the river causing it to back up and form what is now the Okavango Delta. This has created a unique system of waterways that supports a vast array of animal and plant life that would have otherwise been a dry Kalahari savannah.
There are an estimated 200,000 large mammals in and around the Okavango Delta. On the mainland and among the islands in the delta, lions, elephants, hyenas, wild dog, buffalo, hippo and crocodiles congregate with a teeming variety of antelope and other smaller animals - warthog, mongoose, spotted genets, monkeys, bush babies and tree squirrels. Notably the endangered African Wild Dog is present within the Okavango Delta, exhibiting one of the richest pack densities in Africa. The delta also includes over 400 species of birds, including the African Fish Eagle.
Many of these animals live in the Delta but the majority pass through, migrating with the summer rains to find renewed fields for grazing. With the onset of winter the countryside dries up and they make their way back to the floodplains. This leads to some of the most incredible sightings as large numbers of prey and predators are pushed together. Certain areas of the Delta provide some of the best predator action seen anywhere in the world.
Boat trips, canoeing and fly-overs are among the most popular activities, however you can also go fishing and walking safaris depending on the time of year. As the Okavango is a seasonal delta, you’ll find yourself facing a different environment during the summer and winter months. The rain falls at the beginning of the year.
Chobe National Park - Day 18
Chobe National Park, the second largest park in Botswana, covers 10,566 square km of northern Botswana and is undoubtedly the country’s most beautiful and popular nature and game reserve. The Park forms part of the mosaic of lakes, islands and floodplains formed from the Kwando, Linyanti and Chobe River systems. The area has one of the largest concentrations of wildlife in Africa, being particularly renowned for its vast herds of elephant and buffalo, making it an ideal location for African safaris. The elephant population is currently about 120 000. The Chobe elephants are migratory, moving up to 200 km from the Chobe and Linyanti rivers, where they concentrate in the dry season, to the pans in the southeast of the park in the rainy season. They are Kalahari elephants, characterized by rather brittle ivory and short tusks, perhaps because of calcium deficiency in the soil. Due to their high concentration, there is a lot of damage to the vegetation in some areas. Culls have been considered but are too controversial and have thus far been rejected. Wherever you go in the park, you’ll be able to observe a variety of wild animals and bird life, and can even explore an area in search of a specific animals or bird.
Victoria Falls - Day 19
Victoria Falls is undoubtedly one of Africa’s most beautiful treasures. They border Zimbabwe and Zambia and are the region’s most visited tourist hotspot. The falls are by no means the world’s biggest waterfall, however ,at 1700 m wide and 108 m high their length and the vast volume of water which find its way to the falls via the Zambezi river makes them one of the most spectacular. David Livingstone, the Scottish explorer, is believed to have been the first European to view the Victoria Falls and wrote: "It has never been seen before by European eyes, but scenes so wonderful must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight". The older, indigenous name of Mosi-oa-Tunya (‘the Smoke that Thunders’) is the name in official use in Zambia, and the falls spray water into the air which can be seen for miles, including in the surrounding game reserves and national parks. Due to its immense power and size, the waterfall is surrounded by a rich mythology. The local Tonga people of the Zambezi believe that a river god, Nyaminyami, resides in the water in the form of an immense snake. When the Kariba Dam was built in the 1950s, the Zambezi River flooded three times, causing many deaths and much destruction. The local people believe Nyaminyami caused the terrible floods in his anger at the construction.
The unusual form of Victoria Falls enables virtually the whole width of the falls to be viewed face-on, at the same level as the top, from as close as 60 metres, because the whole Zambezi River drops into a deep, narrow slot like chasm, connected to a long series of gorges. Few other waterfalls allow such a close approach on foot.
The falls are formed as the full width of the river plummets in a single vertical drop into a chasm 60–120 m wide, carved by its waters along a fracture zone in the basalt plateau. The depth of the chasm, called the First Gorge, varies from 80 m at its western end to 108 m in the centre. The only outlet to the First Gorge is a 110 m-wide gap about two-thirds of the way across the width of the falls from the western end, through which the whole volume of the river pours into the Victoria Falls gorges.
There are two islands on the crest of the falls that are large enough to divide the curtain of water even at full flood: Boaruka Island (or Cataract Island) near the western bank and Livingstone Island near the middle. At less than full flood, additional islets divide the curtain of water into separate parallel streams. The main streams are named, in order from Zimbabwe (west) to Zambia (east): Leaping Water (called Devil's Cataract by some), Main Falls, Rainbow Falls (the highest) and the Eastern Cataract.
While staying here, guests can also embark on bush safaris – on foot, horseback or in a vehicle, embark on a Zambezi cruise along the waters before the falls, or try some exciting white water rafting. While on these Victoria Falls safaris guests will have the chance to see crocodiles, hippos and other African wildlife.