[The following article was originally published on Mar. 23, 2014. This article was written as a news event at the time, of a travel seminar offered by Evergreen Escapes about the Ultimate Namibia Safari. For custom international travel, similar to that described in this article, visit the Explorer X website, or call them locally at 206-252-1931. Explorer X may be reached via email at Travel@Explorer-X.com.]
On Thursday, Mar. 13, 2014 Evergreen Escapes hosted its monthly travel seminar, this time entitled “Namibia: Up Close & Personal”. The presentation, led by naturalist Tyler Davis, was designed to specifically market a pre-set itinerary, the 13-day Ultimate Namibia Safari, scheduled for Nov. 3 to Nov. 15 of 2014. The tour was offered by EverGreen Escapes International in collaboration with Ultimate Safaris, a Namibian-based ecotourism safari company.
To start, Tyler showed a map of the African continent highlighting Namibia’s location – directly northwest of South Africa, west of Botswana and south of Angola and Zambia. Namibia in recent history was a German colony, then an administrative colony of South Africa, then finally an independent country only since 1990. The country celebrated its 24th birthday on May 21.
Namibia is unique in that it is one of few countries that specifically address conservation in its constitution. Namibia boasts 79 communal conservancies covering 20% of its land. Additionally, in 2010 Namibia became the first and only country to have its entire coastline protected through a national parks network. Due to the strong wildlife protections in place, Namibia is now a world-renowned destination for safaris and ecotourism and is also home to the world’s largest population of free-range black rhinos.
The Ultimate Namibia Safari conveniently begins and ends in the country’s capital city, Windhoek. The tour begins with a short city tour, then overnight. Important local attractions include include Christ Church (Christuskirche) and Reiterdenkmal, the controversial German Equestrian Monument which was removed overnight on Dec. 25, 2013 and whose future remains in question. From here, the tour spends a day visiting the AfriCat Foundation, the largest cheetah and leopard rescue program in the world. Activities include leopard tracking and a visit to the cheetah welfare project. Overnight at the Okonjima Bush Camp.
The next day you will travel to Etosha National Park for 3 days searching for the iconic wildlife of South Africa, including lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, giraffe, zebra, ostrich and more. Explore the different sections of the Park, Namibia’s largest, with daily game drives and visits to known watering holes. Etosha is home to 114 species of mammals and over 340 species of birds. Stay 2 days at Mushara Outpost, then visit Ongava Private Game Reserve and overnight at Andersson’s Camp.
The following day you will visit a Himba settlement en route to Palmwag Concession. The Himba are an indigenous, semi-nomadic group of herders who number somewhere between 20,000 and 50,000. They are most well-known for their “red women”. All women apply otijze to their skin and hair each morning. The substance is a mixture of butter, paste and red ochre, and it gives the women a signature red hue. There is speculation that the tradition developed as a way to protect against the sun, but the Himba view it also as a form of makeup. The Himba women are also known for their elaborate braided hair.
Since the Himba typically are always traveling, it is necessary for the group to “call ahead” through local guides Ultimate Safaris in order to connect with the tribe. It is customary for tour groups to bring needed supplies to the tribe and perhaps a cash offering. The tribe is happy to share its culture and lifestyle with visitors, but gift offerings are also an important means of survival for the tribe. The day finishes at Desert Rhino Camp, where you will stay the next 2 nights. Here, you will focus on tracking the famous black rhino.
From Palmwag Concession, visit the Twyfelfontein Rock Engravings (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), then see the Organ Pipes and Burnt Mountain, before enjoying one of the most magnificent views in Namibia. You will spend 2 nights in Twyfelfontein in Damaraland at the Mowani Mountain Camp. A highlight of this portion of the trip is searching for the area’s unique population of desert-adapted elephants. From here, pass by Namibia’s highest mountain, the Brandberg, on the way to Swakopmund. Explore the historic town on foot and enjoy and dine at a famous local restaurant. Overnight at the Hansa Hotel.
The next morning enjoy a marine cruise within the outer lagoon and harbor. This presents an excellent opportunity to see Cape fur seals, Heaviside and bottlenose dolphins, pelicans, flamingos, a variety of sea birds, and the possibility of whales and leatherback sea turtles. Afterward, travel in the afternoon by private charter flight to the NamibRand Nature Reserve, where you will search for more desert-adapted wildlife and plants and explore the world’s tallest sand dunes. You will stay the next 2 nights at Wolwedans Dune Lodge. Finish your Namibia tour with a charter flight to Windhoek. Spend some time shopping at the renowned Windhoek Craft Market before transferring to the airport for your return flight home.
The Ultimate Namibia Safari does not come cheap at $8,750 per person, which does not include flights from the U.S. However, any African safari is an expensive proposition and Namibia more so, as it’s more off the beaten bath. For most people, a trip to Africa is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. With that in mind, I can see traveling with Evergreen Escapes International, as the tour seems meticulously planned, with the intent of maximizing every opportunity to learn about natural wildlife and plants and the indigenous people. Also, the tour does include all meals with beer and wine and traditional “sundowner” drinks during the evenings, in addition to luxury accommodations along the way. [Note: International and custom travel is now offered by Explorer X. You may call them locally at 206-252-1931 or email them at Travel@Explorer-X.com.]
The featured winery on Mar. 13 was Sozo Friends, who provided tastings of one white wine and three reds. Several prizes were also drawn in a raffle, including gear from Columbia Sportswear and a grand prize of $750 off the booking price of the Ultimate Namibia Safari. (Note: This travel seminar series has since been discontinued. For future lectures and events, please see Upcoming Events at Explorer X. You may also sign up for the Traveler’s Lantern Newsletter at this location.
Finally, below are a few books if you are interested in learning more about Namibia and its history:
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