Day 1: Arrival in Windhoek
You may arrive anytime at Windhoek's Hosea Kutako International airport (WDH) today, but please be sure to arrive before 6 p.m. so that you can participate in the first trip briefing over dinner with your guide at 7 p.m. An MTS representative will meet you at the airport and escort you to your hotel, the modern Galton House. Check in and freshen up before dinner, when you will meet your guide and the other members of the group.
Day 2: AfriCat Foundation
This morning you will be collected at the hotel by your guide for the drive north of Windhoek heading towards Okonjima. If the group wishes, we can stop in Okahandja to visit the local craft market, though it is often best to leave any serious curio shopping until the end of the safari. We'll reach Okonjima in time for lunch. Okonjima is home to the AfriCat Foundation, a wildlife sanctuary dedicated to 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. We'll start with a guided afternoon excursion to either track cheetah on foot or see leopard from the comfort of an open safari vehicle (whichever activity is not done today will be done tomorrow morning). After dinner, we'll take a night drive to a nearby hide where nocturnal animals such as porcupine, caracal, honey badger, and even leopard may be seen.
Day 3: Drive to Etosha National Park
After our second AfriCat activity, we return to Okonjima Bush Camp for brunch before driving further north to the southern boundary of Etosha National Park. We should arrive in time to take a short evening game drive within Etosha park, leaving before sunset and arriving back at camp in time for dinner. Etosha owes its unique landscape to the Etosha Pan, a vast shallow depression of approximately 1,930 square miles which forms the heart of the park. Once part of a large inland lake fed by rivers from the north and east, it dried up 120 million years ago as continental drift changed the slope of the land and the course of the tributaries. This white, chalky expanse colors the park, and with the waterholes creates the characteristic atmosphere of Etosha today. We'll spend two nights at Andersson's Camp, located in the Ongava Private Game Reserve bordering Etosha. The camp overlooks a waterhole where guests can enjoy the interaction of wildlife coming and going throughout the day and night.
Day 4: Etosha National Park
Today will be a full day of game viewing in Etosha National Park, Namibia's premier wildlife destination. We can either do two game drives, one early and one afternoon with a return to the lodge at midday for lunch, or we can pack a picnic and spend the whole day in the park (majority vote will decide). Etosha National Park is typified by white calcrete soils, rocky outcrops, and scrub-covered plains which support a variety of game such as giraffe, zebra, lion, rhino, wildebeest, elephant, and various antelope species including oryx, kudus and the endemic black-faced impala. Night drives are not possible within Etosha National Park itself, but are possible in the private game reserve of Ongava, where our camp is located. Andersson's Camp was named after Swedish explorer Charles Andersson -- one of the first Europeans to "discover" Etosha, Africa's largest saltpan. The resurrected former farmstead that stands on the site now forms the center of a charming camp fronting onto a productive waterhole. The 20 tented en suite units are raised on decks for an enhanced view of the waterhole and surrounding plains.
Day 5: Damaraland
After breakfast, we'll make our west to Damaraland. This landscape is characterized by hills interspersed with valleys and dry riverbeds. Early morning fog brings precious water to flora and fauna, which have adapted superbly to the harsh environment. Despite its aridity, Damaraland supports a surprising diversity of wildlife, including a healthy number of desert-adapted elephant, as well as giraffe, gemsbok, springbok, the occasional cheetah, and black rhino. We'll stop for lunch under a shady tree out in the wilderness, then begin our search for a traditional Himba settlement, which may take some time as the Himba are a nomadic tribe and may move their cattle to better grazing areas without notice! The Himba are cattle and goat herders, and are best known for the striking ochre they wear to protect their skin from the desert sun. Over the years, this resilient tribe has survived drought and war, and—with the help of international activists—successfully fought the damming of the Kunene River, which would have flooded their ancestral lands. Under the independent Namibian government, the Himba have mobile schools and control over wildlife and tourism in their nature conservancies. The remote, harsh desert environment has helped them maintain their pastoral lifestyle, and their population currently numbers between 20,000 and 50,000. Many Himba still wear traditional dress, consisting of animal-skin skirts and jewelry that includes coiled leather necklaces, copper bangles, and beaded anklets, and Himba women often sport elaborate braided hairdos. Tonight we'll enjoy the first night in our rustic yet comfortable mobile camp.
Day 6: Rhino Tracking
After an early breakfast, we'll set off with our guide and experienced local trackers to spend most of the day rhino tracking. Namibia is home to the larger of the two subspecies of the black rhinoceros found in southern Africa. The only population that remains in the wild—unhindered by fences and outside of reserves—these rhinos occupy an arid range in the western Kaokoveld. Their preferred habitat is the mountainous escarpment, but they follow ephemeral rivers into the northern Namib as well, especially when conditions are favorable after the rain. They are the only black rhino in Africa that are internationally recognized as a "desert group." Like desrt-adapted elephant, they cover great distances, walking and feeding at night, and resting during the day. Our trackers will look for tracks on the ground and teach us how to identify them. We'll have lunch in the field and return to camp in the late afternoon with some time to relax in the shade of the Mopane trees. Our mobile camp is fully-serviced and equipped so you can simply relax and revel in the feeling of space and solitude that makes Namibia so special. We use large 10 by 10 foot igloo tents with built in groundsheets and mosquito screens. Each tent has robust light, a bedside table, and camp beds with mattress, duvet, pillows and sheets. Bathroom facilities are shared with flush toilets and running water in the showers. Our camps are all set up for you before you arrive and have their own chef who prepares delicious, wholesome 3-course meals using fresh produce whenever possible.
Day 7: Damaraland
Today we head south to Camp Kipwe, situated in the heart of Damaraland. This area is known for its displays of color, magnificent table-topped mountains, rock formations and bizarre-looking vegetation. It is the variety and loneliness of the area as well as the scenic splendor which will reward and astound you. During the drive south, we'll explore by 4WD the ephemeral Aba Huab and Huab River valleys, in search of game, including desert-adapted elephants. Desert-adapted elephants in Kaokoland and the Namib walk further for water and fodder than any other elephant in Africa. The distances between waterholes and feeding ground can be as great as 42 miles. To meet their nutritional requirements they graze on no fewer than 74 of the 103 plant species that grow in their range. Lunch will be picnic-style in the bush, with a late afternoon arrival into our camp.
Day 8: Twyfelfontein to Swakopmund
After an early breakfast, we'll head out to explore the nearby attractions and geological features of the Twyfelfontein rock engravings, Burnt Mountain, and the Organ Pipes. The petroglyphs at Twyfelfontein, recently named a World Heritage Site, are difficult to date accurately, but archaeologists believe they span a period of about 1,500 to 5,000 years ago. The artists were groups of San who walked the length of the country and recorded images from their journeys on massive sandstone cliffs in the area. The engravings lie along two circular routes; one is an hour's climb and the easier route takes about one hour and forty minutes. A rounded hill located just a few miles from Twyfelfontein, known as the Burnt Mountain, seems to catch fire at sunrise and sunset. This 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. The Organ Pipes are another geological curiosity in the area consisting of a mass of perpendicular dolerite columns that intruded the surrounding rocks millions of years ago and have since been exposed in a ravine due to river erosion. Once these sites have been visited, we'll head further south past Brandberg, Namibia's tallest mountain, then veer west to the coastal town of Henties Bay before turning south again to Swakopmund.
Day 9: Kayaking Walvis Bay
After an early breakfast, we'll drive along the scenic coastal road to Walvis Bay for a memorable Namibian kayaking adventure within the outer lagoon. Before getting into our kayaks, we'll drive to the lighthouse at Pelican Point and stop at the salt works to admire the views and check out the birdlife. Kayaking is an ideal way to see Cape fur seals, Heaviside and bottlenose dolphins, pelicans, flamingos, and a wide variety of other sea birds. If we are lucky, there is the chance of seeing whales, leatherback turtles, and sunfish as well. We'll stop for snacks on the beach before heading back to Walvis Bay. No experience is necessary to enjoy the kayaking today. We'll head back to the hotel in the afternoon for a little leisure time before dinner.
Day 10: Drive to Sossusvlei
Our fascinating drive today takes us southeast through the awesome and ever-changing desert landscapes of the Gaub and Kuiseb canyons until we find the dunes at the entrance to Namib Naukluft National Park. En route you will stop in the charming 'town' of Solitaire. Make sure to try the warm apple tart at Moose McGregor's Bakery - the best in all of Southern Africa! There is the option, at additional cost, to take a scenic flight today, over the Dune Sea, abandoned mining camps, shipwrecks, Sandwich Harbour, and salt pans to Sossusvlei, instead of driving. Those trip members who choose to fly will meet up with the guides and group later in the day at the Sossus Dune Lodge. Note: The 2016 itinerary will feature Desert Homestead Outpost.
Day 11: Sossusvlei
This morning you will rise early for a magical excursion with your guide in the Namib Naukluft National Park, setting off from the lodge within the park boundary. As a result, you can be on your way at sunrise to capture the dunes while the light is soft and shadows accentuate their towering shapes and curves—a photographer's dream! This area boasts some of the highest free-standing sand dunes in the world, and your guide will give you an insight to the formation of the Namib Desert and the myriad of fascinating creatures and plants that have adapted to survive its harsh environs. Once you have explored to your heart's content you can enjoy a relaxing picnic breakfast under the shade of a camel thorn tree. Return to Sossus Dune Lodge in the early afternoon for a late lunch, stopping off to view Sesriem Canyon en route, if this wasn't done the previous day. The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure.
Day 12: Sossusvlei to Windhoek
After breakfast you bid farewell to the Namib Desert, traversing the Great Escarpment and scenic Khomas Hochland highlands to make your way back to Windhoek. Upon arrival in Windhoek your guide will transfer you to Galton House for the last night of your trip. This evening you will have your farewell dinner at The Galton's in-house restaurant.
Day 13: Depart Windhoek
Spend as much of the day as is available relaxing at the guest house or exploring town until it is time to be transferred to the Windhoek International Airport in time for your international flight home.