This year’s Christmas and New Year were spent in Namibia. I was joined by my friends Sylvia and Cindy from Menlo Park, CA. They brought along my “new friend” Janie with them. We were inseparable had such an awesome time together over the next three weeks.
The flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg was non-stop, but lasted 15 1/2 down over and 16 1/2 on the way back. Grueling to say the least. On the bright side, the Delta 777 was equipped with Gogo wifi. In all the trip included 11 flights. 6 were on commercial airlines and 5 on small single engine planes seating between 4 and 12 people.
The small planes made packing a challenge. Due to limited space one the planes we were required to use a medium soft-sided duffel bag and the total weight of the bag and carry-on’s couldn’t exceed 44 pounds…for a 3-week trip. Fortunately our 3 lodges provided free laundry but we were all seen wearing the same things a few times.
We started with 2 nights at an airport hotel in Johannesburg to recover from the flight. On our free day we visited the Lion Park in Johannesburg which provided s with a taste of the game we might encounter during the next 3 weeks. From Johannesburg we flew to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe for a 3-night pre-trip. I created a separate Zimbabwe & Botswana Album for the pre-trip.
Our Namibia adventure started in the capital city of Windhoek for 2 nights. We visited the township, a history museum and church. The township was where most of the poorest black residents live. The country is in the process of building decent housing, but government bureaucracy seems to be slowing that process down. Next to shacks were hundreds of little new homes with indoor plumbing sitting vacant. Some were under construction, but others seem to have been sitting for years waiting on the government to allocate them to residents of the townships.
From Windhoek we took a small plane to the sand dunes of Sossusvlei in the Namib Desert landing on a gravel airstrip near the lodge. Temperatures during the day at all our camps/lodges reached 115+ degrees, but the nights cooled down. The rooms also had ceiling fans which helped. After our excursions away from camp we were always greeted on the return with cold drinks and a cold washcloth. Roughing it for sure!
The highlight for me at Sossusvlei was a morning balloon ride over the dunes followed by a champagne breakfast. The color of the red dunes at sunrise was breathtaking. In Sossusvlei and other camps we often ended our afternoon drives with “sundowners” watching the sunset with beer, wine, cocktails and snacks. What a wonderful way to end the day before returning to camp for dinner.
Next we flew to Swakopmund on the Atlantic Coast. The temperature there was in the low 70’s and quite refreshing. Wearing our Santa hats trimmed with faux cheetah the girls and I had a great Christmas gift exchange at the hotel complete with a blow-up Christmas tree. I brought some gifts pre-wrapped with leopard and zebra paper as a surprise. Other gifts were purchased during our first few days and were wrapped with wrapping paper, paper bags, toilet paper, raffia, dental floss or whatever else could be scavenged. It was such fun! Somehow Cindy thought the chocolate she bought would survive the 115 degree afternoons in the Namib Desert…um…it’s the thought that counts. My Christmas dinner consisted of beer and brats at the Swakopmund Brewing Company.
Our next stop was in the Damaraland region. We took several game drive through the dry riverbeds in search of desert elephants and visited the village of a tribe who were relocated there from South Africa. The village was a primitive place, but the Grandma who showed us around thought it was the most wonderful place ever…unless the desert elephants decide to create havoc when they show up. One day we were told we were having a picnic lunch in the dry riverbed. We arrived to cloth tablecloths and napkins, wine glasses and a hot and cold buffet that has been set up by the camp staff. What a surprise.
Our final camp was in the Ongava Game Reserve next to Etosha National Park. The service at the lodge the best compared to the first to camps, but the game viewing made up for it. We had game drives in Ongava and Etosha. The highlight was our final game drive when we saw cheetahs and white rhinos up close. In the end we saw 4 of the “big 5” game animals of Africa – African Lion, African Elephant, Cape Buffalo and Rhinoceros. The cheetahs were a fitting substitute for the African leopard.
The camps/lodges on the trip were great. Even though they were in the middle of nowhere, all had electricity 24/7. The first relied solely on solar and a generator with the other two connected to the electric grid. Though simple and rustic they all had flush toilets, sinks and showers. Each room had a solar water heater and the water was hot, hot, hot. In the showers they had a metal bucket to catch water until it warmed up. The water in the bucket was then used by the staff when cleaning the rooms to conserve on this precious resource. One lodge even had indoor and outdoor shower options and taking a shower under the stars was fantastic. Two of the three lodges even had wifi.
Our Trip Leader, Sawa, was fantastic which made the experience even more enjoyable.
It was a wonderful adventure covering varying landscapes with a mix of hotels and, albeit “Africa hot”, camps and lodges. A great experience I would recommend for anyone wanting to see a part of the world most will never reach.
Dates: Dec 13, 2015 – Jan 4, 2016
Tour Operator: Overseas Adventure Travel