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Africa! The name conjures images of vast plains, beautiful inhabitants, and a diversity of wildlife unparalleled on Earth. Yet Africa is as diverse as it is mysterious, with rugged coastlines pocked with shipwrecks, petroglyphs marking the dawn of man, endless expanses of bare geology, cultures speaking over 2000 languages, and modern, bustling metropolises. Join us on an exploration to Namibia, one of the most beautiful, varied, yet unvisited, corners of this vast continent.
Open, empty spaces punctuated by hardy wildlife, endless seas of red Namib sand spilling dramatically into the Atlantic’s Skeleton Coast, native peoples living in harmony with the Kalahari as they have since the dawn of humanity – these and many more wonders await in our bespoke, luxury photographic expedition.
Namibia is a paradise for photography, with endless vistas blending into deep blue sky, contrasting hues and crisp, dry air imbuing a purity of light, revealing a southern night sky among the clearest anywhere. The “big five” (rhino, lion, buffalo, leopard, and elephant) are all present, and we’ll have a great chance of spotting them. We’ll visit the native Himba and Damara people of the Kalahari, observing of a way of life dating to the Stone Age, and maybe even pick up a few words of their “click” language while we’re at it.
The trip: 13 days, beginning and ending in Windhoek, Namibia’s modern capital. We stay in luxury lodges characterized by their surroundings, enjoying meals prepared of local ingredients, including a variety of exotic, sustainably-harvested meats. Our transport is by customized Land Cruisers driven by experienced local guides and always connected via satellite telephone. Photographic instruction is provided throughout the journey by Matt Granger and Jonathan Stewart, but the trip is by no means just about photography. The highlights come rapid fire, from landscape, to wildlife, to stars, to people, and even a few surprises.
May 22, 2017, Day 1 – Arrival at Windhoek
Guests will be met at the airport and transferred to the group hotel in Windhoek, approximately 45 minutes away. The Safari Court Hotel is one of Windhoek’s finest, offering all the amenities required to unwind after our long international journey. Dinner on our own tonight.
Day 2 - Windhoek City Tour
Following breakfast, we join our local guides for an exploration of Windhoek, learning the history and influence of German colonialism, the break with South Africa and the contrasts of cultures that exist today. This will be our opportunity for shopping, and a relatively low-key day to allow time to acclimate to the time change and new surroundings. In the evening, we’ll meet the group and guides during our first dinner together. Overnight at Safari Court Hotel.
Day 3 - Windhoek to Sossusvlei Dunes
Following breakfast, we leave the development of Windhoek and head into the Namib Desert, home of the Sossusvlei Dunes, among the tallest in the world. The Namib, known as “The Living Desert,” is a world of mind-blowing space, endless horizons and dramatic, jagged mountains interrupted by cottony red seas of sand. We will also visit Sesriem Canyon, a stratified gash in the desert floor.
We spend two nights in the luxurious Le Mirage Lodge, built in an environmentally sensitive manner in an Afro-village style. The lodge is located far from interfering light sources, allowing for wonderful astrophotography for those willing to stay up.
Day 4 Sossusvlei Excursions
We awake early, venturing into the desert in our 4x4 Land Cruisers to capture the first light on the beautiful red dunes, then take our time hiking and photographing the area, including the mysterious “Dead Vlei,” a forest, petrified in place by the shifting sands. Those with the energy can climb “Big Momma,” at 300 meters the tallest sand dune in the world.* After lunch we explore Sesriem Canyon whose mysterious alcoves are a marvel of geology. *Local claim.
Day 5 Sossusvlei to Skeleton Coast
We leave the interior Namib and head for the Atlantic Ocean, to the famed “Skeleton Coast,” so named for the multiple shipwrecks that still dot its shores. Here we will spend two nights at the Strand Hotel in Swakopmund, a luxurious lodging offering direct access to the town’s vibrant street life, quaint architecture and shopping. Here, our dining options will include fresh seafood as we relax in this beautiful resort town.
Day 6 - Namib/Skeleton Coast Scenic Flight and Explorations
In the morning, in what several previous guests described as a highlight of the trip, we head to Walvis Bay for an Atlantic harbor cruise, observing the pristine marine ecosystem, sea lions, dolphins, and perhaps even whales, while we dine on fresh local oysters aboard our comfortable ship. Weather permitting, we board private aircraft for an hour-long scenic flight of the Namib Desert and Skeleton Coast, viewing the ocean of sand as it abruptly terminates at the Atlantic Ocean and overflying the remains of shipwrecks, abandoned settlements and mines. It is only from the air that the vast scale of the dunes can be appreciated. Dinner on our own tonight.
Day 7 Inland to the Kalahari
Today we drive north along the Skeleton Coast, stopping at a recent shipwreck to understand how the region got its name. We then visit the indescribable mass of sea life that is Cape Cross, where tens of thousands of Cape fur seals congregate, on the shore and in the water, in a great cacophonous mass of life seen nowhere else on Earth. When then head inland, over the seemingly limitless coastal Namib and enter the highlands of the Kalahari Desert, visiting the habitat of wildlife considered classically African, yet uniquely adapted to the harsh desert. Overnight at Brandberg White Lady Lodge, at the foot of Namibia’s highest mountains.
Day 8 – Damaraland Highlands Rock Art and Wildlife
We begin the day with a visit to the Twyfelfontein Rock Engravings, one of the largest concentrations of petroglyphs in Africa, dating back at least 2000 years. Twyfelfontein depicts humans and native animals, and symbolically illustrates the links between the ritual and economic practices of Stone-Age hunter-gatherers. We continue to venture deeper into Damaraland, with excellent wildlife viewing opportunities throughout the day, including of the elusive desert-adapted elephant, giraffes and zebras. Overnight at Khowarib Lodge.
Day 9 - Damaraland Excursions to Hobatere Game Reserve
We begin our day with a visit to a traditional Himba village to interact with and photograph the locals, whose women are famous for covering their bodies in red ochre mineral mixed with animal fat (although Vaseline is preferred these days) and caking their hair into long, solid, red braids. The Himba not only are extremely photogenic, but also very friendly, and enjoy posing and then looking at the photos. We then head north, stopping at every opportunity for wildlife viewing, finishing the day in the private reserve of Hobatere, where we will spend the next two nights.
Day 10 - Wildlife Safari
Today is dedicated to finding wildlife in and around Etosha National Park. The area is rich in waterholes that attract elephant, rhino, leopard, lion, springbok, dikdik, gemsbok and red hartebeest. The birdlife and flora are also prolific. Today and tomorrow are spent on safari, exploring this natural wonder in search of the “Big Five” and other wildlife. Bring your binoculars and a long lens!
Day 11 - Etosha National Park
Today we drive the breadth of Etosha National Park, experiencing the different ecological zones and observing the wildlife that inhabit them, stopping at numerous established watering holes, where the animals are known to congregate.. Leaving the vehicles is prohibited for safety reasons, so our customized Land Cruisers feature pop-up roofs allowing everyone to have an unobstructed view of the animals. Overnight in Etosha Safari Lodge.
Day 12 - Private Game Reserve
Today we head south to visit a private game reserve. Unlike Etosha National Park, which limits wildlife viewing to established viewing areas and hours, private game reserves dispense with such regulations, allowing much greater flexibility, including cross-country tracking, and possibly on-foot photography. Today we depart early to best take advantage of our time in the private reserve. An afternoon safari in lodge vehicles is included, and a post-dinner night safari is available for an additional cost. Tonight is our farewell dinner at the lodge, as our flights leave the following day.
June 02 – Day 13 Windhoek Departure
This morning after breakfast we travel as a group in our safari vehicles the short distance back to Windhoek to await our airport transfers at the Safari Court Hotel. Those with the 2:00 p.m. international departure will leave shortly after arrival, and those with later flights can relax in the hotel lobby, restaurants, or catch a shuttle to the city center. Extra nights are available upon request, at cost.
Trip cost: US$7500 Early bird special $7200 until February 15, 2017
Minimum group size 8 – Maximum group size 12
Trip cost includes:
• Hotel and lodge accommodation double-occupancy basis.
• English-speaking local guides
• All meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner), starting with dinner on Day 1 and ending with breakfast on Day 13
• Bottled water provided in vehicles daily
• All road, sea and/or air transportation within Namibia, including airport transfers
• Entry fees to all sights, reserves and parks
• Tips for local Namibian guides and drivers, and in to the Himba villagers
• Group and individual photography instruction and photo review by Matt Granger and Jonathan Stewart, includes pre-trip consultations on gear selection.
• Medical evacuation insurance (individual trip insurance highly recommended as well)
• Payment installment plan available for early-bookers
Trip cost DOES NOT include:
• International flights
• Breakfast and lunch on Day 1
• Dinner on Day 6
• Lunch and dinner on Day 13
• Alcoholic beverages
• Single supplement (US$900)
• Optional night safari on Day 12
• Shopping and personal extras
• All payments, except initial $1200 deposit, made by Paypal are subject to 5% surcharge
While this trip is cultural in nature, we will be traveling over very remote terrain, far from medical assistance. Travelers should check with their physicians to ensure they are fit enough to embark on such a journey, and are up to date on all required vaccinations. Namibia is generally not considered a malaria risk, but travelers should check with their physicians before deciding on whether to bring prophylaxis. Maximum altitude reached will be less than 2000m (6500’). Temperatures can be expected to fluctuate between 5°C and +35°C (+40°F to +95°F), with comfortable to warm daytime highs. Precipitation is possible, but unlikely. This is considered a luxury safari, and while we will do our best to ensure that we stay in the hotels and lodges indicated in the itinerary, the Organizers reserve the right to substitute an accommodation of the same category.
Please note, the trip cost is on a sharing basis. While we always do our best to match travelers with others of the same gender, this may not always be possible. Therefore, we recommend the $900 single supplement to those for whom this may be an issue.
While this trip is geared towards photographers, all are welcome as there will be much to see and do besides taking pictures. For those seeking exercise, Namibia is a wonderful place for pre-breakfast runs or hikes among the scrublands or coastal plain, and there will be a chance to hike to the top of the sand dunes.
Extra nights lodging before and/or after the trip dates can be arranged for an additional cost.
For a preview photo gallery taken by Jonathan in Namibia, click