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Celia's Namibia trip

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Following Kavey's suggestion, I've copied my response to Hanl's message here as a separate posting. I've added some info about car rental and maps.

We've just returned from a wonderful three weeks in Namibia and South Africa. It was our first trip to Namibia, 10th to SA. We made our Namibia arrangements through Cardboard Box Travel, whom we found on the web. I did a lot of research myself so as to tell Cardboard Box what I thought would meet our desires best, and also followed their advice, as they are local and know the local situation.

We spent two nights at Sossusvlei at the Namib Naukluft Lodge. We were picked up at our pension in Windhoek and driven there by van. There was only 1 other traveler besides my husband and me. The drive was lovely, especially when we reached the edge of the desert and were able to stand on a high mountain and look out over it.

The lodge itself was charming, with lovely rooms with one glass wall looking out on the plain, and with a nice dining room and verandah. Our meals were all served on the verandah. The food was very much German influenced except for the one night when we had a traditional braii served in the boma.

The drive into the park to explore the dunes was great! Our guide was knowledgeable, and the group of 8 or 10 people was a congenial one. The dunes were awesome, and I use that word in its old sense of inspiring awe, not just the slangy meaning it has today, though that would be true too.

Others in this forum have done a wonderful job describing other lodges at the dunes.

Etosha National Park was a peak experience. Within minutes of entering the park we were seeing large numbers of herd animals, all kinds of antelopes and zebras, springbok, oryx, ostrich, giraffe, blue wildebeest, red hartebeest, etc, etc. On each of our three days in the park we saw huge numbers of zebras and every kind of antelope, and big herds of elephants. At the waterhole in our campe at night we saw rhinos, elephants, jackals, and hyenas. We did all this in our own rental car, not with a ranger.

We stayed two nights in the park at Halali rest camp. It was pretty basic, but the restaurant had good food. We also stayed two nights at a private lodge, Etosha Aoba Lodge, which was superb. Very lovely thatched rondavels (sort of), and a beautiful open air dining room and pool area. The night drive offered by the lodge was very good--we saw the tiny Damara dik-dik, giraffes, a caracal, and more. But in addition to the fabulous animal life, the pan itself is indeed something to see -- a vast stretch of flat, white expanse, with shimmering mirages in the distance.

We really liked Windhoek. It's small, clean, hospitable. We had an incredible dinner at the Heinitzburg Hotel, and interesting African food at the Africa Restaurant, and we really enjoyed the Alte Feste museum. We stayed at Pension Christoph, which was recommended in Footprint Namibia, and we were very happy with it.

We had talked about going to Namibia for years, but never seemed to get around to it, until I read Kavey's posts here about a year ago and said "that's it, we're going NOW".

I found Footprint Namibia to be an excellent guidebook. The one by Brandt wasn't as helpful. Before we left for Africa I ordered the Globetrotter Travel Map of Namibia from Amazon.com. It was very useful in helping us plan our driving. After we got there we bought a map put out by the Roads Authority, which was also useful, and had a good map of Windhoek too. We were then given this same map free by Cardboard Box and by the company that took us to Sossusvlei, so we had plenty of maps.

Our car rental was from Tempest, also called Sixt. They operate in South Africa as well. The car was a small Toyota Tazz. It held the two of us, our two suitcases, and our cameras, picnic bags, and assorted stuff, pretty comfortably, but we had to keep one suitcase in the back seat as the trunk wasn't big enough for both. We drove from Windhoek to Etosha and back in it, drove it in Etosha park, and on some remote gravel roads. It was fine.

We were impressed with the quality of handicrafts available for sale in Namibia. We bought baskets, carvings, and wooden bowls.

We found food to be more expensive than in South Africa -- more like what we pay in the US. Lodging prices were comparable to SA.

One of my favorite things was seeing the contrast of the elaborate dress of Herero women in Windhoek, and the very modern dress of schoolgirls and young women on the same sidewalks.

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