Namibia: my dream today, tomorrow a reality?

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Jun 5th, 2003, 06:51 AM
  #1
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Namibia: my dream today, tomorrow a reality?

I've come to the conclusion that this board is a real danger for travel junkies! I thought that 2 trips to South Africa would satisfy my Africa cravings... but no - I need more! And after reading some of the wonderful information on Namibia on this board (and elsewhere on the Web, and in the library, and in travel brochures, and.. and...) I am desperate to go!

I'd be going with my boyfriend - we're both late 20's, happy to camp or rough it a bit, but not averse to a bit of luxury ;-) and I'd also like to take my mother, who's pretty active, fit and adventurous, but probably not interested in camping, quad-biking or abseiling down canyons.

I don't know where to start with my planning! Organized trip? self-drive? go it alone? fly-in?

Our budget would certainly not cover the high-end luxury lodges (except perhaps one or two nights, as a special treat), so my ideal would be to stay in comfortable, smallish camps, farms or lodges that come recommended by others!

We'd probably aim to go for about 2 weeks, early September time (looking at 2004 here). I'd love to go to Etosha, maybe combining a night or two in the park with a night in a nearby lodge. The Caprivi strip area has also captured my imagination, but perhaps this is too out-of-the-way for us to manage easily...?

Lastly, the Skeleton Coast and of course a healthy dose of desert magic and starry skies would also be desirable.

Any information, tips, anecdotes, recommendations, web links, photos or general chit-chat would be most welcome
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Jun 5th, 2003, 07:50 AM
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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 travelen 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 Heinetzburg 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.

I know you'll enjoy yourself, Hanl. We'll certainly go back.
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Jun 5th, 2003, 07:53 AM
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Woo Hoo for you!

I'm delighted to hear you're going to visit this beautiful and underrated country.

If you are in UK I'd recommend getting hold of the brochures for three specialist agents - Steppes Africa, Sunvil Africa and Rainbow Tours - they give wonderful background and options for your trip and also give information on small guest farms etc.
In terms of actual people I recently found it inpossible to get a return call from Rainbow, got inaccurate responses from Sunvil and received absolutely excellent service over a long period with Steppes. Whether you want to try them as an agency is up to you - this is a personal recommendation only, not a sell. I mention them only because I recall the brochures giving me ideas I didnt get from the guide books.

As for budget - this will impact a lot on the trip - if you can afford a couple of internal charter flights you will be able to save time driving some of the longer distances - if not you will need to factor in more travel time.

As the splurge I'd recommend Wolwedans Dune Lodge in NamibRand nature reserve - we're returning there in 2004 to renew our wedding vows. Alternatively look at the Wilderness Safaris properties - some of those are also good for the treat element of the trip.

Kavey
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Jun 5th, 2003, 07:56 AM
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Celia
How excellent to hear from you - I remember a long time ago you made that post saying that my postings about my 2001 Namibia trip had convinced you to make it one of your upcoming trips and I was sooo delighted! And now you've been and come home!
Would it be worthwhile copying and pasting your fantastic report in a new thread so those of us who want to ask you about it can do so without feeling guilty about derailing Hanl's thread?
Welcome home!
Kavey
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Jun 5th, 2003, 10:00 AM
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owl
 
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Hello! After a ton of research my husband and I have decided to spend the entire 11 days in Kaokoland in northwestern Namibia. I'll be sure to take good notes while we're there and get back to you with the deatils at the end of July!

Best wishes to you!
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Jun 5th, 2003, 12:02 PM
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Celia - Was thrilled to read your trip report. We had been planning a trip to Namibia for later this year, but had to table as "sweetie" wanted to go diving!

So, he'll dive this year, but I've held onto all the information. Because our last trip was to SA (CPT & Kruger), Vic Falls, and Botswana (Chobe) our plans called for a few days at the beginning in the Delta then flying to Windhoek for our time in Namibia.

Like you, plans called for a car rental to drive to Etosha for about 2-3 days; then to Palmwag so we could do a tour further north to see the Himba 2-days; then back to Swakopmund with stops along the way; flying to/from the Sossuvlei 3-days; back to WDH, before heading to JNB and back to the States.
I looked at the prices for fly-in to Etosha, but recall on previous trips to Africa, Kenya specifically, how much we enjoyed driving vs flying - got a better feel for the country and people and overall environment.
Didn't bother with the Skeleton Coast as this is almost always a fly-in/over with set itineraries and hefty prices, though I'm sure if one is really adventurous, it can be done by land. Though honestly, for some reason, it didn't excite me. It often comes down to the time you have, budget, and what are the "must sees/dos".

Glad to hear that your small car was more than sufficient and held up well on the roads and through Etosha, though sorry about the luggage space. Not that you need much stuff, but it's nice to know that everything fits into the trunk. Bye the way, did you take the standard insurance coverage or go with the Super Coverage which includes evacuation in case of accident or medical requirements?

Since our plans called for travel going into Summer in Namibia (between late Oct to early Dec) and while there was a wide range of accommodations for all budgets, most of what we were looking at was at the high end, primarily because we wanted air conditioning wherever possible.

For anyone considering a trip, there are lots of great websites with photos and prices to give you an idea of what's available. I found them thru a simple "search" for "Namibia Tour Operators" or just "Travel To Namibia". Though we eventually decided to go with the tour operator we've used for our other trips to Africa - this would have been our 5th trip. But it's always good to have other resources so comparisons can be made.

Thanks again for a great report.
 
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Jun 5th, 2003, 11:34 PM
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Thanks for all your wonderful responses! Now I'm *desperate* to go to Namibia!!

Celia, your trip sounds fantastic! Very similar to what we'd like to do. I've heard of Cardboard Box before - they seem to come well recommended. Did you follow one of their itineraries? Or did you use them more as a travel agent to put together your trip?

Kavey - I'm actually based in France, but Mum's in the UK, so no reason why we can't try a UK-based agency. Hadn't heard of Steppes so will check them out.

I like the idea of the Wolwedans Dune Lodge - I remember reading about it in a couple of your posts, and thinking *wow*


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Jun 6th, 2003, 12:02 AM
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Hanl
Where abouts in France and UK?
We're in London and shortly going to be in Bordeaux for two weeks.
If you want to get together and talk/ share photos etc drop me an email in the next few days to talk about it.

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Jun 6th, 2003, 12:20 AM
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Well, I'm originally from Edinburgh, now living in Lyon. Possibly a tad far from Bordeaux... but if you'll be in the area any time then would love to meet up and swap stories!
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Jun 8th, 2003, 10:06 AM
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We actually used Cardboard Box more as a booking agent, but I did ask their advice about whether my planned itinerary made sense, and also asked about driving times and road condiditions. I dealt with Alden, who was very helpful and professional and nice.

The drive from Windhoek to Etosha was about 5 hours. We left town at about 10 AM and got to the park well in time to get to our lodgings in Halali before the 5:30 PM gate closing. The road was excellent, even with some construction on the way. We really enjoyed the drive, because we got to see so much of the countryside. It was not a varied landscape, but was enjoyable all the same. You pass through a couple of towns on the way, we stopped in one to buy cold drinks and peanut butter, not knowing whether the shops inside Etosha park would be well-stocked. (The one at Okakuejo was, the one at Halali less so.)

We did some driving in the area between Tsumeb and the park, on "D" roads. They were gravel, in very good condition. This was really interesting driving. We saw houses, farms, people, animals both wild and domestic, great flora. In my opinion, it was worth the time it took, as opposed to flying.
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