Windhoek | Gamsberg Wilderness | Sossusvlei | Swakopmund | Sptizkoppe | Tsisab Gorge | Huab River | Ombonde People’s Park | Khovarib Schlugt | Hoanib River | Puros Conservancy | Orupembe Conservancy | Kunene River | Etosha National Park | Windhoek
In the remote wilderness of Namibia, an extraordinary revolution is taking place. Wildlife and its habitat are being conserved by involving indigenous people; and from that involvement, giving them a direct benefit from the wildlife among which they live. Led by the world’s foremost chronicler of African rock art David Coulson and anthropologist and award-winning community conservation specialist Dr Margaret Jacobsohn, this 4×4 expedition travels deep into the vast wildlife conservancies of north-western Namibia to meet the Guardians of the Game.
Limited to just 10 clients, this one-of-a-kind expedition puts our travellers on the front line of African wildlife conservation to experience firsthand the efforts of these local communities in their protection of desert Elephants, Black Rhinos, and many other rare and endangered species. Blending luxury lodges with exclusive mobile tented camps, we transport our guests to some of the most extraordinary wilderness areas in Namibia including the Huab, Hoanib and Kunene Rivers, while also including the captivating highlights of the country including the Namib Desert, the Skeleton Coast, Etosha National Park and World Heritage Listed rock art sites.
Every Arcadia expedition provides you insider access to the most unforgettable and thought-provoking local experiences, curated exclusively by us for our travellers. Here are some of the Arcadia Exclusives on this trip:
Day 01 – Windhoek
Upon arrival in Windhoek, you are met at the arrivals gate by an Arcadia representative. You will then be transferred by private vehicle to your luxury hotel, where you can rest or explore the centre of Windhoek.
At 6pm, your Expedition Leader David Coulson will host a group meeting and welcome drinks followed by a welcome dinner at the famed Joe’s Beerhouse.
Hotel Heinitzburg, Windhoek | Meals: D
Day 02 & 03 – Habitat for Rhino
After breakfast, we head out in our 4×4 Land Cruisers for the Gamsberg Wilderness, two hours drive south-west of Windhoek, where we will be met by our hosts Robin and Pauline Hurt. Here we will spend two nights as exclusive guests on their 55,000-acre ranch experiencing Habitat for Rhino, their Rhino conservation and breeding program.
With over 55 years of authentic safari experience across sub-Saharan Africa, Robin has a wealth of fascinating stories and insights about the history of hunting and conservancy in Africa. Passionately involved in creating community wildlife projects since the early 1990s, he and Pauline’s conviction is that “wildlife and its habitat can only be conserved by involving the local people, and from that involvement, give them a direct benefit from the wildlife among which they live.”
The main purpose of Habitat for Rhino is to provide safe habitat for Rhinos on private land. The Hurts believe that one way ahead for Rhino conservation is to “spread the risk,” which means moving Rhinos from areas with large Rhino numbers and higher risk to new locations with smaller numbers and hopefully less risk. They currently have nine Rhinos in their care. We spend the next few days with the Hurts learning about their program and observing the Rhinos along with the ranches herds of Gemsbok, Hartman’s Mountain Zebra, Springbok, Blue Wildebeest, Eland, Duiker and Southern Impala. Kudu migrate from the nearby mountains and Warthog, Meerkats, Leopard and Cheetah can also be seen.
Gamsberg Lodge | Meals: B,L,D
Day 04 – Sossusvlei Dunes
We will rise early for a final game drive to farewell the Rhinos and return to the lodge for a late breakfast. Departing in the late morning, we will stop for a picnic lunch at the top of the spectacular Spreetshoogte Pass to view the great sweep of the Namib desert far below us.
We arrive at Little Kulala in the mid-afternoon, an organic camp tucked away on the 37,000-hectare private Kulala Wilderness Reserve that has its own gate into the Namib-Nakluft National Park – ensuring we do not have to wait in the queues to enter the park before sunrise. After checking in, we will come together for sundowners and then dinner at the lodge.
Little Kuala, Sossusvlei | Meals: B,L,D
Day 05 – Swakopmund
An early wake up will put us on the spectacular red dunes at Sossusvlei as the sun rises in all its glory over these timeless and everchanging sands. These are amongst the highest sand dunes in the world, and certainly some of the most breathtaking, with some rising above 300 metres. There is also an option for guests to view the sunrise from a balloon if desired (not included in expedition price).
We will head back to Little Kuala for a sumptuous brunch before we make the short drive to Sossusvlei airstrip where our private aircraft awaits to take us on a scenic flight to explore the great expanse of the Namib Desert and its awe-inspiring boundary with the rolling breakers of the Southern Atlantic, before landing in the seaside resort town of Swakopmund.
We will be transferred to the charming Villa Margherita, our home for the next two nights. You will have the afternoon at leisure before we meet at the atmospheric Jetty 1905 Restaurant for dinner, located at the end of Swakopmund’s historical jetty and offering breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Villa Margherita, Swakopmund | Meals: B,L,D
Day 06 – Spitzkoppe
This morning we have the exhilarating experience of kayaking with the playful Cape Fur Seals of Walvis Bay. For those who are uncertain of the kayaking prowess, there is also the possibility of viewing the seals and resident dolphins from the comfort of a catamaran.
After lunch we set out for the natural wonder of Spitzkoppe. The Spitzkoppe mountain range’s granite is dated at more than 700 million years old. The mountain’s distinctive shape has earned it the nickname the Matterhorn of Namibia. Made up of a number of large distinctive peaks that jut up in different areas on the landscape, it is a mystical and alluring place to explore and we make our first night’s camp as we head into the rugged heart of Namibia. Our exclusive camp will be set up to allow us beautiful views of the sunset. We spend the day exploring the arched rock formations and swimming in its natural pools before dinner in camp, where we will enjoy the fire-cooked meals of our chef.
Camp Spitzkoppe | Meals: B,L,D
From this point on the itinerary is intentionally flexible and we will change locations and riverine valleys to make and take opportunities that arise en-route – such as wildlife possibilities, where rains have fallen and to take in community activities and events. We will be wild camping in specially erected camps in comfortable dome tents with a terrific camp team, including our bush chef, doing all the work.
Day 07, 08 & 09 - San Rock Art
After breakfast we begin our three-day exploration of some of Namibia’s greatest and most prolific rock art sites. There is no better person than our Expedition Leader David Coulson to tell the story of the rock art and the peoples who created these important historical records.
We stay at the Ameib Ranch Lodge to view Bull Party Rocks and the National Monument of Phillip Cave. We then camp in the Tsisab Gorge in the Brandberg Massif from where we will walk out to view the famous rock art masterpiece White Lady. We complete our rock art experience with the awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage engraving Twyfelfontein.
Ameib Ranch Lodge, Camp Tsisab Gorge | Meals: B,L,D
Rock Art of South Western Africa
“To our knowledge all the art was made by San Bushman hunter-gatherers whose descendants are still found in parts of the Kalahari (eastern Namibia) and in the northern Cape. Although Bushman art is usually difficult to date, the consensus of opinion is that some of the Brandberg paintings could be at least 3000 years old, as could the paintings in the Ameib area. The engravings at Twyfelfontein could be even older. The oldest scientifically dated (C14) rock paintings in the whole of Africa were found in southern Namibia in the Huns Mountains and dated to around 30,000 years of age. Meanwhile the rock engraving site we shall visit, Twyfelfontein, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the White Lady of the Brandberg is possibly the most famous rock painting in the whole of Africa.” – David Coulson
Day 10 & 11 – Huab Valley
After breakfast, we drive to our wild camp in the spectacular lunar landscape of the Huab Valley. Here we spend two days seeking Lions, Rhino and Elephant and explore an amazing area containing remnants of a petrified forest.
We meet the community of De Riet and hear why and how they are prepared to live with wild Elephants. In the dry season, we can almost guarantee great encounters with desert Elephants and we may see Lions. We will also talk to local farmers here about the challenges of living with large predators.
Camp, Huab Valley | Meals: B,L,D
Day 12 & 13 – Ombonde People’s Park
We take a scenic drive to Okavarionga, with a lunch stop at Wereldsend from where Namibia’s ground-breaking community conservation program started in the 1980s. Your guide Dr Margaret Jacobsohn has a home here.
Continuing our drive, we then reach our specially erected wild camp where we will spend two nights in the heart of Africa’s first People’s Park. With an area of more than 1140 square km, the Ombonde Peoples’ Park (OPP) is the core wildlife area of two forward-thinking conservancies, Ehirovipuka and Omatendeka. It is a progressive new type of protected area – an African way of linking conservation of wildlife to enhanced quality of life of the communities who co-manage and live around the wildlife and the tourism areas they have chosen to protect.
What makes the OPP different from conventional national parks is that it builds on and enhances community ownership of wildlife and valuable natural resources – the key to the success of community-based conservation in Namibia – as it is a genuine partnership between two communal conservancies and the government. Here we will meet with local Herero men and women involved in the OPP.
Camp, Ombonde People’s Park | Meals: B,L,D
Day 14 – The Khovarib Schlugt
A scenic drive this morning takes us into a completely different landscape as we explore and overnight in the beautiful Khovarib Schlugt. This remarkable canyon, with its ancient coral reef remains, is part of the Annabeb Conservancy, which is planning to join its core wildlife area to the neighbouring People’s Park.
Camp, Khovarib Schlugt | Meals: B,L,D
Day 15 – Hoanib River
Drive via the historic Sesfontein Fort – now a lodge – to the famous Hoanib River, the iconic home of Namibia’s desert Elephants, where the successful fight to save them was won in the 1980s. It’s now prime habitat for desert Elephants, Lions and the rare and elusive Brown Hyena. We overnight in a picturesque wild camp.
Camp Hoanib River | Meals: B,L,D
Day 16 – Puros Conservancy
Before breakfast, we embark on an exhilarating guided walk to take in the local wildlife. We then drive north to Okongue, meaning ‘place of the leopard’ in the local language. Here we will wild camp in the 3,600 square km Puros Conservancy and hopefully meet up with conservancy Rhino rangers for a Rhino tracking experience. We will share dinner with this dedicated team of local men so that they can tell us how direct community involvement and on-going vigilance has been the key to keeping Africa’s second largest population of Black Rhino safe from poachers.
Here we will have time to relax in the shade of the large trees along the banks of the Hoarusib River. Elephants often walk through the campsite and Giraffe browse in the nearby woodland. We will also have our first contact with the delightful Himba people here.
Camp, Okongwe | Meals: B,L,D
Day 17 & 18 – Etaambura Lodge
A scenic drive north leads to a relaxing two nights at the gorgeous Etaambura Lodge, situated on a high hill in the Orupembe Conservancy. Enjoy simple chalets, private decks and en suite bathrooms with amazing views. A full day of unwinding, walking and sight-seeing gives us time to relax and contemplate what we have seen on the expedition so far.
We are invited to visit a nearby Himba village. The local headman and his wives, or an Orupembe Conservancy leader, will join us for dinner so that there is plenty of opportunity to share worldviews.
Etaambura Lodge | Meals: B,L,D
Day 19 & 20 – Kunene River
Depart after breakfast for the scenic drive via Marienfluss to Okahirongo Kunene River Lodge, on Namibia’s border with Angola. This is the most remote part of southern Africa, where we will be on rough tracks seldom used by other visitors to the region. Here we will spend two nights beside this remote and unspoiled river.
Camp, Kunene River | Meals: B,L,D
Day 21, 22 & 23 – Etosha National Park
In the morning after breakfast we say farewell to Margie and her terrific expedition team, who will drive us to the nearby airstrip where our charter flight awaits to take us to Namutoni in the legendary Etosha National Park.
Our flight will first take us out to the Skeleton Coast for a birds eye view of this fabled landscape. We take in this rugged and spectacular National Park before heading inland towards Etosha.
We will be met at the airport and transferred to Onguma Tented Camp where we shall relax for three nights and two full days to view the spectacular game of Etosha National Park. The abundant wildlife of Etosha centres around a massive salt pan, the largest in Africa, and it’s waterholes and salt licks. With very little vegetation to provide cover, spotting wild animals on safari at Etosha is a rewarding experience and a photographers dream.
We finish this evening with a farewell dinner feast at our tented camp.
Onguma Tented Camp | Meals: B,L,D
Day 24 – Windhoek
After breakfast, we take a special charter flight back to Windhoek where you will meet your international connections later in the day.
A writer, photographer and adventurer, David is the world’s foremost chronicler of African rock art. He has rediscovered and documented more rock art sites across the continent than any other person in history and is the founder and Executive Chairman of TARA – the Trust for African Rock Art.
Driving the length and breadth of Africa for over 40 years, David is a true African explorer. In the earlier part of his career David worked as a professional photographer and writer, and his books and articles were published across the world. These told the story of his many adventures into some of Africa’s remotest areas, where he often travelled alone for long periods. One of his books told the story of a 30,000 mile solo journey he made through 7 different African countries, crossing deserts, crocodile infested rivers and mountain ranges. It was during some of these travels that David fell in love with Namibia, which subsequently featured in several of his books such as Mountain Odyssey, African Rock Art and finally Namib, the story of Africa’s coastal desert.
In the mid-1990s, David founded the Trust for African Rock Art with the help of Dr Mary Leakey and Sir Laurens van der Post. Since its inception, TARA’s work has been supported by a number of well-known international institutions such as National Geographic and the Getty Foundation. Realising that the biggest threat to this remarkable heritage was ignorance, David used his photography and international network to create a greater global awareness of the importance and endangered state of this art. His book, with the late Alec Campbell, African Rock Art, was the first major book on this heritage on a Pan African scale. TARA has now worked in over 20 different African countries and has been internationally recognised with endorsements from such dignitaries as Nelson Mandela and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
A copy of David’s digital archive of 25,000 images was acquired by the British Museum in 2014 and is now available worldwide as part of the Museum’s global digital collections. This extensive archive has already opened numerous windows onto Africa’s past.
David is based in Nairobi where he lives with his wife and two daughters.
Dr Margaret Jacobsohn
For this in-depth conservation experience, we shall be joined by our specialist local guide, anthropologist, environmentalist, writer and award-winning community conservation pioneer Dr Margaret Jacobsohn.
Maggie moved to Namibia in the mid-1980s to undertake anthropological and archaeological research in the north-west of the country. She never left and has since become a Namibian citizen. Maggie founded the Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation NGO with Garth Owen-Smith in 1989 just before Namibia’s independence. She has been fighting against endemic illegal hunting, which has decimated species such as Black Rhinos and desert Elephants, and champions economic and social development of local populations. Through the actions of Maggie’s NGO, poaching in Namibia has been greatly reduced. In 1993 she was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize, an honour that recognises grassroots environmental advocates.
She spent five years living with a number of Himba and Herero lineages in the north-west in the 80s and early 90s and is regarded as family by some of the older people there.
She obtained her PhD from Cape Town University, is a published author and has written numerous articles and texts on Himba social organisation and community-based natural resource management.
Hotel Heinitzburg is a boutique hotel with gorgeous panoramic views of the city and the surrounding mountains of Windhoek. A restored castle, the hotels unique architecture dates back to 1914 when it was commissioned by a German Count for his fiancée. The rooms are gracefully decorated with classic finishes and the wine cellar boasts the largest private collection in Namibia.
Kulala Wilderness Reserve
A welcome oasis situated along the dry Auab riverbed in the secluded Kulala Wilderness Reserve, Little Kulala celebrates the splendour and solitude of the Namib Desert. The luxury design of the thatched suites, each with a private plunge pool, merges seamlessly into the timeless desert setting. Each suite has indoor and outdoor showers, as well as a romantic rooftop starbed for contemplation of the unforgettable night desert skies.
Etaambura, Namibia’s first Himba co-owned camp is situated on top of one of the highest hills above the remote plains of Onjuva, where livestock and springbok peacefully graze together. It is small and exclusive – each chalet has its own private deck extending from the hill to capture the breathtaking views of the region.
Onguma Tented Camp
Etosha National Park
In the local Herero language, Onguma means, ‘the place you don’t want to leave.’ This private, exclusive tented camp certainly lives up to its name. An atmosphere of elegance prevails, complimented by the animal activities around the nearby watering hole. The surrounding nature lends itself to long lazy afternoons spent relaxing on the lounges with a drink in hand, watching the animals come and go.
- Meals as per itinerary (23 breakfasts, 22 lunches, 23 dinners) including welcome and farewell dinners
- Private airport transfers (arrival and departure)
- Accommodation as stated on a twin-share basis
- Porterage at airports and hotels
- All land transport by private air-conditioned vehicle and train
- Services of an Arcadia Expedition Leader and English-speaking local guide throughout
- Sightseeing as specified including entrance fees to sites mentioned in itinerary
- Reusable responsible travel water bottle with daily drinking water provided
- Gratuities/tipping for local guides, drivers, hotel staff and restaurants for included meals
- All taxes
- Return international flights
- Passport and visa charges
- Items of a purely personal nature (i.e. telephone calls, laundry etc)
- Excess luggage
- Lunch and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in itinerary
- Travel insurance